[Editor’s note: This is a series of questions on Critical Theory, which is a philosophical method developed in Germany in the 1930s, but which has been mentioned much lately as a means to evaluate and propose solutions to the racial issues in the US today.]
I have a question for you. I have been reading up and learning a great deal about racism and racial injustices. Much of what I am hearing and learning is rooted in critical theory. From my understanding it is a worldview. I have seen you discuss the Christian worldview so I looked to your website to see if anyone has asked if critical theory is in conflict with the Christian worldview? As a Christian, should I reject critical theory and see it from the lens of a Christian worldview? Thanks for taking the time to answer. I am sure it may be beneficial to later expound on a Christian worldview response to injustice in our world.
Critical theory is simply an approach to analyzing information about the world. It tends to favor social explanations over individualistic explanations. I will be sensitive to culture. It is a tool. As such, it is neither for or against the Christian worldview because it is not a worldview. Yet, of course, those who use this approach to philosophy and social/cultural analysis all have a worldview, and they use this approach toward certain ends. Most of these people and most of these ends are not friendly to the Christian worldview. It is a bit like psychology. Most psychologists are not friendly at all with the Christian worldlview, yet much of what they discover is true and is useful, including to Christians. We need to filter what psychologists say heavily as we use their helpful methods and information. The same is true, I am sure, with Critical theory. In the right hands, it is helpful, especially right now, with the explosion of people considering things like cultural bias and systemic racism. My guess, giving a quick look at this method is that it will be helpful to all people, including Christians to look at the current crisis through the Critical Theory lens, but be careful who you listen to and be aware of their worldview biases.
All that is very generic, and now for an extremely brief analysis. Critical Theory has its origins in Germany. Its principle advocates were Marxists. They felt that looking at individuals to describe and solve social problems was barking up the wrong tree. It is in analysis of groups, and societies and, especially in power structures that we can understand the human condition. It is hard to argue against this, at least on some level. It is especially useful in analyzing the problem of systemic racism in America. This is a poverty issue, but it is first and foremost a power issue. Therefore Critical Theory can be helpful here. But, remember that it comes from Marxists roots and many of its presuppositions will hang onto strongly leftist perspectives. Therefore, we ought to use this approach critically (ha ha).
No, you do not need to reject Critical Theory. It is not a worldview. Yes, if you use it, you should look at social power structures through a Christian lens. If you use it, I suggest you do so indirectly and not declare Critical Theory publicly as some sort of panacea to solve racial issues. You might mention it is a class, but certainly not in a sermon. If you do that, people will start reading things written by these folks and think you have gone off the deep end!
Thank you for engaging me in a critical analysis, John! I had to look up panacea. Great word choice.This is a link to the blog/website I read.
His Christian Worldview starts with Creation, Sin, Redemption, Restoration. How might you differ from that?
Going to this website did not change my opinion much at all. When he calls Critical Theory a worldview, I cannot agree with him. It would be like calling science a worldview. Science is a method or approach, not a worldview. Now, some people take naturalism as a worldview, and they use science as their platform. Some call this scientific materialism or scientism. I believe that some make Critical Theory a kind of worldview, just like some make science a worldview, but neither is inherently a worldview. They are both methods. Marxism is a worldview, but Critical Theory is not, in my opinion. The problem is that a large majority of the CT-using people are very left-wing and many of them are outright atheists. But… This is also true of science. Science is not the problem. It is what they do with science that leads to bad philosophy and a bad worldview. Similarly, CT is not the problem (or not the main problem), it is the God-haters who use it who are the problem.
I can see that this guy is really bothered by the idea of white privilege. Well, shock of all history, he is a white person. Hmmm… I disagree with MANY of the conclusions those who use CT reach, and I reject many of their presuppositions. However, I do not think that CT is inherently evil or even anti-God. I also believe that white privilege is a real thing that many whites–especially those from a right wing idealogy, do not like to hear about. I think that CT can tell us some things we need to hear, but it is just a method and should be used with great caution. The same with psychology. One could “prove” that psychology is a worldview, and prove that it is inherently atheist and anti-God, but one would be wrong. My analysis of CT, at least for now, is that it is a bit like psychology. Psychology is NOT a worldview, but very conservative Christian groups often label it that way, and use this as an excuse to dismiss virtually everything that psychologists tell us. This is a mistake in my opinion.
But…. I am FAR from an expert on this topic, so please take what I say with a grain of salt and please do your own research.
About this gentleman’s description of the Christian worldview, it is very truncated, but I think he has the right idea there. About racial justice, there are hundreds of passages in the Bible about social justice. It is one of the top four or five topics in the entire Scripture. Jesus would be disgusted and angered by the inexcusable overt and covert racism in our culture and would be an outspoken voice for justice for black people in the US and elsewhere. Therefore, we should be as well and who knows, Critical Theory may play a very small role in articulating this Jesus ministry.