Mohler Discusses Critical Theory with James Lindsay

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Mark_Smith's picture

This is spot on. Anyone who works in the academy and has not been converted to the idiocy of Critical Theory will be refreshed by the clarity of this talk. I am getting the book.

Mark_Smith's picture

The point of Liberalism (the philosophical perspective, not politics) was supposed to be to resolve conflicts between perspectives. Political conflict was to be resolved by democracy. Economic controversy was to be resolved by the free market. And intellectual controversy was to be resolved by rational discussion. Critical Theory wrecks all of that. There is no freedom to disagree or argue clearly. You conform or get excommunicated.

TylerR's picture

Editor

This kind of thing (I don't even know what to call it) is what I want to study for a doctoral program. The big ideas, the meta-narratives, that are driving contemporary culture in the West. I want to study this kind of thing, and bring Christian apologetics to bear to tear it down. But, I don't even know what this field is called. Is there a field? It appears to be a mix of philosophy, sociology and humanities. What is it, and where can I study it!?

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mark_Smith's picture

You notice the speaker has a Doctorate in Math, and Mohler is a theologian. They are self taught. James Lindsay would be radioactive in the standard academy. No one would touch him.

Some schools offer doctorates in Humanities. I know Daniel Akin got his doctorate in Humanities from Texas at Arlington.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I suppose so. There are very big ideas floating around in the sky that I want to grab hold of. I just need to do some good reading and take some notes.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mark_Smith's picture

You are either all in, or you are all out. The speaker discusses this at 42:30. You cannot take parts of Critical Theory just to be "analytical tools." The SBC leaders are big into this.

The core of Critical Theory is systems of oppression. Any compromise to CT is complicity with the oppressors.

Andrew K's picture

TylerR wrote:

This kind of thing (I don't even know what to call it) is what I want to study for a doctoral program. The big ideas, the meta-narratives, that are driving contemporary culture in the West. I want to study this kind of thing, and bring Christian apologetics to bear to tear it down. But, I don't even know what this field is called. Is there a field? It appears to be a mix of philosophy, sociology and humanities. What is it, and where can I study it!?


Currently, I believe the field is referred to as "Cultural Studies."

Joel Shaffer's picture

This is spot on. Anyone who works in the academy and has not been converted to the idiocy of Critical Theory will be refreshed by the clarity of this talk. I am getting the book.

I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I really enjoyed the conversation. I generally agreed with both Lindsay and Mohler on the majority of their points, including the historical timeline of different phases of Post-Modernism along with some of the radical things that have come out of it.  Fat Studies, anyone?  What a crock!  Some of the observations that Lindsay made are the same I've made on different threads about Critical Theory, such as the multiple number of strains within Feminist Critical Theory and how they don't get along with each other, or even that Critical Theory will collapse on itself.  I was also surprised at the charitableness and professionalism of Lindsay towards Mohler and Christian Theism, given that he is an atheist.  In a previous book (Everybody is Wrong About God) Lindsay viewed Christians as psychologically weak---whenever people say they believe in “God,” they are really telling us that they have certain psychological and social needs that they do not know how to meet.  I was also surprised at his professionalism, especially since he sometimes responds low-brow-sexually crass as well as bodily functional crass towards those he debates on Twitter.   (Example---someone snarkily asked him in an August 1st, 2020 tweet "What are you doing with your life right now?" He responds-"Your Mom, whenever I get the chance, which is pretty much all the time, as you probably know.")

When Mohler made the comment that Cynical Theories was the best cultural analysis, I was excited to get it. So I then googled reviews of the book to see how others have perceived it. And then it brought me back to reality.  What I realize is that the actual Critical Theorists don’t engage him, but those who come from a Classical Socially Liberal standpoint do, like this fellow atheist of Lindsay who happens to be a philosophy prof (working on his Ph.D.) in NY.  And this review https://www.liberalcurrents.com/the-cynical-theorists-behind-cynical-the... is a brutal takedown of Cynical Theories if it holds to be true.  I don’t know if it is because I have neither read the book nor the vast majority of authors that Cynical Theories critiques.  But the reviewer/analytical philosopher specifically points out how Lindsay and Pluckrose misrepresent a number of CT Scholars, including Dotson, Fricker, Code, Wolf, Medina, Mills, and Bailey to support their arguments. He also criticizes the lack of citations or poor footnoting to back up their many claims.  That is very concerning if proved to be true. I then examined any of the twitter discourse between Lindsay/Pluckrose and the reviewer (Sam Hoadley-Bill) after the review came out. Lindsay attempted to use the fallacy of “guilt by association,” which is odd especially since their worldviews are similar. When that didn’t work, Lindsay resorted to fart remarks as Sam Hoadley-Bill attempted to get Lindsay to respond to his different points, and then Lindsay eventually blocked him. Pluckrose was more charitable at the beginning, but again wouldn’t answer the points that the reviewer made, and eventually she blocked him as well. Now Sam Hoadley-Bill is not innocent by any stretch of the imagination. He admitted trying to bait Lindsay into the guilt-by-association fallacy with his author description from liberal currents (he described himself with“his recent indoctrination into the woke cult of academia, he has begun to develop interests in feminist epistemology and critical philosophy of race” which is quite contrary to what he believes). So you have some entrapment going on.  By the way, Hoadley-Bill agrees with Lindsay/Pluckrose’s assessment of Robin DiAngelo and I even heard a podcast of him where he also goes after the Anti-Racist Scholar Ibram X Kendi as well.  

All this is to say, I’d be extra careful and actually critically read the primary sources that Cynical Theories is interacting with. Making sure that Lindsay is getting them right, especially since Lindsay isn’t a scholar in the areas of philosophy, history, social sciences, cultural studies but rather as math scholar and more self-studied in the area that he is critiquing.   Also, I am not saying that these CT scholars are right. In fact, I’d argue that they are mostly still wrong. But if Christians are going to enter the public square and debate secular sociological ideologies, they need to be much more careful in their analysis for the sake of truth. 

And I also think that this co-belligerence connection that is developing between Lindsay and certain SBCers (now Mohler) may end up blowing up in their face.  Influential SBCer Michael O’Fallan from Sovereign Nations owns New Discourse, the comprehensive website that exposes Social Justice and Wokeness, to give a platform for Lindsay to continue writing.  It isn’t just the questionable content that Lindsay seems willing to write that may be filled with misrepresentations, but also his questionable character, which has manifested itself on twitter. And especially what he’s previously said about Christianity.  Think about it. Lindsay has no epistemology to actually deal with racism, sexism, and etc…. To him, no one is created in the image of God. He doesn’t believe we were all made from one man. He rejects total depravity (which James Lindsay calls the Calvinist cause of the witch trials). He rejects the Incarnation.  He rejects Christian eschatology and to Revelation 7:9. He rejects the authority of the Scriptures, which provide not only the moral eternal maxims of Social Justice, but also the divinely ordered histories of Jews and Gentiles working toward lived unity in the New Testament Church. And, most importantly, he rejects the gospel, the only ultimate and final solution.  

It never ceases to amaze me how easily the worldly concept of “the ends justify the means” creeps into the worldview of all Bible Believing Christians (in this case, fighting the culture wars) and how blind we can be to it.  

 

TylerR's picture

Editor

I didn't take it that way. I just thought Mohler wanted to interview a guy who wrote an important book, for his podcast series. What surprised me is how well-read Mohler appeared to be on this topic. He could follow Lindsay quite easily. Why, then, has Mohler not offered his own sustained analysis of critical theory at all, in any forum, in the context of apologetics?

  • He has been attacked by conservatives in his own circles for coddling "wokism" at SBTS (I have no opinion on the merits of those accusations). One young man helping to lead the charge against Mohler has a newly minted MDiv from SEBTS, does not appear to be in ministry, and seems to spend all his time as a discernment podcaster. He wasted his MDiv ...
  • Mohler got into a very awkward argument with Phil Johnson about wokism and critical theory at (I believe) the 2019 Shepherd's Conference. Mohler clearly didn't want to go there, at that time.
  • His Briefing and his new book appear to not go into those issues. I'm certainly open to correction on The Gathering Storm, because I haven't read it.

I am just very surprised why, (1) if Mohler agrees this theory is an acid that will eat through anything in its path, (2) and he understands the theory and where it came from, (3) he hasn't forcefully addressed it. Perhaps he's planning to. It would be helpful if he began to try, in his various forums. He must be playing a political and strategic angle, here.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Joel Shaffer's picture

I didn't take it that way. I just thought Mohler wanted to interview a guy who wrote an important book, for his podcast series. What surprised me is how well-read Mohler appeared to be on this topic. He could follow Lindsay quite easily. Why, then, has Mohler not offered his own sustained analysis of critical theory at all, in any forum, in the context of apologetics?

Maybe. But I was bothered by Mohler calling it the best cultural analysis on CT, especially when an atheist classical liberal analytical philosopher could so easily refute it. To me, their arguments would need to be fairly airtight to be put into that category of being the best cultural analysis but the authors couldn't even defend it against an unknown PH.D. philosophy student and grad teacher.  The lack of citations and poor footnoting? That's scholarship 101.  It was one of the (among many) reasons why I dismissed Robin DiAngelo's White Fragility.  I had a professor at GRTS that made us get into the practice of researching and dissecting footnotes/endnotes of books and articles we were researching.  I hated it, but it helped me learn to critically read.  

Maybe it's the political angle within the SBC. On the one end, he theologically affirms systemic racism as part of a more robust doctrine of sin so that social justice and/or black SBCers will be happy. On the other end, he gives props to Lindsay's book, throwing a bone to the Sovereign Nations/Founders followers. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

I skimmed the review you cited. This is why I think I have a lot of studying to do. I'm looking for a trustworthy, accurate guide to understand the current critical theory-laden moment. I was hoping this would be it. I was initially surprised Mohler interviewed Lindsay, who has somehow become a darling to Sovereign Nations and the usual suspects in the Reformed crowd (Founders, etc.). Lindsay does not seem like a mature, serious person ... though this interview shows he clearly can be, if he chooses. Your comments about his social media posts are more in line with what I expected from him, and I';m not disappointed.

In short, this is not the kind of guy Mohler usually interviews. The review raises enough questions so that I'm now reluctant to buy the book. I need someone trustworthy to read on this, because I don't know much of anything about post-modern philosophy, for example. A guide would be nice. This is why I'm reading a short primer on CRT now, to cut out the interpreter. That's probably the best way to go, unfortunately. Mohler says the book is good. This philosophy PhD student says it's inaccurate. Great. I'll probably look for a reader of some kind on post-modernism. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mark_Smith's picture

the Founders or this Sovereign Nation you talk about. I just followed a link here to a Mohler interview.

 

Tyler, why are you so interested in CT/CRT? Are you just wanting to know more about what the world thinks? Or do you think it might be helpful.

Don't read CT/CRT in the abstract. Go to a university campus where the real impact of how destructive it is is in full force.

Mark_Smith's picture

a commission arranged by the Mayor of Washington DC has recommended that the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial be dismantled, moved to a museum, or be "contextualized" with corrections on the site.

That's CT/CRT.

Mark_Smith's picture

Of course "real CT people" don't engage Lindsay! Wake up man. They only rattle around in their own playground. You are not allowed to critique CT unless you say it has not gone far enough.

Mark_Smith's picture

If I might say so myself, the stuff you link to is poison, brother. Stop it for your own good.

Andrew K's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Of course "real CT people" don't engage Lindsay! Wake up man. They only rattle around in their own playground. You are not allowed to critique CT unless you say it has not gone far enough.


If you wonder why CT people don't debate or engage with other perspectives, you don't really get CT. I've read a growing realization and commentary among classical liberals concerning this feature.

In essence, CT folks believe that to engage in debate or even discussion with other perspectives is "ceding ground" and "using the enemy's tools." Ironically enough, "critical" and thoughtful dialogue is simply not part of their worldview. 

Yes, they'll "debate" various factual matters on the public stage. But anything deep and probing is utterly off-limits. 

Joel Shaffer's picture

If I might say so myself, the stuff you link to is poison, brother. Stop it for your own good.

Before I respond, what links are you talking about, and specifically what are poison about them?

TylerR's picture

Editor

You asked:

Tyler, why are you so interested in CT/CRT? Are you just wanting to know more about what the world thinks? Or do you think it might be helpful.

I'm interesting in it because it's everywhere. Literally everywhere. I have an article coming here on Tuesday that explains my latest run in with this mad new religion.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mark_Smith's picture

Take a look at the many articles in Liberal Current. If you read that and think this is good stuff... well, you deal with it.

Joel Shaffer's picture

Take a look at the many articles in Liberal Current. If you read that and think this is good stuff... well, you deal with it.

The reason I linked this article from Liberal Current is not that I agree with a lot of the articles. Because I don't.  It's more because those who publish articles at Liberal Current hold to the same principles of Classical Liberalism that James Lindsay holds to and is operating from.  As the description of Liberal Current states:  

Liberal Currents offers discussion, elucidation, and defense of liberal principles and institutions. These principles—however qualified—are freedom, individualism, universalism, and pluralism, grounded in a respect for the dignity of ordinary people living ordinary lives. These principles are embedded and protected within liberal institutions: the rule of law, due process, democratic politics, private property, markets, and institutions of free inquiry and expression.

While the authors may at times disagree about the various forms liberalism may take as these values are contextualized in lived experience, the unified editorial voice believes liberalism is alive and more critical than ever. As popular faith and confidence in liberal principles and institutions ebb, Liberal Currents commits to their rejuvenation and vigorous defense.

The writers are Lindsay's colleagues. So when Lindsay and Pluckrose write a book and the reviewer points out that it does not even come close to rising to the scholarly standard of classical liberalism because they misrepresent the views of the CT/CRT scholars they are critiquing, creating one giant strawman to take down, I'm going to research it for myself rather than rely on a couple of atheists authors who are financially profiting off of conservative Christians that are so desperate for that magic bullet to take down CT/CRT once and for all.   

And as I mentioned before, Dotson, Fricker, Code, Wolf, Medina, Mills, and Bailey (I've only read articles from Medina), are probably wrong on a number of areas in evaluating race and culture.  But, for the sake of truth, let's make sure we are accurate with the actual bad secular ideas rather than with caricatures of what they actually believe.  As Christians, we are accountable to make sure we are always truth-telling as we avoid the sin of slander.  

TylerR's picture

Editor

I decided to grab a copy of Millard Erickson's Truth or Consequences: The Promise & Perils of Postmodernism. Erickson has an MA in Philosophy from the University of Chicago, and this training shows up in perhaps all his writings. The book dates from 2001, but that doesn't bother me. I just want a trustworthy, accessible introduction to post-modern philosophy with some Christian pushback. I don't want a polemic book, but an educational book. Erickson is well-known for his irenic tone and fairness. This is likely the book I've been looking for to guide me to better understand the issues today, and will act as a springboard to engage the primary sources. Thought I'd pass it along, in the event anyone is interested.

Erickson is about 90 now, and I doubt he'll publish anything else. But, I am astounded at the quantity and quality of the material he's produced. He hit his heyday in the 1980s - 1990s, which is why I suspect he is not as popular today as he once was. There are no Zondervan video curriculums to accompany his materials (etc.). But, I don't believe many scholars today can match his breadth of study and topics. He is my favorite theologian, by far. He doesn't overreach into areas he's not competent to discuss, which is always a plus!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?