Monday, October 18, 2021

Mark Driscoll's Christian Theology vs Critical Theory could probably use at least one footnote giving credit to Stephen Eric Bronner's primer on critical theory

Christian Theology vs. Critical Theory
© 2021 by Mark Driscoll
ISBN: 978-1-7374103-7-9 (Paperback)
ISBN: 978-1-7374103-8-6 (E-book)

Pages 21-22
In 1923 the Institute for Social Research (also called the Frankfurt School, or Critical Theory) opened as the first funded Marxist think tank. It sought to determine how to bring a utopian future to the world because the human soul needs to have not only food, water, air, and shelter in order to live, but also hope. Spearheaded by Jewish academics who were anti-capitalism, they wanted to pursue justice by deconstructing and reconstructing everything from gender to family, religion, education and more. Despite being fringe, counterculture radicals and idealists, their concepts did appeal to some people who were suffering and feeling a sense of injustice, oppression, and loss amidst great poverty.
As a very general rule, Critical Theory is based upon five big ideas:
1. Power: Structures are created by powerful people to privilege themselves, which is a form of abuse and injustice.

2. Systemic Oppression: Though often invisible like demons, there are inherent biases and prejudices built into every system by those in power to systematically oppress those without power.

3. Critique: It is good and right to find the flaws and problems in all systems of thought as well as institutions, not unlike God who knows our sin and names it.

4. Justice: It is righteous to dismantle oppressive ideas and structures and redistribute power and wealth for equality. Examples include eradicating private property ownership, redistributing wealth through
reparations or tax benefits, or attacking businesses that have benefitted from systemic oppression, which explains rioting and looting that is cheered as justice instead of jeered as injustice.

5. Government: Government replaces God as the sovereign authority to bring justice, protect peace, and provide for the needs of people who have been oppressed. This is a counterfeit of the Kingdom of God ruled by King Jesus who began His public ministry in Luke 4:18-21 reading from and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.’ And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” To have a Kingdom that is perfect, you need a perfect King and His name is Jesus.


In 1933, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor in Germany, and the next year became Fuhrer with his own idea of how to achieve a utopian society without God. Around this time, the Nazis closed the Frankfurt school, which then moved to Geneva for a season, then Paris, eventually landing at Columbia University in New York. From 1939-1945, starting with the invasion of Poland, World War II gripped the globe as a demonic anti-Christ sought to impose himself as the head of nations. Hitler enacted a plot to deconstruct governments and reconstruct the world with himself as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords much like Pharoah, Nebuchadnezzar, Caesar and others had done before him by the same powerful spirit of the Critic. Tragically, the concepts of Critical Theory developed by some Jewish scholars were used to justify the Holocaust. Some Germans concluded that the Jews used their power to create systemic oppression and so the Nazis critiqued the Jews and brought social justice through the government by seizing Jewish property, enslaving and murdering Jewish people, and destroying Jewish businesses in the name of social justice. Yes, perhaps the greatest racial/ethnic injustice in modern history was in the name of social justice based upon the principles of Critical Theory.
There’s a lot that could be said about the above-quoted passage, but let’s start with the most basic point.  The Institute for Social Research wouldn’t have been the first Marxist think tank the world over. The Marx-Engels Institute that eventually became the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute was a think tank that was founded in 1919. Now if we said that the first Marxist think tank in the West was founded in 1923 with the Institute for Social Research then, okay, we can grant that point but that is not the point Driscoll made.
But all of that is to raise the question about where might Driscoll have gotten the idea that the Frankfurt School was the first Marxist think tank?  You might think that for such a categorical and sweeping claim as describing the Frankfurt School as the first Marxist think tank there’d be a single footnote of attribution but Driscoll’s bibliographic citations are sparser than ever.
Nevertheless, he gave us a clue a while back.

Mark Driscoll

September 30, 2020  ·

Side study this week to prep for Romans 2

What's that book in the lower right corner?  Stephen Eric Bronner’s Critical Theory: A Very Short Introduction. So we know beyond all doubt Driscoll showed the world he had the book as part of his side study for a sermon, so what’s the author have to say about the start of the Institute for Social Research?


Critical Theory: A Very Short Introduction

Copyright © 2011 by Stephen Eric Bronner

Published by Oxford University Press, Inc.

ISBN: 978-0-19-973007-0 (paperback)

ISBN: 978-0-19-0692674


Page 9

The Institute for Social Research was founded in 1923. Growing out of a Marxist study group, which sought to deal with the practical problems facing the labor movement in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, this first Marxist think tank was funded by Hermann Weil. He was an enlightened business man, who made his fortune on the grain market in Argentina. The money was given at the urging of his son, Felix, who considered himself a “salon Bolshevik”

So that could have been a footnote as best as I can tell.  Did Driscoll think that showing off the books he was reading on social media would count toward a footnote in Christian Theology vs Critical Theory?
Now as for how and why the Frankfurt School developed, it would be more accurate to say that what the founders were trying to understand was how the Russian Revolution devolved into a bloodbath on the one hand and how bids at communist revolution not only failed in Germany but led to the emergence of National Socialism on the other. Deconstructionism wouldn’t even become an academic trend until decades after the members of the Frankfurt School had emigrated to the United States to assist in researching potential explanations for the rise of fascism a la The Authoritarian Personality. Driscoll’s use of “deconstruct” as a buzzword is a dog whistle.  What hath Adorno to do with Derrida?
Driscoll can write about King Jesus but didn’t Jesus say “My kingdom is not of this world?” Hasn’t Driscoll mentioned in the past that Western Christendom has died?  If critical theory is supposed to be a counterfeit gospel and a counterfeit to the Kingdom of God what exactly “is” that kingdom in Mark Driscoll’s mind?  Western Christendom?

Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll, Zondervan 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27016-4

Pages 16-17


During the era of Christendom, it was generally believed that our national culture was Christian, or at least Judeo-Christian. Consequently, it was the job of the church to make converts for the nation by challenging people to commit themselves to Jesus and live morally. The upside of Chrisendom was that many people did attend church. The downside was that the church in large part became the servant of morality and the national good. The result was a mean-spirited hypocrisy among “Christians” who wrongly believed morality and redemption were synonymous and lived lives more dominated by American values of pride and selfishness than by the gospel virtues of humility and selflessness.  Also, Christendom churches defined themselves in contrast to other competing churches, which led to unnecessary hostility between Christian traditions that were distinct but not altogether different.
By 2013’s A Call to Resurgence, Driscoll spoke of the death of Christendom as complete.  Now in 2021 Driscoll refers to the death of Christendom as a slow process that happened in the past and that he called, it seems, the time of death. Thus in Christian Theology vs Critical Theory:
page 38

Like many deaths, the final demise of Christendom occurred after a long, painful struggle that started in the 1960s and 1970s as I described in my book A Call to Resurgence. Christendom took a serious beating during those years from the fatal five: gender confusion, sex, abortions, drugs, and Spiritless spirituality. Strength and vigor waned as Christendom grew old and tired in the 1980s and 1990s; by the turn of the millennium, it could no longer fight back. Finally, after more than a decade of labored breathing and a weakening heart, Christendom has gone the way of all flesh.


But before we move forward into a future without Christendom, it’s important to look back to see where we’ve come from. What exactly is Christendom, how is it different from Christianity itself, and how does it relate to the church today?


Christendom began about the time of the Reformation and lasted roughly 500 years. The United States was among the most adventurous experiments of Christendom. …


Page 40

Due to the ongoing existence of American civil religion, many evangelicals are oblivious to the fact that Christendom is dead and real Christianity is in serious decline. Those in the United States may have a general sense that Christianity is struggling in Europe, but many remain fairly optimistic about our “one nation under God.” As long as we see Christmas trees on government property, the 10 Commandments posted on public buildings, and hear public figures talk about “faith,” many believers naively assume that real Christianity is alive and well and respected by the majority of our people.


Brace yourself. It’s an illusion.

It would seem that gone altogether are Driscoll’s earlier hopeful observations about how the death of Christendom could signal the demise of merely nominal professions of faith:

Page 42

With the death of Christendom, however, the cultural advantages of Christianity have diminished, and many people have decided to drop the charade altogether. This shouldn’t come as a surprise; without inward conversion there’s no reason to expect outward devotion. Younger generations increasingly feel less obligated even to profess Christianity, and society increasingly provides less incentive to do so. The advent of mass media, digital communication, and global travel have made competing religions, spiritualities, and philosophies (including agnosticism and atheism) more acceptable and fashionable. In contrast, Christendom is the old way, led by old people for old people. It’s no wonder young people stop attending church, stop giving to the church, and stop practicing faith through Bible reading, a lifestyle of repentance, and passion for Jesus Christ.


He says that as though it’s a bad thing. What happened to the Mark Driscoll who wrote that the demise of Christendom meant less hypocrisy and nominalism? What happened to the Driscoll who was willing to say that nationalistic civic religion was not something Christianity ought to have underwritten as seemed to be the case even back in 2006 with Confessions of a Reformission Rev?  
Of course Driscoll’s very definition of “Christendom” is a debatable definition. The idea that Christendom didn’t start until the Reformation seems implicit in Driscoll’s definition but surely most historians would propose Christendom got a boost from Constantine and that the Carolingian empire had some small role to play across a thousand years of European history.
Driscoll has returned to an idea he credited to his daughter Ashley back in Win Your War, that Christians should think in terms of black and white (binary thinking).

From page 3 of Christian Theology vs Critical Theory:

Everything God creates, Satan counterfeits. The counterfeit of Christian Theology is Critical Theory. As a spiritual virus that spreads much more quickly than a physical virus, it has already infected and affected academia, government, and social media platforms, as well as many pulpits and pastors. In Romans 1, Paul speaks of Critical Theory as part of the “lie” that is against the “truth” and he says that the demonic powers at work in the world “suppress the truth” to silence dissent with things like social media throttling, banning from platforms, and cancel culture. This is not solely a political issue. This is primarily a spiritual and a theological issue that has already taken deep-seated root in many mainline, apostate, liberal Christian denominations that fly the rainbow flag and join in parades for things they should be having funerals for. It has now infected many evangelicals as well.

Christians should think in terms of black and white (binary thinking). Non-Christians think in terms of shades of gray. Biblical thinking is binary thinking.


Biblical Christianity requires black-and-white thinking because it is dualistic. From beginning to end, the Bible is thoroughly categorical: Satan and God, demons and angels, sin and holiness, lies and truth, wolves and shepherds, non-Christians and Christians, damnation and salvation, Hell and Heaven. An exhaustive list could fill a book—but you get the point. The Bible makes clear distinctions and judgments between opposed categories.
What kind of dualistic thinking?  Like a Donatist, Gnostic or Marcionite dualism?  Those were declared heresies ages ago.  Jeffrey Burton Russell wrote in his book Satan: The Early Christian Traditions that Christianity was not a monist religion in its orthodox forms but neither was it dualistic in the sense that Mazdaism was; it was, instead, a modified or mitigated dualism.  Anthropological dualism he argued, was mainly a Greek concept and that early Christian heresies tended toward dualisms. That there are dualistic elements in Christian thought and traditions is easy to establish but the question as to how and why Mark Driscoll would or should be considered competent to make such a sweeping claim about what kind of dualism is “Christian” does not require us to answer with a clear affirmative.
Meanwhile, at least one footnote for the founding of the Frankfurt School would seem to be in order, especially since Driscoll showed off the books he had been reading about critical theory on social media.


Jim said...

Nice work.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...