PHIL: Well, welcome to our second Q&A, and I have two people to introduce in this one that I have not introduced to you yet. One is Owen Strachan, who is the best seminary professor that I have ever taken a class under. Actually, he taught the only seminary class I’ve ever taken for credit, and I have to say he graciously bent some deadlines and graded my papers sympathetically just so I could pass. And Owen I love because he is such a stalwart defender of the principle of biblical masculinity. I don’t know that anyone is more articulate or fierce on that subject than he is, and I love him for that.
But he’s on this panel because he’s also one of the leading voices in the battle to stop the encroachment of critical race theory and a new social gospel among evangelicals. So I will introduce him more properly when he speaks tomorrow morning, but that’s enough for now, other than to say he’s written a book, Christianity and Wokeness, which—you need to get and read it. It is one of the best critiques of the woke encroachment on evangelical thinking.
And then the other person I need to introduce to you is Darrell Harrison, who most of you might not even need an introduction to him. I feel the same way about Darrell. He is heroic. He is probably the smartest guy on the Grace to You staff, and that’s saying something, because we hire a lot of intelligent people; but he’s the only one on our staff who studied at Princeton. He is the Dean of Social Media at GTY. We gave him that title, “Dean,” because he’s so smart, it needed to sound somewhat academic. And there is no more thoughtful or articulate voice than Darrell’s in the struggle to keep this social justice rhetoric from eclipsing the gospel. Darrell and Virgil Walker have the absolute best long-form Christian podcast. There is no one more clear. His clarity on this issue is unsurpassed.
Their podcast is titled Just Thinking, and I’ve always thought that’s a bit of a misnomer, because while they do a lot of first-class thinking, that is not all they do. They talk through the issues in a way that brings rational clarity and biblical wisdom with such power and so much conviction that I promise, you will never come away from one of their podcasts confused or uncertain in any way about what is true. So look for the Just Thinking podcast and add that to your playlist; you will thank me later. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I always say Just Thinking is the perfect cure for Oprah Winfrey-ism.
And I thank, also, to John MacArthur for coming back. We moved him there because they said it’s better camera profile for him. I think actually what they’re saying is the back of my head is my best profile, so I’m glad for that as well. Thanks to John. I think John get a little bit uneasy when I’m moderating the Q&A session. Let’s just say they don’t always go the way we hope. So buckle up here.
Now we’re here to talk about social justice, the critical race theory, and the recent persecutions of the church in the midst of the COVID crisis and all of that. John, we’ll start with you. When do you perceive that the culture began to turn so fiercely against evangelical truth?
JOHN: Well, I don’t know if you could identify a specific date; I think it’s a gradual drift. But I would say it began with the emphasis of pragmatism. If you want to go back to Robert Schuller, if you want to go back to Bill Hybels, if you want to go back that far where you ask the unbelievers what they want the church to be, and you design the church for unsaved Harry or unsaved Sally—is, as Bill Hybels would say, or Schuller, “Surveying a community and giving them what they want”; I think once the church decides it is going to give the unconverted people what they want in an effort to win them, ostensibly, as soon as you link up with them and you let them dictate what you do as a church, inevitably they will take you to the bottom. In other words, you’ve just put a ball and chain on the church, and it’s going to the bottom.
So what happens is it starts out as kind of benign in some ways. You have contemporary music, and the sermons get lighter and lighter, and it’s about success and being happy and finding your fulfillment. I mean, it’s Joel Osteen, sentimental things. But eventually it won’t stay there because they’re not going to just accept the style. If you link with the world, they want more than the style; they’re going to mess with the substance, and they’ll start dragging you down.
So the next thing you’re going to find out is the gospel gets mitigated. The offense of the gospel is removed, because you’ve already decided you’re going to court them, so you’ve got to get rid of what offends them. And then you wake up one day and they’ve dragged you into feminism; and then the next day you wake up, they drag you into racism; and the next day you wake up, they’re dragging you into homosexuality and the LGBTQ-transgender movement, so they’re inventing new terms like SSA (same-sex attraction) and saying it’s not a sin.
So once the church connected and decided the world was going to define it because they were going to win the world by being the friend of the world, which James says is enmity with God. So if you’re the friend of the world, you’re the enemy of God. It starts in a benign way, but eventually you get where we are now, and the evangelical movement sells out, and it starts selling out, I think, with sort of the pragmatic people; but eventually it gets to the non-pragmatic people. And all of a sudden feminism, wokeism, LGBTQ winds up in evangelical seminaries and evangelical college. So that’s how I see the flow. Make sense?
PHIL: Yes, it does. And I’m glad you said that because you’re making the point that this is—the foundation for this was laid long ago. I would say that in the first decade of the new millennium, evangelical discussion was dominated by this thing we call “the emerging church movement.” It was a liberalizing tendency. And one of the planks in their platform was social justice. But that movement was short lived; it died really around 2010 or so, and with it that emphasis on social justice sort of dissipated, and you had organizations like Together for the Gospel, the Gospel Coalition, which said, “We’re going to focus on the gospel again and defend the doctrine of the atonement.”
So I didn’t see the resurgence of social justice coming the way it did, but it seemed like it all sort of broke out around 2014 or so with the Michael Brown shooting, I think, is what injected this into mainstream evangelicalism. I didn’t see it coming. Did you, Darrell?
DARRELL: I saw it coming, not that I’m all that prescient and prophetic, you know; I’m not a prophet or anything like that. But I’ve been writing on my blog about this whole social justice movement for probably six years before the Michael Brown incident happened. As a matter of fact, I’ll go all the way back to the Trayvon Martin situation, which is what really gave birth to Black Lives Matter. As a matter of fact, Black Lives Matter, before they cleaned their website up—after the Just Thinking podcast dropped those two episodes about them, they went and cleaned their website up. But on their website they said that Black Lives Matters was founded because of the outcome of the Trayvon Martin trial, where Hernandez was acquitted. So you really can go back to that. So I’ve been writing on that for years before the Michael Brown situation happened.
But the problem with the social justice movement, the reason it sort of flares up and then dies out, it flares up and dies out: because the social justice movement doesn’t deal with the sin issue. You can’t rely on sinners to satisfy other sinners; that just doesn’t work. You can’t blackmail sinners, which is really what the social justice movement is. It is a periodic, flash-in-the-pan, blackmail movement. And what the social justice movement within evangelicalism doesn’t realize is that the gospel is a message, not a movement. The gospel is message, not a movement.
See, movements come and go. And the problem with this social gospel, and to the degree that it made inroads within evangelicalism, has made those inroads because we’ve got “evangelical churches” that are full of people who don’t believe the Bible. They don’t believe it. So what they’re trying to do, they’re trying to leverage the social gospel and the social justice movement to find what the Samaritan woman at the well was looking for, but didn’t realize she was looking for until she encountered Jesus—this movement is trying to find living water where there is no living water. That’s ultimately what they’re looking for.
The social justice movement is a soteriological movement, and what I mean by that is that they are looking for salvation in other places, other than here. I mean, think about it for a second. The social justice movement is built upon the fallacy that society can save itself from itself. I want to let that marinate for a second.
PHIL: Yeah, we need some organ for the background.
DARRELL: We need some Hammond B3 up in here. But you think about it. Society, as corrupt as it is, it knows that there’s something wrong in the world, but they fail to realize that what’s wrong in the world is them. So they’ve got this sort of existential idea that I can come outside of myself because I’m not the problem, you are. So now what’s happened, Phil, is that since Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, with the advent of Black Lives Matters, the social justice movement has gotten a lot more angry. It’s gotten a lot more hateful; it’s gotten a lot more vindictive. And I think you’re seeing that within the Black Lives Matters movement, at least over the past couple of years; they’re starting to fizzle out right now. And maybe I’ll have an opportunity to build on that a little later.
But Black Lives Matters is a black supremacist organization. They have the same ideological blueprint as the KKK. The reason Black Lives Matter is so successful, for lack of a better word, is because they’ve been able—just like the KKK did back in the ’60s, they’ve been able to use intimidation, fear, and people’s ignorance. They’ve taken advantage of those things to advance their own agenda and to line their own pockets.
But here we are now as the church. If we’re going to defend the gospel, the one thing you need to defend the gospel, the first thing you need beyond being a believer, is the courage to defend what you say you believe. And that’s what the church has lacked. The reason BLM and the social gospel and critical race theory are making such inroads in the church—and listen, I don’t mean to be harsh when I say this; John can discipline me later. But the reason they’ve made such inroads is because we’ve got a bunch of cowards in the church. They don’t know what they believe. They don’t know what they believe, and because they don’t know what they believe, they don’t know how to defend it.
So the social gospel is just a mirage. It’s a soteriological mirage that’s got people convinced that they can find salvation in the here and now. And in the social gospel, salvation is always about money and power, always.
PHIL: Actually that dovetails pretty nicely with what John was saying—that the seeker-sensitive pragmatic movement laid the foundation for this—and several of the things you said—that the church is full of people who are ignorant of Scripture and cowards. And what fomented that atmosphere was this pragmatic approach that we need to make the church a comfortable place for unbelievers. So people weren’t teaching Scripture. Churches are full of people who don’t know the Bible.
DARRELL: You know, Phil, yesterday Don Green brought up a term that me and you are probably familiar with. He brought up the term moralistic therapeutic deism. Now as it relates to pragmatism, Phil, what you and John have been talking about, I want to introduce a new term to you: moralistic therapeutic meism. That’s what pragmatism is. Evangelical pragmatism is, “Yes, come into the four walls of this church building, and we will placate you—to your needs.”
Now, the way I understand Scripture, Christ doesn’t need me to build His church. What we need to be reminded of today is whose church the church belongs to. The church doesn’t belong—the church does not exist to meet my felt needs. I mean, think about it. You profess to believe. Those of you who are believers in this room—we’re not going to assume everyone in here is a believer, but those of you who are believers, here’s your profession: You profess to believe that God in the flesh came into this world, gave His life for the forgiveness of your sins. What else do you want the church to do for you?
PHIL: That’s good. So Owen, let me ask you—you’re a very perceptive critic of popular trends in the evangelical movement. Did you see this coming, say, earlier than 2014? Did you see that? Did you anticipate that groups like Together for the Gospel and all would embrace this social justice theme in the way they did?
OWEN: I did not; I didn’t see it coming. A ton of us derived a lot of strength and wisdom from the Reformed resurgence of roughly 10 to 20 years ago, which Dr. MacArthur has been such a big part of. And I came up in that. I remember going to the first T4G and setting out chairs at it and being really excited by it, and I remember reading Gospel Coalition articles early on, and it seemed like we really had recovered a biblical doctrine of God, biblical soteriology, biblical anthropology, with the gospel at the center, with the cross really at the burning center.
But it turns out that Protestant liberalism had not died the death we thought it had. You study Protestant liberalism of a hundred years ago—Harry Emerson Fosdick and Walter Rauschenbusch and all the major thinkers of that period and leading lights—and we all thought that the social gospel—which made the gospel about societal transformation and economic uplift, and even racial aid to some limited degree—we thought that was dead and buried. We thought that was an artifact of history. We thought it had lost its steam after black liberation theology and, roughly, the ’60s under James Cone. And so I remember being in seminary and being taught about these different movements; and they weren’t treated superficially, but they also weren’t treated as if they were a live threat, as if they were a viper in the grass, right there waiting to jump up and bite you.
It turns out—and there’s other factors in play, of course—but it turns out that the social gospel movement was not dead at all. Turns out that Protestant liberalism did not die the death we thought it did. And so I think what happens in the last 10 to 20 years—10 years especially, 5 to 10 years—is that the old engine, the old structure of the social gospel really got an major upgrade. It got a boost of significant energy and steam with what we would call “latter-day social justice,” with critical race theory, with wokeness. And so wokeness has taken that older framework, and it’s reinvigorated it, and it’s even come into—the last thing I’ll say is, the surprising thing is we thought liberalism was going to stay outside of the camp. We thought our walls and our fences were secure. We thought, in fact, we had many watchmen on the wall who were going to guard the church, who were going to call out the threats, who saw wolves on the horizon and were going to name them and call them off. Calvin says every shepherd should have two voices: one voice to minister to the sheep, one voice to call off the wolves. We thought that was going to happen like it had with the New Atheism, like it had with the Emerging Church and other threats. And instead, the shepherds of the church largely went silent.
PHIL: They did, and it’s disappointing, I suppose personally to you, John, because a lot of men whom you’ve had devoted friendships with and you’ve spent a lot of time speaking with have sort of backed away from this issue, while you’ve been a leading voice. I think it was around 2017, 2018, a small group of us met in Dallas, Texas, at a little place called Herb’s House Coffee, and spent the day, an entire day, discussing this issue; and ultimately out of that came The Statement on Social Justice. Your name is prominently a signatory on there. But you, I think, are the only really prominent evangelical leader of your generation that signed that document; and you said in the midst of that that you think that wokeism represents the greatest threat to the gospel that you’ve seen in your entire ministry. Explain why you feel that way. And what was it that made you stand up and speak out even though some of your best friends in ministry backed away from this?
JOHN: Well I think I saw this as error, danger. I saw it as, what I was saying yesterday morning, buying into the world’s issues and making them the church’s issues rather than the gospel. So I saw that element of it, and obviously, you have to fight that off. But this had a component that I hadn’t seen before; it had a race component. And of all things that people don’t want to be called is racist. They don’t even want to be called sexist. So I knew this had potential to do deadly destruction because of the pejoratives that could be attached to this, that people feared.
And I also knew that this would be terribly divisive because this would introduce into the church an issue that had been completely developed outside the biblical framework. But it was so full of the threat of the pejoratives and the labels that people would want to avoid and escape. And I knew evangelism was weak at that point anyway, and that if they would cave into a lot of other things, they would certainly cave into that.
And the first time I saw the effect of it on a large scale was at T4G, when they had the MLK discussion, and they tried to paint Martin Luther King as if he was some kind of Christian saint, when he wasn’t. This was really inventing lies about a man who was a very immoral, sinful, unconverted man. So when the church bought into all of that to defend itself against being accused of being racist, I knew they had sold out to the world. And that’s why I was saying earlier: You connect to the world, they’ll take you to the bottom. They’re not going to be content with the style: “Oh, it’s just the music. Oh, you just need to change the wardrobe; people need to be casual.” They won’t stop there; they’ll drag you to the bottom. And that really became the bottom. And then every person who could claim to be oppressed and a victim of absolutely anything began to be the controller of culture, basically, “Collective vengeance for what happened to me or people of my identity in the past.” I knew this had nothing to do with Christianity, and it was an all-out attack.
Honestly, I thought more men would take a stand. Many of them tried to be in the middle, like the guy in the Civil War with the gray pants and the blue coat that got shot by both sides. You have to choose sides. It was a moment, really, it was a moment in evangelicalism where some man could have stood up, and they could have taken a defining stand that would have set the course for their future and would have changed the course of evangelicalism. But instead of taking the stand, they avoided that; they tried to find a middle ground. So they lost the people who saw this as a biblical violation, and they lost the people they were trying to please because they wouldn’t go far enough. There was never redemption; there was never forgiveness. How woke do you have to be? How far do you go? How many times do you have to repent? They couldn’t go far enough to satisfy the radical people, and they lost the other people; and they were left in the middle.
The institutions began to reflect that. Budgets began to be hit. This was almost an act—an extreme illustration of it was they did in many Christian institutions and churches what Disney just did. They basically decided to alienate half their constituents. And the fear was that “If we take this stand, we’re going to get labeled, and people are going to be mad at us.” But if you’re politicking your way through this, it’s hopeless.
PHIL: Right. Yeah. This strikes me as one of those times there’s a pattern among evangelicals: When they jump on any worldly bandwagon, they usually do it five years late. And that kind of happened with this issue. Almost as soon as evangelicals embraced social justice and critical race theory, it was about that same time that people in the world began to see what a threat this is; and it became very controversial in the world as well. And you remember that President Trump issued a presidential degree that this was not to be taught as a mandate in government institutions. I think at the same time, John, you wrote an article that was published in The Daily Wire about the dangers of CRT.
But it has become as divisive in the church as it is in the world, as divisive both ways, and it drives people poles apart. Owen, do you see a solution to this among our evangelical brethren? Is there a way, once this division has been unleashed and actually encouraged by all the rhetoric, is there a way to get back and reunite and move past this issue? Or is this going to be like the original social gospel which ended up killing all the major denominations and leaving a remnant of faithful people to carry the gospel?
OWEN: If there’s repentance, there’s a way forward. But there are a number of pastors and leaders and teachers and others who need to offer repentance on this issue. If they do so, then I think we can have a way forward; we can potentially come back together in the gospel. But we don’t have a lot of indications that such repentance is in the offing. Instead, it looks like even as America has moved away, culturally, from critical race theory—not because everybody’s gone out and done a PhD in it, but simply because parents of eight-year-olds have been realizing that their kids are being separated according to race in their third grade class and on the playground. And so not even believers are realizing that this is evil ideology. And there are parents in Virginia in the previous year, for example, who crashed numerous school board hearings because they realized this was evil stuff. Again, they’re not even believers, and they have spoken more clearly than many evangelical shepherds.
There was a flashpoint for me a few years ago when I realized Tucker Carlson and Douglas Murray, Jordan Peterson, and others—public intellectuals, more or less on the conservative side—were being far bolder than men indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who loved the Lord and stand on the solid rock of the Word of God. And that was a call for me. That was a wake up, I think, for many of us: that if these men who are not regenerate are willing to take heat for the truth, and shepherds of the living Christ are not, we are in a terrible position.
But there is a word of hope, and that is if we will stand on the Word of God, then God will rescue His people out of these churches. And God is emptying woke churches right now, and God is filling sound churches. So praise God for that.
DARRELL: Phil, if I could just add to what—how much time do we have, because I’ve got a lot to say about what Owen just said.
If you’re in a church or if you know someone who is, that has gone woke or is showing evidence that they’re going woke, don’t be afraid to leave that church. Remember, it’s Christ’s church, it’s not your church. You’re not going to hurt the church if you leave, but you may be hurt if you stay.
Critical race theory is nothing more than ethnocultural Marxism. It has roots in the Institute for Social Research that goes all the way back to the 1930s in Nazi Germany. Felix Weil, a wealthy Jewish-Argentine man, launched the institute in Frankfurt, Germany. You may be more familiar with it by the Monarch or the Frankfurt School. The objective of the Frankfurt School was to promote and advance the philosophy of Karl Marx throughout Germany. But then the Nazis came in. They shut the institute down because the institute was run by Jews, shut it down in the early 1930s. The institute relocated to the United States, where it continues to be housed today, as we sit here, at Columbia University in New York.
Fast-forward from the ’60s to the ’70s, where you have a group of Marxist legal scholars—predominately white Marxist legal scholars—who get together at Columbia and form what’s called the “critical legal studies movement,” where they basically take the work of the Frankfurt School, apply it to legal jurisprudence in America in an effort to achieve a sort of Marxist sociocultural paradigm of equality. But then here’s where the critical race theorists come in.
In the summer of 1989 you had a group of black Marxist legal scholars trying to build on the critical legal studies movement, and among those black legal scholars was Derek Bell, so-called the late—the so-called father of critical race theory. Also among that group was Kimberlé Crenshaw, who is credited with the term intersectionality and developing that ideology.
I’m going through all this with you because it is beholden upon us as Christians—and every Christian in this room is an apologist whether you realize that or not; if you profess to be a Christian, you are an apologist. And to be an effective apologist, to be true to 1 Peter 3:15 where you are to be ready to give a defense for the hope that’s in you, you need to know what critical race theory is.
You have absolutely no excuse to not know what critical race theory is, because critical race theory is coming after your church, it’s coming after your school, it’s coming after your place of employment; and what you need to be aware of is that critical race theory is a stealth ideology. No pastor who’s woke, no Sunday School teacher who’s woke, no public school administrator who is woke, no public school teacher who is woke, no corporate executive who is woke is going to come to you and tell you, “Yes, we teach critical race theory here.”
PHIL: And in fact, there’s been a considerable amount of pushback, both in the evangelical movement and even more so in the secular world, especially with parents complaining that their schoolchildren are being indoctrinated with this stuff. And those who are promoting it say, “No, this isn’t critical race theory; that’s a technical theory,” and so on and so. The pushback hasn’t really caused any diminishment of the propaganda; it’s still going on. Do you see that continuing? Do you think there’s any way to put a stop to it?
DARRELL: Yeah, I think there is a way to put a stop to it, and that’s kind of what I’m alluding to here, Phil. And again, it goes back to what I said about having courage. But your courage can’t be a courage of ignorance, OK. And what I mean by that is that you have to have courage combined with knowledge, OK. You have to have courage combined with information. You just can’t go busting in a PTA meeting or school board meeting talking loud on the microphone but saying nothing; you have to know what critical race theory is. Critical race theory is the—a matter of fact, we really need to stop calling them schools. They’re indoctrination centers, that’s what they are.
Increasingly, increasingly when you send your children off to public schools, you’re not sending them off to be taught, you’re sending them off to be indoctrinated. The goal of critical race theory in public school is to send your children back home hating you. This is the most evil ideology I have ever come across. It is designed just like Marxism was: Marxism is designed to pit you into groups, and then to pit those groups against one another.
So again, you’re not going to hear it. They’re not going to tell you. They’re not going to say, “Yeah, we teach critical race theory here.” What they’re going to tell you is that “We teach ethnic studies here”; that’s critical race theory. They’re going to tell you, “No, we have a social-emotional learning program at our school”; that’s critical race theory. When you go somewhere to work and they implement a diversity/equity inclusion program (DEI), that’s critical race theory. It’s critical race theory by another name.
And again, I don’t want to just plug my podcast for the sake of plugging the podcast. But if you’re familiar with the Just Thinking podcast, my cohost Virgil Walker and I, we did one episode on critical race theory that is four hours long.
PHIL: Yeah, I’ll plug your podcast on that. If you want to understand critical race theory, you’ve got to listen to that podcast. It is long—four hours. I had to drive halfway across the state to hear it all, but it was worth it, and very instructive. One thing I’d say about Darrell is he does his homework, so I appreciate that.
So Owen, do you think within the evangelical movement there’s been—it seems to be that since, say, 2019 when these groups were very overt about pushing this stuff, that they’ve become a little more subtle. But they haven’t really backed away from it, have they?
OWEN: No, no. And are you referring to inter-evangelical or are you—
PHIL: I’m talking about, yeah, Big Eva, the large evangelical organizations that pump out webpages and podcasts and tweets and things like that. It’s all there, and it’s the same response to the pushback; they kind of go underground with it. But I don’t see any diminishment of it, do you?
OWEN: No. When Christians slide from the truth, when we stumble, as we all do, there is a way back into the grace of God, and it is repentance. Repentance is by the grace of God. And so if there is no repentance, what we’re doing is PR exercises and brand management. So we’re seeing brand management because, again, there has been a major backlash against critical race theory, wokeness, and social justice in America, in the broader society, and in the church; and praise God that it has happened. It is a movement of God’s Spirit that there is this groundswell against this ideology.
But it has not really taken root in our major institutions; there is still not a lot of clarity over these issues. You would think that American evangelicals who are very good at being pragmatic, as Dr. MacArthur said several minutes ago, would realize it’s a pragmatic calculation to be against critical race theory because people are so desperate to hear a shepherd shepherd them, to hear a pastor speak truth—that actually, just along pragmatic lines, if you wanted to grow your church, a great way to do it would be to take a stance against this ideology. And yet, and yet, many are not making that move.
So what I said earlier I think applies here as well. If there are going to be pastors who continue to try to walk the third way—third way-ism is everywhere now. It doesn’t emphasize the hard form of wokeness, the kind of strong Marxist current; it emphasizes the soft form of being humble and asking questions and being empathetic. And so if pastors are going to walk that third way; if they’re not going to destroy strongholds, 2 Corinthians 10:3–6; if they’re going to let these ideologies in soft form take their people captive, Colossians 2:8; that is going to mean that churches that take a clear, strong, gracious, loving stand are going to grow. And praise God for that. Praise God.
PHIL: John, one of the things I’ve heard you say repeatedly about why this stress on woke ideology and social justice is so dangerous is that once you affirm any element of it, it’s almost impossible to back away from that, and particularly if your motive for doing it was to avoid being called racist or stupid or whatever. If you try to back away after having affirmed some of it, you’re going to be in worse trouble than you would have been in the first place, right?
JOHN: Well that’s what I was saying earlier. You can never be woke enough. You can never get them to shut it down. You can never repent enough to them—not talking about repenting to God, which is exactly the right thing. It’s hard, amazingly—and Owen, you know this, we all know this—it’s hard for prominent Christian leaders to repent.
I did a series not too many years ago, and I asked our congregation—was going through Revelation 2 and 3. The whole message of Revelation 2 and 3 is our Lord telling the church, “Repent, repent. Repent, or I’m going to remove your candle.” And I asked the congregation, “How many of you have ever heard a pastor get up in his church and repent?” I didn’t find anybody who said yes. Self-preservation plays a big role, and the lack of integrity at that point.
So I would like to think that there would be that, but I’m not seeing it. I’m seeing leaders let their organization go down to ashes before they would say they were actually wrong; and that is a tragic thing. The bigger picture is, Do they not understand the Bible? They’re supposed to be able to rightly handle the Word. They ought to see this coming a mile away. They ought to see it for exactly what it is, as Darrell said.
When I did a series—this was early on. I don’t know what years. I did it on Ezekiel 18, and I said the big problem with turning everybody into some victim class is that they now are victims instead of perpetrators. And the gospel requires that they understand themselves not as victims, but as criminals who have perpetrated crimes against God and are going to be eternally condemned for those crimes.
As soon as you reclassify everybody as some kind of a victim, you’ve cut them off from the message of the gospel at the initial point. And that’s why when I did that series on Ezekiel—I don’t know, I think I did five or six messages on that, trying to show that this is not going to win anybody, this is going to distance people from the place you want them to be. You have to confront the sinner, and the sinner has to see himself under the eternal wrath of God.
PHIL: Right. And when you say it’s a problem because you can never be woke enough, I think you’re acknowledging that there is no end game to this, because if you’re making a profit off of racial strife, ethnic strife, you can’t afford—you have to perpetuate that, right? That’s one of the things you’ve pointed out, Darrell.
DARRELL: Yeah, Phil, you’re exactly right. People ask us—when I say us, my teammate Virgil Walker—in our travels: “What’s the endgame, what’s the payoff to all this?” There is no payoff. There is no endgame, rather; there is a payoff. There can be no endgame because if there was an endgame, the payoff would stop coming. The endgame is to get paid; that’s the endgame. That’s the endgame of what was simply put: “The solution to wokeness is always more money, more power, more control.” This is why pragmatism is the answer in a lot of these evangelical church that are embracing this wokeness.
And understand this: Churches that are succumbing to woke ideology—this is just Darrell speaking, I don’t speak for these men here—but from my perspective, churches that are succumbing to this woke ideology are churches who have totally abandoned the fundamental teleology of the gospel, which is to save sinners from their sin. Think back to Matthew 1:21, when the angel announced that “His name is Jesus”—to begin with—“because He will save their people from their sins.” That’s why His name is Jesus to begin with.
I like to sort of crystalize this, hopefully. I like to refer to John the Baptist. John the Baptist, we would all agree, was unjustly imprisoned. Would we agree on that? He was unjustly imprisoned. So the social justician would concur that John the Baptist was unjustly imprisoned. In his imprisonment he sent—John the Baptist—two of his disciples to Jesus to ask Jesus, “Are you the expected One or are we to wait for someone else?” Jesus sent those disciples back to John with this message: “Go and tell John what you have seen and what you’ve heard. You’ve seen the blind see, you’ve seen the deaf hear, you’ve seen the lame walk”—but lastly, Jesus said, “Tell John that you’ve seen the poor have the gospel preached to them.”
See, that’s the biblical Jesus. See, social justice Jesus would have said this: “Go back and tell John that everyone’s had their student loans paid off, they all have nice homes to live in, they all have well-paying jobs, they all have their felt needs met.” See, that’s social justice Jesus.
The biblical Jesus, we’re seeing in evangelicalism increasing numbers of churches where the biblical Jesus is not enough: “It’s not enough that Christ saved me from my sin; I want more. Sorry, Lord; I need more than that.” So they’re succumbing to the social gospel in order to get their felt needs met, as if having your sins forgiven isn’t enough. I mean, can you, can you—think about that for a second. But that’s where we are; that’s where we are.
PHIL: Yeah. Another theme in the gospel is that middle wall of partition has been broken down—
PHIL: —so that all the differences between ethnicities and genders and all of that have been erased in the sense that we’re all one in Christ.
DARRELL: Can I speak on that, Phil? Could I interrupt you to speak on that?
PHIL: Yeah, go for it.
DARRELL: See, folks who listen to the Just Thinking podcast they know this is how I roll. I’m sorry about this, guys. I have to say something about this whole race thing; I have to get this out.
I need a show of hands: How many of you have ever been to a restaurant that specializes in a racial cuisine? You don’t want to raise your hands to that one. That’s a trick question. I’m an Answers in Genesis guy, you guys should know better than that. Follow-up question: How many of you have ever been to a restaurant that specialized in ethnic cuisine? You see where I’m going with this.
When Phil mentioned the word racial, that’s what tipped this off. The way for us to be better apologists is to reject the terminology of the world. Biblically speaking, there is no such thing as race; there is not. There’s no such thing as a black person and a white person; we’re all different shades of the same color, the same color. I have a one-verse apologetic for you against the idea, the worldly idea of race, one verse: it’s Acts 17:26. You’re going to see it all over this campus, Acts 17:26. In the NASB it says, “And He”—that is God—“made from one man”—that one man being Adam—“every nation on the face of the earth.” That word “nation” in the Greek is not speaking about geographical boundaries, that word in the Greek is the word ethnos, from where we get the word “ethnicity.” So the biblical word is “ethnicity.” It is not “race.”
OK, so one way we can help defeat these ideologies that are coming against the church, that are coming against your schools, that are coming against places where you work, is to reject the vernacular of the world and reframe those terms, reframe those words in the context of what Scripture says. Scripture says the word is “ethnicity,” it is not “race.” So if it’s not race, there can be no racism. What there is, is what is talked about in 1 John. There’s either hate or love. I either hate you, or I love you; there is no “ism,” there is no “ism.” I either hate you or love you. There’s only two choices we have.
Now think about this; this is the beauty of how the Bible deals with these issues. How else can you explain, outside of a biblical hamartiology, outside of a biblical doctrine of sin? How else can you explain? If I, with a sort of darker shade of melanin, look upon a person who has a lighter shade of melanin with my eyes? Now your melanin is not dynamic, it’s static. It hasn’t offended me, it hasn’t cursed me, it hasn’t called me an ethic pejorative. Your melanin is static, it is immutable; you can’t change it. It hasn’t hurt me at all.
But how do you explain that I see that with my eyes, and I develop what I see with my eyes in my mind as a hateful thought that generates a sinful motive in my heart? How else can you explain that outside of the gospel? There is no explanation outside of the gospel. It’s sin in the human heart; that’s the only explanation. And because the gospel is the only explanation, the gospel is the only solution.
PHIL: Owen, you made the comment that they’re not schools, they’re indoctrinational centers. Now I know you have children. What do we do now? Do we send our children to school? And while elementary schools are hotbeds of this kind of stuff, universities are even worse. You going to send your kids to college?
OWEN: No, they’re not going to college. Sorry, kids. They’re just finding that out. Actually, I’m trying to get them to TMU, but we’ll see if that works out.
What I—ah, man, there’s so much to say about where we go from here. But where Darrell took that, where I think you were going, Phil, I have to comment on quickly before I talk about school, and that’s just—this entire movement makes the cross a small thing, and the cross is not a small thing. The cross is the center of history. The cross is planned by the Father, Ephesians 1, before the foundation of the earth. The cross is why the Son incarnates. The cross is what the Spirit applies the benefits of, to everyone who has faith in Jesus the Christ. The cross truly is the center of our Christian faith.
So there are hard questions in society. There are gray areas that we face. We’re facing educational questions right now. I would encourage you to just only add more fuel to the fire of that homeschool co-op meeting on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I would encourage you to buy into that Christian school being founded and built. I would encourage you, if you have a sound public school in your area, to do everything you can to try to support the Christians in your area from your church who are trying to be a witness and a light in that public school.
There’s different choices we face before us. But fundamentally, we cannot let the cross be a small thing to us. We have to be very clear that if the cross is powerful enough to bridge the divide of Jew and Gentile and make them one new man, Ephesians 2:15, in the first century, the cross is everything we need to bring together people who are seemingly divided by wokeness, critical race theory, and social justice in our time. Those ideologies try to renaturalize the church. They try to take a church that brings together people from every tribe, tongue, ethne on the earth, and then those ideologies try to renaturalize the church and teach people, “No. No, you’re not united in Jesus Christ; your melanin divides you. You can’t have unity with people who have these injustices in their past. You guys don’t have any unity at all.”
That is the ultimate tragedy of wokeness, that it causes us to renaturalize the church. And we have to simply take a stand and say, “Absolutely not. If you are in Christ, you are my brother and my sister. The gospel has overcome any enmity between us, and we are one new man in Christ Jesus.” That’s what we have to preach.
PHIL: John, talk about grace and privilege. You know, privilege has become a bad word—like if I have privilege, I’m supposed to be sorry for that. That isn’t a biblical perspective either, is it?
JOHN: Well I think you have to go back to the sovereignty of God. You have to go back to the divine purpose in every life. I mean, Jesus even said, “The poor you will always have with you.” That’s a sovereign choice that God makes.
I think if you are a believer, it isn’t that you’re content with your fallenness or you’re content with the evidences of your corruption, but it is that whatever state you are in, you are content because God in His providence has put you there for His kingdom purposes. Whatever shade of melanin you may be, whatever kind of social structure you were reared in, whatever kind of parenting you had, within the bigger picture of God’s sovereign purpose comes together in His providence to equip you for some purpose within His kingdom. And He redeems you from that, but with—like He said to Peter, Peter’s terrible denials, and you know, Peter’s talking to the Lord, and the Lord says, “You’re going to deny Me.” God redeems all of that, all of the past, all of the past history of an individual family and experiences. When Christ comes, all of that is redeemed and collected with giftedness and the work of the Holy Spirit to fit you into the body of Christ in a perfect position. There’s no wasted experience in your life.
I mean, we would go so far as to say nobody is a random life, and nobody is a victim. Ultimately, God is sovereign over every single aspect of life. And you are who you are with all that came into your life. All of that is fit together by God in His divine purpose to affect a usefulness out of you in His kingdom. To reject all of that is to heap scorn on the plan of God for your life, and to deny God the sovereign right that He has to bring you through what He brought you through, to make you into what you are.
What you need to do is own that, rejoice in that, be thankful that you’ve been redeemed, and take all that God has built into you, and let it unfold in the way that God wants to use you in the body of Christ. And of all things, be thankful. Where is the thanksgiving in all of this? Where is the gratitude to God? Where is the appreciation for, as Darrell said, the forgiveness of sin, salvation? And it isn’t just that your sins are forgiven; you’re a child of God, a join heir with Christ. There’s an undefiled inheritance waiting for you reserved in heaven. I think the Lord has given you enough, that you need to respond by accepting the sovereign way in which He designed you, and finding every possible positive way to influence, for His glory and the advancement of His kingdom, other people through your life.
PHIL: Yeah, that’s good. You preached on forgiveness this Sunday. Would you think it’s fair to characterize woke doctrine as a direct attack, a frontal assault on the ideas of forgiveness and redemption, which are at the heart of the gospel?
JOHN: It’s collective vengeance; it’s collective retaliation. And that is precisely what Ephesians 4:31 and 32 is saying you can’t do. You put aside all that—anger, wrath, clamor, evil speaking, malice—and you forgive. And how do you forgive? You forgive as God in Christ has forgiven you. How did God in Christ forgive us? Totally removed our sins as far as the east is from the west, remembers them no more. That’s how we are to forgive.
That is completely antithetical to dragging up garbage out of the past and trying to hold present people responsible for something they had nothing to do with. It even disallows me holding you responsible for something you did to offend me. I don’t even have the right to hold that against you, let alone some dead people from two hundred years ago.
JOHN: And by the way, I don’t.
PHIL: Good. Thank you. It’s true. I would not have survived working for you all these years if you were not a hugely forgiving man; I appreciate that.
So Darrell, speaking of sins that were committed by our ancestors two hundred years or so ago, I’ve done a little bit of genealogy work on my own family, and half of them were poor subsistence farmers who picked cotton, and a few of them were slave owners. Do I class myself among the victims or among the guilty? What’s your advice?
DARRELL: You know, Phil, you may find this surprising, but I face the same dilemma as you.
DARRELL: I recently found out that my fifth great-grandfather on my father’s side, man named John R. Harrison, from Fairfield County, South Carolina, was a white man who owned almost three hundred slaves. I’ve seen the slave roster. I’ve seen his picture. His father, Reuben Harrison, passed those slaves down to him. So I face the same dilemma as you: I don’t even know what category I’m in.
But see, what John is talking about, I want to build on something John just said, because John just said something very profound. When he brings up this idea of collective vengeance for presumed—I like to qualify this by saying “presumed sins of hundreds of years ago”—this whole idea of privilege is rooted in a mischaracterization of America’s history of slavery.
Now many of you who listen to my podcast have heard me say this. But for those of you who haven’t listened to it, this will be your first time hearing me say this. But I’ve said before, if ever you were to visit my office at Grace to You—if you’re ever in Valencia, I hope you’ll stop by and visit us at Grace to You, I’d love to give you a tour. But if you were to ever come by my office at Grace to You, you would see in my library more books on slavery than any other subject other than theology. I’ve studied slavery for years. I’m not bragging; I’m saying that to put something in context.
The idea of collective vengeance is rooted in a lie. For instance, there’s a woman by the name of Nikole Hannah-Jones. Nikole Hannah-Jones heads up what’s called “The 1619 Project.” The lie is inherent to the title of that project in that wokeness perpetuates the lie that slavery in America began when the slave ship White Lion offloaded the first African slaves onto North American shores in Jamestown, Virginia, on August 20th of 1619. Slavery did not begin in 1619 in America; slavery began thousands of years ago in Africa and was facilitated by people who look like me. There would have been no slavery in America were it not for black Africans who willingly, volitionally participated in and profited from the transatlantic slave trade. So this idea of privilege is an intellectually dishonest conversation.
Hannah-Jones and others like her, like Ibram X. Kendi, Patricia Hill Collins, Kelly Brown Douglas, and other critical race theorists want you to remain ignorant on the true history of slavery. See, you can’t have an intellectually honest conversation with me about slavery if you don’t want to go back to Africa. That’s where it started. It didn’t start in 1619. See, what we need is not a 1619 project; we need a 1618 project that takes you before 1619 and goes all the way back. Slavery began in Genesis 3; that’s where it began. It began when Eve and Adam disobeyed God. You lost the imago Dei right there, OK. So this idea of privilege is rooted in a lie.
Now my Bible tells me in Matthew 5:45 that “God brings rain upon the just and the unjust,” that “His sun shines on the good and the evil.” That’s what we call, in theology, common grace. So if you want to talk about privilege, we’re all privileged. I’m privileged by taking the next breath. I’m privileged because I don’t deserve to take the next breath.
So again, we have to be informed apologists. Your apologetics must be undergirded with knowledge. So don’t be afraid to challenge these assertions, don’t be afraid to challenge these lies, because they’re built on lies to divide us. But as Owen so eloquently said, the gospel in Christ has torn down those walls, torn them down. But we have, within certain pockets of evangelicalism, certain men and women who for—for the sake of a blue check on a social media platform, who for the sake of a spin in their own brand, are trying to rebuild that wall that Christ has already torn down.
Now you could either participate in one form of building construction or another. You can be a biblical deconstructionist—not as it holds to Marxist deconstructionist. You can be a biblical deconstructionist and keep that wall deconstructed that Christ has already destroyed. Or you can be on the opposite side and try to build that wall of division back up. Those are only two construction positions that you can hold. But if you profess to be a believer in Christ and your heart is regenerate, you have sold out to Christ. And as Owen has said, in Christ we are brothers and we are sisters, and there is nothing that divides anymore, absolutely nothing.
PHIL: Owen, you are a man of courage. When you first began to sound the alarm about this issue, you were on the faculty of a Southern Baptist seminary when opposition to wokeism was not politically correct, and particularly among Southern Baptists. In 2019, they famously passed a resolution that refers to critical race theory and intersectionality as useful tools for interpreting the world around us. So this wokeism, it seems to be endemic among Southern Baptists, and it’s a matter of controversy right now. They’re leading up to another convention; I think it’s going to be divisive because of these issues. Do you think what’s happening now in the SBC is simply a repeat of what destroyed the mainstream denominations at the beginning of the 20th century?
OWEN: Yes, I do. I think tragically, though there are many good people in the SBC, though all the men on this stage I’m sure have numerous connections and friends and know of good churches in the SBC. Thankful for good work going on in the SBC. At that broader level, at the convention in 2019, the convention affirmed in a resolution, as you said, that CRT is a useful analytical tool. And that’s built off of—that language is built off of James Cone saying that Marxism is a tool of social analysis that analyzes culture in a way that capitalism cannot, Christianity cannot. So we need to understand the black liberation roots of that phrase “tool of social analysis, useful analytical tool.”
And last year there was an effort made to try to repeal that resolution at the convention; and the motion failed, and numerous well-known leaders did not speak up in order to try to roll back that affirmation of CRT. And so tragically, though there are many sound people in the SBC right now, the convention as a whole, at that denominational level, at the meeting level, has not taken that stand against CRT.
And so I’ll put myself on record right now. It is time for anyone who is in the SBC to once more take a stand against this ideology. It is time for anyone who knows of SBC institutions, seminaries, colleges, universities that are imbibing CRT and that are not taking a stand against it, it is time for those who know of faculty members who are embracing wokeness and transmitting wokeness in their classroom—it is yet again time to take stand against this ideology because this is not consonant with the Scripture. It’s what Dr. MacArthur said in the first session of this conference: There is the world, and there is God’s church. And this ideology is being allowed to come into God’s church. And I know there are many Southern Baptists who stand against this ideology. But they must realize right now that it is the eleventh hour; and if they do not stand, they are going to lose their denomination.
PHIL: All right. Did you want to say something, John?
JOHN: No, I just—
PHIL: OK. Our time is up. And Owen, would you close us in prayer.
OWEN: Yes, sir. Father, we have talked about tremendously weighty things. We have talked about schemes of the devil that he has constructed in order to try to divide the body of Christ. We know that he has been attacking the bride of Christ now, with these specific ideologies we’ve discussed, for several years, and we know that he has been allowed to make major inroads into the church.
Father, thank You so much for faithful men. Thank You for Dr. MacArthur, the Spurgeon of our era. Thank you for Darrell Harrison. Thank you for Phil John. Thank you for Virgil Walker, for Josh Buice, for Tom Buck, for so many others we could name—Tom Ascol. Thank you for these men who have been faithful—Voddie Baucham—and have taken a stand, and have been clear. Father, give us clear-preaching shepherds. Give us men, strong men who stand on the Word of God. Give us those who give instruction in sound doctrine, Titus 1:9, and give us those men who also rebuke those who contradict it.
Father, we know that it is in the worst times that the men of courage do their best work. Thank You for sound men. Give us many more sound men to lead our churches. Give us many more Christian men and women, alike, who will stand against evil ideologies, and cause us, as we conclude here, to remember just how powerful the cross of Christ truly was. It is the strongest force in the cosmos. It has taken enemies of God, enemies of You, and it has made us a body: the body of Jesus Christ.
Thank You for the cross, and thank You for the resurrection. It is in the undefeated and undefeatable name of Jesus Christ that we pray. Amen.
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