The Genetic Fallacy: Critical Race Theory’s Indispensable Tool [Pt. 2]
§ III. Valid Genetic Reasoning According to Scripture
Having elaborated on why the genetic fallacy, why it is a fallacy, and why CRT is entirely dependent on it, we now turn to answer the implied claim of CRT proponents that our genetic reasoning is fallacious. Given that Scripture contains no errors, logical or otherwise, we will be appealing to the it to defend genetic reasoning in general, and our own genetic reasoning in particular. For if our method of reasoning is not condoned explicitly or implicitly Scripture, then we must abandon it. It will be demonstrated that our reasoning is not only neither explicitly nor implicitly condemned by Scripture but required by Christians in our analysis of ideas that are purportedly derived from, supportive of, or in harmony with the teaching of Scripture.
Prior to Foucault, Freud, and Nietzsche, the enemies of Christ utilized the genetic fallacy in order to steer people away from the Lord Jesus. For example, in John 7:45-52 we see the fallacy employed by the Jewish leaders. There we read the following –
The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”
Whereas the Law of God does not judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning about what he does, the Jewish leaders rejected the claims of and about Christ for two reasons. Firstly, they asserted that the laity did not “know the law” (i.e. they were not rabinically trained) and, therefore, were not competent to assess whether or not Jesus was the Messiah. Ironically, through their fallacious argumentation the Jewish leaders also imply that their criticisms of Christ are correct because they originated with the so-called “learned” men of Israel. As a further point of dramatic irony, the reader by this point in John’s Gospel knows that Nicodemus, one of the elite teachers of Israel trained to “know the law” was woefully ignorant about Christ’s person and work, the doctrine of regeneration in the Old Testament, and the typology of the Old Testament.1 Secondly, the Jewish leaders asserted that Jesus could not be the Christ because “no prophet arises from Galilee.” What is being communicated is not merley that no prophet arises from Galilee geographically, another point which is demonstrably false,2 but what is also implied is that the Lord’s teaching about himself is not to be trusted because it originated with a man whose place of origin, i.e. Galilee, was low on the social totem pole.3
The Jewish leaders of Christ’s day did not differ much in this regard to Nietzsche, for whom the truth of Christianity was refuted by a genealogical analysis – or so he believed – of the origin of its central moral and metaphysical doctrines. What they fail to demonstrate is that the social standing of the people, and of the Lord Jesus as well, provides an unreliable foundation for the claims made about and by him. Simply being a layperson without formal rabbinical training does not render the theological claims one makes false. Likewise, simply being a person who was born into a family of a lower social stature does not render the theological claims one makes false. However, like their modern successors – Nietzsche, Freud, Foucault, and the gamut of CRT theorists, scholars, apologists, and activists – the Jewish leaders irrationally argued that the truth claims they were being presented with were false due to their origin among certain classes of people in society.
Genetic reasoning of the kind engaged in by the Jewish leaders is fallacious, but there is a kind of genetic reasoning exemplified in the thinking of Christ that is not. John 8:39-47 demonstrates how Christ utilized genetic reasoning in his refutation of the false sons of Abraham. There we read –
They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father — even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 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. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
The Lord’s argumentation can be expressed as follows –
1. All offspring bear their father’s image.
2. You are offspring.
3. Therefore, you bear your father’s image.
4. All of Abraham’s offspring do the works of Abraham.
5. You do not do the works of Abraham.
6. Therefore, you are not Abraham’s offspring.
7. All of God’s spiritual offspring, love Me [i.e. Christ].
8. You do not love me.
9. Therefore, you are not God’s spiritual offspring.
10. All of God’s spiritual offspring hear God’s Word.
11. You do not hear God’s Word.
12. Therefore, you are not God’s spiritual offspring.
13. All who are not the spiritual offspring of God are the spiritual offspring of the devil.
14. You are not the spiritual offspring of God.
15. Therefore, you are the spiritual offspring of the devil.
The Jewish leaders’ origin, theologically and morally speaking, was important because it undermined all of their claims. Given that their father was the “father of lies” in whom there is no truth, it follows that they, being his image bearers, were also liars in whom there is no truth. Their origin was important, moreover, because it demonstrated a clear link between the devil and the Jewish leaders. They were doing exactly what their father was doing – lying, opposing the truth, opposing God, and seeking to kill the Holy One of Israel.
Thus, our Lord shows us that appealing to one’s origin in the arena of truth is only proper when the origin and one’s ideas share an essential element. The Jews sought to identify their words about Jesus as true, and his words as false, on the basis of their biological connection to Abraham. However, it is one’s spiritual connection to Abraham – as a person of faith in the Gospel, and as one who works righteousness in accordance with one’s faith in the Gospel – that serves as the basis for claiming Abraham as one’s father. More importantly, God’s universal paternity as Creator, as well as his national paternity as the covenant God of the Jews does not entail his spiritual paternity of those who claim he is their father. Rather, it is only those who are like God morally (i.e. righteous after the image of the Son of God) who can claim that he is their father.
Jesus demonstrates that what is actually the case is that the unbelief and anti-Christ thinking and behavior of these Jews is traceable to the devil. Christ’s reasoning is not fallacious, although it is genetic. Jesus argues that sons bear the image of their father, but the Jews bear neither Abraham nor God’s moral/spiritual image.4 Consequently, they are not of God (i.e. not God’s children). Now those who are not of God do not hear/understand/comprehend/believe the words of God, so the claims made against Christ are by rendered false by this direct connection between the essence of the devil as a murderous liar and the spiritual/moral nature his descendants inherited from him.
If origins are appealed to properly, the one making the appeal must show the direct and unbroken transmission of what makes his opponent’s truth claims false. This is precisely what the Jewish leaders could not, and therefore did not, do, but what Christ could, and therefore did, do. And it is what Christians are called to do when considering the claim that Christianity, or one of its essential doctrines, is false. For as Paul the apostle explains in 1st Corinthians 2:14 –
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
The “natural person,” as Calvin correctly notes, is “any man that is endowed with nothing more than the faculties of nature,” who are “left in a purely natural condition.”5 Fallen man’s problem with understanding and believing the claims of the Christian faith is his unregenerate condition. Apart from possessing a new nature that desires, seeks after, and submits to the truth, the judgment of fallen men leveled against Christianity – namely that it is false – is inevitable. As John Gill explains in his Exposition of the Old and New Testament –
There must be a natural visive discerning faculty, suited to the object; as there must be a natural visive faculty to see and discern natural things, so there must be a spiritual one, to see, discern, judge, and approve of spiritual things; and which only a spiritual, and not a natural man has.6
Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, in their commentary on this passage, further explain that the unregenerate person is “volitionally prejudiced against [the Christian faith], and rejects it in unbelief.”7Consequently, the unregenerate man’s statements made against the faith, in whole or in part, must be judged to be the fruit of an unregenerate and prejudiced mind. Additionally, the denunciation of essential doctrines (e.g. the deity of Christ, the Trinity, penal substitutionary atonement, etc) and the doctrines necessarily implied by the essentials made by self-identified Christians must be judged in the same manner.
For instance, consider the following fictional scenario –
Person A: You know, it’s scary to think about how young your denomination is, being only about 500 years old. The Roman Catholic Church has been around since the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
Person B: So you’re a Roman Catholic?
Person A: Whether I am or am not a Roman Catholic is irrelevant. Facts are facts.
Person B: It is not irrelevant. Roman Catholics believe that the teaching of the church is infallible, right?
Person A: Yes.
Person B: Okay. And they teach that the church was founded upon Peter in Matthew 16, right?
Person A: Yes. But wh –
Person B: And they further teach that Christ promised that the church built upon Peter would not be prevailed against by the powers of hell, correct?
Person A: Yes. But why is any of that relevant?
Person B: It’s relevant because if the Roman church identifies its own teaching as infallible, and that teaching includes the ideas that (a.)the church as it is now is the same church founded by Jesus in Matt 16, and (b.)the gates of hell would not, in any way, prevail against that same church, then it follows that you could not be a Catholic and one who accepts evidence to the contrary. Your essential Roman Catholic beliefs determine what you can or cannot say about the church throughout history. You literally cannot say that the post-New Testament early church was vastly different from the contemporary Roman Catholic church.
A’s belief in the Roman Catholic church’s historical primacy and consistency is not derived from his use of evidence, but is determined by his adherence to Roman Catholic doctrine. If A is a Roman Catholic, he necessarily must assert that the early church’s doctrines are identical to his own. The identity of A, therefore, is not completely irrelevant in our assessment of his truth claims (in the above case, ecclesiastical truth claims).
Seeing as the Roman Catholic believes in a false gospel, he is an unregenerate man. As an unregenerate man, his judgments regarding peripheral doctrines are informed by his his desire to uphold, at all costs, his false gospel as true. Thus, while it may be the case that his judgments regarding peripheral doctrines are supported by arguments utilizing various forms of evidence, such argumentation is not what led him to his conclusions.
§ IV. Conclusion
While genetic reasoning may be utilized fallaciously, it is not the case that all genetic reasoning is fallacious. As we have noted above, genetic reasoning is fallacious when it used to poison the well and, thereby, write off a particular belief with which one does not agree. This is how genetic reasoning was employed by the Jewish leaders during the earthly ministry of Christ, and it is still being used by his enemies today. CRT is built on the genetic fallacy, as it judges ideas and truth claims as true or untrue, good or bad, right or wrong in light of their promulgators’ ethnic, gender, and socio-economic identity.
Non-fallacious genetic reasoning does not only discover and lay bare the origins of a particular truth claim, it demonstrates that there is unbroken link between the truth claim and its origin. When Christ identifies the Jewish leaders as children of the devil he demonstrates that they share essential properties with the devil (e.g. being liars and murderers). What the devil was from the beginning – namely, a liar and a murderer in whom there is no truth – is what his image bearing children are as well. Why did they object to Jesus’ truth claims? Because they were the works that come naturally to children of wrath.
The same holds true in our time. The underlying reason why men reject the faith is because of their identity in Adam. As postlapsarian Adam hid from God,8 so too do his descendants hide from God when he confronts them in their sin.9 As Cain pretended to be ignorant about the righteousness required of him by God, and of his failure to uphold God’s righteousness,10 so too do Cain’s descendants pretend to be ignorant about the truth, and their failure to believe in and uphold God’s truth.11 Simply put: Bad trees bear bad fruit. And it is because bad trees bear bad fruit that we must examine not merely an idea, but also demonstrate the unbroken link between that idea and its source of origin. This is precisely what we have sought to do when warning others about the anti-Christian philosophical foundations of Critical Race Theory.
1 cf. John 3:1-21.
2 The five Galilean prophets in question are Jonah, Nahum, Hosea, Elijah, and Elisha.
3 Some scholars argue that the overall perceptions of Galileans by the Jewish leaders was negative, as they were perceived to be unlearned and illiterate simpletons from the country.
4 Regarding the imago dei broadly considered, it is the case that all men bear the image of God as regards the communicable attributes of personality, intellect, and volition, but because of our death in Adam only believers share in the restored image of God/the image of the Son of God (cf. Col 3:1-10 & Eph 4:17-24).
5 “Calvin’s Commentaries,” Bible Hub, https://biblehub.com/commentaries/calvin/1_corinthians/2.htm, Accessed July 13, 2019.
6 http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cmt/gill/co1002.htm, Accessed July 13, 2019.
7 The First Letter to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2010), 135.
8 cf. Gen 3:8-10.
9 cf. Jer 49:7-10; Isa 2:10-11; Matt 25:25; Rev 6:15-17.
10 cf. Gen 4:9.
11 cf. Prov 24:11-12; Mal 1:2, 1:6-7, 2:13-14, 2:17, 3:13-14; Matt 21:23-27.