Identity Politics and the Bondage of the Will

Introduction

[M]an’s will is like a beast standing between two riders. If God rides it, it wills and goes where God wills: as the Psalm says: “I am become as a beast (before thee) and I am always with thee.” If Satan rides it, it wills and goes where Satan wills; nor can it choose to run to either of the two riders or to seek him out, but the riders themselves contend for the possession and control of it.[1]

So says Martin Luther in his famous work, The Bondage of the Will.[2] The German reformer was obviously concentrated on soteriology in his exchange with Erasmus of Rotterdam.[3] For Luther, the will was the stage upon which the drama of salvation was enacted. In the things of salvation, it is only to God that “free-will”, acting without compulsion, can be appropriately attributed. Luther’s aim in Bondage of the Will was to buttress his doctrine of justification by grace through faith, predestination, and divine election over and against his opponents’ suggestion of libertarian freedom in man to choose God. Luther argued that this was tantamount to ascribing divinity to man, “a delusion fraught with the most perilous consequences.” Man had no inherent power to act apart from God because he is a metaphysically and morally dependent creature, one now fallen and bound by sin. “Free will”, in this context, was an empty concept. Man’s eternal destiny depends on God alone, not his own striving or self-help, contra Gabriel Biel and late-medieval doctrine.[4] By Luther’s estimation (in this context), “[w]hat is sought by means of free choice is to make room for merits.” And if merits may justify, then Christ’s sacrifice was indeed foolish.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Lutheran and Reformed theologians alike typically bifurcated their discussions on the will’s place in the economy of salvation and its activity in the temporal realm.[5] Man’s disposition and ability as it pertains to what is above differs from its relationship to what is below. To this end, writers of the period often said that man’s will was “formally” free (and this formal freedom does not deny the brokenness of the ideal reflex of the mental faculties of lapsarian man).[6] Though all things fall out according to God’s providence and immutable will, He does no violence to the will of “the creature”, as the Westminster Confession (1646) states (3.1), “nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”[7]

Luther’s own view of the operation of the will outside of soteriological considerations was more complicated and out of scope here. But it was his polemic in the Bondage of the Will that has often garnered him a label of determinism.

However Luther’s soteriology should be characterized, there is no question that he still affirmed man’s moral responsibility as a free agent subject to God’s moral law. Affirming that point— that man is a free and knowing creature operating with spontaneous volition— is necessary to designate man inexcusable in his sin (Rom. 1:20). William H. Lazareth summarizes Luther’s position well, “Persons are relatively free as subjects/citizens to do some moral good in history; they are absolutely bound as sinners to do no saving good for eternity.” [8] In Luther’s words,

[W]e may still in good faith teach people to use it to credit man with ‘free-will’ in respect, not of what is above him, but of what is below him… However, with regard to God, and in all that bears on salvation or damnation, he has no ‘free-will’, but is captive, prisoner and bond slave, either to the will of God, or to the will of Satan.[9]

In fact, far from denying the operation of man’s will, Luther held that man acts out of necessity—depending on which cosmic being is in his saddle— not out of compulsion. “That is to say: a man without the Spirit of God does not do evil against his will, under pressure, as though he were taken by the scruff of the neck and dragged to it… but he does it spontaneously and voluntarily.”[10]

Luther’s theology was wrapped up in the classical hierarchy of being. It was also profoundly Augustinian and more or less repeated through the ensuing centuries by the likes of John Calvin, William Ames, Petrus von Maastricht, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Spurgeon.[11] Only when the will is regenerated by the Spirit can man willingly turn to Christ and grasp his promises by faith unto salvation. Prior thereto, he was in bondage to sin by corrupt affections. Absent a regenerating work of God, man’s status is that of sin, he can do no other.

Though “God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined to good, or evil,”[12] post-fall “Man… hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation,” declares the Westminster Confession.[13] But,

When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by his grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.[14]

Thereafter, “The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to good alone, in the state of glory only.”[15]Throughout, God’s grace does not violate but rather regenerates and sanctifies the nature of man.

Faithful Protestants have, for the past 500 years, continued to affirm Luther’s basic insight into the operation of the will and the enslaving power of sin, maintaining that the only route to salvation is a work of God’s free grace coming not from within but from without.

Yet, the contemporary proponents of identity politics and critical theory have imposed upon us a different sort of determinism; a new bondage of the will, we might say, and one that nears revocation of a uniquely human faculty and its operation in the things below. It is a bondage drawn not from Scripture and orthodox theology, but from an ideology of more recent vintage that has lately captivated public discourse, even in Christian circles.

I

Defining the Relationship

All the Rage

In their commendable new primer, Engaging Critical Theory and the Social Justice Movement, Neil Shenvi and Pat Sawyer note the pervasiveness of the language of identity politics in American culture.[16] Everyone from Rosie O’Donnell to Cher to candidates for the 2020 Democratic primary has wittingly or otherwise employed it. On multiple occasions, Beto O’Rourke has claimed without qualification that America is founded upon white supremacy and that he himself is a beneficiary of this.[17] This year, The New York Times began publishing, to much fanfare, a collection of essays known as “The 1619 Project.”[18] The lead essay in the initiative— named for the year in which chattel slavery was allegedly introduced to the American continent via the Jamestown colony— supports O’Rourke’s assessment, arguing that the ideals of the Founding Fathers were bold-faced lies, that the main impetus for American’s independence was to protect the decidedly sinful institution of slavery, and that America’s essence from the word go has been a struggle between white oppressors and oppressed minorities.[19]

One is tempted to summarily dismiss these examples as the nuisance of so-called “political correctness,” the mad ravings of social justice warriors, or an inordinate spillover of “wokeness” from academia. It might be equally tempting to breeze over recent stories like the one about teens in Argentina protesting “gendered” Spanish and presume them irrelevant, insular, and extreme instances of juvenile rage.[20]

But these quite natural reactions would be premature and miss the underlying, coherent ideology behind the socio-political, and even moral, vocabulary of the day— a vocabulary that is increasingly enveloping all areas of social life. Instead, Shenvi and Sawyer say, language of white supremacy, patriarchy, hegemonic power, and the like flows “out of a knowledge area known as critical theory, which seeks to understand human relationships through the fundamental lens of power.”

Critical Theory and its Roots

Shenvi and Sawyer coin the term “contemporary critical theory”— some have called it “applied postmodernism”[21]— to explain the most recent manifestations of a remarkably variegated tradition of thought which stretches back to the early 20th century ideas of Max Horkheimer, Theodore Adorno, and Herbert Marcuse of the Frankfurt School, the neo-Marxism of Antonino Gramsci, and the postmodernism of Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. Though myriad intellectual strands have come together to form contemporary critical theory—indeed, one of the chief characteristics of critical theory generally is that it is allergic to rigid definition— most agree that the Frankfurt School and the development of western or cultural (or some prefer “humanist”) Marxism—Marxist framework applied critique of western culture— played a foundational role in this origin story.

Disillusioned with classical Marxism’s inordinate (in their minds) fixation on economics—not to mention Marx’s notorious and numerous faulty predictions— and discouraged by the increasingly apparent crimes of Communism in eastern Europe, the members of the Institute for Social Research at Goethe University—what came to be known as the Frankfurt School—shifted their attention from the means of economic production to the means of cultural production, specifically in the west. Their contention was that Marxist-Leninism was too rigid and that the preexistent social theory dominant in political science could not account for the radical politics and upheaval of the 20th century.

But they did not discard the basic Marxist framework—the oppressors-oppressed dichotomy and the language of alienation, exploitation, fetishism, and reification. The Frankfurt Schoolers merely altered the content and refocused the application of said framework. [22] To their credit, Horkheimer, Marcuse, Adorno, and others were rightly critical of Nazi Germany, and fascism wherever it cropped up. But by their lights, the Third Reich was part and parcel of a larger problem.

Gramsci too denounced Mussolini’s fascist regime in Italy. His famous, posthumously published Prison Notebooks, which espoused his revision of Marxism—viz., that civil institutions which imbedded capitalist ideology in western culture were to blame for the failure of Marx’s predictions—were a product of his incarceration for his communist leanings. Gramsci rejected as too simplistic Marx’s economic determinism—the contention that men are formed by their material environment rather than their consciousness; Gramsci held just the opposite.[23] Capitalism had taken root not only in men’s material world, but in their mental world too through “fetishistic illusions,” which, in turn, allowed capitalist material structures to dig in their heels. In the chicken and egg question faced at the outset by Marxists, Gramsci essentially ordered the superstructure before the substructure (material forces of production).[24]And so, it was Gramsci who cast the gaze of future Marxists toward the cultural institutions that construct the capitalist consciousness.[25] To that end, Gramsci directed his compatriots to infiltrate and transform (if not demolish) western schools, churches, and media, not to mention political and legal structures—a war on all moral and cultural hierarchies and their gatekeepers.

In a recent article at Themelios, Robert Smith expertly traces the intellectual development from classical Marxism to Gramsci to the Frankfurt School, and eventually, to critical theory. Smith also includes helpful assessments of key thinkers (i.e. György Lukács and Erich Fromm) not covered here.[26] Accordingly, that detailed history will not now be fully reiterated.[27] Suffice it to say, out of the work of the Frankfurt School—essentially a cocktail of neo-Marxism, Darwinism, and Freudianism, with some Kant sprinkled in for good measure—an entire field, and sub-fields, of study emerged, namely but not exclusively, critical theory and so-called cultural studies.[28]

Westward Expansion

It must be admitted that the period of history in which the Frankfurt School, founded in the wake of World War I during the Weimar Republic (1918-1933), sprouted up was a good, or at least understandable, time to be pessimistic about western civilization.[29] During the nightmare years, as William Shirer called them, that was the reign of the Third Reich, most of the scholars at the Frankfurt School were forced to flee Germany. Hitler also understood the power of cultural institutions and did not take kindly to communists or Jews—most of the original Frankfurt Schoolers were both—spouting off their subversive ideas in German universities. By 1935, the Frankfurt crew had relocated, after a pitstop in Geneva, to the Institute for Social Research in New York.[30] Marcuse taught in America for the rest of his career and enjoyed considerable influence in the academy, and the sexual revolution and anti-war protests of the 1960s.[31]

Despite the early presence of the Frankfurt School at key universities, critical theory (CT) took root in the American academy most acutely in law schools and the critical legal studies movement (CLS) in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which in turn, spawned critical race theory (CRT).[32] CT has made a notable showing of late in education theory (i.e. critical pedagogy[33]) but is prevalent in older disciplines like sociology, history, and the humanities.[34] Additionally, new areas of study have been hatched for the purposes of applying and expanding the insights of CT. We now have gender studies,[35] post-colonial studies,[36] queer theory,[37] ethnic studies,[38] family theory,[39] and other relative newcomers to academia cropping up in niche journals and course lists at elite universities.[40]

From the start, CT has been interdisciplinary, and in the case of CLS, this was necessarily so since the basic premise of the movement was that western jurisprudence, far from being based on any transcendent moral law, has been developed for the protection of the structural interests of those in power. To CLS scholars, like the so-called “realists” before them, law does not possess its own integrity or independence.[41] Accordingly, it is economics, sociology, and literary criticism that provides insights into what law should be in the pursuit of equity.[42] The unofficial mantra of CLS has always been that law is politics by others means, a play on the famous quote from Carl von Clausewitz’s On War.[43]

Contemporary Critical Theory: Its concerns and emphases

In general, contemporary CT “divides the world into oppressed groups and their oppressors along lines of race, class, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability, age, weight, and a host of other identity markers.”[44] The goal of this approach to the world is liberation (primarily political and cultural) of the oppressed groups—a distinctly Marxist modus operandi—especially in terms of oppression proliferated through structural or systemic conditions. Liberation is accomplished by undermining the status quo via comprehensive social critique, and highly cynical critique at that. In other words, deconstructing “hegemonic narratives”— especially historical ones— and concomitant social, political, and economic structures that allegedly justify the dominance of oppressor groups in society.[45] It is to Gramsci that the idea of cultural hegemony is attributed.

As Shenvi and Sawyer rightly point out, the CT tradition, begun (more or less) by the Frankfurt School and Gramsci, served as the philosophical basis for the post-war New Left, which includes thinkers as diverse as Louis Althusser, Jacques Lacan, and Jürgen Habermas—all contributors in their own right.[46]

Mentioned already is the fact that the sheer number of notable thinkers connected to CT attests to the impossibility of neat definition. It is the case with any intellectual tradition that its proponents will not be monolithic in their thought. The thinkers of the Frankfurt School and their CT progeny present no exceptions to the rule. Nevertheless, a basic core to the CT tradition can be identified, and an attempt at such is further pursued below.

More to the point, the influence of this multifaceted way of thinking on contemporary culture is undeniable, even in evangelical Christianity.[47] The contemporary version— the brand being championed at the popular level— maintains the basic framework and outlook of its predecessors; it has not wandered far. The simplest insight to remember going forward is that critical theory divides society along oppressed-oppressor lines.

Hence, per Shenvi and Sawyer, “many critical theorists insist that our identity as individuals is inextricably bound to our group identity.” Knowledge of “truth,” morality, the very experience of reality itself is strongly shaped by group membership. What matters is one’s affiliation with either subordinate or dominant groups— groups defined most often in our immediate context by traits like skin color, ethnicity, gender, age, and physical (or mental) ability. Group membership is by and large, though not exclusively, trait-based—even if the “traits” in question are socially constructed to constitute groups, the organizing principle remains primarily trait-based (with a few notable exceptions such as class)—and imposed upon people involuntarily. The “dominant” group is the one that is afforded preference by the (self-serving and nefarious) structures, norms, and narratives of society. In essence, the dominant group has intricately constructed, and continues to control, how a society makes sense of itself and perceives its purpose, customs, and origins in a way that benefits itself and preserves its status.

The dominant group(s) are the oppressors, subordinate (or “subaltern”) groups are the oppressed. The act of oppression does not merely invoke the colloquial definition of arbitrary or unjust exercise of power, though it is certainly no less than that. Rather, “oppression” is synonymous with the dominant group’s ability to force everyone else to submit to its norms and values (“hegemonic power”), thus necessarily ostracizing the nonconformist “Other”, which strips the Other of power. It is a “soft” oppression that is exercised by the oppressors. Their preferences are ingrained in societal experience.

This is why people perceived to associate with the oppressor group(s) are often referred to as colonizers. Not only does this pejorative link them to the ills of historical colonialism, but also subtly invokes the idea of cultural hegemony. The oppressors have colonized the norms of society through everything from its art to social niceties. Even the very thought patterns of the oppressed are not unaffected by the supposed ubiquitous influence of dominant groups. Some CT practitioners even suggest that American schools themselves are products of (epistemic) hegemonic power by way of oppressor control of “learning culture.”[48] This is especially the case in history, economics, and the humanities, but STEM disciplines are not unmarred by oppressor culture and ways of thinking.[49] Evangelical Christians might be interested to know that theorists of critical pedagogy have written about the oppression and “harassment” that Christian evangelism imposes upon minority religions (i.e. “Christian hegemony”). This is especially the case, they say, when evangelism is integrated with school curriculums.[50]

For critical theorists, hegemonic power is manifested in heteronormativity, cisgenderism, ableism, racism, and sexism, to name a few.[51] Members of oppressor groups wittingly or unwittingly (it makes no real difference) preserve their dominant status by upholding, or at least not combating, oppressive structures and norms—the status quo. For this reason, it is membership in the dominant, hegemonically powerful group that determines one’s complicity in this system, not one’s individual conduct per se (though the latter can certainly compound guilt). Likewise, it is membership in an oppressed group that defines one’s measure of innocence and, conversely, one’s virtue.

The oppressed also, ironically, have privileged access to superior knowledge. In the CT paradigm, it is the deconstruction of false, oppressive narratives that liberates truth—”truth” being conveniently redefined by Horkheimer as “whatever fosters [emancipatory] social change.”[52] It is the oppressed, then, who, by way of their “lived experience” as the Other, have achieved a gnostic-like transcendence of the lies of hegemonic power to higher truth. CRT in particular features the concept of “double consciousness” which affords people of color the power of second sight from the perspective of anti-black prejudice.

It is this aspect of CT that has so confused contemporary debates in the public square. According to contemporary CT, appeals to “reason” and “objectivity” are concealed bids for power by oppressors; a covert means of maintaining dominant thought patterns. Hence, the relatively ineffective efforts of historians to poke factual holes in the openly revisionist historical accounts peddled by the 1619 Project. Arguments containing appeals to objective standards of evidence and the like are couched as dog whistles for racism, misogyny, sexism, and etc.

A public discourse of distrust is the predictable result of this outlook because every statement is interrogated for its embedded, hidden bid for power rather than for its truthfulness.[53] Not only are the responses of majority culture members to claims of racism, oppression, and the rest presumed guilty of what has just been described, but it is further believed by the purveyors of CT that any effort by the marginalized to educate their oppressor counterparts will be ineffective and therefore futile. The subconscious, implicit bias and inbred self-interest (by way of his class membership) of the oppressor will not allow him to fairly consider the claims and explanations of the marginalized, critical theorists suggest. So, why try?[54]

Those of the oppressor class, being ignorant of the subconscious ideologies that protect their systemic power, are therefore cordially invited to “stay in their lane” when it comes to the ever-growing list of topics about which oppressed people have superior competence via lived experience in a hegemonic regime. Social location controls knowledge (or at least perception) of truth.[55] “Lived experience” is a special, indispensable hermeneutical tool possessed by the oppressed. They therefore deserve deference in their judgments. Recently, even evangelical Christians have begun to adopt this sentimentality regarding Biblical interpretation and application.[56]

Given that there are multiple “lived experiences,” even within the oppressed class, the uninitiated observer might be puzzled as to how any single “lived experience” is prioritized over another. Does not some tiering system need to be inserted? So glad you asked.

The Linchpin

How does one determine at the ground level one’s group membership? Enter intersectionality. In Black Feminist Thought, Patricia Hill Collins defines intersectionality—a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw to analyze the unique experiences of black women[57]—as an “analysis claiming that systems of race, social class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, and age form mutually constructing features of a social organization,” which, in turn, shape the experiences of minorities.[58]

As Barbara Smith explains, these experience-shaping, intersecting (or mutually reinforcing) oppressions cannot be separated; they are “intimately intertwined.”[59] Collins concurs: “Race, class, gender, and similar systems of power are interdependent and mutually construct one another.”[60] Ashley J. Bohrer recently clarified,

In its most basic form… intersectionality is the theory that both structurally and experientially, social systems of domination are linked to one another and that, in order both to understand and to change these systems, they must be considered together.[61]

It is with the mechanism of intersectionality that relative oppression status is assessed based on intersecting traits of victimhood relating to sex, gender, race, ethnicity, and etc. Intersectionality serves as the measuring stick. For example, a black man is more oppressed than a white man, but an Asian lesbian is more oppressed than either. Her sexual preference and gender give her the edge. An ethnic minority, transgender person would top all three, and so on the analysis goes.

This is the necessary tiering system by which “lived experiences” are measured in terms of their priority. They also determine the authority of a speaker. The person with the most intersectional points, the most perceived victimhood, rules the day. More structurally important, it is via intersectionality that the high-level, binary divide between oppressor and oppressed is informed by lower-level, (socially constructed) trait-based affiliations. Top to bottom the analysis hinges on involuntary group membership.

On this basis, the CT world is organized for the purpose of deconstruction of interlocking oppressive systems of social domination and liberation therefrom.[62] It is this approach to social life that has, in part, produced what is commonly known as identity politics—which can be engaged in by both the left and the right—wherein political capital is acquired in two ways: 1) by the self-flagellation of oppressor class members,[63] and 2) by assertion of victim status (via intersectional analysis) by members of the oppressed class. In both instances, it is a race to the bottom.

It is essential for Christians to grasp that the central purpose of CT is decidedly not merely explanatory. It is, rather, heavily indebted to its predecessors (namely, Sartre and Lukács) for its “totalizing” outlook (see interlockingoppressions). As David French suggested last year in a presentation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, if all intersectionality endeavored to do was to describe the distinctiveness of the individual and the discrete peculiarities of human experience then no quarrel would be found.[64] In that hypothetical case, intersectionality would just be a fancy way of confirming the priority and dignity of the individual, an idea preached by the western tradition for centuries. To assert that women have concerns and challenges distinct from men, or that black people face unique challenges in America, or that immigrants often undergo social ostracization, or that a majority culture (in any society) can become insular is not particularly revolutionary.

But intersectionality is by its own admission not interested in simply asserting individual human dignity and describing observable social phenomenon. The decidedly comprehensive character and activist purpose of intersectionality, as attested to by Bohrer above, must not be missed. This activist instinct connects it again to its Marxist lineage. For it was Marx who criticized philosophers for monotonously interpreting the world rather than seeking to change it.[65] To their credit, the intersectionists are not armchair intellectuals. They are self-consciously activist.

It is difficult, therefore, to be fair to CT (along with its concomitant mechanisms) as a discipline and its self-described objective, and simultaneously refer to its methodology as a set of neutral analytical tools that can be cherry picked at will simply for observatory (which is to say arbitrarily limited) ends.[66] The mechanism of intersectionality, for example, explicitly rejects piecemeal application; the whole point is to identify and evaluate intersecting points of oppression for the sake of frustrating the source(s) of oppression thereafter. Intersectionality is certainly an analytical tool, but it is not merely an analytical tool. Rather, it is, by intent of the designers, the vehicle by which the insights and aims—shall we say, worldview—of CT are transported to the ground level. It makes the theory of CT (and especially CRT) practical. Intellectual honesty and fruitful theological evaluation on the part of the Christian demands conceiving of CT on its own terms according to its self-prescribed ends.

None of this is to say, of course, that all insights produced by critical theorists or even classical Marxists are erroneous. It can readily be admitted, for instance, that capitalist societies are prone to inordinately commodifying all areas of human life, including the family and children. It must also be acknowledged that racism, misogyny, and the like exist; and that people really are subject to oppression (whether from their own sin or the sinful behavior of others). But these true insights are not unique to CT, and nor do they demand the characterization and response that CT propounds.

On Group Identity

In a recent talk put on by the British magazine, The Spectator, cultural commentator Douglas Murray and novelist Lionel Shriver discussed the advent of identity politics and intersectionality, and the self-proclaimed omnicompetence of its proponents on both sides of the pond.[67] The event surrounded Murray’s latest book, The Madness of Crowds (2019), which expertly deals with the subject matter at hand. The cultural prognosis given by Murray and Shriver is not a hopeful one. Indeed, the latter suggested that the corrosion of the public square at the hands of identity politics can only be stifled by some catastrophic event that distracts everyone from their previous squabbles. Despite the dejected tone, both contributors presented valuable insight. The whole talk is worth listening to.

Toward the end of the discussion, Murray argued that group identity based on race, gender, or sexual orientation are reductive and inadequate to provide meaningful affiliations that are likely to foster social cohesion. The way that identity politics groups people, said Murray, communicates to people that they only have something in common with others socially, sexually, and ethnically like themselves. Groupings based on a nation or a religion, on the other hand, connect people with those unlike them by uniting them in common cause and mutual obligation. Murray, at this point, invoked the late philosopher Roger Scruton’s argument that the nation is the highest possible expression of the first-person plural— an idea introduced in Scruton’s The Soul of the World (2014)— that a society can achieve. Religion serves a similar function.[68]

This concept— the voluntary affiliation of individuals— creates a compound moral person and is indispensable to healthy politics.[69] Emer de Vattel (1714-1767) taught us that this conception of society and nations is what makes the entire post-Westphalian order possible.[70] A state, once constituted by individuals in a state of nature (a hypothetical pre-societal, totally free existence) spontaneously contracting together, stands in for the constituting individuals as a new “person” in relation to other like bodies.[71] The state becomes the individual writ large.[72] Like people themselves, the state is a living organism, so to speak. But this process cannot continue ad infinitum. The nation-state is the highest workable expression of such. Any claim to universal jurisdiction frustrates it. The studies of John Figgis and Otto von Gierke proved that international law as a basis for inter-state relations was not possible until the universal jurisdiction of the Papacy was fractured, and the medieval dream of the Holy Roman Empire laid to rest.[73]

Vattel was not innovating. The conviction that in a pre-political, pre-state condition all men are by nature free (excepting the inescapable, concreated compulsion of the natural law) and equal had compelled political writers, especially Calvinist ones, since the late 16th century—most notoriously by the anonymous Monarchomach authors of the Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos (1579)— to argue that it is the people who freely constitute societies, form governments, and confer power to rulers. And because governments are formed by free contract (or covenant), the powers of governments must be constitutionally limited and, if abused, revocable (hence Protestant resistance theory). Tyranny is antithetical to this theory of society and government.

Furthermore, it is the contractual basis of society and government that enables subsequent generations to both defend the inherited good and simultaneously adapt to new challenges. In short, it accounts for the freedom of participation. A socio-political outlook based on something other than popular sovereignty and the related doctrines above affords no such freedom—at least not in an intellectually coherent way—to persons not present at the initial founding. Indeed, practically none of the 17th and 18th century theorists had really experienced the hypothetical state of nature, certainly not in a pure sense.[74] Yet, it was a key theoretical mechanism to understand human nature and the nature of societies, locate the foundational source of governmental authority, and limit the distribution of power.

To summarize, a nation or state is the voluntary unification of persons for a common interest. It is a collective, volitional act, and one that must be tacitly affirmed by every generation. Each nation so formed subsequently acts by analogy as an individual as it interacts with other nations. This is the highest level of organization of this kind because any more expansive, global government would necessarily confound the basis of the original, constitutive contract which forms a society and state. In short, people would become members of a society and a government by way of simply existing apart from any exercise of volition.[75]

Human v. Inhuman Categories

As Murray was outlining his objection to group affiliations based on sexual, racial, or ethnic identity, Lionel Shriver interjected. In her estimation, it is more proper to conceive of human affiliations in terms of volitional and non-volitional, whereas identity groups based on race or gender involve no exercise of the will. By contrast, nation-states and a religion not only permit the exercise of the will inside their confines to determine their shape and meaning but are at their very inception products of the will.

I heartily concur with Shriver. But I would add a further qualification. I would opt for organizing affiliations or attachments based on a human v. inhuman distinction depending on whether they are volitionally based or not. As alluded to above, the dual concepts of, 1) the natural equality of men in a hypothetical state of nature, and 2) the idea of man as a voluntary moral agent, undergird western political systems including our own. They are the basis of popular sovereignty, the rule of law, freedom of expression, and more. It is difficult to conceive of western political norms enduring within a cultural environment that no longer respects the values that support it.

But on a more fundamental, and chilling, level— one that gets at why I favor an associational distinction between human and inhuman designations— the bondage (or negation) of the will advanced by identity politics and CT challenges the very dignity, and unique status, of human beings. That prospect should startle Christians into having a care before they adopt the language and concepts of CT presently in vogue.

The best antidote to new challenges is to look backward. History, or rather, an older, forgotten theology can explain my contention, and help us navigate unchartered waters and reassert a Christian anthropology contra the new counter narrative.

II

What is Man?

Samuel Willard, forgotten Puritan

Samuel Willard (1640-1707), a Puritan, congregationalist theologian and preacher of the highest order, is almost totally forgotten today. But in his own day, Willard was, along with Increase Mather, the leading intellectual light in New England, vice-president of Harvard, and a long-time pastor of one of the Old South Church (Third Church) in Boston.[76] His posthumously published A Compleat Body of Divinity (1726)— a compilation of 250 expository lectures on the Westminster Shorter Catechism— is the closest thing to a systematic theology that any New Englander of the 17thcentury produced. Accordingly, as American Puritanism’s summa theologica, it serves as a window into the Reformed orthodoxy maintained by those noble people who embarked upon an errand into the wilderness.

And yet, as early as the 19th century, Moses Coit Tyler lamented that Willard’s Compleat Body had been confined to the dust bin of history. Tyler sardonically quipped that the book might still serve to “make men good Christians as well as good theologians— if only there were still left on the earth men capable of reading it.” [77] At over 900 folio pages, Willard’s compendium is not for the faint of heart. It is methodical, but it represents a lifetime of rich, faithful preaching, and can, per Tyler’s advice, still offer guidance today. Willard’s anthropology, which was totally conventional—indeed, the view of man imbedded in the minds of the authors of the great confessions—during the High Orthodoxy period (1620-1700) of Reformed theology,[78] is of especial interest here.[79]

Man, the Reasonable Creature

Willard portrays man as a microcosm of creation. “There were many beams of [God’s] wisdom, power and goodness scattered among other creatures; here [in man] they are all contracted in this little model.”[80] Every element or level of the Great Chain of Being is represented in man. He is embodied, which represents the lowest level of existence that even rocks have. He has the power to grow, which corresponds to the “vegetative soul.” His ability to move is due to the “locomotive soul.” Man’s power to perceive, think, and remember belongs to his “sensitive soul” (what we might refer to as the instinctive nature) and is shared with other animals. But uniquely, man has a rational soul.[81] He can know, judge, and choose.[82] “There are three lives in man,” said John Preston (1587-1628), “there is the life of plants, of beasts or sence [sic], and the life of reason.”[83]

Man is a wonderous expression of God’s craftsmanship because his being spans the cosmological divide; he is a “Microcosmos.” In him is included elements, so to speak, of both the visible and invisible realm, the earthly and celestial. Willard was convinced that no person could totally discard the innate awareness of his special position in creation.[84] As Ernest Benson Lowrie perceives, in Willard’s theology, “The distinctive place man holds in the hierarchical order of the universe determines Willard’s fundamental anthropological doctrine.”[85] It is the whole man that Willard engages. Though a composite creature, his parts cannot be separated and remain man qua man. In Willard’s words, “Man consists of two essential constituting parts, viz. a body, and a reasonable soul. Neither of these alone is the man, but both in a conjunction… both go together to his specifications and personality.”[86]

That being said, it is man’s rational soul that chiefly concerns us because it is this aspect of his being that most acutely distinguishes him from the rest of creation. Most importantly, it is the reasonable soul which fits humankind for his appointed end, that is, “being an active instrument in serving God.”[87] It is man’s faculties housed in his reasonable soul that are “a mirror of the divine glory,” said John Calvin (1509-1564).[88]

The rational soul is fundamentally a “spiritual substance” which can exist apart from the body.[89] It is of a separable essence (and different source) from the body and of a constant nature distinguished from the inconstant nature of the lower “souls” in the hierarchy of being. The body can be perpetuated (or propagated or transmitted) naturally through acts of procreation. By contrast, the soul, as a simple, indivisible, metaphysically infallible substance, is not subject to “seminal generation,” division, or multiplication.[90] The key texts in this discussion were, inter alia, Ecclesiastes 12:7, Genesis 2:7,[91] and Hebrews 12:9.[92] “The [rational] soul is not traduced or derived from the parents, but is immediately created by God himself,” says Willard.[93] Hence, the rational soul is immortal.[94] Though man as a whole—the inconstant body and the constant soul— is mortal, the soul in itself is not.[95]

Calvin wrote in his Institutes that man’s soul is “an immortal though created essence” and constitutes man’s “nobler part.”[96] It is properly what designates him the Imago Dei.[97] Francis Turretin (1623-1687), who began his treatment of this topic with Christ’s dispute with the Sadducees in Matthew 22:32, agreed. The substance of the soul is “immortal intrinsically and as to its faculties,” all of which “belong eminently and most perfectly to God.” [98] Therefore, even after the entrance of sin, man is still said to be made in the image of God (James 3:9).

In this delineation of the soul, Samuel Willard was doing no more than, along with his Reformed predecessors, elaborately affirming inherited medieval doctrine. His theory of the soul, as Perry Miller recounted, was the heritage of the grand western tradition. Though Thomas Aquinas and Albertus Magnus had loomed large in their articulation of the classical “faculty” psychology, the theory was more accurately an eclectic product, a more or less centuries long collective commentary on Aristotle’s De Anima.[99]

Excursus: Aristotelianism and Sola Scriptura

The adoption of Aristotelian logical principles (e.g. the principle of contradiction), four-fold causality, and terms and categories—like the distinction between “substance” as the composite of “matter” and “form,” and “accidents” as the incidental characteristics of the substance; or the difference of “potency” from “act”—by the early modern Reformed, however, did not represent a wholesale or uncritical adoption of Aristotelianism.[100] Rather, the basic language presented by the Philosopher, and preeminent in the theological discipline, was eclectically and strategically employed by Christian theologians for centuries in various doctrinal areas systematically to organize and communicate scriptural truths.[101] Richard Muller has done much to correct the old assumption that the Reformation represented a total repudiation of Aristotle and that, thereafter, the 17th century scholastics plunged Reformed doctrine back into the arms of classical philosophy. More accurately, as Reformed theologians sought to sharpen their doctrinal assertions over and against their external and internal opponents and for use in higher education, precise definitions and distinctions were needed. The result was the establishment of a (in some ways) distinctly Protestant prolegomena and metaphysics built upon the preexistent framework of the scholastic method and Aristotelian language.[102]

This work was not done in an historic or intellectual vacuum—many of the theological questions posed to the Reformed were already couched in predetermined forms—but rather in dialogue with friend and foe alike, as well as the authorities of the past and the grand tradition within which Aristotle’s thought and categories were ingrained.[103]Muller concludes that, “[T]he Protestant theologians and philosophers of this generation viewed Aristotelian metaphysics as a crucial source for definitions and arguments needed in the construction and defense of their theological systems.”[104]

Importantly, Muller has demonstrated that Aristotelianism was significantly modified by the realist tendencies and Augustinian impulses of western theologians to coincide with their Christian worldview.[105] In short, the adoption of terms did not imply the acceptance of content. Much content, such as the idea of plentitude, was outright rejected.[106]The label can therefore only be loosely applied to the Reformed orthodox of the 17th century; their product was eclectic and unique.[107] The scholastic methodology and Aristotelian categories did not serve as an alternative method of inquiry or interpretation, but rather as (at the time, nigh inescapable) organizational mechanisms for the construction of a Reformed systematic theology that could withstand assaults on multiple fronts and evidence its catholicity.[108]

The goal, at all times, from Aquinas to Willard, was a Christian, which is to say biblical, philosophical model. Per Muller, “The object of the scholastic [whether medieval or early modern] theologian… was, typically, not so much to be ‘Aristotelian’ as to be the formulator and mediator of a Christian philosophical model that both used and refused various elements of the classical tradition.”[109] A mere cursory search of early modern Reformed sources (especially the confessions) will reveal that the principle of sola scriptura as the starting point and bedrock of doctrine was not in any way discarded or compromised by this effort of systemization and explication.[110] The theology surrounding the origin and duration of the soul and the order of the human faculties was developed over centuries through painstaking exegesis of the relevant biblical texts and the careful reasoning of hundreds of theologians in conversation with one another.

More in service to the subject at hand, Willard and his Puritan compatriots in the late 17th century “retained without substantial change [medieval] orthodox scholastic ideas of the soul, of its composition and its faculties.”[111] The central presupposition underlying these ideas was the scala naturae (“ladder of being”), developed fully by scholastic scholars, like Aquinas in his Contra Gentiles, and rooted in Aristotle’s Historia Animalium. The classical hierarchy (or “chain”) of being, with God at the top and men sitting only a little lower than the angels (Ps. 5:8), served for centuries as the basis for truth and epistemology until the advent of Cartesianism.[112] Preaching his messages which comprised the Compleat Body, Willard was acting as a last bulwark against a rather glacial but radical shift toward a new metaphysics.[113]

Man, a Spontaneous Agent

Though, as stated, the body and the soul are essential to human nature, it is the rational soul that qualifies man as a voluntary (free) moral agent and therefore like God.[114] It was common for Puritans to designate man “a cause by counsel,” a reference to his active and personal self, capable of making a thoughtful and deliberate choice.[115] Per Willard,

Man can both propound to himself his own end and make choice of the means or way leading unto it. He can deliberate with himself about these things, and take that which likes himself, and leave that which is not grateful to him. None can either compel or hinder him in his choice, but he can follow the dictates of his own understanding. From whence it follows, that all his human actions are voluntary and deliberate.[116]

A voluntary agent, in Willard’s formulation, is necessarily distinct from what he calls a “natural agent.” In describing the nature of an action, Willard writes,

In every agent we consider a power which is in it, and that seated in the faculties, and is in them a principle of operation, which is called the habit, and is that whereby it is fitted to serve to its end. And there is such a power in every faculty… according to the end and use of it… Now whensoever [sic] this power is exerted by any faculty in the creature, that is properly an action, and that is always by applying to an object.[117]

He goes on, “Now these actions are some natural and some rational and spontaneous. Hence the distinction between natural and voluntary agents.”[118]

In sum, an agent (of any kind) is that which has the power to act, according to the appointed end, in itself. A natural agent is one that acts by an action that originates instinctually (i.e. without the ability to deliberate and choose). A rational or “spontaneous” agent is one that acts without being compelled by instinct but by free deliberation and choice (both of the means and the end). The free agent is capable of self-determination. Of course, as mentioned above, humans possess the sensitive (or “sensual”) soul and therefore act in some things as a natural agent. Not every action is, in fact, voluntary. But “all [man’s] human actions are voluntary and deliberate.”[119]

Man, a Cause by Counsel

In classical fashion, Willard divides (though only “notionally”) the rational soul into the understanding (or the intellect) and the will (which often encompassed the affections), two inseparable faculties of the same power. Teleologically speaking, the proper object of the understanding is truth; that of the will is goodness.[120] Accordingly, logic is concerned with the well-ordering of intellect toward truth, and ethics with the directing of the will toward the good. These two faculties operating in tandem as “an ability of knowing, and electing, or choosing and refusing” make man a moral creature. For what is true is also good and what is good is true.[121] Willard makes clear that the two faculties are distinct but interdependent and complimentary, and that both are free. “As without knowledge there can be no judgment passed, so without liberty, there can no election be made.”[122] The former he more frequently calls the understanding, and the latter he calls the will. The understanding discerns things, and judges them either desirable or undesirable. The will is that whereby we “resolve upon our actions.”[123]

It is in the act of “passing a judgment” that man exceeds mere empirical cognition or awareness and becomes, as it were, truly human, capable of seeking and discerning wisdom. It was stated earlier that the sensitive soul possesses a certain power of cognition or “cogitation.” Willard restricts this ability to matters of fact, simple perception of reality. This level of “thinking” is required for instinctual actions to take place. But, as Lowrie summarizes, “What cogitation can never do is penetrate through to the being of the thing [which is perceives] in itself.”[124] It cannot evaluate experience morally; it cannot discern and pursue metaphysical truth.

In the Compleat Body, Willard continues unpacking these distinctions in extreme detail. Imbedded in the discussion is the age-old theological debate regarding the priority or precedence of the intellect or understanding over the will, and vice a versa, which would be out of scope here.[125] However, one final point must be added. Willard makes clear what should be implicitly obvious already: knowing and choosing are different things. The former bears some resemblance to operations of the sensitive soul, whereas the latter is the unique province of the rational soul. Due to the aforementioned interdependence of the rational faculties, the choosing faculty (the will) acts in light of the understanding’s value judgments. Man is an understanding, reasonable creature,[126] and this means both faculties of the rational soul are both in play in his choices and actions.

This gets at the meaning of “cause by counsel,” (as opposed to cause by “coaction,” or coercion). “[E]very choice,” says Willard, “ariseth from a rational and convincing discovery of the suitableness of the object chosen.”[127] To act according to unbridled passion is to be a mere sensual creature. That being said, Willard also acknowledged that the will could in some way dictate the work of the intellect “by intending a Thing, which it will have that contrive; and so the Will is the First Mover.” [128] John Cotton (1585-1652) described the will (or the heart) as “the doore of the soule.” Likewise, many Puritan divines like John Preston and Thomas Hooker (1586-1647) declared the will “the driver of all faculties, the Lady and Queene of humane acts,” and the “commandresse of the soule.”[129] The intellect instructs and conditions the will—it is “as the palate is to the stomacke”—but it does not absolutely command it.[130] Hence, in terms of man’s eternal destiny and status before God, it is the attachment of sinful will (or affections or love) to idolatry, not intellectual misjudgment per se, that leads him to sin. Even though man knows God and the moral law by nature (Rom. 2:14-15), he rejects right reason and suppresses revelatory truth (Rom. 1:19-21) willingly because he is bound by sinful, false love.

To summarize Willard’s assertions thus far,

[A] voluntary action is the action of a reasonable creature applying himself to his object, not upon compulsion, nor by the force of instinct, but by the inclination of his own mind; so that as he doth it willingly, he also (and therefore) doth it rationally, or upon some apprehended grounds.[131]

Once the will, informed by the judgments of the intellect as to what is good and desirable (the object), has elected to act, the whole being of man is oriented toward pursuing the object properly. Upon the heart or affections—often used synonymously with the will in Puritan writings—being fixed upon an object, the “whole man” follows headlong. This discussion is not one of soteriology, so I will not now address how this plays out in that respect. The comments here by Willard are general and necessary to grasp before any talk of man’s regeneration and salvation can be had. They are even more basic prerequisites for theory of society and politics.

Man, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Man, being a “purposive” creature centers his entire life on whatever his rational faculties have judged to be his chief and good end. That end which will provide him with felicity, rest, and satisfaction. Willard calls this inclination of man toward an infinite good— his lifelong project— the pursuit of happiness. He is “insatiably desirous of happiness.” More than an inalienable right, the pursuit of happiness is an immutable fact of man’s natural disposition.

It should be evident that “happiness” is conceived of here in the classical, and not a licentious, sense.[132] Happiness is man living with his faculties harmonized and according to that which is suitable to his nature. It is seeking virtue and living life at one with one’s self Coram Deo. In Willard’s mind, “happiness” is man’s subjective end whilst the glory of God is his objective end. But in truth, the two are so inseparably bound that the true pursuit of one is the true pursuit of the other.[133] This pursuit of happiness would be impossible, indeed, unimaginable, for any creature other than a rational, free, and moral one. As established above, only a creature such as man is fit for God’s service and worship.

Man, a Sociable Creature

All this talk about man’s moral agency and individual freedom must not only be considered abstractly. For man to express his agency, in a sense, he must do so amongst, and in partnership with, others like him. It was deemed by the Creator that it was not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). This is not lost upon Willard.

Not only is man a metaphysically dependent and contingent creature vis a vis God, he is a dependent creature within his own species. Willard, sounding very much like the great Calvinist juris Johannes Althusius, acknowledges that man is not only a reasonable creature but also a “sociable” one.[134] “The comfort of mankind is maintained by mutual intercourse and communion… one man hath a great deal of dependence upon another, without which the affairs of this life cannot be carried on for the support of our livelihood.”[135] Man is not meant to proceed through life alone. His existence is at least more meaningful when shared with others. However, it is not life with others (i.e. society) that makes man a moral agent. God creates the agent. Society is merely the immediate and appropriate context of man’s agency. Indeed, it is man’s agency that forms society, not the other way around.

The basic presupposition of man’s inherent sociability— an idea with its roots in Aristotle’s Politics— was commonplace in Willard’s time, and frequently served as the most basic starting point in political discussions. Man’s sociability was often referred to as something bordering on instinct, but the expression of sociability was necessarily volitional. And in Puritan writings specifically, the manifestation of this sociability in human relations mimics the relationship between God and man. It possesses a covenantal structure and character and carries on the mandate to flourish given to Adam in paradise (Gen. 1:28).[136]

The first outgrowth of man’s desire to relate with others of his species is the covenant of marriage which naturally produces families. Subsequently, the eventual relations of multiple families give rise to society. For the sake of order and tranquility, societies then form governments by covenantal means as well. Inherent in the covenant idea is the operation of volition amongst all parties involved. Each association in the sequence requires it. Indeed, to Willard and other Reformed theologians of the 17th century, societies could only be formed on such a basis. They were fundamentally voluntary organisms, as mentioned above. In the hypothetical state of nature (pre-society) man was subject to none but God himself. The only way man’s natural liberty could be limited by his equals was through willingrelinquishment of certain freedoms for the sake of covenantal affiliation.

Volition, then, is key to forming any sustainable society, and especially those beyond the family. To invoke Roger Scruton again, “Our world is imbued with will, directed from past to future.” And like the internal operations of human faculties, a collective reason informs our organic social life, the operations of the will, to form a “constitution,” and self-image—all driven by man’s inherent sociability. “Hence,” adds Scruton, “there is a distinctly political process, which is not the process of revolution, nor the mere pursuit of power,” but rather wrapped up in human nature itself.[137]

Man’s exercise of volition is also intricate to his living out the Garden mandate, continuing to rule, cultivate, and organize the world around him. Most importantly, it is the exercise of the will in joining with other humans in societal and governmental associations that sets man apart as the imago Dei.[138] Aristotle famously said that it was life in the polis—a concept that implies more than simply municipal existence[139]— that distinguished man from both gods and beasts; the former has no need for the polis whilst the latter cannot aspire to it.[140]

III

Defining the Relationship, Again

CT, the Will, and the Imago Dei

The CT paradigm, by its bondage of the will, cannot supply meaning and purpose in a way that respects man’s God-given, faculties of the soul which mark him out in creation as the imago Dei, nor can it cultivate the full exercise thereof. CT cannot lead man to his deepest longing. In short, CT, for all its focus on justice and equality and the eradication of human suffering, denies the fullness of the image of God in man, which is to say, his dignity. The organization of the world according to identity politics and CT foists upon man categorical, political associations that are not volitionally based, and are therefore fundamentally inhuman.

As inhuman categories they cannot lead man to happiness because they necessarily frustrate the very nature of man. These categories make primary— as a lens for all of life— features, traits, and phenomena that are non-volitional and attempt to organize social and political life accordingly. By not positively engaging the unique faculties that separate humans from the rest of creation— indeed, the very faculties that evidence his designation as the imago Dei— CT-informed categories improperly relegate man to a lower order in the hierarchy of being where his will and intellect, his ability to deliberate, freely associate with others based on a common purpose are of little to no use. No longer is he allowed to “both propound to himself his own end and make choice of the means or way leading unto it,” to use Willard’s words.

Affiliations which do not consider, or rather are not created by, man’s volition are not only inhuman but are not properly “affiliations,” a word that necessarily implies the operation of volition or will. “Affiliating” is an act. It is the willful (in the first instance or by passive or active consent in the second) connecting or relating with others. It is at root a political idea, and dependent for its intelligibility on the presupposition of man’s inherent sociableness. This is why people become understandably defensive and even outraged when they perceive that they are being wrongly affiliated with others against their will and intent—it is a denial of their most basic faculties and, in a very real sense, their humanity.

In an effort to make sense of the world, it is certainly natural for people intellectually to organize the objects and experience according to non-volitional categories; indeed, Adam did just that with the animals in the garden. What is not appropriately human is to make non-volitional categories and affiliations politically actionable, which is exactly what the CT worldview endeavors to do. Furthermore, it is especially egregious to supply non-volitional affiliations with moral weight (another aim of CT).

Argued above is the fact that political life is founded upon the presumption of man’s free, spontaneous action and sociable desire to associate freely with others like him. Returning to Scruton once more,

Social life should be founded in free association and protected by autonomous bodies, under whose auspices people can flourish according to their social nature, acquiring the manners and aspirations that endow their lives with meaning.[141]

In other words, it is through free association that people form social institutions and governmental bodies, whichshould, in turn, be dedicated to encouraging the cultivation of the social instinct in people that formed the institutions in the first place. Human flourishing will not be found in those institutions that have abandoned care for the principle, the intrinsic human faculty, upon which they were founded, becoming instead obsessed with combating the undesirable (e.g. oppressive) by-products (real or perceived) of free human activity.

Watch Your Language!

It cannot be overstated that this aspect is what is so insidious about some of the rhetoric of identity politics, supplied by the ever-expanding, ever-morphing vocabulary of CT. On the most basic level, the identity politics game makes a living, so to speak, by designating non-volition, imposed categories as primary—assuring everyone that their race, gender, or sexual orientation is the definitive aspect of their personhood— and then hurling said categories upon people against their wills creating a mass scale guilt by non-volition, unintended affiliation—what has lately been called “adjacency.”[142]

There is no room here for exercise of deliberation, reasoned discourse, or free association. The identity markers, handed down from on high at the outset, dictate one’s group affiliation and relative social status. Coalitions are built around inherent traits rather than common purpose. Interests pursued are determined not by concern for volitionally based affiliations like religion, nationality, family, or any other free association. Indeed, like their Marxist predecessors, CT theorists conceive of organized religion, the nuclear family, and nationality as constructs promulgated by the dominant class (at least in the form in which they now appear). They must necessarily be critiqued and deconstructed if liberation is to be had. Accordingly, political interests and alliances are defined by the prioritization of concerns most relevant to a person’s racial, ethnic, or sexual identity.

Entry into these alliances is controlled by either one’s involuntary possession of the favored traits, or one’s ability to acquire “ally” status. The requirement of an ally is to promote the interests of the trait-based group by fading into the background, divesting one’s self of unearned privilege by becoming lower than the Other.[143] Only in this way, by effectively removing themselves from the situation, does a privileged person attain the chance to stifle the oppression their existence inherently causes the marginalized in society, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Insofar as the will of the individual is in play, its activity is conditioned by predetermined social group categories.

These non-volitional affiliations of identity politics are then plugged into the oppressor-oppressed dichotomy to inform the preliminary analysis for political and social engineering in pursuit of equity. For instance, a white person is deemed, by some, inherently and irreconcilably racist, by way of their membership in the privileged class and the majority culture which affords them privilege.[144] The idea of “white privilege” is fairly simple. As a result of living in a majority white culture, wherein the world is “coded” white (and where whiteness is “centered”), white people are not only the majority but the “default.” Conversely, “blackness” is the Other and is allegedly viewed with suspicion. At the most basic level, then, white privilege is “an absence,” as the British journalist and activist Renni Eddo-Lodge writes in her bestseller, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. White people, it is maintained by CT practitioners, live unaffected by the consequences of racism; structural discrimination is absent from their lives; they are unconfronted by the stark realities of oppression.[145] Most importantly, as whites coast through life in a white culture they are decidedly unaware of the privilege their skin color, culture, and etc. afford them within their cultural context. They, namely due to their fragility, never notice the positive impact on their life trajectory that their whiteness brings. White privilege, therefore, is most often referred to as a sort of extreme complacency toward the status quo (which, it is believed, is of singular benefit to them).[146]

In service to the functionality of these accusations, the meaning of “racism” has also been altered.[147] The old definition was something like, “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief of the discriminator that his own race is superior.”[148] Today, “racism” stands for everything encompassed by the old definition but coupled with power derived from dominant culture status.[149] But even if the old definition has not been tossed out wholesale, the emphasis has shifted. Now prejudice or bias is assumed of all people.

As Eddo-Lodge tells us,

There is an unattributed definition of racism that defines it as prejudice plus power. Those disadvantaged by racism can certainly be cruel, vindictive and prejudiced. Everyone has the capacity to be nasty to other people, to judge them before they get to know them. But there simply aren’t enough black people in positions of power to enact racism against white people on the kind of grand scale it currently operates at against black people. Are black people over-represented in the places and spaces where prejudice could really take effect? The answer is almost always no.[150]

Eddo-Lodge rightly understands that all people are capable of racial hatred and prejudice.[151] But in her book, what makes one a “racist” is their social location; it is all about systemic impact, the social and political implications, not intent. Hence, white people in America are necessarily racist. Never mind probing beneath the surface to determine their actual views vis a vis prejudice or bias based on their behavioral record.[152] This unavoidable racism, of course, works hand-in-glove with inherent “white supremacy” which, we are told, is on the rise if in morphed form.[153]

Shifting Sands

The definitions of “oppression” and “white supremacy,” and “whiteness,” mind you, have been redefined in recent days (also without the consent of anyone beyond the ivy-covered walls of elite institutions). A cursory search of recent commentary at the nation’s predominant new outlets will evidence this definitional shift. Being racist, which is to say, white, has nothing to do with melanin content[154] and everything to do with real or perceived power dynamics[155]and half-baked history that offers a unitary explanation for all events.

“Whiteness,” from the CRT perspective, is a euphemism of sorts for privileged individuals and groups within a socially constructed racial caste system. Those socially, economically, and politically privileged persons are not only typically unaware of their status (like the proverb of the fish in water) but are inherently resistant to acknowledging such. They naturally exhibit a certain “fragility,” a lowered stamina for “racial stress,” regarding any talk of race or class as it pertains to their privilege. This is due to living in a racist world, and a society constructed to reinforce white privilege.[156]

According to Richard Delgado, “[T]he phenomenon of white power and white supremacy, and the array of privileges that come with membership in the white race,” are the result of whiteness as socially constructed in the west. Hence, any crimes of white supremacy and the like— an increasingly expansive list— are imputed to any and all members of groups deemed white by the CRT definition which includes identity-based groups ranging from Catholics and Jews to Polish and Italian immigrants.[157] Whiteness is only tangentially related to white skin. It is more so a political idea rooted in an alleged legacy of power, genocide, and plunder embodied by those who operate within, and profit from, the status quo.

Furthermore, not only is the designation of whiteness involuntary, so is the expression of such. It is a poisonous fume that naturally exudes from whites and their culture. Sandra Kim has described the dynamic of racial (and otherwise) minorities living in a white society as akin to traveling through a “polluted city.”[158] Mere proximity to white people in a white society is like climbing the Mountains of Shadow into Mordor every day. It is toxic and oppressive.[159] The very air you breath is a poisonous fume.[160]

The intent of white people, involuntarily grouped with others of the alleged privileged class, is irrelevant (more on that later). Moral culpability is assigned simply by one’s existence in the dominant group of the majority culture. So too is their knowledge, for it is not informed by the right “lived experience.” It is therefore devoid of the right kind of knowledge and opinions. White oppressors may not even be aware of their own inherent bias against the Other. Nor do they notice how their daily behavior, manners, and thoughts perpetuate the white-cis-heteronormative-patriarchy. Oppressors are, by nature, as it were, unknowing creatures, or at least willfully blind so that they can preserve their acquired power. They certainly lack the requisite lived experience to see the hard truth of, well, almost anything relevant to social and political discussions.

The only acceptable response by white people is a continual penance that is the divestiture of whiteness; a relinquishment of their privilege. The exact process of divestment remains ambiguous by design, and as Robin DiAngelo has made clear on multiple occasions, the process is necessarily perpetual.[161] White people simply are innately privileged and racist by nature of their existence in a white, western, colonial context. All people have prejudices, admits DiAngelo, but only whites possess the systemic privilege to fulfill the power element in the prejudice plus power definition of racism.[162] Accordingly, the manifestations of racism may be indiscernibly subtle and even subconscious because, as we are told, racism changes forms over time.[163] Even being “nice” is racist because it purportedly allows whites to avoid the reality of their own tyranny over the Other.[164] To be fair, DiAngelo’s logic is amazingly consistent within her own paradigm. She, a white woman, considers herself no less racist as, say, Donald Trump.[165] For both, like fish in water, have been inescapably conditioned by their environment; they have been unavoidably socialized into whiteness.

What is remarkable about DiAngelo’s thought is that she simultaneously condemns whiteness but (nearly) removes moral weight from the idea of racism. This is not to say that critical theorists like DiAngelo make no moral claims. They find oppression to be highly immoral. It is the unforgiveable sin. But the sin of oppression is largely imputed to people via their group affiliations and the sin of racism is attached thereto as a sort of necessary companion. But the sin of racism itself, upon being redefined, has lost any direct moral connotation. It is simply a given fact which receives little evaluation by DiAngelo.

The “Good/Bad Binary,” as she calls it—wherein people who do not exhibit explicitly racist (in the old sense of the word) activity are morally upstanding, but those who do commit extreme acts of prejudice and violence are bad—is actually an impediment to discussions about race, a function of white fragility.[166] This commonly held binary, “the idea that racism is conscious bias held by mean people,” is “[t]he most effective adaptation of racism over time,” DiAngelo claims. It is, in fact, a racist construct developed by white people (perhaps, unconsciously) to avoid the difficult task of dismantling the racist systems that benefit them.

As a product of living in a society in which “racism is the bedrock,” all people are affected by the “forces of racism;” their worldviews are shaped by it. Hence, “The simplistic idea that racism is limited to individual intentional acts committed by unkind people is at the root of virtually all white defensiveness on this topic. To move beyond defensiveness, we have to let go of this common belief.”[167] It is much more useful, says DiAngelo, to think of one’s self on a “continuum,” an essentially inescapable one at that. “Racism is so deeply woven into the fabric of our society that I do not see myself escaping from that continuum in my lifetime.”[168]

Though it is a difficult shift to trace, it is doubtless connected to the removal, or at least severe limitation, of the volition in the social and moral calculus. Throughout her book and lectures, DiAngelo repeatedly dismisses the connection between racism and intent. Insistence on any such connection, she maintains, only delays productive discussions on race and perpetuates white fragility. Appeals to intent expose, or rather confirm, the racism of the appellant. What is imposed upon people a priori is a socially constructed status from which they cannot escape. First and foremost, racism is something you are not something you do. This premise being established, discrete actions are then evaluated.

This too is a muddled maneuver. On the one hand, DiAngelo holds that all white people do exhibit racist tendencies because they are socialized by a racialist society. The analogy often employed is that of a fish in (racist) water. But at the same time, even if the racist fish were plopped down in a non-racist society (water), they would still be racist. The depth of the effects of socialized racism, once acquired, is too deep to simply be socialized back out. Furthermore, it is really the racial society (the water) that is being evaluated, not the individual (the fish). Therefore, every fish is necessarily racist because the water is racist. And since the fish has only ever experienced racist waters, his gills are attuned, and conditioned by, it, such that if he were transported to unpolluted water he would, it is presumed, still behave (and think and breath) as he did before. Obviously, the analogy has begun to break down at this point, but hopefully the reader gets the picture.

Racism is an inescapable condition predicated on one’s membership in the socially constructed dominant group in a racialized society, not an action or attitude or discernable characteristic per se, though DiAngelo assures us that the latter necessarily follows from the former. Any attempt by a dominant, oppressor group member to deny the label (since it is not so much an accusation anymore) of “racist” serves as proof positive that the denier is a racist. As Neil Shenvi, summarizing DiAngelo, astutely puts it, “[One] can either admit that he is racist and fragile. Or he can demonstrate that he is racist and fragile by denying that he is racist and fragile.”[169]

What is highly immoral in DiAngelo’s estimation is for an oppressor group member to not confront their racism and actively divest themselves of their power and privilege (to the extent that such a feat is possible) in the pursuit of “antiracism”—another new term introduced into the popular vocabulary by CT—and equity (i.e. equality of outcome).[170]

No Highway Option

Make no mistake, there is no middle ground available in a CT-infused world. Ibram X. Kendi’s wildly popular How to Be an Antiracist makes that abundantly clear.[171] One cannot acceptably be simply non-racist, and especially not color-blind. “[T]here is no neutrality in the racism struggle. The opposite of ‘racist’ isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist’… One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.'” says Kendi.[172] The claim of non-racism or of neutrality is a “mask for racism,” as is the claim of colorblindness.[173] Kendi could have written the words of Luther in Bondage of the Will: “The truth of the matter is rather as Christ says, ‘He who is not with me is against me.’ … He does not say ‘He who is not with me is not against me either, but merely neutral.'”

The issue is not whether one actively discriminates against people based on their skin color of ethnicity. What matters is whether they are pursuing equity on every level of social life. “There is no such thing as a nonracist or race-neutral policy,” Kendi writes. “If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist.”[174]

As it turns out, to Kendi, people who pursue race-neutral dealings with his fellow man are the most dangerous breed of all. “[T]he most threatening racist movement is not the alt-right’s unlikely drive for a White ethno-state, but the regular American’s drive for a ‘race-neutral’ one.” Neither is persuasion pursued in good faith on the table. Power dynamics comprise all reality. Accordingly, “An activist produces power and policy change, not mental change.” Kendi’s politics is not one of deliberation and compromise. In Kendi’s world, man is a power animal, not an intellectual, volitional, sociable one. And it is ironically binary. Man is like a beast between two riders. He is either bridled by racism or antiracism; he is either oppressor or oppressed; he is either an ally or a detractor.

Christians should take notice particularly of Kendi’s ideas, in conjunction with the description of intersectionality provided earlier. The idea that analytical mechanisms like intersectionality can be limited in application to race issues is a fantasy, and a logically, methodologically inconsistent one at that.[175] As Kendi writes,

We cannot be antiracist if we are homophobic or transphobic… To be queer antiracist is to understand the privileges of my cisgender, of my masculinity, of my heterosexuality, of their intersections.

In case you didn’t quite catch that, let’s review. First, to be an antiracist is not simply to oppose racial discrimination. Established above is the fact that “racism” is no longer simply prejudice against others of another race, but prejudice plus power, with an emphasis on the latter since the former is assumed (per DiAngelo).[176] To Kendi’s credit, and distinct from some others writing on the subject, he ardently rejects the idea that ethnic and racial minorities (and specifically black people) are incapable of racism.[177] Second, we must add that as Kendi sees it, discrimination is neither here nor there. The question is whether equity is being pursued. The means justify the end.

Finally, Kendi provides a great application of intersectionality as it is intended to operate and incorporates that analysis into his definition of antiracism. To be an antiracist—which most people either covet or are made to feel that they should—means actively combating the oppressive socio-political structures and narratives constructed by the dominant, oppressor class at it pertains to race. Antiracism is a euphemism which, like intersectionality, encompasses advocacy (discrimination unto equity) for the entire gambit of oppressed identities discerned by CT. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and others mentioned above, per intersectionality, are interlocking systems of oppression. Antiracist activism, if it is to maintain its coherence and shape, is necessarily inseparable from feminist activism, LGBTQ+ activism, and the like. It is all or nothing.

Bringing down an entire, multifaceted system of oppression which, being centuries in the making, has an array of identities under its boot, is quite a tall order for the average American layperson. Luckily, whilst many CT proponents are heavy on analysis of the problem and light on solutions, Kendi offers guidance. The way to “fix” America is to establish an administrative body, with nigh unlimited purview over any and all social policy, and tasked with ensuring anti-racist policy.[178] Apparently, even the separation of powers must be sacrificed to Kendi’s omnipotent administrative agency so that the right kind of discrimination can be applied to society in the pursuit of equity. Andrew Sullivan insightfully retorts, “There is a word for this kind of politics and this kind of theory when it is fully and completely realized, and it is totalitarian.”[179] It is the full-fledged expression of one who has imbibed the resentment of Derrida and the cynicism of Foucault, wherein power is the only currency of social and political activity. And yet, paradoxically, Kendi maintains a distinguishing mark of any CT thinker, the optimistic prospect of an equitable utopia.

The Great (Hopeless) Game

The sole option left to those poor souls born into an a priori affiliation with whiteness is to play the demoralizing and unwinnable game of virtue signaling— feigned righteousness and moral outrage intended to make the signaler appear morally superior by condemning others (or themselves)— which operates as our modern system of indulgences.[180]Johann Tetzel would have made a great contemporary critical theorist and prosecutor general of the new moral revolution. And it is, indeed, a moral revolution. To public intellectuals like DiAngelo and Kendi facts are in many ways secondary. Their project is not one of science, sociology, or politics of the kind we are used to. It is rather one of moral realignment according to the insights of CT. As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has instructed, one can be factually incorrect but morally right.[181]

Those who choose to indulge in the indulgences game will soon find that, try as they might, their virtuous performance, their interminable divestment of power, is insufficient even to exonerate their ancestors, and the original sin imputed therefrom (i.e. “ancestral guilt”). Much less will it be enough to safeguard them from the inevitable transgressions that they commit in their own lifetime— which could be something as innocuous as being “nice”, unintentionally mis-gendering someone, or appealing to scientific empiricism[182]—or what Horkheimer called “instrumental reason.”[183] More common still is the crime of “epistemic exploitation,” which is “when privileged persons compel marginalized persons to educate them about the nature of their oppression,” resulting in “unrecognized, uncompensated, emotionally taxing, coerced epistemic labor,” on the part of the marginalized person.[184] This phenomenon is, we are told, “ubiquitous” and “masquerades as a necessary and even epistemically virtuous form of intellectual engagement, and it is often treated as an indispensable method of attaining knowledge,” enabled by “[s]tandard conversational norms” like curiosity and the desire to learn.[185]Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

It is a miserable, Sisyphus-like existence upon the lowest slopes of Dante’s island mountain for which they must prepare themselves. And the prayers of the non-canceled cannot help them; neither is Beatrice waiting at the top as the prospect for redemption. No matter how much gold in the casket rings, no soul from purgatory springs.

As these “white” souls suffer in this social purgatory of cancel culture,[186] they must also accept the basic— and we must say again, ironic— inequality of the whole affair. There is no Virgil supplied to graciously guide them through this brave new underworld. Earnest questions are typically denounced as textbook “epistemic exploitation” and met with a derision that is only out done by the ridicule served upon those who misstep more materially. The god of the CT religion is not abundant in mercy and long suffering.[187] He is not tolerant in the classical liberal sense of the word. He possesses a Marcuseian tolerance, which is to say, “liberating tolerance”: intolerance of wrong opinions and inequity. This god is, therefore, highly censorious; suppressive of repressive opinions.[188] Free discourse, after all, has historically been cover for the domination of white ideas and the ostracization of minority ideas and thought patterns, so the disciple of CT believes and monotonously parrots.

But the god of CT, along with the demi-god of social justice, —the latter acting as the Wormwood to the former’s Screwtape—is not arbitrary, though he is a respecter of persons and a promulgator of a double-standard.[189] (Once the presuppositions of CT are adopted their internal logic and external application are admirably consistent). On the one hand, he pronounces swift judgment on impenitent oppressors via his kangaroo Twitter courts. The lukewarm—those not sufficiently antiracist—particularly nauseate him, as the apostle Kendi proclaimed to us. With glee the CT deity vomits the unsavory “non-racists” into purgatory. We are all Laodiceans now (Rev. 3:14-21).

At the same time, members of the oppressed class may at will unleash untrammeled, vicious vitriol upon a member of the oppressor class with impunity. In fact, the act is celebrated as propelling society at breakneck speed toward utopia, whilst Charon rows the disdainful and discarded detractors elsewhere.

Conclusion: Ideas Have Consequences (and Analytical Tools Do Too)

Under a CRT-informed conception of the world, the crime of white supremacy, or whiteness (the two now being synonymous), no longer includes a mens rea,[190] a volitional or intent-based element which was once indispensable to western legal theory.[191] Instead, it is a disease for which its carriers may be condemned and subjected to a kind of social eugenics now in vogue. For all its apparent concern for the dignity of oppressed peoples, by casting out both the volitional and intentional elements of the moral calculus, CT is ironically un-dignifying.

Reasonable people still clinging to the old settlement of liberal society with its norms of procedural fairness and civility would be blameless in assuming that if white supremacy and racism of this kind are inherent, never to be fully divested, that the carriers of this ailment would be off the hook. But such is not the case. The mens rea has been removed but guilt and condemnation remain; so too has any knowledge element.

Christians would agree that people should be held accountable for sin. And the presumption is that all are sinners—both in capacity for evil deeds and default posture before God. On the ground level, however, people can only be taken to task by their fellow man for the sins they evidence. Humans are not omniscient (1 Cor. 2:11). That all people are sinners in terms of moral status does not guarantee that they will commit all kinds of sin. When people are confronted about a particular sin, they, for good reason, expect to be confronted with evidence of the sin in question. That all men are in some measure prideful does not mean that pride outwardly and discernably exudes from everyone at all times. Doubtless, all men contain within their hearts the prideful instinct to feign moral superiority based on standards that most suit confirmation of such unto themselves. This fact attested to by Scripture is confirmed by experience. The racists that perpetuated chattel slavery in the American south, as well as the current peddlers of identity politics, suffer from the same spiritual, moral ailment that all of us do.

Nevertheless, sin must explicitly manifest before it can be prosecuted. It is the prerogative of God alone to deal with those hidden sins that go unexposed on earth (Deut. 32:35). Applying a guilty until proven innocent standard to sin is both uncharitable and unsustainable. Assuming that every white person is de facto a white supremacist by way of their membership in the majority culture is to presume gross immorality—the cruelty and narcissism of an oppressor. Though every person has the capacity to be truly oppressive (and racist), and though this capacity is often magnified and materialized by group dynamics (as Reinhold Niebuhr taught us), the presumption at the outset is decidedly unChristian, and all the more so when predicated upon an inhuman worldview.

Even without deeply contemplating established standards of evidence or due process, we can readily observe that on its face CT’s approach to sin, as a basis for social policy and political norms, is not only unjust but unworkable. Societal cohesion can simply never be achieved on this double-standard, ex post facto basis. The present political unrest in the west serves to demonstrate this.

This chaotic result should not be surprising. A standard built upon fundamentally inhuman categories can never promote societal or political tranquility because they strike at the very nature of man—his volitional character, the prerequisite for the exercise of his sociable disposition and insatiable desire for happiness. Identity politics can never provide the good life, the ultimate happiness, for which all people strive. And we cannot expect humans to treat one another humanely when the only acceptable tools given to them to govern and navigate their relations—to assess one another and construct social relations—are fundamentally inhuman.

When human beings have their distinguishing faculties bound unrest will ensue. Without the free operation of the will, no political settlement is possible. Indeed, as Douglas Murray points out in The Spectator talk, compromise is not the end goal of the identity politics overlords. It is total, unqualified acquiescence they desire. There is no via media. The identity politics game of oppressor v. oppressed is a winner-take-all cage match. Christians should at least realize what they are being forced to give up as a condition of entry into this zero-sum game. If they insist upon entering, they should at least know that the very God-given faculty which constitutes their unique status in the Great Chain of Being is being checked at the door.

Postscript: Moving Forward

Admittedly, it is always simpler, and a good deal more cathartic, to critique ideologies than it is to respond with positive solutions. Doubtless, proponents of CT identify real problems in the world. But though critique must always be the first step to correction, there is something monotonous and arid about criticizing ad nauseum a way of looking at the world, the lifeblood of which is perpetual criticism of the world it is looking at. Christians should certainly identify and reprimand falsehood where they find it, but they must also assert a positive replacement derived from their own epistemology, anthropology, ontology, and a teleology—one that transcends a unitary explanation for the world, e.g. an oppressor v. oppressed dichotomy. It seems to this writer that a good response to hyperactive deconstruction is renewed construction.

It has been argued above that CT is, at its root, diametrically opposed to historic Christian beliefs about the nature of man as the imago Dei. The appropriate and effective response is to reassert with vigor and conviction the truths of the Bible, the historic Protestant confessions and ecumenical creeds, and catholic orthodoxy.

Looking to our own past and tradition of thought can provide surprisingly helpful insights and guidance for present challenges. The thought of Samuel Willard summarized above represents just one strategy for navigating but one facet of the present gathering storm. I would encourage all Christians to adopt the ad fontes spirit of the Reformation as they wade through difficult social and political questions rather than assuming at the outset that the criticism of the critics—that our theology as it stands is inept in such instances—is true.[192] This may be a long, tedious road but it is one worth traveling.

 


NOTES:

Timon Cline is a J.D. candidate at Rutgers Law School and a M.A.R. candidate at Westminster Theological Seminary. He would like to thank Brigham Michaud, John Ehrett, and Drs. Tim Cline, Neil Shenvi, and Tom Nettles for their comments and criticisms on an early draft and helpful dialogue throughout the writing process.

[1] Luther, The Bondage of the Will, eds. J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 2004), p. 103-104.

[2] The Latin title of Luther’s work (1525) was De Servo Arbitrio, which can be more accurately translated as “Concerning Bound Choice.” The will or the choice is in enslaved (in servetium). It was a response to Erasmus’ publication from the previous year, On Free Will, or De libero arbitrio.

[3] “Luther congratulated Erasmus for perceiving what others had missed, that the quarrel [between Luther and Rome, and Luther and Erasmus] centered on the view of man and God.” Roland H. Bainton, The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century (Boston: Beacon Press, 1985), p. 24.

[4] See Heiko Oberman, The Harvest of Medieval Theology: Gabriel Biel and Late Medieval Nominalism (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1963).

[5] See e.g. Harry S. Stout’s description of the distinction between the evangelical message of Sunday sermons and the focus on social order of weekday lectures and occasional sermons in Puritan New England in The New England Soul: Preaching and Religious Culture in Colonial New England (Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 6, 23-31 (esp. p. 27).

[6] See Perry Miller, The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1954), p. 255-256.

[7] The Second London Baptist Confession (1689) and the Savoy Declaration of Faith (1658) feature the same language verbatim, but the former helpfully adds, “… in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree.” See also The Irish Articles of Religion (1615), XI; The Second Helvetic Confession (1536), VI.

[8] William Henry Lazareth, Christians in Society: Luther, the Bible, and Social Ethics (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001), p. 133.

[9] Bondage of the Will, p. 107.

[10] Ibid., p. 102.

[11] Spurgeon, “Free-Will – A Slave,” Sermon No. 52, New Park Street Pulpit, vol. 2, (Dec. 2, 1855), The Spurgeon Center, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/free-will-a-slave#flipbook/. See, for Calvin’s discussion, Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559), II.2ff. See also Ibid., I.15.8 (showing that Calvin’s focus when discussing freedom of the will in this context is soteriological, e.g., “In this upright state, man possessed freedom of will, by which, if he chose, he was able to obtain eternal life.”(emphasis added)).

[12] WCF 9.1 (citing Matt. 17:12; Deut. 30:19).

[13] WCF 9.3 (citing Rom. 5:6; Rom. 8:7).

[14] WCF 9.4 (citing Col. 1:13; Jn. 8:34-36; Phil. 2:13; Rom. 6:18, 22; Gal. 5:17; Rom. 7:15-23).

[15] WCF 9.5 (citing Eph. 4:13; Heb. 12:23; Jude 24).

[16] Shenvi and Sawyer, Engaging Critical Theory and the Social Justice Movement (Ratio Christi, 2019), available at https://ratiochristi.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/E-Book-Engaging-Critical-Theory-and-the-Social-Justice-Movement.pdf. For other helpful overviews from Shenvi and Sawyer, see “Gender, Intersectionality, and Critical Theory,” The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Nov. 20, 2019), https://cbmw.org/topics/eikon/gender-intersectionality-and-critical-theory/; “The Incompatibility of Critical Theory and Christianity,” The Gospel Coalition (May 15, 2019), https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/incompatibility-critical-theory-christianity/;  “Critical Theory & Christianity,” Free Thinking Ministries (Aug. 17, 2018), https://freethinkingministries.com/critical-theory-christianity/. See also Eboo Patel, “On Wokeness and Power,” Inside Higher Ed (Nov. 25, 2019), https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/conversations-diversity/wokeness-and-power (making the case that, in fact, “[T]alking about identity in terms of power, privilege and oppression is no longer the woke insurgency, but rather the cultural establishment. If you talk in this way, you are not showing your subaltern stripes — you are flashing the badge of insider dominance. The badge of power.”).

[17] Julio Rosas, ” Beto O’Rourke: ‘This country was founded on white supremacy’,” The Washington Examiner (July 10, 2019), https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/beto-orourke-this-country-was-founded-on-white-supremacy.

[18] “The 1619 Project,” The New York Times Magazine, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html. The project has been developed into primary school curriculum. See “The 1619 Project Curriculum,” The Pulitzer Center, https://pulitzercenter.org/lesson-plan-grouping/1619-project-curriculum. Recently, Buffalo joined Newark, Washington D.C., and Chicago in implementing the curriculum in is middle and high schools. Kyle S. Mackie, “‘Your story is in the textbooks. Ours isn’t.’ Buffalo schools adopt The 1619 Project,” WBFO (Jan. 17, 2020), https://news.wbfo.org/post/your-story-textbooks-ours-isn-t-buffalo-schools-adopt-1619-project. C.f. Max Eden, “A Divisive, Historically Dubious Curriculum,” City Journal (Dec. 3, 2019), https://www.city-journal.org/1619-project.

[19] Nikole Hannah-Jones, “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true,” New York Times Magazine (Aug. 14, 2019), https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/black-history-american-democracy.html. Lucas Morel has penned an insightful and measured rebuttal to the alternative history of the 1619 Project. See “America Wasn’t Founded on White Supremacy,” The American Mind (Oct. 17, 2019), https://americanmind.org/essays/america-wasnt-founded-on-white-supremacy/. Popular historians James McPherson, who specializes in Civil War history, and Gordon Wood, known for many famous works on the American Revolution, have both denounced the historical interpretation of the contributors to the 1619 Project. See Rod Dreher, “Leftists Attack The ‘1619 Project’,” The American Conservative (Nov. 29, 2019), https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/attack-on-1619-project-socialists/. The comments by McPherson and Wood have given rise to an online sparring match between the NYT editors and other historians and commentators, some of which have (perhaps, unintentionally and indirectly) evinced the influence of CT in historical analysis. See generally Adam Serwer, “The Fight Over the 1619 Project Is Not About the Facts,” The Atlantic (Dec. 23, 2019), https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/12/historians-clash-1619-project/604093/; Elliot Kauffman, “The ‘1619 Project’ Gets Schooled,” The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 16, 2019), https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-1619-project-gets-schooled-11576540494; Peter A. Coclanis, “The 1619 Project is the 2019 Project — and the 2020 Project,” The Spectator (Dec. 24, 2019), https://spectator.us/1619-project-2019-project-2020-project/; Michael Harriot, “#NotAllHistorians: Some White People Are Upset That the New York Times’ 1619 Project Isn’t Centered in Whiteness,” The Root (Dec. 23, 2019), https://www.theroot.com/notallhistorians-some-white-people-are-upset-that-the-1840616511.

[20] Samantha Schmidt, “A Language for All,” The Washington Post (Dec. 5, 2019), https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2019/12/05/teens-argentina-are-leading-charge-gender-neutral-language/?arc404=true.

[21] James Lindsay, “Postmodern Religion and the Faith of Social Justice,” Aero Magazine (Dec. 18, 2018), https://areomagazine.com/2018/12/18/postmodern-religion-and-the-faith-of-social-justice/.

[22] For an article that captures well the background against which the Frankfurt School members were theorizing, see Stuart Walton, “Theory from the ruins,” aeon (May 31, 2017), https://aeon.co/essays/how-the-frankfurt-school-diagnosed-the-ills-of-western-civilisation.

[23] C.f. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto (1848).

Does it require deep intuition to comprehend that man’s ideas, views, and conception, in one word, man’s consciousness, changes with every change in the conditions of his material existence, in his social relations and in his social life? What else does the history of ideas prove, than that intellectual production changes its character in proportion as material production is changed?

[24] This is not to imply that Marx and Engels ignored the influence of the superstructure upon the substructure, but rather to emphasize the difference in priority between Gramsci and his predecessors. See e.g. “Engels to J. Bloch

In Königsberg, London, September 21, 1890,” in Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Vladimir Lenin, On Historical Materialism: A Collection(Moscow: Progress, 1972), pp. 294 – 296.

The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure — political forms of the class struggle and its results, to wit: constitutions established by the victorious class after a successful battle, etc., juridical forms, and even the reflexes of all these actual struggles in the brains of the participants, political, juristic, philosophical theories, religious views and their further development into systems of dogmas — also exercise their influence upon the course of the historical struggles and in many cases preponderate in determining their form.

[25] The jury is still out within Marxist circles as to whether it was Gramsci, Adorno, or Lukács who first influenced this shift, and the extent to which there was real interdependence in the ideas of the three.

[26] Properly and chronologically speaking, Lukács, a Stalinist and, briefly, the minister of culture for the Hungarian Soviet Republic, was the grandfather of the Frankfurt School. For a short but fair summary of his thought and contribution to the Marxist tradition, see Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), pp. 117-127.

[27] Robert S. Smith, “Cultural Marxism: Imaginary Conspiracy or Revolutionary Reality,” Themelios 44(3) (2019), https://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/article/cultural-marxism-imaginary-conspiracy-or-revolutionary-reality/. The influence of the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies and Raymond Williams, especially upon the direction of the post-war New Left in Britain, should also not be overlooked; but space does not permit due attention here. See generally, Dennis Dworkin, Cultural Marxism in Postwar Britain: History, the New Left, and the Origin of Cultural Studies (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997).

[28] Some critical theorists today, such as Douglas Kellner of UCLA, still explicitly identify themselves with the Frankfurt School. See Kellner’s helpful article on the ideas of the Frankfurt School and its influence in Britain, “The Frankfurt School and British Cultural Studies: The Missed Articulation,” Illuminations: The Critical Theory Project, https://pages.gseis.ucla.edu/faculty/kellner/Illumina%20Folder/kell16.htm (retrieved Dec. 8, 2019).

[29] Robert Smith insists that the development of CT must be understood against the backdrop of the horrors of the Great War, the resultant freefall of the European economy, and the rise of anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany coupled with another world war. Smith, “Cultural Marxism: Imaginary Conspiracy or Revolutionary Reality,” Themelios 44(3) (2019), https://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/article/cultural-marxism-imaginary-conspiracy-or-revolutionary-reality/. See also David Held, Introduction to Critical Theory: Horkheimer to Habermas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980).

[30] For the history of this period, see Thomas Wheatland, The Frankfurt School in Exile (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009). In recent days, the Frankfurt School has received renewed press coverage. Alex Ross, “The Frankfurt School Knew Trump was Coming,” The New Yorker (Dec. 5, 2016), https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-frankfurt-school-knew-trump-was-coming; Sean Illing, “If you want to understand the age of Trump, read the Frankfurt School,” Vox (Jan. 27, 2019), https://www.vox.com/conversations/2016/12/27/14038406/donald-trump-frankfurt-school-brexit-critical-theory; Stuart Jeffries, “Why a forgotten 1930s critique of capitalism is back in fashion,” The Guardian (Sept. 9, 2016), https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/sep/09/marxist-critique-capitalism-frankfurt-school-cultural-apocalypse.

[31] See Kevin Floyd, “Rethinking Reification: Marcuse, Psychoanalysis, and Gay Liberation,” Social Text 19.1 (2001): 103–28, available athttps://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/c6fe/0f4bdc4a0947ffd6523d15a1687ef4d9bc3a.pdf.

[32] See generally Aja Y. Martinez, “Critical Race Theory: Its Origins, History, and Importance to the Discourses and Rhetorics of Race,” Frame27(2) (Nov. 2014), pp. 9-27, available at http://www.tijdschriftframe.nl/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Frame-27_2-Critical-Race-Theory.pdf; Jack M. Balkin, “Critical Legal Theory Today,” in ed. Francis J. Mootz, On Philosophy in American Law (Cambridge University Press, 2009), available at http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5623&context=fss_papers; Mark Tushnet, Critical Legal Studies: A Political History, 100 Yale Law Journal (1991), available at https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=7345&context=ylj. For a concise description of CRT, see “What is Critical Race Theory?” UCLA School of Public Affairs, https://spacrs.wordpress.com/what-is-critical-race-theory/. For a representative sample of foundational CRT work, see Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement, eds. Kimberlé Crenshaw, Neil Gotanda, Garry Peller, and Kendall Thomas (New York: The New Press, 1995).

[33] Tait Coles, “Critical pedagogy: schools must equip students to challenge the status quo,” The Guardian (Feb. 25, 2014), https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2014/feb/25/critical-pedagogy-schools-students-challenge; D’Artagnan Scorza, Nicole Mirra, and Ernest Morrell, “It should just be education: Critical pedagogy normalized as academic excellence,” International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 4(2) (2013), available at http://libjournal.uncg.edu/index.php/ijcp/article/view/337.

[34] See e.g. Mohammad Aliakbari and Elham Faraji, “Basic Principles of Critical Pedagogy,” 2011 2nd International Conference on Humanities, Historical and Social Sciences IPEDR, vol.17 (2011); Robin DiAngelo, “White Fragility,” The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3(3) (2011), pp. 54-70, available at http://libjournal.uncg.edu/ijcp/article/view/249/116; Mark Jarzombek, “A Prolegomena to Critical Historiography,” Journal of Architectural Education, 52(4) (May, 1999), pp. 197-206; David Gillborn, “Critical Race Theory and Education: Racism and antiracism in educational theory and praxis,” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 27(1) (2006). See also Gerald Horne, “Race from Power: U.S. Foreign Policy and the General Crisis of ‘White Supremacy’,” Diplomatic History 23(3) (Summer 1999), pp. 437-461 (making a fascinating, if mind-bogglingly historically selective, case for white supremacy’s influence throughout the history of American foreign policy).

[35] Mary Zaborskis, “Gender Studies: Foundations and Key Concepts,” Daily JSTOR (Nov. 29, 2018), https://daily.jstor.org/reading-list-gender-studies/.

[36] Harald Fischer-Tiné, “Postcolonial Studies,” European History Online, http://ieg-ego.eu/en/threads/theories-and-methods/postcolonial-studies(“‘Postcolonial studies’ denotes a loosely defined inter-disciplinary field of perspectives, theories and methods that deal with the non-material dimensions of colonial rule and, at the same time, postulates the deconstruction of colonial discourses and thought patterns that continue to exert an influence up into the present.”)

[37] Dinitia Smith, “‘Queer Theory’ Is Entering The Literary Mainstream,” The New York Times (Jan. 17, 1998), https://www.nytimes.com/1998/01/17/books/queer-theory-is-entering-the-literary-mainstream.html; “Queer Theory: A Rough Introduction,” Illinois University Library, https://guides.library.illinois.edu/queertheory/background.

[38] Evelyn Hu-DeHart, “The History, Development, and Future of Ethnic Studies,” The Phi Delta Kappan, 75(1) (Sep., 1993), pp. 50-54, available at https://pages.ucsd.edu/~rfrank/class_web/ES-200A/Week%201/Hu-DeHart%20PhiDK%2075-1.pdf. See also Dana Goldstein, “Push for Ethnic Studies in Schools Faces a Dilemma: Whose Stories to Tell,” The New York Times (Aug. 15, 2019), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/15/us/california-ethnic-studies.html; Heather MacDonald, “Ethnic Studies 101: Playing the Victim,” City Journal (Jan. 16, 2020), https://www.city-journal.org/lorgia-garcia-pena-harvard-diversity-debate.

[39] Shelley Burtt, “What Children Really Need: Towards a Critical Theory of Family Structure,” in The Moral and Political Status of Children, eds. David Archard and Colin M. Macleod (Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 231-253; Mark Poster, Critical Theory of the Family (New York: Seabury Press, 1978); Darwin L. Thomas and Jean Edmondson Wilcox, “The Rise of Family Theory,” in Handbook of Marriage and the Family, eds. M. B. Sussman and S. K. Steinmetz (Boston: Springer, 1987), pp 81-102.

[40] On “fat studies,” see generally Helen Pluckrose, “Big fat lies,” The Critic (Dec. 2019), https://thecritic.co.uk/issues/december-2019/big-fat-lies/. Even the famous historian of American Puritanism, Perry Miller (cited favorably here often), was a co-founder of the discipline of “American Studies”—sometimes referred to with a “Critical” inserted before “American” for good measure—an interdisciplinary approach to American history and culture that relies on critical theory. Murray G. Murphy, “Perry Miller and American Studies,” American Studies 42(2) (Summer 2001), pp. 5-18. See also generally Richard S. Lowry, ” American Studies, Cultural History, and the Critique of Culture,” The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, 8(3) (Jul., 2009), pp. 301-339.

[41] C.f. Jeffrey A. Standen, “Critical Legal Studies as an Anti-Positivist Phenomenon,” Virginia Law Review 72(5) (Aug. 1986), pp. 983-989 (challenging the conventional narrative and positing instead that CLS was/is a critique of positivism/realism rather than a maturation of the same).

[42] See e.g. Linz Audain, “Critical Legal Studies, Feminism, Law and Economics, and the Veil of Intellectual Tolerance: A Tentative Case for Cross-Jurisprudential Dialogue,” Hofstra Law Review 20 (4) (1992), available at https://scholarlycommons.law.hofstra.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1752&context=hlr. For an exchange representative of CLS convictions, see Richard Delgado and Daniel A. Faber, “Is American Law Inherently Racist?” Thomas M. Cooley Law Review 15 (1998), pp. 362-390, available at https://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1211&context=facpubs (with Delgado predictably answering in the affirmative to the question posed).

[43] The influence of CLS and CRT in America’s top law schools has done anything but wane. See e.g. Catharine A. MacKinnon & Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, “Reconstituting the Future: An Equality Amendment,” 129 Yale Law Journal Forum 343-364 (2019-2020), available athttps://www.yalelawjournal.org/forum/reconstituting-the-future-the-equality-amendment (stating summarily that “White supremacy and male dominance, separately and together, were hardwired into a proslavery and tacitly gender-exclusive Constitution…”).

[44] Shenvi and Sawyer, Engaging Critical Theory and the Social Justice Movement, p. 2.

[45] Robert Smith makes the important point that, “What must not be missed, however, is that, despite its (hoped-for) positive outcomes, Critical Theory is an essentially negative exercise. It is intentionally destructive and only accidently constructive.” Smith, “Cultural Marxism: Imaginary Conspiracy or Revolutionary Reality,” Themelios 44(3) (2019), https://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/article/cultural-marxism-imaginary-conspiracy-or-revolutionary-reality/.

[46] On the New Left’s adoption of Gramscian thought (a.k.a. “cultural Marxism”) in particular, see Perry Anderson, “The Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci,” New Left Review 1(100) (1976), pp 5-78, available at https://newleftreview.org/issues/I100/articles/perry-anderson-the-antinomies-of-antonio-gramsci. See also, Dennis Dworkin, Cultural Marxism in Postwar Britain: History, the New Left, and the Origin of Cultural Studies(Durham: Duke University Press, 1997).

[47] Neil Shenvi, “Critical Theory Within Evangelicalism,” Shenvi Apologetics, https://shenviapologetics.com/critical-theory-within-evangelicalism/ (retrieved Jan. 17, 2020).

[48] Peter DeWitt, “Why Is the Relationship Between ‘Learning Culture’ and ‘Equity Culture’ So Lopsided?” Education Week (Nov. 24, 2019), http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2019/11/why_is_the_relationship_between_learning_culture_and_equity_culture_so_lopsided.html.

[49] See e.g. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, “Making Black Women Scientists under White Empiricism: The Racialization of Epistemology in Physics,” Journal of Women in Culture and Society 45(2) (Winter 2020), available at https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/704991; Elise Takahama, “Is math racist? New course outlines prompt conversations about identity, race in Seattle classrooms,” The Seattle Times (Oct. 5, 2019), https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/new-course-outlines-prompt-conversations-about-identity-race-in-seattle-classrooms-even-in-math/.

[50] Maurianne Adams and Khyati Joshi, “Religious Oppression curriculum Design, Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, eds. Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, and Pat Griffin (New York: Routledge, 2007), pp. 255-284.

[51] Helpful definitions for these terms are provided in John Harris and Vicky White, A Dictionary of Social Work and Social Care (Oxford University Press, 2018); see also Neil Shenvi, “What is Critical Race Theory?” Shenvi Apologetics, https://shenviapologetics.com/what-is-critical-race-theory/ (retrieved Dec. 2, 2019).

[52] Martin Jay, The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research 1923-1950 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973), p. 63 (describing Horkheimer’s thought).

[53] This paragraph is indebted to Neil Shenvi’s analysis in “Compromised? A Long Review of Tisby’s Color of Compromise,” Shenvi Apologetics, https://shenviapologetics.com/compromised-a-long-review-of-tisbys-color-of-compromise/ (retrieved Dec. 15, 2019).

[54] Nora Berenstain, “Epistemic Exploitation,” Ergo 3(22) (2016), https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/ergo/12405314.0003.022/–epistemic-exploitation?rgn=main;view=fulltext.

[55] See Shenvi and Sawyer, Engaging Critical Theory and the Social Justice Movement, p. 7.

[56] See e.g. Esau McCaulley, “Why it matters if your Bible was translated by a racially diverse group,” The Washington Post (Sept. 23, 2019), https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2019/09/23/why-it-matters-if-your-bible-was-translated-by-racially-diverse-group/?arc404=true; Jarvis Williams, “Biblical Interpretation for Black and Brown Marginalized Contexts Part 2: The Importance of Reading Black and Brown Authors,” The Witness (Apr. 27, 2017), https://thewitnessbcc.com/biblical-interpretation-black-brown-marginalized-contexts-part-2-importance-reading-black-brown-authors/. See also Denise Kimber Buell and Caroline Johnson Hodge, ” The Politics of Interpretation: The Rhetoric of Race and Ethnicity in Paul,” Journal of Biblical Literature 123(2) (Summer 2004), pp. 235-251 (stating explicitly that 1) “all reading is ideological”; and 2) that the purpose of the rejection by the authors of the Christian egalitarianism and homogenized “universalism as non-ethnic” via Gal. 3:28—which allegedly ignores “the racism of our own interpretive frameworks”—and a “naturalized” view of race and ethnicity—which sees race as a “fixed aspect of identity”—is to further “antiracist goals”).

[57] Crenshaw, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum 1(8) (1989), available at https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1052&context=uclf.

[58] Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (New York: Routledge, 2000), p. 299.

[59] Barbara Smith, The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender, and Freedom (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1998), p. 112.

[60] Collins, Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory (Durham: Duke University Press, 2019), p. 44.

[61] Bohrer, “Intersectionality and Marxism: A Critical Historiography,” Historical Materialism 26(2) (July 2018), http://www.historicalmaterialism.org/articles/intersectionality-and-marxism#_ftnref3 (Bohrer’s article is especially good at both defining terms relevant to intersectionality and outlining the critiques by intersectionalists of classical Marxists (and vice a versa), e.g. “… intersectionality theorists allege that Marxists reduce all social, political, cultural and economic antagonisms to class.”).

[62] “Critical theory’s pronounced focus on liberation has the effect of minimizing, relativizing, or even negating the existence of other moral duties.” Shenvi and Sawyer, Engaging Critical theory and the Social Justice Movement, p. 7.

[63] See e.g. Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, “How Can I Cure My White Guilt?” The New York Times (Aug. 14, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/14/style/white-guilt-privilege.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share.

[64] Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, “Intersectionality and Identity Politics – Lecture 1: “Introduction to the Concepts” by David French,” YouTube, Feb. 13, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDwpzPne7QU.

[65] Karl Marx, “Theses On Feuerbach” (1845), available at https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/theses/theses.htm (“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”).

[66] Resolution 9: On Critical Race Theory And Intersectionality, Southern Baptist Convention (2019), http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/2308/resolution-9–on-critical-race-theory-and-intersectionality.

[67] The Spectator, “Identity Politics: Lionel Shriver & Douglas Murray,” YouTube (Oct. 30, 2019), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddBKQIomyYI.

[68] See Scruton, Our Church: A Personal History of the Church of England (London: Atlantic Books, 2013).

[69] Scruton, “Politics Needs a First-Person Plural,” The Conservative 5 (Nov. 2017) pp. 7-9. See also Scruton, “Populism VII: Representation & the people,” The New Criterion (Mar. 2017), https://newcriterion.com/issues/2017/3/populism-vii-representation-the-people; Scruton, The Meaning of Conservatism (South Bend: St. Augustine’s Press, 2002), pp. 43-44.

[70] The Law of Nations, or Principles of the Law of Nature Applied to the Conduct and Affairs of Nations and Sovereigns (1758), eds. Joseph Chitty and Edward D. Ingraham (Philadelphia: T. & J. W. Johnson & Co., 1883).

[71] On the historical development of the artifical “personhood” of the state idea, see Quentin Skinner, “A Genealogy of the Modern State,” Proceedings of the British Academy 162 (2009), pp. 325-370; Skinner, Visions of Politics: Renaissance Virtues (Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 368-413.

[72] Admittedly, fewer and fewer political scientists and historians conceive of the state in this classical fashion (but they did in the 17th century). A recent exception might be Jared Diamond in his latest, Upheaval: Turning Points for National Crisis, in which he curiously uses pop psychology and personal anecdotes to frame contemporary national problems. What Diamond offers is a sort of psychoanalysis of ailing states, a decidedly different use (and for different ends) of the compound personhood afforded states by 17th century theorists like Johannes Althusius and Samuel Pufendorf. The analogy was meant to be a theoretical, organizational mechanism, not a predictive, behavioral one.

[73] Gierke, Natural law and the theory of society, 1500 to 1800 (1934); Gierke, Political Theories of the Middle Ages (1900); Figgis, Studies in Political Thought From Gerson to Grotius, 1414-1625 (1907).

[74] Interestingly, the Vermont constitution of 1777 declared its people to have reverted to a “state of nature.” The American Revolution presented a rare opportunity for people in the modern world to be able to say such in earnest.

[75] This theory of politics was pioneered the Conciliarist during the Great Papal Schism of the late-fourteenth-early-fifteenth centuries and was taken up by Protestant jurists like Hugo Grotius and Johannes Althusius, the latter being hands down the greatest Calvinist political theorist to ever live. Their ideas were perpetuated by people like Samuel Rutherford throughout the 17th century. In sum, these ideas were demonstrably Christian in their origin and development.

[76] John Langdon Sibley, “Samuel Willard,” in Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge Massachusetts, vol. II: 1659-1677 (Cambridge: Charles William Sever, 1881), pp. 13-36. Willard published many other written works but gained additional notoriety as an opponent of the Salem witch trials. See e.g. his anonymously published, Some Miscellany Observations On our Present Debates Respecting Witchcrafts, In a Dialogue Between S. & B. (Philadelphia: William Bradford, 1692).

[77] Tyler, A History of American Literature: 1607-1765 (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1878), pp. 167-168 (“Samuel Willard, himself, like his book, a body of divinity; a man of inexpressible authority, in those days, throughout all the land.”).

[78] On the periodization of Reformed orthodoxy, see Richard Muller’s magisterial Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2nd ed., 2003).

[79] Indeed, as Perry Miller observed, the anthropology (and “psychology”) outlined below via Willard “was part of the intellectual heritage [from the medieval period] which Puritans accepted without criticism,” and was appropriated “as readily as [was] the doctrine of the four causes.” The New England Mind, pp. 242-243; and see Ibid., at pp. 239-279 (Miller offers a more thorough discussion than can be included here, in which Samuel Willard features heavily throughout). For a much later attestation to the same basic theology, see Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. II (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2016 [1871-1873]), pp. 96-99.

[80] Willard, A Compleat Body of Divinity in two hundred and fifty expository lectures on the Assembly’s Shorter catechism wherein the doctrines of the Christian religion are unfolded, their truth confirm’d, their excellence display’d, their usefulness improv’d; contrary errors & vices refuted & expos’d, objections answer’d, controversies settled, cases of conscience resolv’d; and a great light thereby reflected on the present age (Boston, 1726), p. 122. [Hereinafter, Compleat Body].

[81] The assumption here (in classical metaphysical terms) is that, as Thomas Aquinas said, “[T]he soul is the form of the living body…the principle of the acts of life.” Aquinas, Selected Writings, ed. Ralph McInerny (London: Penguin Books, 1998), pp. 425-426.

[82] See also Miller, The New England Mind, pp. 239-241 (summarizing the same organization of the soul).

[83] Miller, The New England Mind, p. 240 (quoting Preston).

[84] Willard, Compleat Body, p. 127.

[85] Lowrie, The Shape of the Puritan Mind: The Thought of Samuel Willard (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974), p. 77.

[86] Willard, Compleat Body, p. 231 (citing Gen. 2:7). See also James P. Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology (Cape Coral: Founders Press, 2006 [1887]), p. 195 (“Man alone is possessed of both spirit and body. He is, therefore, the link which binds together the world of spirit and that of matter.”); Boyce, Abstract, p. 196,

The union of both body and soul is necessary to constitute man. Of necessity, his conscious individuality is inseparably associated with his spiritual nature, for in him there is no separate animal life in the body from that of the spirit which is united with it. Without that spirit, therefore, the body is but a form of clay. But the spirit alone is but a spirit. It has not all of human nature. It is not a man… If, at any time, therefore, the spirit and body shall be separated, the spirit will not properly be called man until a subsequent reunion.

[87] Willard, Compleat Body., p. 121 (this is done both “actively” and “passively”).

[88] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559), I.15.4.

[89] See Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. I, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1992), p. 485 (“For if the soul can act independently of the body, it can also subsist independently of the body, for the mode of operating follows the mode of being.”).

[90] Willard, Compleat Body, pp. 194-195 (denouncing the propagation, multiplication, division, and seminal generation of the soul). See alsoTurretin, Institutes, pp. 477-482; Boyce, Abstract, pp. 202-207 (refuting “Traducianism”). That spirits are metaphysically incorruptible is not, however, to say that they are infallible, a characteristic of all created substances. See Boyce, Abstract, p. 216.

[91] Willard, Compleat Body, p. 123 (Man’s soul “is an Immortal Spirit. Man by reason of it, is called a Living Soul, Gen. 2.7. i.e. Immortal. There was no pre-existing Matter of which it was made, being made immediately out of Nothing.”). Later on, in the same paragraph, Willard cites to 2 Cor. 4:16, Matt. 32:33, Ex. 3:15, 1 Peter 3:19, and (again) Eccl. 12:7.

[92] On this point, Willard cites the passages above as well as Zech. 12:1, Isaiah 57:16, and Job 10:9-12. Compleat Body, pp. 194-195. See alsoNumbers 16:22; 27:16: “And they fell upon their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?” “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation.”

[93] Willard, Compleat Body., p. 194. See also Turretin, Institutes, p. 485 (“If, therefore, the soul is spiritual, it neither is produced from the power of a material, nor depends upon it—not in becoming or in being—because it has a peculiar mode of subsistence and so does not die with the body, but can subsist separated from it.”); Boyce, Abstract, p. 190 (“The Scripture doctrine thus revealed is that man was created by God, being formed, as to his body, from earthly material, and as to his soul, by direct creation.” (citing, inter alia, Ecc. 12:7, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: And the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”)); Ibid., pp. 194-195 (presenting the same basic hierarchy of being and stating that “Man alone is possessed of both spirit and body. He is, therefore, the link which binds together the world of spirit and that of matter.”).

[94] Willard’s fellow New England divine John Norton affirmed that the soul is “created by God of nothing, immediately infused into the body as the proper form thereof by which man is, liveth, is sensible, moveth, understandeth, willeth, and is affected.” Miller, The New England Mind, p. 240 (quoting Norton).

[95] Calvin, Institutes, I.15.3 (“For though the whole man is called mortal, the soul is not therefore liable to death, nor when he is called a rational animal is reason or intelligence thereby attributed to the body.”). It may shock modern readers to know that so serious was this matter in Willard’s day that the first law against heresy (1646) enacted in the Massachusetts Bay Colony listed denial of the immortality of the soul as a punishable (via banishment) offense. H. L. Osgood, The American Colonies in the Seventeenth Century, vol. I (Gloucester: Peter Smith, 1957), pp. 215-216. Francis Turretin exposes one of the many grievances of the Reformed against Anabaptists and Socinians when he claims that the latter two groups had followed in the footsteps of the Sadducees and Epicureans in defending “a night of the soul,” meaning that the soul, upon the death of man, enters limbo until the resurrection. Turretin, Institutes, pp. 482-483.

[96] Calvin, Institutes, I.15.2.

[97] Willard, Compleat Body, p. 122 (“Now Man was made a Reasonable Creature, Because he had not been otherwise capable of the Image of God: For that shines forth only in Rational Beings.”). See also Turretin, Institutes, pp. 464-470 (discussing the fourfold image of God); Ibid., pp. 482-488 (on the immortality of the soul); Boyce, Abstract, p. 196 (“Thus is it, that through this union [of body and soul], man, probably along, with the exception of God, introduces and accomplishes direct results of conscious purpose in the material universe.”).

[98] Turretin, Institutes, p. 466, 478 (on Genesis 2:7). See also Ibid., p. 483 (distinguishing between “extrinsic” and “intrinsic” immortality) and p. 485 (“For whatever is spiritual and free from the contagion of matter is immortal. For being in the highest degree simple and indivisible, it is devoid of contrariety…and there is nothing by which it can be corrupted intrinsically or perish. That at length is mortal which is material and compound and consists of contrary qualities contending against each other.”).

[99] Aquinas produced a commentary on Aristotle’s De Anima around the late 1260’s.

[100] Richard A. Muller, “Reformation, Orthodoxy, ‘Christian Aristotelianism,’ and the Eclecticism of Early Modern Philosophy,” Nederlands archief voor kerkgeschiedenis / Dutch Review of Church History, 81(3) (2001), pp. 306-325, 315-316 (listing examples of key Aristotelian terms employed by 17th century theologians). On the reception of Aristotle by Aquinas and medieval theologians on the question of contingency and necessity, see Muller, Divine Will and Human Choice: Freedom, Contingency, and Necessity in Early Modern Reformed Thought (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2017), pp. 83-138.

[101] See generally T. Theo J. Pleizier and Maarten Wisse, “‘As the Philosopher Says’: Aristotle,” in ed. William J. Van Asselt, trans. Albert Gootjes, Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011), pp. 26-44 (contending that, for example, the Reformed use of natura, essentia, and attributa were distinct from Aristotle’s); Ibid., p. 41 (noting that even the sixth century commentary of Boethius on Aristotle’s works, written to accommodate his translation, was “more Christian than Aristotelian in bent.”).

[102] Muller, “Reformation, Orthodoxy, ‘Christian Aristotelianism,'” p. 315.

[103] Pleizier and Wisse, “‘As the Philosopher Says’,” p. 30 (providing the example of the consistent appeal to the law of contradiction by the Reformed to combat Socinian and Roman Catholic polemics).

[104] Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, vol. III, p. 107.

[105] Muller, “Reformation, Orthodoxy, ‘Christian Aristotelianism,'” p. 309 (“The Reformation can hardly be said to have ended the intellectual hegemony of modified Christian Aristotelianism.”).

[106] Primarily because the idea leads to belief in an eternal world and determinism, neither of which were orthodox beliefs from the position of the Reformed.

[107] Muller advises that if a strict view of Aristotelian is applied then Aristotle was in a class of one, the only Aristotelian to ever live. Alternatively,

If… Aristotelianism is defined as a view of the universe that affirms both a primary and secondary causality, that assumes the working of first and final causality through the means of instrumental, formal, and material causes, and that, using this paradigm, can explain various levels of necessary and contingent existence, then a large number of Aristotelians appear on the horizon.

Muller, “Reformation, Orthodoxy, ‘Christian Aristotelianism,'” pp. 313-314.

[108] Indeed, the term “Aristotelian,” in this context, requires significant qualifications. Ibid., p. 313ff.

[109] Ibid., p. 314. Pleizier and Wisse, “‘As the Philosopher Says’,” p. 32 (“The question in the scholastic tradition is therefore not whether the use of a distinction is Aristotelian but whether the application of the distinction can solve a theological issue.”).

[110] As Muller notes, even the “Ramists,” who sought to simplify Aristotle’s logic and of which Willard would have been one, “did not give up the basic assumptions taken from Aristotelian physics and metaphysics.” Even extreme critics of Aristotelian metaphysics in theology were unable or unwilling to shake off the system of causality inherited from the Philosopher. Muller, “Reformation, Orthodoxy, ‘Christian Aristotelianism,’ and the Eclecticism of Early Modern Philosophy,” p. 310-311.

[111] Miller, The New England Mind, pp. 244-245. Another classical (hierarchical) assumption was that there was in man’s faculties a natural subordination; the inferior faculties received their motion and direction from the superior ones. See Miller, The New England Mind, p. 252-253.

[112] Nicolas Laos, The Metaphysics of World Order: A Synthesis of Philosophy, Theology, and Politics (Eugene: Pickwick, 2015), pp. 58-63; see also generally Seymour Van Dyken, Samuel Willard, 1640-1707: Preacher of Orthodoxy in an Era of Change (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972). Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, vol. I, p.120:

It should also be clear that the shift in philosophical perspective that took place in the latter half of the seventeenth century, as the older Aristotelianism gave way before various forms of rationalism was a shift that was recognized at the time as having a massive impact on Christian theology… with the alteration of philosophical perspective at the close of the seventeenth century, there was also a fundamental alteration of theology and of the exegesis that underlay its formulations.

[113] “The Puritan version [of the theory of the soul] was not altered until the last decades of the [17th] century, when it was modified to suit the criticisms of Descartes, and was not really abandoned until the beginning of the eighteenth century, when the Essay on the Human Understandingswept it into the discard.” Miller, The New England Mind, p. 245. C.f. Norman S. Fiering, Jonathan Edwards’ Moral Thought and Its British Context (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981) (rejecting as exaggerated Miller’s estimation of the influence of Locke’s Essayupon Edwards specifically and American thought generally).

[114] See also Calvin, Institutes, I.15.3 (“For though the divine glory is displayed in man’s outward appearance, it cannot be doubted that the proper seat of the image [of God] is in the soul.”). In this section, Calvin thoroughly refutes Osiander’s contention that it is not in the soul of man that the image of God is found but in the whole Adam, body and soul. In I.15.5, Calvin clearly denies that this “likeness” implies any transference of substance or essence from God to man as implied by the Manicheans and Servetus. Therefore, the image of God in man does not afford man divinity. “[W]e are [God’s] offspring… not in substance, however, but in quality, inasmuch as he has adorned us with divine endowments.” And seeBoyce, Abstract, p. 196,

The union of body and soul is necessary to constitute man…Without that spirit, therefore, the body is but a form of clay. But the spirit alone is but a spirit. It has not all of human nature. It is not a man…If, at any time, therefore, the spirit and body shall be separated, the spirit will not properly be called man until a subsequent reunion. Until then it would be known and spoken of as the spirit of the man, or the soul of the man, but not as the man himself. Accordingly, the Scriptures speak thus of all men during the period intervening between death and the resurrection of the judgment day.

[115] Willard, Compleat Body, p. 214 (“That which makes the action sinful, is, because the exorbitation is voluntary. It is certain that sin can be charged upon no creatures, but such as are causes by counsel.” (emphasis in original)); Ibid., 124 (“By [the rational soul] Man becomes a Cause by Counsel.”).

[116] Ibid., p. 124 (emphasis added). See also Willard, Mercy magnified on a penitent prodigal, or A brief discourse, wherein Christs parable of the lost son found, is opened and applied, as it was delivered in sundry sermons (Boston, 1684), p. 149 (“Man is a reasonable Creature, and a cause by counsel of his own actions: The understanding in man is the light in him, by which he regulates all his wayes, and as he seeth so he practiseth.”).

[117] Willard, Compleat Body, p. 212.

[118] Ibid. (Willard adds that voluntary actions can further be divided into elicit and imperate actions. The former is those that immediately proceed from the will; the latter is “such as are performed by the other powers in man at the command of the will.”).

[119] Ibid., p. 149.

[120] The presupposition here is that essentially sin does not corrupt either faculty. The intellect must pursue truth and the will must desire the good. However, post-fall, the apprehension of the true and the good is corrupted such that the intellect and will waiver in their joint pursuit. But the will cannot pursue evil as evil and the intellect cannot pursue falsehood as falsehood. See Turretin, Institutes, p. 663ff.

[121] In the words of Aquinas, “[T]ruth and good include one another; for truth is something good, otherwise it would not be desirable; and good is something true, otherwise it would not be intelligible.” Summa Theologiae, I, Q. 79, art. 2. Contra older assessments of New England Puritanism which espoused a radical break from medieval theology (and method), Aquinas and other notable medieval scholastics (but especially Aquinas) were not only present but prevalent in the study of philosophy at Harvard during the 17th century. See Norman S. Fiering, Moral Philosophy at Seventeenth Century Harvard: A Discipline in Transition (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981).

[122] Willard, Compleat Body, p. 454.

[123] Ibid., p. 454. See also Miller, The New England Mind, p. 240-241 (outlining the process of perception, assessment, and judgment in man’s rational soul, including a brief discussion on the concept of “phantasm” and the role of the imagination).

[124] Lowrie, Shape of the Puritan Mind, p. 88.

[125] For a sweeping overview of the debate as it stood in Willard’s day, see Norma S. Fiering, “Will and Intellect in the New England Mind,” William and Mary Quarterly, 29:4 (Oct., 1972), pp. 515-558 (dubbing the issue the most hotly debated topic of moral philosophy in 17th century New England).

[126] WCF 4.2 (“After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after his own image.”).

[127] Mercy Magnified, p. 149.

[128] Miller, The New England Mind, p. 250 (quoting Willard). See also Willard, Compleat Body, p. 124 (“[The will] can set all the Powers of the Soul and Body on work; it can determine concerning the Acts of them all at its Pleasure: It hath the highest Object, viz. Goodness it self [sic], and the best Rule, viz. Divinity.”).

[129] Miller, The New England Mind, p. 249-250, 253 (quoting Cotton, Preston, and Hooker). The resurgence of what Fiering calls “scholastic voluntarism” (contradistinguished from the traditional intellectualism) in the 17th century amongst both Catholics and Protestants attests to the underappreciated influence of Duns Scotus during the period, especially in Reformed theology. The debate centered on exegesis of Romans 7:14-28 and involved distinctly Augustinian convictions but included, if in the periphery, the thought of Scotus, Anselm, and Bernard. See Fiering, “Will and Intellect in the New England Mind,” pp. 528-529. On the influence of Scotus on the Reformed theology of the period, see generally Richard Muller, Calvin and the Reformed Tradition: On the Work of Christ and the Order of Salvation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012); Divine Will and Human Choice: Freedom, Contingency, and Necessity in Early Modern Reformed Thought (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017).

[130] Miller rightly perceives that “Puritanism would have lost all grounds for individual moral responsibility had it held that the psychological reflex, once inaugurated by the senses, was automatic and irresistible; there had to be a break somewhere, a power that could refuse to play the mechanically consistent part, that could deviate voluntarily from the norm.” The New England Mind, p. 250; see also Ibid., p. 251 (“The will must not choose without a reason, but it is not therefore enslaved to reason.”).

[131] Willard, Mercy Magnified., p. 176.

[132] See Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I.2, Q. 1-5.

[133] See Miller, The New England Mind, p. 254 (quoting Willard on this point).

[134] Althusius referred to politics as the “art of associating men for the purpose of establishing, cultivating, and conserving social life among them.” He therefore frequently referred to it in his Politica methodice digesta (1603/1610/1614) as “symbiotics.” See generally “Introduction to Althusius’s Politica,” in An Abridged Translation of Politics Methodically Set Forth and Illustrated with Sacred and Profane Examples, ed. and trans. Frederick S. Carney (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1995).

[135] Willard, Promise-Keeping a Great Duty (Boston, 1691), p. 19.

[136] To Willard and his Puritan brethren who espoused the federal theology, that man is dealt with by God by way of covenant, and that man subsequently mimics the condescension of his Maker between himself (man) and others of his own species is a reflection of, and necessary accommodation to, his reasonable nature. See Willard, Compleat Body, p. 213 (“God having made man a reasonable Creature, transacts with him as such… he made a rational creature, able to know and chuse [sic] his own actions, and thereby capable of being treated with in the way of Covenant.)

[137] Scruton, The Meaning of Conservatism, p. 43.

[138] Even royalists of the 17th century like Thomas Hobbes, William Barclay, and Jean Bodin agreed that legitimate government must originally have arisen from an act of free contract or covenant. Skinner, Visions of Politics, vol. 2, p. 397-398.

[139] As Jean Bodin said, “[I]t is neither the wals [sic], neither the persons, that maketh the city, but the union of the people under the same soveraigntie [sic] of government.” Quoted in Skinner, Visions of Politics, vol, 2, p. 399.

[140] “Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.” Aristotle, Politics, 1253a2. The Philosopher asserts this conception of man at multiple points in the Politics, for example, “[I]t is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal. And he who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state, is either above humanity, or below it; he is the ‘Tribeless, lawless, hearthless one,’ whom Homera denounces—the outcast who is a lover of war; he may be compared to a bird which flies alone.” By “political”, Aristotle is referring to man’s instinct to associate with others.

[141] Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands, pp. 282-83. This volume by Scruton offers a nuanced but biting critique of the chief thinkers affiliated with the New Left, many of which have been instrumental in developing CT. The chapter on Sartre and Foucault (pp. 69-113) is particularly good. See also Scruton, “Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour would crush civil society,” Unherd (Nov. 13, 2019), https://unherd.com/2019/11/thirty-years-on-we-forget-the-lessons-of-communism/ (“All free associations were seen by the communists as places of danger, where hierarchies, distinctions, privileges and deals could challenge the role of the [Hungarian] Vanguard Party in its fight for equality and “social justice”. Reflecting on this, I came to see why freedom of association belongs with freedom of speech… Those two freedoms are the foundation of civil society, and the necessary shield against the abuse of political power.”).

[142] Anna Holmes, “Black With (Some) White Privilege,” The New York Times (Feb. 10, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/10/opinion/sunday/black-with-some-white-privilege.html.

[143] Ana Valens, “Here’s what a good LGBTQ ally looks like,” Vox (Jun. 22, 2019), https://www.vox.com/identities/2019/6/22/18700875/lgbtq-good-ally (criticizing Taylor Swift for garnering too much of the spotlight in her activism for LGBTQ+ causes).

[144] See Peggy McIntosh, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” Peace and Freedom (July/August, 1989), available athttps://psychology.umbc.edu/files/2016/10/White-Privilege_McIntosh-1989.pdf. Thirty years on, McIntosh’s article still exerts considerable influence and is frequently referenced at the popular level. See e.g. Gina Crosley-Corcoran, “Explaining White Privilege To A Broke White Person,” HuffPost (May 8, 2014), https://www.huffpost.com/entry/explaining-white-privilege-to-a-broke-white-person_b_5269255?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAEFzreBvg1FEVqUdmEQ4dMDZvk6iR2kHLQywzTE6WmF1CyVqbfmwawx598eejMveVVFSIc__0q7iL1NdKCZgzAxj7NzUok0-VlRKEm7C-MbHmDEsPZzlNp2mJJ3tUq14X91h7sO4nGgQhwjeVvTBFtoXKTX0OcaC_te83zKxrEYA.

[145] Throughout the opening passages of the chapter referenced here, Eddo-Lodge essentially (and anecdotally) unpacks McIntosh’s proverbial knapsack. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), p. 86. Reni Eddo-Lodge is a journalist and well-known feminist activist, and therefore not directly involved in academia’s CT project. Nevertheless, her book has been immensely popular and represents contemporary CT well; even the writing style—part biographical monologue, part socio-political polemic—follows that of DiAngelo and Kendi. As proof of CT’s influence on Eddo-Lodge’s thought, see her remarkably short bibliography, Ibid., pp. 241-242 (citing, inter alia, Theodore Allen, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Audre Lorde, and bell hooks).

[146] Eddo-Lodge explains,

White privilege is one of the reasons why I stopped talking to white people about race. Trying to convince stony faces of disbelief has never appealed to me. The idea of white privilege forces white people who aren’t actively racist to confront their own complicity in its continuing existence. White privilege is dull, grinding complacency. It is par for the course in a world in which drastic race inequality is responded to which a shoulder shrug, considered just the norm.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, p. 87.

[147] Remember, “white privilege is instrumental to racism.” Ibid., p. 115.

[148] John McWhorter, “Racist Is a Tough Little Word,” The Atlantic (July 24, 2019), https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/07/racism-concept-change/594526/.

[149] The same goes for sexism. See e.g. Anita Sarkeesian, @femfreq, “There’s no such thing as sexism against men. That’s because sexism is prejudice + power. Men are the dominant gender with power in society, ” Twitter, Nov. 4, 2014,  https://twitter.com/femfreq/status/533445611543363585?lang=en.

[150] Eddo-Lodge, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, p. 89.

[151] Eddo-Lodge’s language is somewhat softer here in comparison to that of Ibram X. Kendi or Robin DiAngelo. The latter two are much more forceful in asserting that all people not only have potential for prejudice but, in fact, are prejudiced.

[152] Kelefa Sanneh, “The Fight to Redefine Racism,” The New Yorker (Aug. 12, 2019), https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/08/19/the-fight-to-redefine-racism.

[153] Gary Younge, ” The Truth About Race In America: It’s Getting Worse, Not Better,” The Nation (Mar. 21, 2014), https://www.thenation.com/article/truth-about-race-america-its-getting-worse-not-better/;  Carol Anderson, ” America is hooked on the drug of white supremacy. We’re paying for that today,” The Guardian (Aug. 13, 2017), https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/13/america-white-supremacy-hooked-drug-charlottesville-virginia; Christina Pazzanese, ” Probing the roots and rise of white supremacy,” The Harvard Gazette (Mar. 18, 2019), https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/03/harvard-fellow-examines-rise-and-roots-of-white-supremacy/.

[154] Brent Staples, “How Italians Became ‘White’,” The New York Times Magazine (Oct. 12, 2019), https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/10/12/opinion/columbus-day-italian-american-racism.html.

[155] Teresa J. Guess, “The Social Construction of Whiteness: Racism by Intent, Racism by Consequence,” Critical Sociology 32(4) (2006), pp. 649-673, available at https://www.cwu.edu/diversity/sites/cts.cwu.edu.diversity/files/documents/constructingwhiteness.pdf.

[156] “White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress.” DiAngelo, “White Fragility,” The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3(3) (2011), p. 55. See also NBC News, “Think: Author Robin DiAngelo: Debunking the most common myths white people tell about race,” NBC News, commentary by Robin DiAngelo, Sept. 25, 2018, https://www.nbcnews.com/think/video/debunking-the-most-common-myths-white-people-tell-about-race-1328672835886.

[157] Richard Delgado and Jean Stefanic, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction (New York: New York University Press, 2012), p. 85. See alsoRichard Dyer, “The Matter of Whiteness,” in White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism, ed. Paula S. Rothenberg (New York: Worth Publishers, 2008), pp. 9-14; James E. Barrett and David Roediger, “How White People Became White,” in White Privilege, pp. 35-40.

[158] Kashmira Gander, “Healing from Toxic Whiteness: The Woman Behind a Course Helping White People Tackling Internalized Racism,” The Independent (Feb. 23, 2017), https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/toxic-whiteness-healing-white-people-internalised-racism-woman-sandra-kim-new-york-a7595216.html.

[159] Similar is the language of Eddo-Lodge. Both she and Kim (and others) frequently discuss white privilege and related concepts in terms of environmental, (to an extent) disembodied, mechanicalistic forces:

White privilege is a manipulative, suffocating blanket of power that envelops everything we know, like a snowy day. It’s brutal and oppressive, bullying you into not speaking up for fear of losing your loved ones, or job, or flat. It scares you into silencing yourself: you don’t get the privilege of speaking honestly about your feelings without extensively assessing the consequences.

And a little later she adds that, “White privilege is deviously, throat-stranglingly [sic] clever” because of its simultaneous ubiquity and secrecy. Eddo-Lodge, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, pp. 92-93.

[160] This invocation of Boromir’s quote from Peter Jackson’s film trilogy, now immortalized on the internet through memes, does not risk caricature of CT. It is common to encounter in CT-informed commentary references to the literal physical and mental detriment experienced by persons of color living in western society because of pervasiveness of structural and cultural whiteness. The most notorious expression of this kind of language lately is Jonathan M. Metzel, “Dying of Whiteness,” Boston Review (June 27, 2019), https://bostonreview.net/race/jonathan-m-metzl-dying-whiteness. Somewhat ironically, the case has been recently made that whiteness harms the health of whites. Jonathan Goolsby, “Racialized social system of whiteness benefits whites’ health in some ways, study finds,” Phys.org (Oct. 20, 2017), https://phys.org/news/2017-10-racialized-social-whiteness-benefits-whites.html; Jennifer Malat, Sarah Mayorga-Gallo, and David R. Williams, “The effects of whiteness on the health of whites in the USA,” Social Science & Medicine, 199 (Feb. 2018), pp. 148-156. See also See also Rhea W. Boyd, “Despair doesn’t kill, defending whiteness does,” The Lancet, 395(10218) (Jan. 11, 2020), https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(19)33147-2/fulltext?mod=article_inline (“When confronted with self-inflicted or white on white violence, scholars, the media, and the public are evading the logical conclusion—one Metzl both illuminates and eschews—despair isn’t killing white America, the armed defence [sic] of whiteness is.”).

[161] Robin DiAngelo, “White Fragility,” International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3(3) (2011), pp. 54-70, available athttps://libjournal.uncg.edu/ijcp/article/viewFile/249/116.

[162] To critical theorists, and contrary to colloquial use, bias, prejudice, bigotry, and racism are not interchangeable. See Judith M. Katz, White Awareness: Handbook for Anti-racism Training (Norman: Oklahoma University Press, 1978), p. 37.

[163] Evergreen State College, “Coming Together Speaker Series: Dr. Robin DiAngelo,” YouTube (Mar. 9, 2016), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVddM1hzmvI; Nosheen Iqbal, “Interview: Academic Robin DiAngelo: ‘We have to stop thinking about racism as someone who says the N-word’,” The Guardian (Feb. 26, 2019), https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/16/white-fragility-racism-interview-robin-diangelo(“Everyone has racial bias but, as DiAngelo is determined to establish, ‘when you back a group’s collective bias with lingering authority and institutional control, it is transformed.'”).

[164] Robin DiAngelo, “White people assume niceness is the answer to racial inequality. It’s not,” The Guardian (Jan. 16, 2019), https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jan/16/racial-inequality-niceness-white-people.

[165] Isaac Chotiner, “Why White Liberals Are So Unwilling to Recognize Their Own Racism,” Slate (Aug. 2, 2018), https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/08/white-liberal-racism-why-progressives-are-unable-to-see-their-own-bigotry.html. DiAngelo is a bit confusing on this point. In the interview, she does distinguish between herself and someone like Steve Bannon or Donald Trump in that they are “avowed” racists whereas she considers herself an “implicit” racist. The distinction lies in the fact that DiAngelo has confronted her racism and working to divest herself of whiteness; she is therefore situated at a different point on the continuum than Bannon and Trump. At the same time, she also suggests that this is essentially a distinction without a difference. In her words (emphasis added),

You asked me, “What would you call the difference perhaps between Trump and me?” But I actually think, yeah, we both are racists. I see that as a continuum that I’m on and will be on for the rest of my life. In any given moment, I have to ask myself, “How am I doing on this continuum? What end am I behaving closer to? How do I know?” He and I may be on different spots on the continuum, but we’re both on it. I don’t tend to distinguish between the two of us, which probably shocks some readers, but if you’re asking me to somehow identify that difference, I would say “avowed” versus maybe “implied” or “implicit.”

[166] DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why Its So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (Boston: Beacon Press, 2018), pp. 71-72.

[167] Ibid., p. 73 (emphasis added).

[168] Ibid., p. 87.

[169] Shenvi, “The Worldview of White Fragility – A Review of Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility,” Shenvi Apologetics, https://shenviapologetics.com/the-worldview-of-white-fragility/ (retrieved Dec. 9, 2019).

[170] Earlier use of the term “antiracism” can be found in Judy H. Katz’s well-known White Awareness: Handbook for Anti-racism Training(Norman: Oklahoma University Press, 1978). Antiracist training has begun to crop up especially in the field of education. See e.g. Jenn Fields, “Training white people in Colorado to be “anti-racist” (not just “not racist”) is one step in the fight to correct historic wrongs,” The Colorado Sun(Dec. 17, 2019), https://coloradosun.com/2019/12/17/colorado-anti-racism-training-surj-regan-byrd/ (the curriculum covered by the Sun includes the works from Kendi and DiAngelo mentioned here). It should also be noted that Kendi’s and DiAngelo’s books in particular have been increasingly (and publicly) recommended by pastors, theologians, and Christian writers. See e.g. Bryan Loritts, “Top 10 Books I Read in 2019,” Dr. Bryan Loritts (blog) (Nov. 25, 2019), https://bryanloritts.com/blog/top-10-books-i-read-in-2019; Mark Vroegop, “Eight Unique Books on Racial Reconciliation,” Mark Vroegop (blog), http://markvroegop.com/eight-unique-books-on-racial-reconciliation/ (retrieved Jan. 20, 2020). For use of the antiracism concept as applied directly to churches, see Joseph Barndt, Becoming an Anti-Racist Church: Journeying toward Wholeness(Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2011). For an excellent review of Barndt’s take, see Neil Shenvi, “Anti-Racism as Rebirth: A Review of Barndt’s Becoming an Anti-Racist Church,” Shenvi Apologeticshttps://shenviapologetics.com/anti-racism-as-rebirth-a-review-of-barndts-becoming-an-anti-racist-church/ (retrieved Jan. 20, 2020).

[171] Kendi’s book is rightly (and revealingly) described by The Guardian (with approval) as a “memoir and political guide.” Afua Hirsch, “How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi review – a brilliantly simple argument,” The Guardian (Oct. 11, 2019),  https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/oct/11/how-to-be-an-antiracist-by-ibram-x-kendi-review;  C.f.  Coleman Hughes’ thoughtful critique of Kendi’s book, “How to Be an Anti-Intellectual,” City Journal (Oct. 27, 2019), https://www.city-journal.org/how-to-be-an-antiracist.

[172] Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist (New York: One World, 2019), p. 9.

[173] Ibid., pp. 9-10.

[174] Ibid., p. 19.

[175] More basically, such a suggestion also misunderstands intersectionality, which must invoke at least to axes of analysis (e.g. race and gender, or gender and class). [Thanks to Neil Shenvi for pointing this out].

[176] In the interest of further specificity, Kendi, being very focused (at least abstractly) on public “policy” throughout his book, defines a “racist” as “[o]ne who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea.” “Racist policy” is defined as “any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity.” In turn, a “racist idea” is “any idea that suggests one racial group is inferior or superior to another racial group in any way.” Ibid., pp. 13-20.

[177] Ibid., p. 136 (stating that the claim that “Black people can’t be racist because Black people don’t have power” is “illusory, concealing, disempowering, and racist.”). C.f. Manisha Krishan, “Dear White People, Please Stop Pretending Reverse Racism Is Real,” Vice (Oct. 2, 2016), https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/kwzjvz/dear-white-people-please-stop-pretending-reverse-racism-is-real.

[178] Ibram X. Kendi, “Pass an Anti-Racist Constitutional Amendment,” Politico Magazine, https://www.politico.com/interactives/2019/how-to-fix-politics-in-america/inequality/pass-an-anti-racist-constitutional-amendment/. According to Kendi, his proposed anti-racist constitutional amendment would:

[E]stablish and permanently fund the Department of Anti-racism (DOA) comprised of formally trained experts on racism and no political appointees. The DOA would be responsible for preclearing all local, state and federal public policies to ensure they won’t yield racial inequity, monitor those policies, investigate private racist policies when racial inequity surfaces, and monitor public officials for expressions of racist ideas. The DOA would be empowered with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their racist policy and ideas.

[179] Andrew Sullivan, “A Glimpse at the Intersectional Left’s Political Endgame,” New York Magazine (Nov. 15, 2019), https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/11/andrew-sullivan-the-intersectional-lefts-political-endgame.html.

[180] This type of behavior was addressed by the Bible long before this new label was applied to it: Luke 18:9-14.

[181] CBS News, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: The Rookie Congresswoman Challenging the Democratic Establishment,” commentary by Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes (Jan. 6, 2019), https://www.cbsnews.com/news/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-the-rookie-congresswoman-challenging-the-democratic-establishment-60-minutes-interview-full-transcript-2019-01-06/.

[182] Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, “Making Black Women Scientists under White Empiricism: The Racialization of Epistemology in Physics,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 45(2) (Winter 2020), available at https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/704991.

[183] Max Horkheimer, Critique of Instrumental Reason, trans. Matthew J. O’Connell (London: Verso, 2012). Even former president Barack Obama has come under fire for criticizing cancel culture and questioning the “woke” rhetoric of the day. Michael Arceneaux, “I respect you immensely, Barack Obama, but I don’t need lessons about ‘being woke’ and ‘cancel culture’,” The Independent (Oct. 30, 2019), https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/obama-woke-meaning-michelle-cancel-culture-foundation-chicago-a9178436.html.

[184] On the flipside is “epistemic oppression,” which “refers to persistent epistemic exclusion that hinders one’s contribution to knowledge production.” Kristie Dotson, “Epistemic Oppression,” Social Epistemology, 28(2) (2014), pp. 115-138. It is in between epistemic exploitation and epistemic oppression that so-called antiracist “white affinity groups” fit. The formation of these groups is essential for antiracist work in that they provide a space for whites to develop their own racial identity in relation to antiracist ends whilst not epistemically “taxing” persons of color with requests for education on, or proof of, racism and systemic oppression in a given cultural context. Affinity groups more or less provide a “safe space” for whites to grow into effective and culturally conscious antiracist allies without hindering the antiracist work of black, brown, immigrant and indigenous persons of color. Indispensable activities of an effective white affinity group include practicing talking about race outside of “interracial dialogues” so as not to burden persons of color with white ignorance, coming to terms with the “internalized racism” of (white) members, and learning actively to confront systemic racism. See Ali Michael and Mary C. Conger, Susan Bickerstaff, Katherine Crawford, Garrett, and Ellie Fitts Fulmer, ” Becoming an Anti-Racist White Ally: How a White Affinity Group Can Help,” Perspectives on Urban Education (Spring 2009), available at https://www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/whiteaffinitygroup.pdf.

[185] Nora Berenstain, “Epistemic Exploitation,” Ergo, 3(22) (2016), https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/ergo/12405314.0003.022/–epistemic-exploitation?rgn=main;view=fulltext. To be rightly comprehended and analyzed, says Berenstain, epistemic exploitation must be situated within “a framework of epistemic oppression.” Only then can we “illuminate the structural disparities that allow it to take place and reveal the role it plays in reproducing active ignorance and maintaining systems of oppression.” Key to the concept unpacked by Berenstain is the dynamic of “unpaid labor;” highlighting that marginalized persons must educate their non-marginalized counterparts on the oppression proliferated by the majority culture. In Berenstain’s opinion, this uncompensated work reveals that epistemic exploitation (in all its masked forms) is really a tool “to keep the oppressed busy doing the oppressor’s work [i.e. correcting white, male ignorance],” constituting “a diversion of energies [i.e. opportunity cost, especially for women of color] and a tragic repetition of racist patriarchal thought [quoting Audre Lorde].”

[186] Meghan Murphy, “Soon we’ll all be cancelled,” UnHerd (Oct. 7, 2019), https://unherd.com/2019/10/soon-well-all-be-cancelled/.

[187] See Brian J. Shaw, “Reason, Nostalgia, and Eschatology in the Critical Theory of Max Horkheimer,” Journal of Politics 47(1) (Feb., 1985), pp. 160-181 (couching the project of Horkheimer in a religious motif, e.g. “Horkheimer committed himself to the self-appointed task with the zeal of a prophet charged with the salvation of a world crowded with unrepentant sinners.”).

[188] Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance,” in A Critique of Pure Tolerance, eds. Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore Jr., and Herbert Marcuse (Boston: Beacon, 1965), pp. 81–117.

[189] C.f. Rom. 2:11.

[190] Noteworthy is an insight presented by Boyce’s Abstract, p. 198 (citing Charles Hodge’s “Outlines,” pp. 299-300), viz., that the Greek and Roman philosophers referred to the rational soul as νους or πνευμα or mens. By contrast, the animal soul was called ψυχη or anima. Hence, linguistically (if on a somewhat superficial level) we see the early connection between the doctrine of mens rea and respect for man’s rational soul. Boyce concludes that Paul uses these terms, including σομα or corpus to signify the body, to express the full, composite being of man (e.g. 1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 4:12; 1 Cor. 15:44).

[191] CRT scholars regularly decry Supreme Court decisions like Washington v. Davis (1976) (and Personnel Administrator of Massachusetts v. Feeney (1979), applying the standard to sex discrimination) for its insistence on an intent/motive element (“discriminatory purpose”) in nonexplicit discrimination analysis. In short, the intent element imbedded in American jurisprudence frustrates CRT scholars’ ability to critique unconscious bias and systemic oppression. See e.g. Pamela S. Karlan, “Discriminatory Purpose and Mens Rea: The Tortured Argument of Invidious Intent,” 93 Yale Law Journal 111-134 (1983), available at https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/ylj/vol93/iss1/3; James Morsch, “The Problem of Motive in Hate Crimes: The Argument against Presumptions of Racial Motivation,” 82 Journal Criminal Law & Criminology 659 (1991-1992), available athttps://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=6710&context=jclc.

[192] Michael Lynch, “Returning to the Sources: The Scholarship of Richard Muller,” Mere Orthodoxy (Jan. 7, 2019), https://mereorthodoxy.com/richard-muller/.