Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe by Voddie Baucham Jr. (Salem Books, 2021)
Reviewed October 2021
I don’t typically like books with titles that portend disaster. Usually things are not as bad as they seem and the author is simply using the title to accelerate book sales. But I think Baucham has it right in this particular title. Critical race theory (CRT) and the social justice movement (SJM) have infiltrated just about everything in our society and it is not a good thing. He interacts with many CRT and SJM sources and outlines many, many stories as evidence of just how pervasive these ideologies have become in our society and it really is not good.
Voddie Baucham was a pastor in the United States and in 2015 moved his family to Zambia where he became the Dean of the School of Divinity at African Christian University. As a black man from the inner city of Los Angeles, California and as a pastor and bible teacher, he has a unique perspective from which to speak about these issues. While he admits that many in the black community would want to cancel him for speaking out against CRT / SJM and criticize him for, in their estimation, turning against the black community in order to serve white folks, he believes that the truth must be spoken and defended regardless of its personal cost. (p 7)
Baucham’s basic premise is simple — CRT / SJM have created a fault line in our society and in the church and we must be aware of what is on both sides of it so that we are able to make the right, biblically informed decision as to which side we should be on. He unpacks this metaphor by exploring CRT / SJM from its own academic sources and hagiographies. The book is replete with original source material and anecdotes that CRT / SJM and the Black Lives Matter movements use to further their case. Baucham moves through each of these with pastoral sensitivity mixed with the strength of biblical conviction. He firmly believes that true justice is only achieved when it is married with the pursuit of truth. His argument — CRT / SJM fails to achieve justice because it fails the truth test.
Rather than outline the contents of the book let me explain what are its strengths and weaknesses. First, the strengths.
First, the metaphor along which this book is structured is apt. We are truly dealing with a dividing line of much significance in the way we are asked to think about race, sexuality, gender, and the like. Which side you decide to inhabit will have massive consequences for your life. So we must recognize the seriousness of what is happening in our world and choose wisely. (re: biblically)
Second, Baucham identifies the real issue and the only place to find the solution. He writes, “Growing ethnic tension is a problem — but it is not the main problem.” (Italics his). The problem he writes later, “is a lack of clarity and charity in our debate over the place, priority, practice and definition of justice.” (pp 3, 5) What we need is a biblical definition of justice that comes “from the God of the Scriptures.” (p 45) This book could not be more gospel-centered and grounded in Scripture. This is no mere political or sociological foray into the discussion but a biblically based and gospel centered analysis of the issues at hand.
Third, Baucham doesn’t pull any punches. He names names. Some of those he identifies are former colleagues and famous evangelical people and organizations. He has no fear of being cancelled but desires for the truth to expose falsehood. But once again, even as he uncovers falsehood among his fellow brothers and sisters, his pastoral heart oozes off the page. His desire is for the truth to be proclaimed and for those who are in error to repent. His is a wonderful example of what true biblical justice and gospel centered correction looks like.
Fourth, the style of his writing is inviting. This may not seem like a big deal, but given the topic at hand it is nice to have a volume such as this which teaches and instructs but does so in such a way that lay people of all levels of education can glean something from it. There are a lot of good works interacting with CRT but few of them are readable for those not familiar with the specifics of CRT and its personalities. This is a book that can be picked up, read, and understood by pretty much anyone.
Last, the inclusion of the two appendices are immensely helpful. Appendix A is the Dallas Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel. This statement was constructed by a group of pastors spearheaded by John Macarthur. Appendix B is the Original Resolution on Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality. This was a document which the Southern Baptist Convention considered and then brutalized before it was accepted at its annual meeting in 2019. (See CH 7 for the details) They are valuable statements because they offer clear and concise affirmations and denials regarding what should be the Christian response to CRT / SJM.
I have only a couple observations that count as weaknesses in Baucham’s work.
First, a book of this type could use an index to both subjects and authors as well as a bibliography. For those new to these issues the absence of both of these precludes further study and a tracking down of source material. In addition, given the newness of many of the terms used in the book a glossary would have been helpful as well. Although the introductory chapter does provide many definitions and clarifications a one-stop glossary would go a long way. [I must admit, however, that the manner in which he structures the first principles of CRT on p 69ff according to the 6 days of creation motif is very helpful.]
Second, this book diagnoses the issues but does not prescribe a remedy. It is a strictly polemical work. This is not necessarily a weakness as it is not Baucham’s stated purpose to offer the cure for the diseases he identifies. It is a problem, however, in that Baucham has said in interviews it is his desire in publishing this work to stimulate thought and to ignite conversations. If that is the case a short chapter on how to interact with those on the other side of the fault line would have been a good thing. Maybe he is in the midst of writing just this type of book as a follow-up. If so, this comment will obviously be moot. [If one is interested in this type of thing see Wokeness and Christianity by Owen Strachan; particularly the second half of the book.]
I would encourage anyone who desires to know what is influencing the worldview of our society to read this book. We can’t avoid CRT / SJM. They are here to stay. As Christians we need to make sure we are able identify what worldly philosophies are out there so that we may biblically interact with them. (2 Corinthians 10:5; Colossians 2:8) In order for us to stand firm on the truth of Scripture we need books like this.
Soli Deo Gloria