In the first instalment of this two-part series, we surveyed some aspects of the woke ideology that is sweeping the Western world. We now turn to some lessons to learn from this cultural shaking.
Five issues for fruitful reflection
1. The word does create.
It is by God’s word that all things came into being and are sustained. Critical theory’s view of the power of language is a feeble aping, indeed one may say Satanic counterfeit, of the Creator’s power, but it does point to something true. By his speech Christ exercised power. Through God’s word sinners are born again. Through preaching, sinners are brought to repentance and faith.
At an ordinary level, it is by speech in everyday life that we exercise power – we ‘get things done’, even if we do not call it creation, by the use of words in family life, in business, in church. It is important to remember this before dismissing critical theory’s emphasis on language-as-power.
What we emphatically oppose, however, is the denial of an objective reality that is prior to our speaking: ultimately we are only feebly imitating the divine mind and actions, thinking God’s thoughts after him, and working only with what he has already given us. Yet Christians above all know that the efficacy of the word spoken in the power of the Spirit is immense – it turns worlds upside down.
2. Biblically, it is by faith and the word that we know anything truly.
Epistemology is a big issue in critical theory – the way we know things. But it is ‘by faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible’ (Hebrews 11:3).
Knowledge, say critical theorists, has to come through experience. ‘Standpoint epistemology’ tells us that we can only know things from our own limited perspective. This is inevitable if there is no absolute truth. But Christians also believe in ‘standpoint epistemology’, only it is the standpoint of God who knows all things and has spoken objective truth to us in his Word.
The only way to be sure of something is to know all things or to believe one who does. To know all things belongs to God alone. The only way for finite creatures to be sure of anything is by believing the word of that God.
By faith we share the ‘standpoint’ of the omniscient One – we know by believing his revelation, not by speculation. God has created everything and has endowed us with the faculties to know things truly (although not exhaustively, as we are not God).
3. The crumbling of Western culture should not mean the collapse of the church.
There can be something presumptuous about Western Christianity. While Christianity has often been the champion of the poor, the outcast, the marginalised, too often Western Christians have assumed a right to rule and enjoyed access to power. This can put us at a disadvantage when trying to reach ‘victim groups’ of the critical theory generation.
It also makes us feel vulnerable when the establishment is attacked. We have got too close to power and privilege, and we feel an attack on power as an attack on us. If critical theory causes us to panic, is it a sign that we need to reassess our position in the world?