Understanding the Times | Thinking Biblically About Our Woke Culture

Apologetics | Culture

Published on September 18, 2023
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I think most people who have been paying even a little attention for the past 5 years to what’s going on in our culture can at least recognize that there are some very strange and concerning trends at play. Terms such as “wokeness”, “Social Justice”, “Cultural Marxism”, “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion”, “Black Lives Matter”, “Climate Crisis”, “population control”, “LBGTQ+ ideologies”, “transhumanism” and more have been the hot buzz topics of our day leaving many Christians feeling confused about what to think and how or even if they should engage in these things. Wouldn’t it be better to just keep our heads down and focus on more “spiritual” things? After all, didn’t Jesus say that His Kingdom was not of this world?

It would be too much for the time we have here for me to go into detail on every one of these topics—although, that would be a worthy pursuit at some point in the future perhaps. On the topics I pass over, I’d direct you to some of my articles, podcasts or the books in the recommended readings that have covered them in more detail. In this session, we’ll be looking at how to think from a Biblical world and life view about various cultural issues by using some illustrations. There is a distinctly Christian way to approach things—by rooting all of our thoughts, feelings and actions in the infallible Word of God who has spoken to us in the pages of Scripture to equip us for life, godliness and every good work (2 Pet. 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:16–17).

The Bible must frame our response to the culture for it to be truly Christian.

In this session, we’ll look at the one foundational principle that is essential to properly understanding and navigating cultural issues, then take a look at applying that Biblical principle to various examples in culture, and then respond with the question that Francis Schaeffer famously poised—How Should We Then Live?

There is no neutrality

This is a principle that is of utmost importance if we are to engage faithfully with the culture as Christians.

Ironically, although this principle is clear enough in Scripture, it is one which many Christians seem to wrestle with because of how we’ve been discipled by the secular culture. We’ve been conditioned by the secular atmosphere we inhabit that we should “keep religion out of politics” and schools, entertainment, and a whole host of other spheres. We’re told that we should come together with unbelievers on supposedly “neutral ground” which sounds very inclusive and nice except for the fact that it is an impossible fiction.

There is no neutral ground. Our Lord made this clear when he said,

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30)

Now, Jesus does have some difficult statements to understand. But as far as his teachings go, this one is very straightforward. He leaves no room for sitting on the fence. Reality is binary. People fall into one of two categories—with Jesus or against him. Sons of God or sons of Satan. Jesus said as much when he told the Pharisees of his day that they resembled their dad:

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)

Note a few things that Jesus is teaching us here:

  • Firstly, depending on who your father is, you will desire to do his will. Jesus’s father was God, and he did the will of the Father. The Pharisees and all who reject Christ have the Devil for their father—this is why at salvation we must be adopted into a new family. All who are fallen in Adam are born naturally under the domain of Satan and we must be freed by the powerful working of the Gospel of God’s amazing grace extended to us in Christ Jesus’s finished work on the Cross. 
  • Secondly, the Devil speaks lies because it is his own character to do so. Thus, those who follow him and their worldviews which proceed from an unbelieving starting point are destined to believe lies also. This does not mean that every single thing they believe is a lie, but rather that at the most profound level, their starting framework and presuppositions are corrupted because they have chosen to worship the created rather than the Creator (cf. Rom. 1).

We must believe what the Bible tells us about the state of the sinner apart from God’s saving grace – He is a slave to sin, a rebellious enemy against God (cf. John 8:34; Rom. 5:10 & 6:6-20; Eph. 2:3; Col. 1:21). The Bible’s description of unbelievers are not ‘neutral’ descriptions.

Even atheists have a worldview and set of beliefs they accept by faith and use to interpret the facts. For example, they must have some starting presuppositions about the ultimate nature of reality, morality, laws of logic and beauty (which they cannot prove but must assume by faith) in order for them to even start the process of thinking and scientific inquiry. (How do you prove laws of logic exist without using laws of logic?) Everyone has presuppositions which must be taken by faith and thus are religiously based. The idea that there is some sort of neutral common ground with no presuppositions on which we can meet an unbeliever is a myth.

“It should be recognized that the claim to be, or the attempt to be, completely objective and value-free in deciding an issue of truth is ridiculous; the very fact that evidence is collected, arranged, and evaluated by each man’s own mind and in response to his personality and past experience indicates the strong element of subjectivity that is involved in settling issues of truth.”
(Dr. Greg Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics, pg 88-89)

Therefore, there is no such thing as a neutral person when it comes to God. Everyone worships, everyone serves a master and no one can have two masters (Matt. 6:24). Therefore, the ideologies that people invent also fall into these two categories: either with Christ or against him.

Misunderstanding this fundamental point has been the source of much of the difficulties the church has encountered in trying to understand and engage with the culture. This is because if you think that culture is religiously neutral—you’re deceived. Every culture encapsulates and expresses some religion because culture is simply the product of people creating out of their religious worldviews.

Culture is Religion Externalized

All of life is religious. All of life is inherently so because we were created to worship – and we will all worship something. This is an inescapable reality.

Henry Van Til has accurately described culture as “religion externalized”. What we produce as artifacts and practices of culture is the application of our most deeply held values, beliefs or faith to public life. The presuppositions we hold shape how we perceive and understand reality, our responses and actions in the world and our vision of what will bring “the good life”. Thus, the atheist, the Hindu, the Muslim, the Christian, the pagan all have worldviews that significantly shape their beliefs about ultimate reality and thus shape the type of culture that will be cultivated – just look at the types of societies created by countries that are dominated by those worldviews.

As Dr. Joseph Boot notes,

“It is impossible for any social order to be neutral – that is, neither one thing nor another. Every civilization is and will be inescapably committed, through the spheres and institutions of family, academy, law, art, and government, to a religious or cultural consensus, be it humanistic, Islamic, Hindu, Christian or any other.  Someone’s morality will be legislated, someone’s philosophy taught in schools, someone’s vision of beauty and reality idealised in art. The illusory idea of a neutral order or prejudice-free space for an equal toleration of all views (or gods) is a myth utilized only to facilitate the establishment of a new intolerance.”

This is exactly what has happened in the West. Notice that when the proponents of a secular “neutral” culture say that we should remove prejudices, such as the Christian conception of marriage, for example, it does not lead to a neutral approach to marriage but rather one that is against the Christian ideal of it. It is impossible to create a prejudice-free society because what Jesus says is true–you are either for him or against him. There is no neutrality and anti-Christian cultures lead to increased death and suffering for everyone because only Christ is the way, the truth and the life—for the individual and for collectivized individuals in communities, societies, cities and even nations.

Don’t try to be neutral

Thus, our response to this truth about the myth of neutrality is—don’t try to be neutral. It’s a fool’s errand. The Bible says that it is the one who says in his heart “there is no God” is a fool (Psa. 14:1). So, don’t be a fool and don’t pretend to be one either by acting and thinking as if there was no God in the pretend space of neutrality.

We must truly believe what Colossians 2:3-8 declares, that, “All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ.” ALL of it. That means that for Christians, there is no area of neutrality. If there is to be found any wisdom or knowledge, it must all be related back to Jesus Christ as the fountain of all of it. Dr. Greg Bahnsen notes that,

“To avoid Christ in your thought at any point, then, is to be misled, untruthful, and spiritually dead. To put aside your Christian commitments when it comes to defending the faith or sending your children to school is willfully to steer away from the only path to wisdom and truth found in Christ. It is not the end or outcome of knowledge to fear the Lord; it is the beginning of knowledge to reverence Him (Prov. 1:7; 9:10)… One must be presuppositionally committed to Christ in the world of thought (rather than neutral) and firmly tied down to the faith which he has been taught, or else the persuasive argumentation of secular thought will delude him. Hence the Christian is obligated to presuppose the word of Christ in every area of knowledge; the alternative is a delusion.”
(Greg Bahnsen, Always Ready, 5)

This is the unifying principle of this whole session: that there is no neutrality and we must think Christianly about every area of life. Everything from here is going to be examples of applying this truth to various spheres of life. I’m going to take us through some examples of the distortion of the Law and the Gospel in our culture and how to think Biblically about it.

Distortion of the Law

So how does this play out in the public sphere? We can very easily illustrate this fact of the myth of neutrality by taking a look at a nation’s laws and politics.

You Can’t Legislate Morality

There are some today who are trying to say that Christians should not try to legislate Christian laws based on the Bible’s morality. In the name of preserving our secular state, we should approach law-making neutrally because “you cannot legislate morality”.

However, those who say, “You can’t legislate morality” are living in a dream world. You can only legislate morality! It’s just a matter of whose morality? God’s or man’s? Biblical Law scholar, R.J. Rushdoony wrote,

“That fact is that all law is “religious.” All law is based on some ultimate standard of morality and ethics. Every system is founded on the ultimate value of that system, and that ultimate value is the god of that system. The source of law for society is the god of that society. This means that a theocracy is inescapable. All societies are theocracies. The difference is that a society that is not explicitly Christian is a theocracy of a false god.” (R.J. Rushdoony)

Thus, when we hand over law-making to a secular state, why are we surprised when we get laws like Bill C-4 (which passed into Canadian law Dec 2021) that restrict Christians and counsellors from speaking openly about God’s design for sexuality upon threat of imprisonment and fines? Whose morality is Bill C-11 legislating? The secular liberal one that believes that a person’s sexual identity and expression is the utmost standard to be upheld and protected. Or Bill C-11 which gives the Federal government increased control on regulating online content with the ability to filter and determine what Canadians can or cannot find or view online. How do you think lawmakers who are opposed to Christ will use such powers—to increase freedom of speech and the Christian’s ability to spread the Gospel or to restrict them according to their own priorities and worldview?

Separation of Church and State

Christians seeking some sort of neutral ground for politics, government and law are not realizing that there is no neutral ground. Modern Christians keep retreating from various spheres and topics once they’re framed as “political” because we’re told to keep religion out of politics. Thus, the issues that the church and God’s Word can speak to grow ever increasingly smaller and lesser as the ground is given up inch by inch. Then, all of a sudden we realize that there is no ground left and we’ve become the proverbial boiled frog in a pot. All of this in the name of supposed “neutrality” we’re told by secularists. Yet, they bring their fundamental beliefs into every conversation. If we keep giving up ground, we’ll find there’s nowhere left to stand.

While separation of Church and State is a good thing—that is, keeping the spheres of authority given by God to the church and the civil magistrate distinct. Properly understood it means that the church should not execute persons for sins because the church does not bear the sword of justice (that’s given to the government), and the state should not regulate worship (power of the keys). However, separation of Church and State does not mean the separation of God and State or of Morality and State because God is the One who gives authority to the church, the state and the family in their respective spheres. Romans 13:1 affirms that “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Therefore, all earthly authorities are subservient to Him and must submit to His Law—He is the True Sovereign. The Civil Magistrate only bears the sword as God’s avenger on the wrongdoer according to God’s Standards of right and wrong and as His deacon (servant). So, the State must administer God’s justice on His behalf and Churches and Christians must faithfully herald God’s Word to all people—including the civil magistrate, calling them to repent and submit to Christ and how His Word governs every area of life.

If we fail to do this, what we’ll end up finding is what Scripture has always told us – a life apart from his law leads to slavery because only God’s law is the perfect law of liberty! (James 1:25) The attempt to operate in a neutral space in the public square has led to many problems and making Gospel ministry more difficult.

“What most modern Western people (including many Christians) are asking for in the name of freedom’ is in fact a new slavery, when they attempt to secularize the public sphere and pursue freedom without the Lordship of Christ. To object to this by saying that non-believers are not accountable to God’s covenant law (moral law) is finally to say that we have no basis for presenting the gospel to the unbeliever – since Scripture defines sin as lawlessness and only lawbreakers need the gospel!” (Dr. Joe Boot, Mission of God, p. 280–281)

So, far from distracting from the Gospel, biblically, one of the functions of the Law actually was meant to convict us of sin. Paul says in Romans 7:7, 

“What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

When we take away God’s Law as the basis for just civil laws, we take away this function of the Law in society. When we live in a society where God’s Law forms civil laws, it teaches people what is right and wrong and gives a conviction of sin according to God’s standards instead of the fallible standards of men. This can and does provide fertile soil for the Gospel to spread. Christian historians have argued that without this foundation, it is doubtful whether the revivals of the Puritans, the Evangelical Great Awakening and others in Western society could have happened. God’s Law did not save, but it helped to provide the fertile soil for the Gospel to be planted.

The Law of Liberty

There is a false dichotomy sometimes between law and the Gospel. Yes, it is true that “by works of the law shall no man be saved” (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16). However, the Gospel is not the antithesis of the Law—both derive from the same source, that is God. We are not saved through keeping the Law, but by the Law, we are made aware of our need for salvation (Rom. 7:7-12), and after we are saved, we have the Law written on our hearts and are given the desire to keep it because the Law is good and shows us God’s will. The Law is not a means of salvation, but it is a means of the Christian’s sanctification when it is used rightly (1 Tim. 1:8). Thus, even in the public sphere, God’s Law has the biblical function of teaching people what is right and wrong, and also restraining evil—even the civil law of ancient Israel has principles to teach us today.

The 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith 19.4 says this

“To them (the Jews) also he (God) gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any now by virtue of that institution; their general equity only being of moral use.”

What the Confession is arguing for is not to reinstate theocratic Israel. The Confession says that it “expired together with the state of that people”. Rather, it is arguing for a general equity principle—that the Civil Laws of Israel, which God gave His people to be a “light to the nations” (Isa. 42:6; 49:6) that other nations would be jealous of their amazingly just society built on His laws (cf. Deut. 4:5–8), continue to have principles that instruct us today on building a just society. For example, the Law about building parapets on your roof to protect people from falling off is now applied today when we put railings on stairs or a fence around a pool. That’s how we carry forward the “general equity” of those laws. We should plumb the depths of God’s Law to see how it can influence how we build a truly just society today—it still can teach us!

In the end, if we will not have God’s perfect law of liberty, we will have the humanistic, flawed laws of slavery,

“If God’s law is not the overruling government over all things, then some kind of super-state must provide it. As a result, a world of statist law-making bodies soon seeks to create a fiat world law, a world court, and a world state. If there be no God with a governing law over all things, then a man-made world order must replace Him. Thus the alternative to God and his law is inevitably a humanistic law and world order.”
(R.J. Rushdoony)

This is exactly what we’re seeing happening today as Western nations reject the Christian foundations upon which they were built and are trying to enact human laws to usher in a self-made communio-fascistic utopia under international organizations like the World Economic Forum. We’re heading toward a new form of soft-totalitarianism because if we will not have Christ as Lord (even in the public sphere), Caesar is more than happy to take his place.

“Neither marriage, nor family, nor blood-relation, nor the free types of social existence, whether they are organized or not, can be considered as part of an all-embracing state… Every societal relationship has received from God its own structure and law of life, sovereign in its own sphere. The Christian world and life view, illumined by the revealed Word of God, posits sphere sovereignty of the temporal life spheres over against the pagan totality idea.” (Herman Dooyeweerd)

Only God is the sovereign of all spheres of life. When the State or any other institution begins to act as if they are sovereign over all spheres, we have a situation of totalitarianism. This is unavoidable apart from a committed recognition of the Lordship of Christ over all. This is why we have an inheritance of ordered liberty in Western countries that have been influenced by Christianity. As we lose that influence of the Biblical worldview, we are reverting to a pagan totalitarianism whereby the State is seen as the unifying and organizing principle of society. There is no neutrality in law and politics because Christ is Lord over them both.

How Should We Then Live?

Though there is a lot more we could say, here are two practical responses (aside from praying—that should be a given) to what we’ve covered about a Christian’s understanding and engagement in Law and Politics:

  1. Develop a Biblical view of Civil Law – although we live far from the ideal situation and it may be very difficult to even imagine our societies any other way, we must know what the target is that we’re aiming for. Christians should study the civil codes in God’s Law asking themselves, how could the principle of this law apply today? How could we use these principles to build a just society and enact truly just laws?
  2. Take Action and Get Involved – much of the reason we have arrived at the situation we are in today with such a preponderance of unjust laws, corrupt politicians and a society that doesn’t know right from wrong is because Christians had removed themselves from meaningful political engagement. They saw politics as “dirty” and instead of rolling up their sleeves to help clean it up, they retreated to holy huddles. Politics will not save us, but politics does need saving. We are called to be the salt and light of the world. Salt preserves and light illuminates. Therefore, any sphere of life where Christians retreat will decay and grow dark. It’s true for politics just as much as it’s true for the arts, entertainment, business, education, etc. So, let your Biblical worldview inform how you vote, get involved on school boards and city councils, take up activist causes (e.g. Pro-Life Marches), run for political office, volunteer, write and call your MPs. Never underestimate how much impact a little effort from a committed group of Spirit-empowered people can make!

Distortion of the Gospel

Woke ideology is one of the primary distortions of the Gospel in today’s culture.

Wokeness is sometimes referred to by the phrase “Cultural Marxism” and is closely tied to Social Justice ideology and Critical Race Theory. Today, this is the predominant ideology of the political left, though it has also crept into conservative circles also. This is a major issue in our day that Christians must understand. Professor Owen Strachan, in Christianity and Wokeness, defines wokeness like this:

“Wokeness is first and foremost a mindset and a posture. The term itself means that one is ‘awake’ to the true nature of the world when so many are asleep. In the most specific terms, this means one sees the comprehensive inequity of our social order and strives to highlight power structures in society that stem from racial privilege.”

(Strachan, 8)

It is usually used by its proponents to describe someone who has been “awoken” to the various perceived societal injustices in the areas of sexuality, gender, feminism, queer theory & LBGTQ issues, racism and social justice, postcolonialism, disability & fat studies, along with a whole host of other (what may be called) “Leftist” causes. One of its main aims is at achieving a humanistic utopia of radical egalitarianism via the breaking down of all distinctions and disparities in all areas of society and life. It is often connected with social justice and perhaps one of the most well-known causes associated with wokeness in recent times has been the Black Lives Matter movement.

Again, with this issue of wokeness in our culture—it is not religiously neutral.

The Anti-Gospel of Wokeness

In order to expose the religious nature of woke ideology, we will take a look at several ways that it functions essentially as an anti-Gospel.

What we are seeing is the outworking of a new religion displacing the old Christendom upon which our societies were built. As our societies have secularized, a new religion has taken its place. So, our current culture simply reflects this religious shift. Today’s popular culture is founded upon things such as Darwinian naturalistic presuppositions, expressive individualism, postmodern philosophy and Marxist social theory. It is seen in today’s political Left, in colleges & institutions of learning, Hollywood, entertainment and news media, and the socialistic agendas global elites.

Elizabeth Corey, Associate Professor of Political Science at Baylor University, recognizes similar undercurrents in the rise of the intersectionality movement, which she identifies as 

“a quasi-religious gnostic movement, which appeals to people for precisely the reasons that all religions do: It gives an account of our brokenness, an explanation of the reasons for pain, a saving story accompanied by strong ethical imperatives, and hope for the future. In short, it gives life meaning.”

James Lindsay, an atheist and university mathematician, contends that

“social justice fulfills the same psychological and social needs that religion once filled but no longer can. And like conventional religions, it depends on axiomatic claims that cannot be falsified but only accepted as revealed truths. This is why arguments with these zealots are about as productive as theological disputation with a synod of Taliban divines. For the social justice inquisitors, “dialogue” is the process by which opponents confess their sins and submit in fear and trembling to the social justice creed.”

(Quoted in Rod Dreher, Live Not By Lies, 60)

Ultimately, people are turning towards “wokeness” – either self-consciously or unwittingly – because they are seeking religious answers to life. We must not mistake this point. We are not just dealing with a set of abstract ideas—this is an alternative religion and cult, and it should be treated as such. Author, Rod Dreher notes that

“intellectual, cultural, academic, and corporate elites are under the sway of a left-wing political cult built around social justice. It is a militantly illiberal ideology that shares alarming commonalities with Bolshevism, including dividing humanity between the Good and the Evil. This pseudoreligion appears to meet a need for meaning and moral purpose in a post-Christian society and seeks to build a just society by demonizing, excluding, and even persecuting all who resist its harsh dogmas.”

(Dreher, Live Not By Lies, 93)

Wokeness has a different view of origins and purpose in life. It has its own doctrine of original sin and sinfulness, and therefore, also has its own means of “justification”. Except, it only offers perpetual repentance and penance but no absolution of guilt or offer of forgiveness. It also has its own future hope of a communistic utopia. Therefore, even though it can masquerade as “compassionate”, it is radically Anti-Gospel.

1. Comprehensive & Revolutionary Worldview

Woke ideologies are not just ideas in a vacuum or separate concepts. They form a comprehensive and alternative worldview to Christianity. This is why you also cannot just adopt parts of woke ideology consistently without having to adopt it wholesale. Thus, it is like a virus that tends to spread wherever it is introduced. This is because Marx’s original philosophy (which woke ideology is based upon) was also a revolutionary worldview and is therefore radically “evangelistic”. This is not just a philosophy to analyze the world, but to change it and that’s why our world has been changed so rapidly by it. Karl Marx wrote, 

“The philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” (Marx, Theses On Feuerbach: Thesis 11) 

Marxism is a theology of action. (Ironically, so is Christianity supposed to be!)

The fact that wokeness stems from a comprehensive worldview is also why all of these various Leftist causes often seem to be linked. The same people who support critical race theory are supporting LBGTQ, climate alarmism, depopulation, socialism, etc. To illustrate here are some points from BLM’s Statement of Beliefs before they took it down from their website:

“We foster a queer-affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).”

We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.”

BLM is not just about racism against black people – all of these other causes are wrapped up in it because it’s part of their comprehensive worldview. A booklet published by M4BL called “A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom, & Justice,” makes this global and comprehensive vision all the more explicit by espousing a sort of diasporic social justice:

“While this platform is focused on domestic policies, we know that patriarchy, exploitative capitalism, militarism, and white supremacy know no borders. We stand in solidarity with our international family against the ravages of global capitalism and anti-Black racism, human-made climate change, war, and exploitation. We also stand with descendants of African people all over the world in an ongoing call and struggle for reparations for the historic and continuing harms of colonialism and slavery.”

That’s why things like environmentalism, anti-capitalism, socialism, anti-patriarchy, feminism, anti-colonialism and anti-nationalism often come as a package deal. We must understand and treat wokeness as a comprehensive and revolutionary competing worldview/religion because it is. We are dealing with neo-Marxism, Marxism 2.0, with the terrible ideas of Karl Marx that led to the death of hundreds of millions worldwide now repackaged for a new generation of people with historical amnesia.

How Should We Then Live?

You can only defeat a comprehensive worldview with another comprehensive worldview.

Fortunately, that is exactly what Christianity is. Your faith in Christ affects the totality of your life and God has something to say about every sphere of life through His infallible Word. We must combat wokeness and every other argument and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:5) by presenting the comprehensive Biblical Worldview that expresses and lives out the claims of Christ in every single area of life. We cannot settle for a piecemeal Christianity that exists only on Sunday mornings and between your two ears. No. The apostle James says that this faith must be lived out or else it is dead.

2. Group Identity & Tribalism

This is being widely propagated here, as in 2018, when Toronto’s Ryerson University hosted a “white privilege” conference. In a famous training session captured on video in 2016, a black speaker named Ashleigh Shackelford opposed “racism” by standing before a room of women, many of them white, and telling them that “all white people are racists.” Not only that, but she pronounced that they had no real hope of changing: “No, you’re always going to be racist, actually,” she said. “Even when you’re on a path to be a better human being.”

Because of the woke belief in group identity being primary, white people are automatically guilty because of their belonging to that group. It is wokeness’s doctrine of original sin. Or in the case of people who have the right intersectional credentials, original sinlessness.

This is also why within woke ideology, certain people of oppressed groups cannot be racist or sinful. However, what many fail to realize is how demeaning this philosophy really is to black people, for example, because it flattens all black people to be a certain way and share a monolithic culture. But black people from America, Europe, the Caribbean and Africa are very different and would think through and experience racial issues differently. By wokeness saying in essence that all black people are the same is actually very racist.

Ironically, wokeness ends up being quite racist itself—it’s just racism in the opposite direction. 

How Shall We Then Live?

Ultimately, our identities are fallen in Adam as we share a common humanity, and as sinners redeemed in Christ as people from every ethnicity share a common Saviour. This is the real ground for unity. The ground is level at the foot of the Cross and this is why we are not to show partiality to anyone based on any external characteristics (Jam. 2:1-9). In Christ we are profoundly united across ethnic divisions by the One Blood that is stronger than all divisions (Eph. 2:11-21).

3. Truth, Language & Narrative

According to Shay-Akil McLean,

“The idea of objectivity in western intellectual traditions is problematic for many reasons…. And to think there are universal truths perpetuates a particular kind of able-bodied white cisgender male logic.” 

In her diversity curriculum which is used by some of the biggest companies in the world for training on “anti-racism,” Judith Katz argues that “objective, rational, linear thinking,” “controlled emotions,” “the scientific method,” and “quantitative research” are all defining marks of racist “white culture” (Katz includes such values as “Individual has primary responsibility,” “Working hard brings success,” “Plan for future,” “Delayed gratification,” “Value continual improvement and progress,” “Written tradition,” “Owning goods, space, property,” “Nuclear family is the ideal social unit,” and “Belief in Christianity” as “Components of White Culture”).

You might have encountered some of these things if your company does Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Trainings—which are basically just woke indoctrination sessions. Wokeness is not concerned with truth, it is concerned with narrative—and that’s an important distinction.

Objective Truth

Wokeness does not lead to objective truth. In fact, it is suspicious of objective truth. Instead, the ideology is primary. Facts and statistics or reason only serve the ideology. This because Woke Ideology holds to a Postmodern Truth Principle which is the foundation of wokeness’s epistemology (theory of knowledge).

In this system, knowledge is a social construct and it has a major skepticism about metanarratives (i.e. over-arching stories that make sense of reality). Of course, this is easy enough to refute as a system, since to deny that objective truth exists is to argue for the absolute truth that absolute truth does not exist and is itself a sort of metanarrative. It is self-contradictory and illogical. In reality, it is nothing more than the modern expression of the original sin in the Garden of doubting God’s Word – “has God really said…?” Postmodernism is what we get when this is taken to its logical conclusion in a society.

As Timone Cline has noted,

Knowledge is always socially constructed to benefit the knower and, therefore, never value-free. Knowledge is also power, as the old saying goes, but in this case, critical race theorists really mean it. Those in power determine what is true and ostracize any “knowledge” that would challenge their power status. Objectivity, free inquiry, and the like are cast by critical race theorists as tools of oppression because they cast out from the start alternative (experiential and felt) ways of knowing. It’s all a power play. Centering or promoting alternative ways of knowing is the path to liberation from predominant truth claims (i.e. myths) that prop up the hegemony.”

For the Christian, knowledge is revelational—God has revealed Himself and His truth to us through nature and special revelation (His Word). For the woke, knowledge is relative—humans create their truth subjectively to suit themselves. It is not concerned with “the truth” but rather “my truth”.

Standpoint Epistemology

Cline continues,

“Because the knowledge of the oppressed is derived from their experience as the oppressed, to reject the knowledge is to reject the person. And because of modern, therapeutic conceptions of the self, to reject or devalue a person is to do violence to them. For example, as Douglas Murray has often noted, being gay is no longer something someone does, but rather something they are. To denounce homosexuality is to denounce them as a person (i.e. de-person them). Those who dare to question knowledge derived from the positionality of an oppressed person will likely endure a barrage of accusations of committing “epistemic violence,” and the like. This is why any detractor will be cordially invited to “shut up and listen!”

When applied to issues of race, Dr. Voddie Baucham has called this “ethnic gnosticism” – that people of visible minority groups have access to some “special knowledge” by mere virtue of their “lived experience” as a minority which people in the majority cannot have access to – and of course, you can’t argue with a person’s experience.

Change the Language, Change the World

The woke believe that if knowledge is a construct of power, which functions through ways of talking about things, knowledge can be changed and power structures toppled by changing the way we talk about things. This is why woke culture is fixated on controlling discourses, especially by problematizing language and imagery it deems Theoretically harmful and silencing those who dissent (cancel culture). This means that it looks for then highlights ways in which the oppressive problems they assume exist in society manifest themselves, sometimes quite subtly, in order to “make oppression visible”. (Lindsey & Pluckrose, 61-62) This is why woke corporations are forcing employees to put their gender pronouns in their email signatures. Change the language, change the world. If you control what people can say, you also control what they can think. This was one of George Orwell’s insights in his dystopian novel 1984 where the Ministry of Truth deleted or changed the meaning of words from the language in order to control people.

For the woke, knowledge is never apolitical or value-neutral or unbiased because of its construction through discourses and the interests of those conducting and controlling the discourse. Therefore, for the Postmodern thinker, it’s all about power and the ones who control the power control the truth (or the narrative). This is why it is pointless to try to argue using facts and evidence with a committed Postmodernist thinker. This is also why people who have fully bought into this worldview end up in all sorts of folly. Remember, it is “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Prov. 9:10) If we want true knowledge and wisdom, we must start with the One True God. It is Christ in whom “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3)—all of them. Thus, every endeavour for knowledge is ultimately a fool’s errand apart from Christ.

Cancel Culture & Activism

Public figures as diverse as Michelle Obama and the feminist group Code Pink have been criticized for failing to be woke enough. The black actor Kevin Hart was forced to step down as host of the Oscars, because of old tweets containing gay slurs. Tennis superstar Martina Navratilova was attacked for arguing that it is not fair for trans women (i.e. biological men) to compete against biological women. JK Rollings, the Harry Potter author and feminist, has also received a lot of attempts to cancel her for simply affirming biological gender.

Cancel culture is important to wokeness because its whole theory is based on the games they can play with language to control the narrative. Therefore, any dissenting voice must be silenced because the woke have no legitimate arguments and cannot afford to be exposed. It is akin to the silencing techniques of totalitarian regimes against their political opponents.

Cancel Culture is wokeness’s defence – its apologetics – and its judgment against those it deems “unrighteous”. This is why any dissent is met with heavy handed repercussions such as people being threatened with loss of jobs for not putting their pronouns in their email or going through mandatory Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training.

Activism is wokeness’s offense. It is its great commission.

Ibram X. Kendi – the leading woke voice in America today – said to a packed room in Manhattan:

“More white people are finally beginning to realize how white supremacy and how even whiteness itself is killing them…. It literally is posing an existential threat to humanity. It always has. And so fundamentally, antiracism is life. It literally is, it can save humanity.”

This is salvation by activism. As Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic note in ther book, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction,

“Unlike some academic disciplines, critical race theory contains an activist dimension. It tries not only to understand our social situation but to change it, setting out not only to ascertain how society organizes itself along racial lines and hierarchies but to transform it for the better.” (Delgado & Stefancic, Critical Race Theory, Introduction, 7-8)

However, woke activism never actually “saves”. One must perpetually be an activist in a cycle of woke works-based righteousness and virtue signaling.

How Shall We Then Live?

The Biblical response to this is very simple. TELL THE TRUTH BOLDLY.

Never compromise on the truth. Be a bulldog for truth. Uphold the 9th Commandment and don’t bear false witness in anything—don’t live by lies. This means that even when it is inconvenient or even costly, we don’t back down and compromise just to “keep the peace” or keep our heads—truth is far to precious to sell out for. When the pronoun police come, when people pressure you to say that sexuality is not binary, or that you’re automatically racist because you lack the sufficient amount of melanin—don’t give in, tell the truth graciously and uncompromisingly.

There is power in the truth—that’s why Satan wants to suppress it so desperately. “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” (Prov. 18:21) Not in the Word of Faith Prosperity Gospel sort of way, but in very significant ways, how we speak about things will affect how people think and act and thus impact and shape reality. Rod Dreher in his book, Live Not By Lies, tells the story of the famous author, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a Soviet dissident who suffered much under the fall of the iron curtain of communism. His one shining message to the people who suffered under the Marxist oppression was “live not by lies” because it is the most powerful form of resistance. This should make total sense to us as Christians who follow a Messiah who claimed to be the very embodiment of truth itself. 

4. Systemic Oppression & Victimhood

Karl Marx wrote that,

“Hitherto, every form of society has been based, as we have already seen, on the antagonism of oppressing and oppressed classes.” Therefore, “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave…lord and serf, guild master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed.” (Marx, Communist Manifesto, 9)

Jeffrey Johnson, in his book What Every Christian Needs to Know About Social Justice writes that,

“Marx believed that the great moral problem of society could be reduced to the institutions of authority within society. He held that because authority by its very nature is oppressive, all authoritative structures and institutions must be destroyed. And when all decentralized divisions of authority have been dismantled, a globalized classless society must take its place in a new world order. In this new world order, people will no longer have to relate to each other as superiors and inferiors, rich and poor, leader and follower. Not until there are no class divisions, diversity, or hierarchical stature of authority will society be free of oppression. Only then will the world be rid of evil and experience utopia.” (Jeffrey Johnson, 28-29)

This is where the woke obsession over oppression and victimhood comes from. It assumes that oppression is everywhere. Oppression is the lens through which the woke view the world. The oppressed are wokeness’s saintly class and high priests – they can do no wrong and tell the rest of the world how to atone for their sins.

However, if merely holding a position of power makes one evil, then God must be the evilest and most oppressive entity in the universe – for He holds all power and authority. Power and authority are not inherently bad. In fact, we know from God’s Word that He has instituted various powers and authority structures such as parents and children, husband and wife, government and citizens, elders and churches. Just because there is an authority structure does not automatically mean there is oppression nor that the problem is “systemic”. This is far too simplistic of a view of complex realities.

Because of sin, we know that people can be corrupted and even build corrupt systems. But that doesn’t mean that all people and all systems are corrupt. However, wokeness sees the existence of power dynamics as the cause of oppression and not necessarily willful individual agents. Thus, a society, social system, or institution can be seen as oppressive without the need for proving any individual actions or even a person holding oppressive views. Therefore, in Critical Race Theory, you can have racism without individual racists. For example, Evangelical woke author, Jemar Tisby says in his book The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism,

“What do we mean when we talk about racism? …racism is a system of oppression based on race… Racism can operate through impersonal systems and not simply through the malicious words and actions of individuals. Another definition explains racism as prejudice plus power. It is not only personal bigotry toward someone of a different race that constitutes racism, racism includes the imposition of bigoted ideas on groups of people. In light of these definitions it is accurate to say that many white people have been complicit with racism…” (Jemar Tisby,16)

This is not just a US problem either. In Canada, Martin Loney, in The Pursuit of Division: Race, Gender and Preferential Hiring in Canada, found when he examined the census data and other income and labour statistics looking for evidence of racial or gender discrimination in preferential hiring practice, there was no “generalized trend for visible minorities to be concentrated at the bottom of the labour market.” Loney wrote that “the disadvantages of visible minorities in the labour market were never documented, though a casual reader could have been excused for assuming the learned judge had seen overwhelming evidence.” Even an advocate for preferential hiring, Monica Boyd, reviewed census data in 1986 and found, as Loney paraphrases it, 

“scant evidence of discrimination against racial minorities in Canada. Instead, visible minority women born in Canada actually displayed mean employment income 13 percent higher in 1985 than their white female counterparts.”

The facts simply don’t support the woke assertion of systemic oppression. But this doesn’t fit the narrative, so it is conveniently left out. 

Fixation on Disparities

Another feature of woke ideologies is that it fixates on disparities between identity groups and assumes that there are only nefarious explanations for them. However, not all disparities are unjust. Some disparities just are, some are because of different choices that individuals make, and some are legitimately unjust. The details matter. Woke culture tends to only highlight the disparities that serve their goals.

For example, take the fact that bank lenders across the US rejected twice as many blacks as whites for home loans, 44.6 percent compared with 22.3 percent. Taken alone, that fact seems damning. But the same US Commission on Civil Rights report found that white Americans are turned down nearly twice as often as Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians for those same mortgages (22.3 percent versus 12.4 percent). Does this prove systemic racial discrimination against whites? Of course not. How about the fact that black-owned banks turned down black applicants for home mortgages at a higher rate than did white-owned banks? Is that systemic racism? No. The median net worth of conservative Protestants came to $26,000 compared with a median net worth of $150,890 for proponents of Judaism. Are such inequalities evidence of systemic anti-conservative Protestantism?

How Shall We Then Live?

We must be careful as Christians about jumping onto every woke narrative pushed forward in our culture – not dismissing legitimate concerns, but being discerning about the narrative being pushed.

In today’s woke culture, being a victim is socially advantageous. As Robert Martin notes:

“The key to social and intellectual legitimacy is to be a victim, or, if one has little or no concrete personal experience of being a victim, to be a member of a recognised victim group.”

And thus, this is why many today seek to find some victim status to be identified with. We need to be aware of this trend and temptation in our culture today as we seek to help disciples grow in a Biblical world and life view.

Some disparities are not inherently evil or wrong. For example, height, or hair. Some disparities just are part of how God has created a complex and diverse world. Even disparities of wealth exist by the sovereign providence of God. Jesus said to us that we will “always have the poor with us” (Matt. 26:11), which means that God has determined that He would give to some much wealth and to others little wealth so that the rich might be given an opportunity to be rich in mercy (1 Tim. 6:17-19).

There are, what professor Thaddeus J. Williams in his book Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth calls, “undamning explanations” for many disparities in life. He notes that,

“When we automatically assume damning explanations for unequal outcomes, we not only lock ourselves in a prison of never-ending rage but also dull our senses to the point that we will be useless for the sacred task of recognizing and resisting the real racism, real sexism, and other real vicious isms around us.” (Williams, Confronting Injustice, 84)

One major “undamning explanation” for some disparities is freedom. Because people are free to make different decisions, that necessitates different outcomes. The only way to eliminate that would be to eliminate freedom – which is what some woke ideologues would like to do and why some of these woke global elites move more and more towards totalitarian forms of government. Global elites who fancy themselves to be humanity’s saviours must step in with more laws, and more forced wealth redistribution to enforce “social justice” until this quest for equality turns our societies into Communist Russia, North Korea or Venezuela 2.0.

5. Perpetual Guilt & Grievances

Assumed guilt is wokeness’s doctrine of sin. Whether it is white people, heterosexuals, Christians or males – woke ideologies impute guilt on people who belong to identity groups it determines to be “oppressors”.

However, Paul in the first century did not go around playing a game of grievances between Jews and Gentiles in the newly formed churches. The Jews could have easily brought up the oppressions of the Gentile Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians and even Romans around them for how they had historically treated the Jewish people. They could have pointed to the mass taxation of the Romans and complained that the whole system was rigged against them by these Roman supremacists who enforce their cultural hegemony upon them! They could have demanded that they repent of their Romanness and divest themselves of their privilege and pay reparations.

Yet this was not what Paul writes in Ephesians 2 addressing the divide between Jew and non-Jews. The basis for unity he puts forward is unity and forgiveness in Christ who creates one new man out of the two and ends the enmity between them by reconciling them in his body.

If we play the perpetual guilt game, there’s no end and no one wins. One example of this is the perpetual guilt and grievances held onto from chattel slavery in North America (which was evil). However, the narrative is not quite so simple as “white people bad, and black people are always innocent victims”. For example, “Slavs were so widely used as slaves in both Europe and the Islamic world that the very word ‘slave’ derived from the word for Slav-not only in English, but also in other European languages, as well as in Arabic.” “It was the Africans who enslaved their fellow Africans, selling some of these slaves to Europeans or to Arabs and keeping others for themselves. Even at the peak of the Atlantic slave trade, Africans retained more slaves for themselves than they sent to the Western Hemisphere.”

As Francis Bacon has said, “A person who broods on revenge only worsens his wounds. His injuries would heal if he would refrain.”

How Should We Then Live?

Perpetual guilt and grievance narratives are simply unforgiveness. Rather than holding on to perpetual guilt and grievances, the Gospel calls us to forgive as we have been greatly forgiven ourselves (Matt. 6:15; 18:21-35; Luke 17:3-4; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13).

6. Blame Shifting & Reparations

Ian Rowe of the Manhattan Institute, in his article “Barriers to Black Progress: Structural, Cultural, or Both?” notes that, 

“If you’re a kid and you keep hearing over and over and over that because of your race these are the outcomes that you’re going to have in your life, it’s really hard to feel a sense of personal agency.”

Noted black economist Thomas Sowell has raised the point,

“Have we reached the ultimate stage of absurdity where some people are held responsible for things that happened before they were born, while other people are not held responsible for what they themselves are doing today?”

Blame shifting is simply the reaction of Adam and Eve in the Garden when they were caught in their sin repeated today. If we want people to act as responsible agents, then they must be treated as such. Individual responsibility is a topic that will get you in some hot water talking about to the woke crowd – because blame shifting is an easier way to self-justification.

However, instead of encouraging personal responsibility, woke ideologues demand reparations to be paid for past injustices in order to close the disparity gap. However, these are never direct. Simply because someone has white skin does not mean they were related to someone who enslaved black people, nor does it mean they themselves are guilty of any particular sin in how they attained their wealth. Furthermore, how do we calculate what are just reparations?

In addition, peddling woke reparations is big business. Robin DiAngelo charges fifteen thousand dollars per speaking event and has earned well over $2M dollars from her book White Fragility, even while castigating capitalism as a racist economic system. Ibram X. Kendi and Ta-Nehisi Coates have even higher price tags: Kendi’s speaking fee is $25,000, while Coates’s fee is between $30,000–40,000 dollars per event. There is a lot of personal greed behind the woke agenda.

How Should We Then Live?

Reparations in the end tend towards more injustice because it is indirect (not against the real perpetrators) and do not actually right wrongs but encourage entitlement. Furthermore, biblically, showing favoritism, even to a suffering group, is repeatedly denounced throughout Scripture (Exodus 23:3; Leviticus 19:15; James 2:1, 9) because it contradicts the very character of God (Romans 2:11).

Scott David Allen in his book, Why Social Justice Is Not Biblical Justice, describes Social Justice as,

“Deconstructing traditional systems and structures deemed to be oppressive, and redistributing power and resources from oppressors to their victims in the pursuit of equality of outcome.”

As should be clear now, this is not the Bible’s view of justice. In the face of Social Justice, we should uphold the Biblical concept of true justice which is:

  • Truthful (Deut. 16:20; John 7:24)
  • Direct (Deut. 24:16; Rom. 2:6)
  • Impartial (Exod. 23:2-3; Deut. 16:19)
  • Restorative & Retributive (Exod. 22:1-6; Rom. 13:4)
  • Proportional (Exo. 21:23-25; Deut. 19:21; Acts 25:11)
  • Limited (Gen. 18:25; 2 Cor. 5:10; Heb. 9:27)

Not “Of” But “In” The World

These days, John 18:36 may be one of the most misinterpreted verses. It is true that Jesus said in John 18:36 that His Kingdom is not of this world, and many have used this statement as an excuse to remove themselves from political and public engagement. However, this misinterpretation of the text is totally unwarranted. While it is true that Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world, he did not say that it is not in this world. In fact, he announced just the opposite at the beginning of his earthly ministry.

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 4:17)

Then by Matthew 12:28, after casting out demons, Jesus says “if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Thus, by his own claim, his casting out of demons showed definitively that His Kingdom had come even in the First Century. His earthly ministry inaugurates and establishes it, and after the Cross and Resurrection, as he commissions his disciples he affirms that “all authority in heaven and on earth” are his! (Matt. 28:18–20)

So, Christ’s Kingdom is in the world and extends to everywhere and everything. Thus, we as his ambassadors proclaim that authority via His Word to all creation—telling them there is a King they must submit to.

But in what way is his Kingdom not of this world?

The Greek preposition that Jesus uses (ἐκ) can be interpreted as “of, from, or deriving its source.” Therefore, what Jesus is saying is not that his Kingdom has no impact on the world or is not in the world and only exists in some spiritual etherial realm with no consequences to the here and now. Instead, what he’s saying to Pilate is that his Kingdom is not like earthly kingdoms—it does not derive its source or authority from this world. Look at the context:

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

The point is further clarified in the last part of the verse. The phrase translated “is not from the world” is actually an interpretation by the translators. The word “world” doesn’t actually appear in the Greek text. Instead, Jesus uses the word ἐντεῦθεν, which could be translated “from this place” or from this source as it is used in James 4:1 where James asks “where do disputes and quarrels come from? Is it not from there (ἐντεῦθεν)? Out of your passions…?”. Clearly, James uses it to mean the source of the quarrel. So, Jesus is saying that His Kingdom’s source is not from here. Note also the comparison Jesus makes. If his Kingdom was like worldly kingdoms, his servants would be using violence to compel people and establish rule and protect him from being handed over to the Jews. But Jesus stopped Peter from using violence to defend him in the Garden (Matt. 26:52). Instead, as Paul says, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty to the pulling down of strongholds and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of Christ! (2 Cor. 10:4)

Note, that we are in a war and are called to fight. Sorry if you thought that you get a free pass to an easy life, saints. This is the whole reason why we’re given the full armour of God in Ephesians 6—it’s not to put on the armour then sit back and watch Netflix or shelter in our holy huddles. No. What God calls us to do is to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ”—them’s fighting words! But this is a battlefield of the mind and spirit.

Call to Action

So, as we end this session, hear this exhortation to action. I know that for many of you, hearing these things can be a good exercise in stirring you up by way of reminder. However, it must not end there—our faith must work itself out. Yet nervousness and fear can sometimes grip and silence us. The woke mob is loud and our society is increasingly becoming anti-Christian. The easy path seems tempting when the narrow way is filled with dangers. However, Scripture repeatedly calls us to not be afraid and take courage because God knows our propensities to cowardliness. Revelation 21:8 says,

“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Note that the cowardly are first in the line of this damnation list! That should be sobering, because God’s people should not be marked by cowardliness. The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion. (Prov. 28:1)! So saints, do not fear, take heart and trust in God and go be a bold Spirit-empowered herald of His truth in all areas of life to world that desperately needs to hear it. Some may reject it and mock and scorn you—but you’ll be in good company with God’s prophets of old. But, some will receive it as the very aroma of life to the glory of God. Let’s be faithful and leave the results to the One who promises never to leave us nor forsake us. 

It will look different for each of us, but wherever the Lord has put you and to whatever the Lord has called you to do—writing to your MPs, speaking up at a DEI meeting, discussing things with your neighbours, reading a book together with your small group to prepare you to answer biblically, posting on social media, joining Christian political action groups like ARPA Canada, marching for the unborn, volunteering at a Pregnancy Care Centre, being involved on school boards or a thousand other simple things we can do—do it all to the glory of God and for love of neighbour.

Recommended Reading

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