David French recently wrote this article, which a fellow member of my church pointed out to me. I have now read it, and I have to admit being rather dismayed at its contents. It has what I would regard as numerous errors, mis-characterizations, and fallacies in it. I found it singularly unhelpful. Here’s a list:
1. He writes, “What I did not think, at any point, was that I was reading an idea fundamentally at odds with orthodox Christianity.” That is a large portion of what I have been laboring to show in some of my posts here. CRT has fundamental assumptions very much at odds with Christianity (the nature of truth and revelation, materialism vs. supernaturalism, postmodern anti-meta-narrative versus the Bible as meta-narrative, and many others). CRT distances itself from logic, which, as we have seen, we get from the Bible. CRT arrives at conclusions at odds with Christianity, including Kendi’s idea of discrimination to reduce disparities. CRT is anti-biblical, does not gain us any insight into racism that the Bible does not already give us, and therefore, we believe, is to be rejected. As Voddie Baucham would say, “It is not a helpful framework for understanding racism.”
2. French is slightly off when he says that CRT is one aspect of critical theory. CRT inherits more from Critical Legal Studies than it does from Critical Theory. This may be nit-picking, as Critical Legal Studies does come from Critical Theory.
3. French writes, ” … and there are ways in which CRT’s historical and legal analyses can help us better understand our nation and our culture.” I deny that. I believe CRT distorts history and law in its analyses. How is that helpful? The 1619 Project is a case in point: heavily promoted by CRT advocates, the 1619 Project, riddled with errors, seeks to do revisionist history. I don’t see that as helpful. What is helpful is to see history as it is, to see slavery as the horror it really was, to see Reconstruction as the helpless aggravation that it was, etc.
4. Crenshaw’s article, which is certainly one of the seminal papers in CRT – it’s where we get Intersectionality – starts from the point of view of feminism, which I think also has many points at odds with Christianity. I am a firm complementarian myself, because I believe that is the biblical notion of manliness and femininity. I’m guessing French does not see the flaws in feminism? Her article seems rather circular (either that, or “proof by repeated assertion”) to me – simply assuming that her idea of intersectionality is the solution to the problem, but not providing any hard evidence for that claim. One paragraph in Crenshaw’s article appears to commit the argument ad ignorantium fallacy (arguing from ignorance):
“The court’s rulings on Moore’s sex and race claim left her with such a small statistical sample that even if she had proved that there were qualified Black women, she could not have shown discrimination under a disparate impact theory. Moore illustrates yet another way that antidiscrimination doctrine essentially erases Black women’s distinct experiences and, as a result, deems their discrimination complaints groundless.” – p. 146.
Granted that the lack of a sufficient sample size is frustrating, how can she extrapolate from lack of sample size to discrimination? She appears to reason like this: the lack of sample size is itself evidence of discrimination. It’s either arguing from ignorance, or it’s circular. I won’t take the time to critique Crenshaw’s entire article here. Doubtless that has been done adequately elsewhere, given its importance.
5. French’s comments about Resolution 9 are apparently not informed by Voddie Baucham’s extensive critique of it. It’s hard to read Baucham’s account of the history of Resolution 9 (confirmed by others) without coming to the conclusion that there was significant funny business going on: what the committee submitted got changed to mean almost the opposite. This is all in Baucham’s book Fault Lines. I wouldn’t call Resolution 9 “common sense”.
6. French isn’t the only person to claim that Rufo and other conservatives have “redefined” CRT. Joy Reid of MSNBC once interviewed Rufo and accused him of coming up with Christopher Rufo Theory – a very clever, but ultimately thin attack. I do not agree that Rufo and other conservatives have fundamentally mis-characterized CRT. When I read Rufo, and I compare with Kendi and DiAngelo, it does not appear to me that Rufo is off-base in his descriptions. Perhaps it’s extreme of Rufo to “put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category,” but there’s no doubt in my mind whatsoever that a very significant portion of our current cultural insanity does, indeed, come from CRT.
7. I disagree with French’s assessment of the TN bill. Reading the relevant portions is like reading DiAngelo, and parts of Kendi as well. Perhaps French is saying that Kendi and DiAngelo are not “worth their salt”?
8. I do not agree with French’s characterization of a “closed mind”. I think it was Chesterton or some such who said, “An open mind is a fine thing, but it is meant to close on the truth.” Open minds are not automatically better ones if they are open to every sway of doctrine. A mind should be trying continually to conform more and more to the Bible. Once a mind closes on a truth such as, “Jesus Christ is the Son of God, fully God and fully man”, that mind should not be open to opposing doctrines in the sense of being willing to believe them. We must always be open to what the Bible and biblically-based logic say, and humbly recognize how sin clouds our judgment. A closed mind can be a wonderful thing if it is closed on the truth (not closed from the truth, of course!) Moreover, it is not in the least arrogant to close on the truth, despite what the postmoderns would – and do – say. Finally, it is possible for an individual to delve into a topic like CRT, find out enough of what it is, reject it, and move on with life and ignore CRT from then on with no ill effect. It is not everyone’s calling to fight every heresy, contra what the CRT folks – especially Kendi – say.
9. The paragraph right before “One more thing…” beginning with “This is the exact wrong time … ” near the end reaches entirely erroneous conclusions, to my mind. Ecclesiastes says “There is nothing new under the sun.” CRT isn’t really new, it’s a rehashing of old ideas. Correct theology is also nearly always old, not new. As my brother Lane, an OPC pastor in Illinois likes to say, “When you do theology, you have to go deep, not broad. Broad is the danger zone of heresy.” You have to stay inside the bounds of the old creeds that so accurately reflect what the Bible says. There’s plenty of room to go deep! The brightest minds ever to have lived (thinking here of John Owens, for example) spent their entire lives studying the Bible, and never even began to scratch its surface, really. Sometimes the accusation of “CRT” is spot-on. I think that what we need is mostly for the so-called “new ideas” to show themselves a failure so that we can get back to the business of preserving and implementing the old ideas that are good. Sure there can be good new ideas: no conservative I have ever read is opposed to progress. But we conservatives always ask the question: progress from what to what? It’s just what Caspian said in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: “I have seen them both in an egg. We call it ‘going bad’ in Narnia.” (Read what Gumpas says just before that for context.) This, of course, assumes that we have a measuring stick to say “That’s good, and this is bad.” In fact, there are three questions that Thomas Sowell has taught us to ask: 1. Compared to what? 2. At what cost? 3. What hard evidence do you have? Most progressive ideas fail utterly at one or more of these.
Is there anything I can agree with French on? Well, I can certainly agree that Christians in general shouldn’t shy away from difficult debates, whether that’s concerning race and justice or anything else. As I’ve already said, I don’t think it’s necessarily every Christian’s calling to engage in such debates, but those who are called to such things should go for it. French appears to approve of the general modus operandi of Christian writers such as Shenvi, as well as conservative writers such as McWhorter. I certainly have good value for those writers. And I certainly agree that the extreme manifestations of CRT clash with Christianity; though, as above, I would also argue that mainline CRT also clashes with Christianity.