One of my fondest memories of an evangelistic conversation was with a young man at my gym named Metro—an ex-con and trash collector turned competitive bodybuilder.
My friend “Met” is a self-made sort of fellow and is as brash as they come, not remotely hesitant to swear or brag about his sexual exploits. At times, especially in sharing the gospel, this candor can be a welcome shift from usual polite nods of hearers too indifferent to react strongly one way or another.
On one occasion, I asked Met, “What would be sufficient evidence for you to believe in the existence of God?” He thought for just a moment, then turned to me. “He would have to come down here right now and tell me he’s real.” My response was twofold. First, I blurted out, half-laughing, “That’s exactly what God did 2,000 years ago—his name is Jesus!”
After regaining my composure, I pressed further, explaining that according to Scripture, God has already given sufficient evidence of his own existence through the glory and meaning embedded in the creation order (cf. Romans 1:20). Regardless of how this makes us feel, are we to say that this self-revelation is insufficient? Does not God, by virtue of his omniscience, have the right to set the evidentiary threshold?
This argument did not persuade Met—not that I had expected it to. The question of sufficient evidence is no more capable of changing the heart than any other purely rational argument. Rather, it serves to put the burden of proof on the skeptic. In this case, my question did not prove God’s existence but to help my friend more objectively assess whether or not he would permit me to undertake this very task, and if so, if he would even be willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads. The question turns the conversation quickly to matters of the heart.
Arguing biblically means knowing when to reason with an opponent and when to bite one’s tongue. “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes” (Proverbs 26:4-5). There is a time to present evidence and a time to step back and let the existing evidence weigh upon the heart.
What would happen if we employed the same form of argument to the current movement based around critical race theory, intersectionality, and social justice?
I would like to pose an honest question for those within evangelicalism advocating a version of the social justice of the political left. Before I do so, note that I am taking for granted that much injustice has been perpetuated in the US both at an individual level and at an institutional level against blacks and other racial minorities well beyond the time of slavery and reconstruction. Given this premise, my question is as follows.
If you agree that a diabolical movement could theoretically exist which (1) is meant to destabilize society by deliberately stirring class conflicts between various groups and (2) does so through an ideology that both inflates existing injustices or even invents injustices where none exist, what would constitute sufficient evidence that such a movement exists?
Read that question again carefully. This is not an a priori assertion that any whiff of rhetoric in the church concerning injustice at a corporate or collective level in our history is a part of a neo-Marxist ploy. It is, however, to acknowledge that neo-Marxism exists. And if we can agree that it does, why would we assume that our own institutions are somehow immune from its influence? And what would constitute better evidence of such a movement than the wide-scale violence, looting, riots lawlessness, cancel culture, and corporate wokeness one-upmanship now on proud display at every turn?
One problem with critical race theory, displayed proudly in rhetoric of the Black Lives Matter organization, is that it shamelessly engages in the unfalsifiability fallacy. To so much as question the rhetoric of inescapable systemic racism on par with the doctrine of original sin is considered to prove one’s unconscious racism or blindness or one’s own privilege, white or otherwise. Yet whenever a theory or system of thought stacks the evidential deck in its favor in this way, it only begs the question. The game is rigged; the house will always win.
This is a cultish form of argumentation. It is akin to praying for a “burning in the bosom” as inner, subjective confirmation of the truth of one’s beliefs, then treating the ensuing emotional high as this very evidence. It is not unlike the way that flat-earthers argue their cause; any evidence of a spherical globe can be dismissed out of hand as falsified data or government conspiracy. These are all examples of assuming the very conclusion in one’s premises.
In my simple question stated above, I use “diabolical” in the literal sense of the term. There is a reason the Apostle Paul logically connected “philosophy and empty deceit” with what he called the “elemental spirits” or “principles” of our dark world (Colossians 2:8). What we call devils and demons, Paul called principalities and powers (Ephesians 6:12)—things that seem respectable.
Our spiritual enemy is not so tactless as to waltz about with a pitchfork in red tights. Nor should we always expect him to so brazenly brandish a hammer and sickle. To follow a living Christ in evil days is to discern the spirit of the age (Ephesians 5:11-16). This requires effort, but it is a good work to which the believer in Christ is called.
Along with this high and sober calling comes the recognition that our true enemy is not flesh and blood but spiritual. Our foe is not merely any human political group but the collective influence of unseen forces opposed to Triune God and to the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of this, we can season our words with grace (Colossians 4:6) and pray for changed hearts and minds. We can speak to our opponents firmly yet gently so that God may grant them repentance (2 Timothy 2:25).
Will we follow the evidence where it leads?