More than twenty years ago, my wife and I helped found Augustine School, a classical Christian school in Jackson, Tennessee. Every Christian institution, if it is to remain faithful, must understand the times (1 Chron. 12:32) and articulate the gospel as perplexing ethical challenges emerge. The following statement is one model for how a Christian school can do this. In March, I helped our board of trustees draft “The Augustine School Statement on Social Theory” to help us navigate some of the harmful ideologies and social theories of our day. We adopted the statement as part of our school standards, and affirmation of the statement is a condition of employment and board membership. –Bradley G. Green
The Augustine School Statement on Social Theory
Christians of every generation must attempt to understand the faith they profess, to understand the entailments of that faith, and to apply that faith in ever-changing times. There is both an irenic aspect to Christianity (Christianity seeks to live at peace with others) and a polemical aspect to Christianity (Christianity has always seen the need to draw boundaries when necessary). This statement is meant to be a theologically sound, biblically faithful, and culturally engaged statement which attempts to address a plethora of interrelated challenges of our own day.
WE AFFIRM that all persons are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26ff.), and descend from a historical Adam, and thus there is a fundamental unity across the human race.
WE DENY that any racial or ethnic category can nullify or negate this fundamental unity of all persons as created in the image of God, since all persons descend from a historical Adam. We further deny that one’s racial or ethnic make-up is at the heart of one’s identity, especially in comparison to: (1) being created in the image of God (in the case of each person), and (2) being united to Christ by faith alone apart from works (as applicable to believers in Christ). For those who are in Christ, the most pressing and central aspect of one’s identity is to be found in being “in Christ,” not in one’s race or ethnicity (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 15:22; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:16; Galatians 3:26; 5:6; Ephesians 1:3; 2:6; 3:6).
WE AFFIRM that all persons who follow Adam (excepting the Lord Jesus) have indeed fallen in Adam, their representative head, and enter into the world guilty, corrupt, and with a proclivity to sin.
WE DENY that any group of persons is more or less virtuous, more or less special, or more or less worthy on the basis of the categories of race or ethnicity, or on the basis of tribe, language, people group, or nation.
WE AFFIRM that after the fall of Adam there was a great animus, hostility, or antithesis established between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15). This antithesis runs through the rest of history. Christ is the true “serpent crusher” who defeated the serpent by his death and resurrection, conquering evil and sin definitively, with the full revelation of his victory still to come at the last day.
WE DENY any worldview, philosophy, or ideology that places the fundamental antithesis somewhere else, such as the tendency in our own day to place an antithesis between “oppressor” and “oppressed,” or between different races.
WE AFFIRM that the eschatological or final state of God’s people consists of persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation (Revelation 5:9; 7:9).
WE DENY that the differences of tribe, language, people, and nation constitute differences which deny a common humanity, and we deny that persons who come to Christ are inferior or superior to another based on differences of tribe, language, people, and nation.
WE AFFIRM that our Lord Jesus Christ was born into, and lived his entire earthly life in, a society in which animosity between groups (e.g., Jews and Samaritans, men and women) was a reality, with consequent inequalities between groups in various contexts of life. As a Jewish man living in a society that was shaped primarily by the influence of Jewish men, Jesus experienced what many today would call privileges of his social standing.
WE DENY, along with the universal testimony of Christian orthodoxy, that personal sin or guilt can be rightly attributed to our Lord Jesus Christ, and this would include any personal sin or guilt that is supposedly attached to the inheritance of social privilege. Consequently, we deny that guilt should be imputed solely on the basis of social privilege to any person, for such an imputation implicates our Lord in sin and consequently unravels the whole fabric of the gospel.
WE AFFIRM that all persons who are in Christ, and who have expressed faith in Christ, are part of the world-wide body of persons rightly called Christians, and that such persons have a common Father (God the Father), are united to the same Son (God the Son), and are being sanctified by the same Holy Spirit (God the Holy Spirit).
WE DENY that differences of tribe, language, people, and nation are more important or significant than (1) the common humanity all persons share, and (2) the common spiritual relationship that all Christians share by being united to Christ by faith alone.
WE AFFIRM that all persons who have come into the world (excepting the Lord Jesus Christ) come into the world guilty, corrupted, and with a proclivity toward sin.
WE DENY that any sin, including the sin of racism (defined as actual animus toward someone solely on the basis of that person’s race), can be attributed to a person simply because of that person’s racial or ethnic identity. We further deny that the sin of racism is by definition or in fact unique to one, or more than one, race, or that any given race is incapable of committing the sin of racism.