New Column Entry, “From Fault Lines to Bridges of Understanding,” (Part 4 in a series), by John Hatch

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Column title: Crossed My Mind: Thoughts on Culture and Communication

Column entry: “From Fault Lines to Bridges of Understanding,” (Part 4 in a series)

By John Hatch, Ph.D.
Eastern University (retired)
CCSN Senior Fellow

Column Description: As Christians, we are called to have the mind of Christ. This goes against the grain of our social and cultural conditioning. We seek personal or political advancement; Christ seeks the lost and the least. We grasp for cultural ascendency; Christ descends to the cross of love. This column is dedicated to thinking about culture and communication under the sign of the cross.

January 2024 / December 2023 / November 2023 / October 2023 / July 2023 / June 2023 / May 2023 / April 2023 / March 2023 / February 2023 / January 2023 / December 2022 / November(2) 2022 / November 2022 / October 2022 / August-September 2022 / June-July 2022 / January 2022 / December 2021 / October-November 2021


January 2024

From Fault Lines to Bridges of Understanding (Part 4 in a series)

Unlike other books discussed in Crossed My Mind, I have devoted several columns to Voddie Baucham’s Fault Lines, for three reasons: his book is a bestseller, he’s had tremendous influence in his denomination and beyond,[i] and many evangelicals (in particular) see him as a hero of truth-telling on race. Baucham does present some important truths, as discussed in Part 1. However, the overall picture of evangelicalism presented in Fault Lines falls short of the truth, as Baucham cherry-picks information to fit his divisive narrative, often misreading fellow Christians in the process. Part 3 discussed this problem. Below, I’ll give a couple more examples of it and then consider what good we can take from a careful reading of Fault Lines.

The entirety of chapter 6 (“A New Canon”) is built on three cases, each of which hinges on a misunderstanding. Besides his mis-construal of Christianity Today’s list of recommended readings/films on race (as discussed in my last column),[ii] Baucham discusses two case studies of leaders who have purportedly questioned the sufficiency of Scripture or subordinated it to the “new canon” on race. In both cases, his charges lack cogency. For the sake of brevity, I’ll focus only on the second, concerning a sermon delivered by David Platt at the 2018 Together For the Gospel conference, “Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters: Racism and Our Need for Repentance.”[iii]

As one listens to Platt’s hour-long message, it quickly becomes clear that this is a topical sermon applying (Platt’s word) a general principle from Amos 5 to the contemporary issue of racism. Platt never suggests (or even implies) that the passage is about racism, only that it tells us God expects our devotion in worship to be matched by our commitment to doing justice—a sound interpretation. He then applies this general biblical truth to the continuing racial disparities and de facto segregation in our society and churches, across a series of six “exhortations.” Platt takes pains to clarify that racism is only one of the many forms of injustice in our world. Yet despite this crystal-clear framing, Baucham charges Platt with eisegesis—reading things into the text that aren’t there.[iv]

If Baucham believes that Platt’s message mischaracterizes the present-day racial divide as injustice, he could have tried to expose faults in Platt’s use of statistics or reading of sociological data. However, Baucham instead opts for a charge of eisegesis, which gives the false impression that Platt is placing the so-called “new canon” above, or on par with, Scripture. Some readers may justify Baucham on this point by holding that Scripture’s application must always be based strictly on “the author’s intended meaning found in the text,”[v] not on the broader spiritual principle or trajectory evinced in the passage. But to be consistent, they would then need to apply this standard not only to Platt’s use of Amos 5, but also Martin Luther King Jr.’s use of the same passage in “I Have a Dream,” as well as Christian abolitionists’ arguments against American slavery. The troubling implication of such a rigid hermeneutical approach is that Christians should then be “biblically” okay with slavery and segregation never having been abolished, and with Baucham himself being in chains.[vi]

The author is on firmer ground, in the second half of chapter 7, when he critiques the 2019 SBC Resolution 9 “On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality”[vii] for characterizing CRT merely as “a set of analytical tools.” CRT may not be a totalizing “worldview” as Baucham claims, but it certainly consists of assumptions and value-laden lenses, beyond the neutrality suggested by “tools.” In addition, he has reason to fault the way in which the Resolutions Committee put forth the final version of the resolution (a rushed rewriting of the originally proposed resolution, with a very different thrust).[viii] Yet Baucham fails to recognize any merit in the approved resolution, again misrepresenting the larger message being conveyed. He claims that it “denies the sufficiency of Scripture,” when instead it clearly asserts the insufficiency of CRT to “diagnose and redress the root causes” of injustice and states that CRT and intersectionality “should only be employed as analytical tools subordinate to Scripture—not as transcendent ideological frameworks.” True to form, Baucham ignores the larger message of Resolution 9, which includes numerous clauses (added by the Resolutions Committee) affirming a specifically biblical understanding of humanity and race.

To be clear, I don’t think Baucham intentionally misrepresents others (or applies double standards) in Fault Lines. Rather, he appears to be so captivated by the power of the fault line metaphor, disjunctive either/or thinking, and polemical rhetoric that he doesn’t give due consideration to a holistic biblical perspective on justice in our contemporary racial context and doesn’t take care to understand both/and thinkers on their own terms. On p. 132 he proclaims “I am a debater” and then laments “the general feminization of culture and its consequent disdain for open verbal combat.” Bracketing the gendered nature of this remark,[ix] a careful rhetorical reading of Baucham’s work suggests that he has the opposite problem: overvaluing verbal combat and undervaluing charitable listening.[x] (Fault Lines also contains some instances of misquotation and careless plagiarism, as discussed by other writers.[xi])

So, what good can we take away from a careful, critical look at Fault Lines?

First, it can sensitize us to the problem of ideological polarization in the American church, which manifests in working harder to win arguments than genuinely understand others. Too often, on such topics as race, Christians talk past each other. If Scripture exhorts us to “speak the truth in love,” surely it is even more important that we listen to one another in love, in search of truth. Indeed, faithfully following Christ entails being “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19, NIV). This is one reason I waited two years to write this series on Fault Lines: although my initial reaction to the book was negative, I wanted to make sure that I fairly heard and considered what Baucham was saying. While space has not permitted an exhaustive examination of his argument, I hope that I have represented the book fairly.

Second, Baucham’s work challenges us to pay more attention to gaps and weaknesses in popular narratives about systemic racism. Chapter 8 is particularly helpful in this regard, as Baucham discusses the problem of progressive voices downplaying or ignoring the roles of individual responsibility and dysfunctional behavior patterns (such as absent fathers) in racial disparities. There’s no doubt that the legacy of racism lives on in the present; but the forms it takes are complex and, in some instances, may involve internalized, generational trauma and dysfunctional coping mechanisms as much as external systems and structures. This is one reason why I’ve always preferred the term “racialization” to “systemic racism;” the former recognizes the long-term effects of past racism—a multi-faceted problem that people of all races must come together to ameliorate—without necessarily seeming to blame present actors or policies.[xii]

This brings me to a third takeaway: Christ-followers from across the ideological spectrum must come together to address the racialization that persists in much of the Church and leaves vast numbers of black people drowning in poverty, depressing neighborhoods, poor schools, and lack of accessible economic opportunities. These problems cannot be solved by one-dimensional, ideologically-driven answers; they require the wholeness of Christ, who both challenged individual hearts and revealed God’s particular concern for oppressed, marginalized, and impoverished classes of people.

Finally, if the Church is to live into its calling as the Spirit-filled body of diverse peoples and cultures inaugurated at Pentecost, we must put more energy into building bridges of understanding and less into magnifying fault lines. For Christ’s ministry of reconciliation did not consist in searching out evil but in demonstrating God’s love (and liberating those in the devil’s grip). Scripture does not identify Jesus as the Anti-Satan but as the beloved Son, the Reconciler, the Logos in whom all things have their true meaning, the God who created and knows the whole world through the lens of love. Discernment is essential, of course, but when we allow “the knowledge of good and evil”[xiii]—the ability to measure, compare, divide, and exclude—to get ahead of love, we become “noisy gongs” and “clanging cymbals,” alienating ourselves from God and one another.[xiv] The Spirit of Christ has shown us a more excellent way.[xv]



[i] Baucham narrowly missed being elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention a year after the publication of Fault Lines.

[ii] Given that the list lacks countervailing/conservative voices on the question of systemic racism, he could have simply critiqued it for lack of balance; but instead, he falsely claims it represents an “attack on the sufficiency of Scripture.” Voddie T. Baucham Jr., Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming (Washington, DC: Salem Books, 2021), 130.

[iii] Platt’s sermon can be viewed here:

[iv] If Platt’s applications of a biblical principle count as eisegesis, then many of the sermons by conservative evangelical preachers (including Baucham) would be guilty of the same whenever they apply Scripture passages to contemporary situations or people that were not remotely in the minds of the human authors.

[v] Danny Akin, “Sermon Application: How Does It Work?” Preaching,

[vi] This is not an idle observation: Baucham’s Southern Baptist Convention exists precisely because Southern Christians generally read the letter of Scripture as justifying their “peculiar institution” of slavery, whereas Northern Christians generally found American chattel slavery to be utterly incompatible with the Spirit of Christ in Scripture. This hermeneutic divide led not only to a north-south split of the Baptist denomination in the United States, but a horrific civil war. For an in-depth look at how both North and South used Scripture in support of their cause, see Mark A. Noll, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2015).

[vii] When I started writing this column, Resolution 9 was available on the SBC website; now, however, it appears to have been taken down. Full wording of the resolution (accuracy unconfirmed) can also be found at: chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/ For the 2019 Resolution Committee’s commentary on the content of and intentions behind the approved resolution, see “Q&A with the 2019 Resolutions Committee about Resolution 9,” Baptist Press, February 5, 2020,

[viii] See Tom Ascol, “Resolution 9 and the Southern Baptist Convention 2019,” Founders Ministries,

[ix] This quote’s implied devaluation of the feminine in public spaces and social hierarchies is hardly incidental. Baucham espouses (and practices) an extreme version of patriarchal complementarianism in which an abusive marriage is not considered grounds for a woman to divorce her husband, and adult daughters are supposed to remain under their father’s roof, submitting to and serving him, unless and until they get married. See Rick Pidcock, “Plagiarism is the least thing to worry about with Voddie Baucham, who is a threat to children, women and daughters,” Baptist Global News, March 7, 2022,, accessed December 13, 2023.

[x] This fits a larger pattern in Baucham’s rhetoric of putting women in their place (see note above), characterizing infants as “a viper in a diaper,” and suggesting that shy children should have their socially reticent behavior spanked out of them (Pidcock, “Plagiarism is the least thing to worry about with Voddie Baucham”).

[xi] Fault Lines includes instances of (1) attributing ideas to critical race scholars that are really Baucham’s caricatures, presented in a format that gives the impression those scholars have actually written/said these things, and (2) sentences that closely follow statements written by CRT critic James Lindsay, without citation. Baucham and his defenders have largely dismissed charges of misquotation and plagiarism as a matter of nitpicking at a non-academic book and distracting from the larger threat the book purportedly identifies. Yet the author, as a seminary dean, should uphold the highest standards of academic integrity; and his misrepresentations of critical race scholars’ ideas fit the book’s larger pattern of misrepresentation in the service of its divisive, lopsided narrative. See Joel McDurmon, “Voddie’s Fault Lines Worse Than Before: Fake Quotations AND Plagiarism,” Lamb’s Reign, July 30, 2021,; John Reasnor, “Richard Delgado And Neil Shenvi Respond To Voddie Baucham Plagiarism Charges,” Lamb’s Reign, August 4, 2021,

[xii] See Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 7-11.

[xiii] Genesis 2:9, 17.

[xiv] 1 Corinthians 13:1-2.

[xv] 1 Corinthians 12:31b.

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