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What should you do if a pastor ever tells you to repent of your 'whiteness'?

Kevin DeYoung
Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor of Christ Covenant Church, a Presbyterian Church in American congregation based in Matthews, North Carolina, giving an address at the Gospel Reformation Network conference, held May 5-6, 2021 at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama. |

Last week I attended the biannual — and final — Together for the Gospel (T4G) conference. Started by Mark Dever, Al Mohler Jr., Ligon Duncan, and C.J. Mahaney in 2006, the goal of the conference over the last 16 years has been to gather pastors together for a time of encouragement through sermons, singing, and fellowship.

The hope was that the conference could live up to its name, bringing Christians and pastors from around the world “together for the Gospel” — that is, centered on a fellowship grounded in a shared understanding of the key doctrinal commitments of the true Gospel found in the Scriptures, which (ideally and normally) would transcend denominational and ecclesiological differences.

Despite doctrinal disagreement and opposition that I have with some of the previous speakers, I have a personal friendship with the founder of the conference, Mark Dever, who is a man I love and respect. I don’t agree with Mark on everything, of course, and we may weigh the threats facing the American church differently, but Mark led me to the faith and has served as a spiritual father and mentor to me for the last decade.

While other parts of evangelicalism have also suffered conflict over compromise related to sexual ethics, the role of women in the Church, and so on, I think it’s fair to say that the main issue that has disrupted T4G in a variety of ways since 2016 has been the issue of “race in America” and how pastors, Christians, and churches should respond in the wake of national events like the deaths of Michael Brown, George Floyd, and others. Perhaps most infamously, David Platt used his sermon in 2018 to chastise the room full of pastors about the demographic makeup of their churches, despite the fact that the vast majority of them probably serve in communities that are 90% white (if not higher). 

With that as background, I want to share with you some of the highlights of what Kevin DeYoung, a Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) pastor of a church in North Carolina, had to say about how Christians should approach CRT on the (aptly named) panel entitled, “Why We Should Be Critical of CRT.” 

The highlight of the CRT panel

The panel was pitched as a time to “raise issues of CRT that have been so hot” in the evangelical world and beyond.  Dever asked DeYoung and Bobby Scott, pastor of Community of Faith Bible Church in California, to address how pastors can keep the Gospel central and engage with CRT. 

But that’s not entirely what happened. The dynamic of the panel, and the conversation that ensued, broke down essentially like this: DeYoung directly addressed issues with CRT, while Scott shared his personal biography and familial history dealing with racism and the experience of being a minority in America.

At the outset of the panel, Scott rightly noted that pastors don’t need to be experts on every legal theory or ideology out there, but they do need to be “experts in the Bible.” I think he’s spot on there. He also rightly exhorted those present that “we have to filter everything through the Bible — whatever ideology, left or right, we have to filter through the Word of God.”

Then Dever transitioned to DeYoung, who argued that CRT, according to its own admission and definitions, presents a “revisionist view of American history” where white people have only ever supported efforts to reduce racism in this country when it serves “to work to their own benefits.” Of course, that’s not true, but that’s what CRT practitioners want us to think. DeYoung effectively summed it up like this: As CRT-infected thinking has swept across our nation we have traded a “hagiography of American history” for a “hamartiography of American history.” In other words, instead of looking at our past and seeing it full of “saints” (that’s hagiography), it’s full of irredeemable sinners (that’s the hamartiography).

Next, he rightly noted that CRT presents the “presumption that disparities by definition are the result of racism.” This is a really important point of contention. Are all racial disparities the result of discrimination? Or are some racial disparities due to any number of different factors? The answer, of course, is the latter. And he rightly encouraged pastors there to reject CRT’s “monocausal explanations for racial disparities” in our nation, which are “bound to be incorrect.” 

A third point DeYoung raised, “the most damaging of all,” is that CRT “pushes us in a direction that is not Gospel … Rather than pushing us to see all the things that we most have in common with one another … CRT pushes an aggressive color-consciousness.”

DeYoung characterized this aggressive color-consciousness as antithetical to the emphasis Gospel ministers should have. Instead, Christians should acknowledge that “we all have the same sinful nature from Adam” and the answer to sin, racism, partiality, what have you, is the same and singular message of Jesus Christ. That Gospel hope, which is what brought even this conference together, is what we should focus on, because as Christians that is what we have most in common — and CRT purposely distracts us from that. 

A deeply troubling anecdote

Reflecting further on the disconnect between the media presentation of race relations in America and the reality on the ground, DeYoung argued, “Objectively, at no time in American history has there been less racism … not no racism … but racism is so stigmatized.” Then he asked, “Why is it in a time when there is less institutional and personal racism than ever before … we see mainstream news outlets … talking about it more than ever before?” Good question, Kevin. 

As DeYoung was interrogating this sense of “hopeless” that Christians are beginning to feel over what to do about the picture the media and CRT paint of race, he recounted how a white couple came to his church one recent Sunday, “and it’s just their own anecdote, maybe they are inaccurate, but they said, ‘Our church, a white pastor, has been telling us to repent of our whiteness.’”

This anecdote should not go unnoticed. It’s one of the more jaw-dropping revelations from T4G 2022. Christians, forgiven in Christ, are being told by their pastors in presumably orthodox evangelical churches to “repent of their whiteness.” 

DeYoung went on to explain how this couple shared that they want to be faithful, to repent of any racism, of any partiality, but they are, in fact, white — and they have no idea how to “repent of their whiteness.” They had to presume that they are just “white supremacists now.” 

Sadly, as CRT has infected many Christian churches, more and more “good, ordinary, faithful people” will be made to feel and bear this impossible burden and be asked to repent of the sin of simply being born white.

What should you do if your pastor tells you to repent of your whiteness? 

This leads me to my final point, and really my one-sentence summary of the entire panel: If a pastor ever tells you to repent of “your whiteness” — run. It’s time to find a new church. 

Why do you need a new church if this is what you hear from a pastor? Because if any pastor is demanding that you repent of something that’s not a sin — being white — as if it is a sin, then they clearly don’t understand the Bible, the Gospel, or sin in the first place. 

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). The Chief Shepherd doesn’t tie up impossible burdens on the backs of His sheep, demanding that they repent of how they were born. No, He says to come to Him and find rest. 

Want to know how to spot a fake pastor real fast? Hold their teaching up to this test: Do they point you to Jesus to find rest? Or do they point you to CRT to find condemnation? If the latter, it’s time to pick up your Bible, stand up from those pews, gather your family, and get out of there.

DeYoung said Christians should be critical of CRT. I agree. I would take it one step further, however. Christians must reject CRT because it is fundamentally at odds with biblical Christianity. There may be room on your bookshelf for some CRT to be critically read as an intellectual exercise, but there shouldn’t be any room for CRT in the pulpit of Gospel-preaching churches. God’s Word, and God’s Word alone, must rule within His Church.

God’s Word tells us to repent of sin — and only sin — and to find salvation in Christ, and Christ alone. That’s a message of hope that this burdened world desperately needs. Let’s all hope and pray that pastors, across the country, can be together in that until Christ comes back. 


Originally published at the Standing for Freedom Center. 

William Wolfe served as a senior official in the Trump administration, both as a deputy assistant secretary of defense at the Pentagon and a director of legislative affairs at the State Department. Prior to his service in the administration, Wolfe worked for Heritage Action for America, and as a congressional staffer for three different members of Congress, including the former Rep. Dave Brat. He has a B.A. in history from Covenant College, and is finishing his Masters of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Follow William on Twitter at @William_E_Wolfe

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