Posted On April 26, 2021

Fault Lines by Voddie Baucham (book review)

by | Apr 26, 2021 | Theology

Author’s note (02 August 2021): I have become aware of Joel McDurmon’s credible accusations of misquotation and plagiarism in Fault Lines. My own independent investigation into the misquotation issue confirms Baucham’s misquotation of CRT scholar Richard Delgado on page xvi. I furthermore find — in agreement with McDurmon — that this was not merely a matter of poor formatting, as Baucham orally stated a portion of this misquotation during a talk he gave at a church on 31 January of this year.

I therefore must rescind my previous endorsement of Fault Lines. Further investigatory work is to follow. The original text of my review remains below as a record.

Proverbs 11:1; 20:23.

—Garrett O’Hara


Why the name Fault Lines?

Baucham describes the climate around Critical Social Justice, etc. in terms of “fault lines,” continually referring to this metaphor throughout the book. It has less to do with a demand to pick a side than it does with the inevitability of finding oneself and one’s church on one side or the other as the “ground” splits. This split in particular is not growing ethnic tensions or political divisions but that over Critical Social Justice. Christians will find themselves on one side or another of the fault line of Critical Social Justice, and there is no preventing an earthquake.

The goal of this book is not to avoid the looming trouble. In fact, I believe that to be neither possible nor desirable. The trouble has arrived. It will not go away any time soon, and the division it is causing is necessary. I chose the fault line metaphor because I believe it not only describes the catastrophe, but also the aftermath.

Thus, Baucham writes “to clearly identify the two sides of the fault line and to urge the reader to choose wisely.”

Personal History

Baucham dedicates the first two chapters to his own personal history. The first of these goes into his ancestors being American slaves, his mother’s teenage pregnancy and father’s absence, and his mother’s subsequent strong parenting. One particular story that stands out is when his mother visited him in class and discovered that he was intentionally not trying hard at school so that he could hang out with his black friends. Far from just being a personal biography, Baucham contends that this has “EVERYTHING!” to do with this book about Critical Race Theory and the Church.

I grew up poor, without a father, and surrounded by drugs, gangs, violence, and disfunction in one of the toughest urban environments imaginable. Yet through all of that, I didn’t just survive; I thrived! Not because of government programs or white people “doing the work of anti-racism”; I thrived in large part because, by God’s grace, my mother protected me, sacrificed for me, and disciplined me.”

[…]

Advocates of this victim mentality think the only thing that can cause a man like me to focus on the centrality of family and personal responsibility is internalized racism, a lack of sensitivity, catering to white folk, being out of touch with blackness and/or the black experience, or all of the above.

Whereas the first chapter is titled “A Black Man,” the second chapter is “A Black Christian.” Baucham explains his personal salvation testimony, his conviction of having pursued segregation in the Southern Baptist Convention, his rise and eventual blacklisting in the SBC, and his first visit to Africa and eventual relocation to Zambia to head the African Christian University. As with the first chapter, these experiences for Baucham impact his perspective and efforts.

The Cult of Antiracism

Earlier on Things Above Us, I wrote a preview of Fault Lines with the aim of arguing that we should capitalize “Antiracism” as a proper noun. Going forward in this full review, for the sake of readers’ eyes, I’ll be following this convention when the words are mine.

Baucham opens the fourth chapter with a story from when he was a new believer. Two gentlemen greeted him at his door. Though Baucham was pleased that they wanted to talk about religion, “something was ‘off’ about those two.” They turned out to be Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now what does Watchtower have to do with Antiracism? Referring to the passion for apologetics which this encounter spurned, Baucham states outright:

That same passion has driven me to explore, analyze, and warn against yet another cult: the cult of antiracism. (emphasis mine)

This is indeed a strong comparison which opponents will not take kindly. Baucham doesn’t go any further to substantiate the Jehovah’s Witnesses comparison in particular, but he does state how Antiracism itself is “an entire body of divinity” (emphasis mine), including:

its own cosmology (CT/CRT/I); original sin (racism); law (antiracism); gospel (racial reconciliation); martyrs (Saints Trayvon, Mike, George, Breonna, etc.); priests (oppressed minorities); means of atonement (reparations); new birth (wokeness); liturgy (lament); canon (CSJ social science); theologians (DiAngelo, Kendi, Brown, Crenshaw, MacIntosh, etc.); and catechism (“say their names”).

There’s also a new lexicon, the terms of which I’ll quote here:

whiteness:a set of normative privileges granted to white-skinned individuals and groups which is “invisible” to those privileged by it

white privilege: a series of unearned advantages that accrue to white people by virtue of their whiteness

white supremacy: any belief, behavior, or system that supports, promotes, or enhances white privilege

white complicity: white people, through the practices of whiteness and by benefiting from white privilege, contribute to the maintenance of systemic racial injustice

white equilibrium: the belief system that allows white people to remain comfortably ignorant

white fragility: the inability and unwillingness of white people to talk about race due to the grip that whiteness, white supremacy, white privilege, white complicity, and white equilibrium exert on them (knowingly or unknowingly).

There’s also a new original sin: racism. One of the definitions Baucham quotes, that of Be the Bridge author Latasha Morrison will suffice for now:

a system of advantage based on race, involving cultural messages, misuse of power, and institutional bias, in addition to the racist beliefs and actions of individuals.

Next, there’s a new law: the “work” of Antiracism. In the words of Ibram X. Kendi:

It is a claim that signifies neutrality: “I am not a racist, but neither am I aggressively against racism.” But there is no neutrality in the racism struggle. The opposite of “racist” isn’t “not racist.” It is “antiracist.”

And there’s a new priesthood. Baucham’s previous talks concerning “ethnic gnosticism,” a term which I believe Baucham coined, apply here, though Baucham now believes “minority gnosticism” is a better term. In short, (1) white people cannot see without the priests, the “black voices;” and (2) knowledge is socially constructed through narrative rather than reason and Scripture.

Finally, there’s a new canon. His central reference in this section is a reading list from Christianity Today titled “The Anti-Racist Curriculum White Evangelicals Need: Essential tools for understanding systemic racism.” Baucham is careful in this section to state that he is not against people reading and examining arguments agreeable or disagreeable. By “canon,” Baucham means that Scripture is taken not to be “sufficient to address issues of race and/or justice.”

The idea that we need a new canon to be able to decipher what the Bible says, or more specifically, what it means regarding race, is quite troubling. This attack on the sufficiency of Scripture should serve as a call to arms.

Impact and Implications

Baucham’s seventh chapter, titled “The Ground is Moving,” argues:

We are right to pursue justice, peace, and unity (Micah 6:8; Romans 12:18; John 17:20–21). That is not the fault line. The fault lies in believing that such a vision can be attained by affiliating with, using the terminology of, or doing anything other than opposing in the most forceful terms the ideology that lies at the root of the social justice movement.

Much of this particular chapter concerns the [Dallas] Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel and Resolution 9 from the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting. I’ll readily admit that this latter portion is where I felt like the book was a little dry, but Baucham argues for the relevance of this moment outside of SBC contexts: “If it can happen in the SBC, it can happen anywhere.”

Baucham’s final chapters are titled, “The Damage,” “Aftershock,” “Restoration and Mitigation,” and “Solid Ground,” respectively, continuing and finishing the earthquake illustration with assessments and recommendations.

Thoughts

As mentioned before in my preview concerning capitalizing “Antiracism,” there are some typographical errors, but none of these errors are those which appeared on social media in the days leading up to the book’s release. The most significant error (in my observation) occurs on page 166, where a paragraph begins with the issue of “intraracial violence,” after which the rest of the paragraph talks about “interracial” violence (emphasis mine). That we even have to address this is a sad statement.

Fault Lines has certainly taught me more about Antiracism than anything else, and it should be near the top of the reading list for anyone who feels behind in getting education on the issue beyond the level of identifying many bits and pieces of bad theology. For this reason, I find the middle portion of the book concerning Antiracist doctrine to be the strongest. The first portion of the book concerning Baucham’s personal history is compellingly written but will likely be summarily dismissed by his critics by no fault of his own. As a non-Southern Baptist and member of an independent Bible church, I found the Resolution 9 issue to be less engaging, but I also accept Baucham’s point that what occurred with it could and will happen elsewhere. Baucham’s assessment of the unavoidable effects of Antiracism coming at the church is realistic, and his prescriptions are sound and biblically grounded. Recommended.

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