Who’s Afraid of Critical Theory?

Christopher Watkin is an expert in cultural theory – and thinks the Bible yields the best one we've got.

“If all we think of when we hear the term critical theory is something like critical race theory, then we tend to think of ourselves as some sort of SWAT team parachuting down into society to deal with one particular spot fire, and then airlifting ourselves out at the end of it – without realising that there are lots of different ideas in culture that are connected with each other and that rely on each other and that sort of form an ecosystem. And in order to understand any particular part of it, you’ve got to see where it fits in the whole.” 

Does the term “critical theory” or “cultural theory” make you nervous – or make your eyes glaze over? Christopher Watkin, a lecturer at Monash University and author of the book Biblical Critical Theory (and a CPX Associate), argues that theory isn’t just for academics, nor merely a political hot potato. He says it’s about reading the world and everything in it – which makes it an everyone thing. 

“That’s the origin of cultural critique, isn’t it? It is the ability to say not simply ‘I don’t like things as they are’, but things as they are are either unjust or not right or cruel.” 

In a conversation that touches on globalisation, the profit motive, radical justice, the nature of society, and a God of “superabundance”, Chris makes the case for why he thinks looking at our culture through the lens of the Bible makes the most sense of reality as a whole. 



Christopher Watkin, Biblical Critical Theory