In Part One, we covered what Critical Theory is. In Part Two, we covered why the danger it poses is primarily spiritual rather than merely political or cultural. If you haven’t read those posts, read them before you go any further.
If you have read them, then hopefully you now understand that Critical Theory is a false religion whose proselytes often do their work whilst claiming the name of Christ. And as you watch them use the power of both the institutional church and the state to lawlessly attack Christians, you will also begin to realize that Critical Theory is yet another iteration of the Antichrist.
The question that Christians must therefore ask ourselves is this: How are we going to persevere unto the end? How are we going to resist the wiles of the devil and remain faithful to Christ in the face of this ungodly fury?
Recognizing Critical Theory in Practice
The first thing Christians must learn is how to recognize Critical Theory at work amongst us. As I’ve explained, Critical Theory consists of elevating various narratives of oppression to the place of God. Therefore, undue concern for those narratives is the first and most important sign. Are the values & concerns of Critical Theory placed alongside (or, worse, ahead of) Biblical values & concerns? This is usually quite easy to spot. 20th Century categories like racism, sexism, and homophobia are not Biblical sins; if you see them placed alongside real sins like murder or adultery, they stick out like a sore thumb. Likewise, you will never read about Jesus condemning the Pharisees for their lack of female representation or Paul instructing Timothy to appoint Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity officers in the churches. These are the concerns of the Spirit of the Age, not the Holy Spirit.
Take a good look at your congregation or larger church body. Do people complain that your congregation is too white when Scripture never makes diversity a measurement of success? Do they encourage young women to earn the feminist merit badges of degrees, careers, and worldly “accomplishments” while softly (or not so softly) despising God’s calls to marriage and family? Do they lean hard into “Hate the sin, love the sinner” when it comes to culturally celebrated sins like sodomy, but immediately find their outrage when it comes to what the world hates–inequality, nationalism, attacks on democracy, and the various -isms and -phobias of modernity? If you find yourself answering yes to these questions, then Critical Theory is undoubtedly being practiced around you.
The good news is that as they become bolder, such discernment will be easier and easier for us. The bad news is that their boldness is proportional to their control of our institutions. When they finally go mask-off, it’s because they are already confident of their victory. It therefore behooves us to learn to recognize the signs before they become blatantly obvious. There is no other way to care for our congregations, our families, our communities, or our nation in the face of these ravenous wolves.
For example, a decade before Matthew Harrison of the LCMS was excommunicating anti-feminists, he could be found explaining that he really wished that God had allowed women’s ordination. And while he said he would not go against God’s Word on the matter, he also said he would try to make it up to women by encouraging as many as possible to fill non-pastoral offices in the Synod. (This occurred during a Q&A session at the Northwest District convention on June 22 of 2012, when someone asked him how he would explain our refusal to ordain women to a daughter. Sadly, the full video has been lost sometime over the last 10 years, but I wrote about it shortly after the fact.)
Looking back on that blog post knowing what I know now, I shudder at my own naiveté. I recognized it as an error, of course, but as an innocent one rooted merely in poor phrasing (the very same excuse now being used to dismiss the Large Cataclysm.) And who knows? Maybe it started out that way. But false teaching does not remain idle. Accepting the Spirit of the Age’s judgement against God’s word–that “I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man” is an arbitrary and inscrutable rule which harms women–will only cultivate further contempt for Scripture, even if you reluctantly consent to follow it regardless. God seeks our obedience, not mere compliance.
We cannot simply observe these errors and assume them to be benign, nor those who openly hold them as trustworthy. There is nothing in Scripture that instructs a Christian that more women in leadership is a good thing. That is an imperative that comes solely from the world. When you see this impulse in your leaders and your institutions, you should immediately know who they have begun taking marching orders from. The best time to start fighting back is when you first notice it.
By now, you might be thinking, “If that were really the right way to recognize Critical Theory, then it would mean that most of our congregations are already drowning in it.” If so, that’s good, because it means you’re finally coming to understand the gravity of your situation. Too many conservatives think that the Reformation or even Seminex was the war to end all wars. Satan has moved on to new lines of attack, and conservatives failed to notice. We are quite late in recognizing what the Devil has been doing among us.
But “late” is not the same thing as “too late.” Christians have never needed the world’s blessing to oppose the kingdom of Hell or advance the Kingdom of Christ. How much worldly clout did Christ and his Apostles wield? How much institutional approval did men like Athanasius or Luther possess when they contended for the truth against worldly powers? The war is never over until the final trumpet sounds our victory. Our concern is only deciding when and how to fight. So lets consider a few opportunities.
Stop Receiving Critical Theory’s Sacraments
It should be obvious, and I did touch on this last time, but it bears repeating. The first thing conservatives need to do is stop assisting the adherents of Critical Theory in attacking anyone who denounces their gods. Given how predictable they are, there is no longer any excuse for this. In SJW’s Always Lie, Vox Day does a good job of describing how these people approach their cancellations:
The eight stages of the SJW attack sequence are as follows: Locate or Create a Violation of the Narrative. Point and Shriek. Isolate and Swarm. Reject and Transform. Press for Surrender. Appeal to Amenable Authority. Show Trial. Victory Parade.
There isn’t a single step in there that conservative Christians don’t regularly assist with. We join the pointing and shrieking to prove we’re not racist. We isolate the target to avoid being associated with them. We encourage people to resign and surrender over fake concerns about tone and scandal. We often are the amenable authorities to which SJW’s appeal, and we have helped carry out their show trials. We even celebrate alongside them when it’s over because we like patting ourselves on the back for finally getting rid of those people.
We need to understand that these witch hunts aren’t simply how they punish those who blaspheme their narratives. They’re the mechanism by which they advance their religion. Every time they point and shriek at someone–every time they demand disassociation–they induce people into offering a sacrifice to their gods in exchange for a temporary peace. Through repetition of this false sacrament, they actually create a habit of worship among crowds of normal people whose own gods are simply not jealous enough to object.
But that blasé attitude toward idolatry does not belong to the Triune God who describes it as spiritual adultery. Remember your sinful nature and how willing it is to abandon God for its own fleeting benefit. Yes, it’s easy to find fault in those they cancel–none are sinless, after all. But as you tell yourself you’re only joining the dogpile because you’re concerned about some blind and impartial justice, how certain are you really that it’s not your own sinful nature at work? How certain are you that God is the one who told you to be offended? If taking the Mark of the Beast couldn’t be made to appear very reasonable, nobody would do it.
With every university, every television show, and every government institution telling you to worship Critical Theory’s gods, it appears very reasonable indeed. And if mass media and the education industrial complex have you so discipled by the world that you cannot help yourself, then it is time to give them up. You don’t have to watch TV. I cut the cord 15 years ago over nothing more than finances, and I have never once regretted it. You don’t have to send your children to college to be reeducated either. There are many other ways of becoming truly educated. TV “programming” is a more literal term than most people suspect. When you stop being programmed, you’ll be surprised about how much of your urgency about racism, sexism, and homophobia just evaporates.
Discern the Wolves from the Thralls
Critical Theory may be everywhere, but you will still need to discern how corrupted your local institutions and individuals truly are. Some are wolves who actively promote the false religion of Critical Theory amongst us. Others are simply thralls lost in the darkness of our culture and thereby enslaved to it. Precisely because we have been systematically discipled into it for generations now, none of us are completely devoid of Critical Theory’s doctrines. I have been railing against it vehemently, but I still find myself unconsciously submitting to their narratives sometimes. There is no instant fix here.
The wolves need to be marked as false teachers and openly treated as enemies. The thralls, however, need to be steadily and patiently lead out of the darkness. They need to see people bluntly and unapologetically rejecting the narratives. They need teachers who will explain to them what’s really going on in terms they can understand. They need God’s Word to fill the ethical and cultural voids left when the narratives begin to recede. They also need to continuously receive these things for years. Most people don’t immediately change their mind when they’re proven wrong. Most people can’t immediately drop their bad habits. Most people can’t immediately adopt contempt for what they’ve been taught to worship their entire lives.
What thralls don’t need is to be treated like a wolf. Wolves know what they’re doing; thralls do not. If you assume they do, then you will only end up confusing them. And the more you confuse them, the more they will cling to what they “know,” which will generally include the doctrines of Critical Theory. The highly intelligent are the most inclined to make this mistake because these matters seem so obvious to them. However, what’s obvious to them is often opaque to others. Giving in to their temptation towards impatience ends up being wholly counterproductive.
So how do you recognize a wolf? Through observation. Because of how syncretized we’ve become, nearly everybody offers a pinch of incense to the narratives now and then. Wolves, however, are much more consistent about it. To them, the narratives are prioritized above all other concerns. This means it will always bleed out into their behavior. And one of the biggest tells is what conservatives see as hypocrisy–fluidly moving from one position to its opposite, but always keeping liberation from oppression as the practical goal. As I wrote in Part One, rampant and unapologetic behavior of this kind isn’t really hypocrisy–it’s rank pragmatism. The wolves will always use whatever tool is handy to acheive their goals. In the end, thralls will try to make themselves appear consistent, but do so badly. Wolves, in contrast, simply don’t care.
Stop Making “Best Construction” a Moral Absolute
As my Lutheran readers will know, “put the best construction on everything” comes from Luther’s explanation of the 8th Commandment in the Small Catechism. At its best, it simply means we try to give our neighbors the benefit of the doubt when we merely suspect they’re guilty of some private sin. At its worst, it means to desperately create doubt when our neighbors are in open & public sin in order to pretend that evil is actually good.
For the sake of tone policing and deflecting unwanted criticism, many Lutherans sadly go all-in on the latter. And in doing so, they actually make the 8th Commandment self-referentially incoherent. Because if they applied “best construction” in that sense to themselves, they would never be able to voice their accusation that someone had broken the 8th Commandment without also breaking the 8th Commandment.
But that’s not how God’s Law or the Lutheran Confessions work. We don’t get to take a poor reading of Luther’s commentary and then use it to dismiss God’s Commandments. And insofar as we’re talking about Critical Theory, it is really the 1st and 2nd Commandments which are being set aside. For when those among us proclaim its ungodly and deceptive narratives, they generally do so in the name of Christ. We have to remember that we are ultimately confronting a false religion.
Putting the best construction on a false religion never involves assuming the godliness of its doctrines. When Mormons come to our door and tell us how much they love Jesus, best construction doesn’t mean assuming their Jesus is the same as ours. When Muslims piously follow up Jesus’ name with “peace be upon him”, we don’t just forget that they vehemently deny what Christ said about Himself. Likewise, when Critical Theorists lie and deceive by Jesus’ name, the only “best construction” is to lay it bare and thereby create opportunities for their repentance. First and foremost, we proclaim the whole counsel of God and tear down worldly philosophies which set themselves against it. “Best construction” is always and only subsidiary to that.
Remember your Vocations
When we go to church on Sunday morning, it is indeed for the sake of receiving from God rather than “doing” for him. The Divine Service is God serving us through Word and Sacrament. But that doesn’t mean that the Christian life is one of being wholly inert and passive. And so when the church is under attack from both without and within, it does not mean sitting quietly by and watching it happen. God has given each of us different responsibilities in life. Some of those are in our homes, some of those are in our congregations. But each of us needs to be asking how to carry out those responsibilities in a time of total spiritual war.
If you attend Bible Study, you can bring up these topics when the text or the conversation warrants it (and truly, laity are often far more free to do so than our pastors are.) If you teach, then make sure your students know what Critical Theory is and how it works. If you are a father or mother of white Christian children, you need to be aware of how much the world hates them for those identities and start coordinating with other parents to find ways of protecting them. Likewise, take your children’s catechesis into your own hands; don’t expect your church and/or Christian school to do it alone without your support and oversight. If you are on a nominating committee at church, don’t appoint people to spiritual leadership roles unless they are openly against Critical Theory. (If it never occurred to them that they need to oppose it, then they are too out-of-touch to lead. If they aren’t willing to oppose it openly, then they lack sufficient courage to lead.) If you are an elder, consider whether your church’s practices are more inline with Scripture or with the world. If you’re a woman and your church offers you roles it shouldn’t due to feminism, refuse to occupy them and let other women see you doing so contentedly. There is literally no limit to our opportunities to fight this war.
And in every vocation you have, let people see you stand boldly against the Spirit of the Age. Find ways to encourage and support anyone else you see doing so as well. When you know thralls are around, find opportunities to gently cast doubt on the narratives for their sake. And above all, never bend a knee to those false gods. If you are ever called racist, sexist, homophobic, fascist, insensitive, or anything else on the usual list, make it abundantly clear you hold nothing but contempt for those labels and that the accusations are meaningless to you. And remember: The truth is always more important than your tone.
Be Ready to Suffer
As you do these things, you will quickly find that it will not always go over well. Jesus promised that the world would hate us on his account. How do you think you will be able to avoid that when you begin to spit on the world’s most beloved idols? The world will do the same when it’s squatting inside the Church. You will stand before boards, councils, and functionaries who wish to pass judgment on you. Very often, it will be men and women claiming the name of Christ who drag you there.
Make no mistake: your reputation, friends, family, employment, church membership, and someday, maybe even your life will be on the line. You therefore need to be clear about two things: First, that faithfulness to Christ must stand above any of these blessings he’s given you thus far, for Satan may be given rein to take them away. Second, that you need to be as wise as serpents when you consider how you ought to be faithful. Circumstance demanding a measure of persecution is not the same as you proudly falling on your sword. Don’t let Satan bait you into taking foolish chances or making meaningless sacrifices. Your life belongs to God, so offer it up when He demands it, not when the world does.
Finally, root yourself firmly in God’s Word. Yes, you will need that foundation when they begin to twist Scripture on you as Satan did when he tempted Christ. But also, you will need God’s encouragement. When Jesus said “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” he really meant it. Likewise, the same promises echoed by the Apostles are the sure and certain words of God Himself. He will neither leave you nor forsake you. His Word will continue to nourish you even if errant pastors and bishops refuse to for the sake of their false gods.
May God have mercy on us all, and bring us safely to the victory over the world which has already been won for us in Christ Jesus. Amen.