David Barton is Going to “Call Me Out”

22a3a-davidbarton-blackrobesEarlier today someone sent me a link to a “Periscope” video of David and Tim Barton talking about the work of Wallbuilders, an organization, founded by David Barton, “dedicated to presenting America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on the moral, religious, and constitutional foundation on which America was built – a foundation which, in recent years, has been seriously attacked and undermined.”

Ever since evangelical historians debunked Barton’s book The Jefferson Lies for its historical inaccuracies he has been suggesting that these historians have been nothing short of brainwashed by their secular teachers at the universities where they did their graduate degrees.  He has even published a list of acceptable schools–places where students will receive a Bartonesque view of American history.  There are not very many schools on the list.

I am not technically savvy enough to embed this video, but we have provided a transcript of a portion of the presentation that starts around the 21-minute mark.

Tim Barton: We will be very specific not to bring something up or expound on something that we do not have original sources…there has been such an indoctrination for so long of the wrong stories, of the wrong ideologies and so the question we always ask is “what is the source of the information, what is the original document you can link that to…?” Most professors, they don’t have original sources, they have ideas, they have their stories but it’s not rooted in truth.  So we always want to go back and say “here’s the original document, here’s what George Washington actually said, here’s what Thomas Jefferson actually said.”  And so our stories are based on the actual document…and if we can’t find an original source then we usually don’t use it…because we want to make sure whatever we’re saying we can bring it back to truth with original sources.

David Barton: Right now, actually, we’re calling out a number of Christian college professors who are very, very bad at what they’re teaching…we are doing a serious of articles…John Fea, who is at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, just did a piece talking about how the founding fathers did not want ministers involved in politics or holding office.  I’ll take that picture over there [pointing to a picture off-camera] and show you how many of the signers of the Declaration were ministers.  He [Fea] said the founding fathers didn’t want ministers–the founding fathers were ministers in office.  So they’re doing this to keep secularizing history and to keep Christians from being involved. So we will call out Fea, we will call out all these other profs who are doing the same thing….

People say “why do Christian profs do that?”  Well, Luke 6:40 [says] “Every student when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” These guys were all taught by Ph.Ds from Harvard and Yale and all these other secular schools, so they’re just like ’em now.  They may be Christian.  They may have their fire insurance.  But they don’t think right.  So that’s what we try to do.

Several thoughts:

  1. My name is pronounced Fee-ah (rhymes with female name Tia or Mia).
  2. Any historian-Christian or otherwise–would say that Tim Barton’s comments about original documents are absurd.  First, all historians work with original sources and try to draw conclusions based on those sources.  Second, one does not have to physically own a copy of the document in order to read and interpret what it is saying. This is why historians visit archives, publish edited collections of primary sources, and place primary sources online at respectable sites.  I hear David Barton talk about the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution all the time.  Perhaps he can produce his original copies of these documents.  He also talks a lot  about the Bible.  Does he have a copy of the Dead Sea Scrolls in his Aledo, Texas office?  If he does, I am impressed.
  3. The piece that Barton refers to in this video can be read here.  Barton does not respond to my evidence from the state Constitutions.  I apparently have little credibility because I don’t actually own a copy of these state Constitutions.  How dare I cite them. 🙂
  4. Let’s set the record straight for the hundredth time.  Only one member of the clergy–John Witherspoon of New Jersey–signed the Declaration of Independence.   Barton’s assertion that the signers were ministers is blatantly false.  Witherspoon was the only one.  Barton has been peddling this lie for a long time.
  5. I have never heard the Christian doctrine of “assurance of salvation” described as “fire insurance.”  Barton seems to be implying that as a person of faith I have done the bare minimum to escape the fires of hell.  Well, at least he thinks I Revisedam a saved.

Any attempt to respond to David Barton is an exercise in futility. We have fundamental differences about how one interprets the past.  I want to make those differences known and challenge my fellow Christians to think in a more historically responsible way.

By the way, have I mentioned that the Second Edition of my Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction will be released next month?  I would love to come to your church and talk about this stuff, especially if your church has some David Barton fans.

12 thoughts on “David Barton is Going to “Call Me Out”

  1. Being attacked and maligned by the pseudo-historian Barton that you are not a good historian because you do not agree with his faith-based worldview and interpretation of history is a badge of honor. The Barton people I encounter online are usually white Christian supremacists who love Barton for validating their bigotry.

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  2. John:

    I loved your point #2 on original sources !
    Could you be giving Barton too much credit in #5 ? He said “They may be Christian.” and you took it more generously as, “Well, at least he thinks I am a saved.” Maybe he doesn’t.

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    • I live in Barton country. When a Christian in this neck of the woods declares that another person only has “fire insurance” it’s a pretty serious putdown. Even people like Barton, who consider themselves to be expert authorities on everything, cannot unilaterally declare who is saved and who is not saved. People who do make such declarations would be subjecting themselves to public censure for claiming to know a person’s heart. So the next best thing you can do to putdown a person you believe is a “Christian In Name Only” (XINO) is to say they have “fire insurance” which generally means they responded to an altar call once and may have been baptized a long time ago but in no other visible way are they living out a Christian walk in their daily life.

      Because he has not had success discrediting you as a historian he has decided to subtly attack your Christianity, using this Christianese code to indicate to his followers that you and your ilk (Warren Throckmorton, etc) are XINOs and should not be regarded as true Christian authorities. You are no better than those pagan professors at Harvard and Yale. Probably worse because you hide behind a cross. Therefore, his followers should disregard everything you say as though Saul Alinsky himself had said it.

      I hope readers will remember that David Barton is not just a self-proclaimed historian, but he is also a Pentecostal Pastor who runs his own church in Aledo, TX. For a pastor to use words like this is extremely hurtful to the body and cause of Christ. He is deliberately trying to be insulting and divisive. It is anything but Christ-like. He should be ashamed to cast doubt on another person’s salvation while calling himself a shepherd. He doesn’t know anything about your walk with the Lord. Barton doesn’t just need to check his historical facts, he crossed a line with this statement and he needs to check his own heart as a pastor. He should apologize for that insulting statement or step down as a pastor. Shame on you Pastor David. You need to go back and read James 3:1.

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      • I’m totally stealing use of the term “XINO.” That is a fascinating perspective that made perfect sense as you explained it in your post. It reminds me of the time the pastor of my church (Missionary Baptist) disparaged the Methodist Church across the highway as not being “true” Christians because they allowed their women to wear pants to Sunday night services.

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  3. Recalling something I read some time ago about the quote Tom Van Dyke brings up, weren’t almost ALL the colleges in the colonial era founded for the training of ministers or primarily for religious training? If one wanted an advanced education in those days, was it not almost a requirement that one would have to attend a school whose primary purpose the preparation of ministers?

    On another note, what do I get with a second edition other than a change in the color of the cover?

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    • While these colleges did train ministers, and some were founded for that purpose, by the time of the American Revolution graduates of these colleges were going into all kinds of fields including medicine and law. The point here is not whether these men took courses in the Bible or theology or moral philosophy but whether they pursued a vocation in the church. For example, at Messiah College, students take required courses in theology, ethics, Bible, etc. but this does not necessary mean that they will become ministers. Finally, by the time of the American Revolution ministers needed extra training–usually theological study. To say that Benjamin Rush was a member of the clergy because he founded the Philadelphia Bible Society is a really strange assertion to make when the whole purpose of these societies was to get lay leaders engaged in Bible work. By calling most of the signers of the Declaration “ministers” Barton is manipulating the past. He is also degrading those men who were actual clergy. I would love to hear Barton say something about these state constitutions.

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  4. Are you serious about coming to churches? We would love to have you as speaker at some point, and, yes, we do have at least one vocal Barton fan who has been peddling his book among our church members.

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  5. I was thankful my Alma Mater escaped his “seal of approval.” Then again, the entire History department condemned the Jefferson Lies, so . . .

    After being blocked by Metaxes, I’m surprised I’m not on Barton’s list. Then again, I’m only a HS teacher who did a podcast about “David Barton and the End of History,” so maybe I’m not on his radar . . . yet.

    It seems that every time Barton speaks he provides an example of how not to do history.

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  6. On the whole I have found David Barton to begin with some kernels of truth then outkick his coverage, that is, overrun his evidence. For better or worse [worse, IMO], this is his argument.

    http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=100766

    How many signers of the Declaration were ministers?

    Many were trained as ministers, but at the time of the signing of the Declaration, only a few were active in ministry. For example John Witherspoon was serving as a minister at that time; Robert Treat Paine served as a military chaplain during the Revolution; and Lyman Hall had served as a minister before the Revolution; etc. However, there are many others who should also be noted for their ministry work, including Francis Hopkinson, a church music director and choir leader who edited a famous American hymnbook; Roger Sherman, who wrote the doctrinal creed for his denomination in Connecticut; Benjamin Rush, who started Sunday School in America and founded the country’s first Bible Society; James Wilson, who had been trained as a clergyman in Scotland but became an attorney, teaching students the Biblical basis of civil law; and many others. In fact, at least 29 of the signers had been trained in schools whose primary purpose was the preparation of ministers, including John Adams, Samuel Adams, Carter Braxton, Charles Carroll, William Ellery, Elbridge Gerry, Lyman Hall, John Hancock, Benjamin Harrison, Joseph Hewes, William Hooper, Francis Hopkinson, Thomas Jefferson, Francis Lewis, Philip Livingston, Thomas Lynch, Arthur Middleton, Lewis Morris, Thomas Nelson Jr., William Paca, Robert Treat Paine, Benjamin Rush, James Smith, Richard Stockton, William Williams, James Wilson, John Witherspoon, Oliver Wolcott, and George Wythe. They attended universities and seminaries of learning such as Harvard, Yale, William and Mary, Princeton, Cambridge, and Westminster.

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