Religion, Fundamentalism, Gnosticism, BLM: Part VIII

In Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe, Voddie Baucham condemns evangelical sympathy for Critical Race Theory while professing a fundamentalist understanding of “the sufficiency of Scripture” congenial to Critical Race Theory.

The “sufficiency” of the Bible is an old Reformation doctrine reflected in the major Protestant confessions. The Belgic Confession states that the “Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe, unto salvation, is sufficiently taught therein.” The Augsburg Confession includes the following:

“Now, it is against Scripture to establish or require the observance of any traditions, to the end that by such observance we may make satisfaction for sins, or merit grace and righteousness. For the glory of Christ’s merit suffers injury when, by such observances, we undertake to merit justification.”

Along similar lines the London Confession of 1644 posits that in the Bible “God hath plainly revealed whatsoever he hath thought needful for us to know, believe, and acknowledge, touching the Nature and Office of Christ, in whom all the promises are Yea and Amen to the praise of God.” The Westminster Confession contains a somewhat broader statement of this idea:

“VI. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.”

The confessions then recognize a revelation which is authoritative, but not comprehensive: the Belgic, Augsburg, and London confessions limit the scope of revelation to knowledge “unto salvation” and the Westminster Confession recognizes that even “some circumstances concerning the worship of God…are to be ordered by the light of nature.” The recent “Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel”—intended to be a countermeasure to Critical Race Theory—asserts far more than is required by Protestant confessional orthodoxy:

“WE AFFIRM that the Bible is God’s Word, breathed out by him. It is inerrant, infallible, and the final authority for determining what is true (what we must believe) and what is right (how we must live). All truth claims and ethical standards must be tested by God’s final Word, which is Scripture alone.

WE DENY that any obligation that does not arise from God’s commandments can be legitimately imposed on Christians as a prescription for righteous living. We further deny the legitimacy of any charge of sin or call to repentance that does not arise from a violation of God’s commandments.”

Voddie Baucham, a signatory to this statement, continues in a similar vein in Fault Lines:

“It is the Bible—not sociology, psychology, or political science—that offers sufficient answers not only on race, but on every ethical issue man has faced, or will ever face…However, the CRT crowd in evangelicalism are not men who have been challenged on their interpretation of Scripture—they are proclaiming that sources outside of Scripture have brought them to a new, better, and more complete understanding of God’s truth on race…[W]hat do we think is going to happen when we create a new canon in the form of an ‘antiracist curriculum’ for white evangelicals? Especially when that canon consists of literature from the realm of history, political science, and sociology that is not based in biblical exegesis.”

In such statements Baucham and his fellow signatories declare themselves fundamentalists, who, in Eric Hoffer’s words:

“strive…to interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world. They do this by claiming that the ultimate and absolute truth is already embodied in their doctrine and that there is no truth nor certitude outside it…To rely on the evidence of the senses and of reason is heresy and treason.” 

Baucham writes with puzzlement that many of the churchmen now sympathetic to Critical Race Theory have been his allies against ideas “not based in biblical exegesis”:

“Granted, most of the men mentioned above believe firmly in the sufficiency of Scripture and have done so for decades…In fact, many of the men to whom I am referring here have been on the front line of the battle against liberalism, mysticism, and pragmatism for many years.”

But it is precisely the opponents of liberalism, mysticism, and pragmatism who make good converts to Critical Race Theory. Liberals, mystics, and pragmatists have one thing in common: they “rely on the evidence of the senses [or] of reason.” It is this reliance that makes them the common enemy of fundamentalists in the Church and in the CRT movement, whose rejection of experience and reason in favor of an absolute and comprehensive doctrine reveals an affinity described by Eric Hoffer:

“Though they seem to be at opposite poles, fanatics of all kinds are actually crowded together at one end. It is the fanatic and the moderate who are poles apart and never meet. The fanatics of various hues eye each other with suspicion and are ready to fly at each other’s throat. But they are neighbors and almost of one family. They hate each other with the hatred of brothers. They are as far apart and close together as Saul and Paul.”

And this affinity, Hoffer continues, permits a relatively easy conversion to other fundamentalist movements: 

“The fanatic cannot be weaned away from his cause by an appeal to his reason or moral sense. He fears compromise and cannot be persuaded to qualify the certitude and righteousness of his holy cause. But he finds no difficulty in swinging suddenly and wildly from one holy cause to another. He cannot be convinced but only converted… And it is easier for a fanatic Communist to be converted to fascism, chauvinism or Catholicism than to become a sober liberal.”

Baucham’s solution to the defection of Christian ministers to Critical Race Theory is a more rigorous fundamentalism, which is to promote more of the disease as remedy. The proper objection to CRT is not that it employs “literature from the realm of history, political science, and sociology,” but that its doctrine wholly subverts these disciplines. This is, however, not an objection that Baucham may credibly make, since he would similarly subvert these sciences with “biblical exegesis.”

Also in this series:

Part I; Part II; Part III; Part IV; Part V; Part VI; Part VII

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