Today, teachers of God’s Word regularly join biblical doctrine with unbiblical sociology. The chief example of this is the failed attempt to combine Critical Race Theory with the Bible. Yet, it’s not just conjoining two systems that is the issue. That is usually spotted and discarded from the start. The more pernicious practice takes place when teachers take pieces of the CRT puzzle (call them analytical tools if you will) and fit them into the biblical framework.
But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.— 2 Corinthians 11:3–4
In his book, Doctrine of the Atonement, nineteenth century evangelist and pastor James Haldane wrote about the ways Scottish churches fused biblical doctrine with modern philosophy. In his opening chapter, he makes a case for a pure and undiluted biblical orthodoxy, over against those who unite Scripture with philosophy. He writes,
True philosophy consists in our sitting at the feet of Jesus, and receiving the truth as He has been pleased to reveal it. The Scriptures teach us, that the understanding of fallen man is darkened, and that the Holy Spirit alone can illuminate its inmost recesses with the light of truth. (22)
Though written more than 150 years ago, Haldane’s words still ring true. In his day, various Enlightenment philosophies, especially those arguing for morality sans biblical revelation, were infiltrating the church. As an evangelist, he saw thousands come to Christ who had received instruction in their churches on morality, but had not on Christianity. And in response, Haldane exposed the errors of combining biblical Christianity with worldly philosophies, a pastoral practice we should continue today.
Sociology Can Be a Vain Philosophy
In our day, the fusion of truth and error is equally pernicious, but perhaps more difficult to discern. For, instead of seeing a fusion of Christianity and Enlightenment philosophy, which we have been trained to observe and reject, it is more often the case that we see the fusion of Christianity and sociology. Sociology has become a leading assistant in churches today who are employing diversity training and all other forms of cultural awareness.
At first, some might not see the connection between sociology and unbiblical philosophies. This may be due to the difference in terminology, with their different locations in the college catalog. Likewise, it may be due to the fact that sociology, like psychology, is a common grace helper for earnest Christians. We need to be less naive, however.
Fundamentally, sociology is a philosophical endeavor, and one that often stands upon various biological, historical, or philosophical beliefs. To define our terms, the discipline of sociology “attempts to understand the forces outside us that shape our lives, interests, and personalities (Eitzen and Zinn, 2003:4).” Practically, how one understands the world is both informed by one’s philosophy (i.e.., epistemology, ethics, metaphysics) and informs ones philosophy. Yet, because this philosophy goes by the name of sociology and the study of societal trends, its pervasive and corrupting influence on Christianity is less often discerned.
To speak anecdotally, in 2020 I read or listened to over twenty books on race, and ironically the only one that didn’t let sociology inform their applications and conclusion was, ironically, a book by the sociologist George Yancey. Writing on the weakness of sociology to solve ethnic animosity, he writes, “None of the four models we have discussed [i.e., colorblindness, anglo-conformity, multiculturalism, white responsibility] is capable of providing a unique Christian answer for our racial problems. All of them are flawed because their secular philosophical origins limit their perspectives on reality” (Beyond Racial Gridlock, 74). As a Christian sociologist, he recognizes the limitations of sociology. Unfortunately, many other Christians do not see this. As a result, they have unassumingly employed the language, concepts, and philosophies of modern sociology to address problems, especially those related to race.
How Critical Race Theory Slips In
Today, teachers of God’s Word regularly join biblical doctrine with unbiblical sociology. The chief example of this is the failed attempt to combine Critical Race Theory with the Bible. Yet, it’s not just conjoining two systems that is the issue. That is usually spotted and discarded from the start. The more pernicious practice takes place when teachers take pieces of the CRT puzzle (call them analytical tools if you will) and fit them into the biblical framework. Or worse, there are some who critique CRT as a system, while employing the various tools defined and created by CRT (i.e., when John Piper critiques CRT but employs the definitions of racialization from Divided by Faith in his book Bloodlines, which comes from Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, advocate of Intersectionality, a tool of CRT, and author of Racism without Racists).