Monday, May 26, 2008

The Danger of David Barton

In light of some of the recent discussions on religion that this blog has witnessed, I thought you might all engage in a good debate over this topic.

Over the past few years, I have maintained a serious problem with the "history" of David Barton. Barton's blatant bias, combined with his lack of historical integrity shocks me. Don't get me wrong, I believe that there are some GREAT historians out there who embrace evangelical teachings, but Barton's agenda is so transparent that I cannot see how people take him seriously. I realize that my saying this might be construed as insensitive or insulting. By no means am I trying to be this way. In fact, I think it is important for you all to know that I embrace evangelical teachings myself. With that said, however, I cannot believe a word that comes out of David Barton's mouth, when he talks about history. Where is his training? Certainly it is not in history.

Arguably the most ridiculous claims made by Barton come from his book, America's Godly Heritage, where he states that 52 of the 55 signers to the Declaration of Independence were "orthodox" or "evangelical Christians." Are you kidding me??? In a wonderful critique of this ridiculous book, one writer states, "Barton does not cite any authority to support this assertion. Indeed, the weight of scholarly opinion is to the contrary." In another critique of Barton's assertions (done by the Baptist Joint Committee For Religious Liberty) Barton is severely chastised for his lack of historical integrity and for his more-than-ridiculous claims. And here is yet another brilliant rebuttal of Barton's falsehoods, which was written in Church and State Magazine in August of 1996.

As an Evangelical Christian, what aggravates me about the religious right (and Barton in particular) is the fact that SERIOUS scholarly inquiry and discovery are completely rejected in the name of "Christian" values. Facts are often distorted, ignored or even altered simply to "fit" a particular agenda or belief. This sentiment of theological arrogance, which is used to trump sincere intellectual inquiry is one of the main reasons why so many in the mainstream community have a problem with the religious right today. If Barton would cease to publish such rubbish, which is blatantly false and biased, perhaps people would feel differently.

This video is a perfect example of Barton's ridiculous "historical" claims:

51 comments:

Raven said...

David Barton is not a historian. He is nothing more than a right-wing radical. Those who put stock in his "research" are diluted themselves.

Jonathan said...

Agreed. For real evangelical Christian scholars, folks should turn to Mark Noll, Nathan Hatch and George Marsden, authors of "The Search For Christian America." Gary Scott Smith of Grove City College has a new book out on faith and the Presidency, published by Oxford, that is likewise notable.

On a related note, Chris Rodda has also done some meticulous review of Barton's work; although she has sort of a shrill tone about her. Her criticisms of Barton are extremely harsh.

Barton gets attacked quite a bit; and I've done some attacking of him myself. I think he's brought a lot of the attacking on himself though.

That he's not some nobody from Podunkville, but is immensely influential in certain evangelical circles (i.e., the "homeschooled" crowd) has made it inevitable that his "research" would be put under the microscope and there would be a backlash against his claims.

Brad Hart said...

Interesting post, Lindsey. To be honest, I have never read any of Barton's material, so I am not qualified to comment on his perspective, bias, etc. I have, however, read a tremendous amout of criticism on the man, most of which is in agreement with what Lindsey and Jon have to say on this posting.

Perhaps some day I will get around to reading Barton. BTW, I agree with Jon when he mentions Mark Noll as being an EXCELLENT Evangelical scholar. I have enjoyed a number of his books.

Lindsey Shuman said...

Thanks for the info about Chris Rodda, Jon. I will definitely look into it.

Don't waste your time reading Barton, Brad. The reviews are sufficient to know where he stands.

I have never read any of Noll's stuff, but I hear great things about him. I'll put him on my "to read" list.

As far as Barton getting attacked quite a bit, as Jon mentions, I cannot feel bad for the man. He brings all of it upon himself. Perhaps if he chose to use a little common sense he would avoid such problems.

Jonathan said...

Here is her website. I can only 1/2 endorse the site. It's way too slanted towards the secular left for my tastes. Although it is amusing to read Rodda's harsh takedowns of Barton.

Our Founding Truth said...

Thank you for showing that video of Barton, I hadn't seen that one. I'd appreciate you or any of your bloggers show me who of the signers of the DOI were heterodox, besides Franklin, Jefferson, and John Adams.

Without smoking gun quotes, when a founder assents to the bible as authority, and approves the supernatural, it isn't wrong to call them orthodox Christians. After all, they are members of certains denominations that, approve of orthodoxy. So you're going to have to find clear statements rejecting orthodoxy, or you can't call Barton a liar.

Post a blatant lie, not something you disgree with. An unconfirmed quote by a Christian, is not a lie! It's unconfirmed until it's discovered, because it is in line with their other writings. By the way, on what basis do you claim James Wilson was not orthodox, that he wasn't apart of a church? Sorry, many Christians aren't members of churches.

Thanks again for the video.

OTF

Brad Hart said...

I guess I will have to read Barton for myself before I can agree with either Lindsey or Our Founding Truth.

Jonathan said...

To respond to OFT and his notion of "burdens" and "smoking guns," (which btw I blogged about here), in an era when orthodox Christian Churches held so much social power and folks were expected to affirm such tenets of orthodoxy, refusing to affirm those tenets and holding religious secrets arguably gives a presumption that one doesn't believe in orthodox Christianity, even if he affirms the supernatural and makes nominal references to the Christian religion and the Bible. This would mean for Madison, Wilson, Washington, G. Morris, and Hamilton (before his son died in a duel) we can presume their heterodoxy (deism, unitarianism/theistic rationalism, etc.) In other words people had a reason for keeping their religious secrets, secret!

Ultimately, when the case is hard and disputed (as it is with those figures) it shouldn't be a matter of simple presumptions and smoking guns but putting pieces of the puzzle together.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a historian, so posting the video without a point by point refutation (or perhaps a link to alternative information) doesn't help :)

Reminds me of my Dad, a mathematician, who would tell this joke with the punch line, "then the guy says, 'you don't square the hypotenuse'". Very few laughs.

Jonathan said...

Barton's work has been refuted over and over again on the Internet and the one's Lindsey linked to are more than adequate. If you want something that directly addresses the video, I'll probably do something new about the claims he made on James Wilson.

For instance, though it's true that Wilson invokes a higher "divine" law to which civil law ought conform, his Works hardly ever cite Scripture in determining the content of that divine law, but rather relies on rationalistic philosophical dithering. Indeed, Wilson was a rationalist who elevated reason over revelation and otherwise gives no evidence or Trinitarian orthodoxy. Here is a quotation from Works that Barton would not know how to deal with, that illustrates a political theology that is alien to Barton's "just look in the Bible for the answers" theology.

"These considerations show, that the scriptures support, confirm, and corroborate, but do not supercede the operations of reason and the moral sense."

-- James Wilson, Works.

Our Founding Truth said...

To respond to OFT and his notion of "burdens" and "smoking guns," (which btw I blogged about here), in an era when orthodox Christian Churches held so much social power and folks were expected to affirm such tenets of orthodoxy, refusing to affirm those tenets and holding religious secrets arguably gives a presumption that one doesn't believe in orthodox Christianity, even if he affirms the supernatural and makes nominal references to the Christian religion and the Bible. This would mean for Madison, Wilson, Washington, G. Morris, and Hamilton (before his son died in a duel) we can presume their heterodoxy (deism, unitarianism/theistic rationalism, etc.) In other words people had a reason for keeping their religious secrets, secret!>

Sorry Jon, that doesn't fly, you will need more than that. We can't assume anything, we have to go by what they wrote, in the case of Adams, we know he believed in original sin, and other doctrines, but he changed his views. You secularists are making a mountain out of a mole, if someone believes every tenant of orthodoxy, yet denies the Trinity. You harp on that, granted, he isn't truely born again, but, it's in the bible, a hundred times, you can't miss it, It's the same book, same God, different person. So, some founders denied one fundamental, and affirmed all the others, that's their problem; let's not assume, it's bad scholarship.

but putting pieces of the puzzle together.>

And the puzzle is clear on almost every framer; they were orthodox; there is nothing on Madison until after he helped form the nation, only affirmation of the bible, which is sufficient.

I'm not a historian, so posting the video without a point by point refutation (or perhaps a link to alternative information) doesn't help :)>

The video supports Barton, not attack him, that's why I asked, what are you referring to?

"These considerations show, that the scriptures support, confirm, and corroborate, but do not supercede the operations of reason and the moral sense."

-- James Wilson, Works.

I already refuted this, take it to any english comprehension scholar to look at, the context is the scriptures do not supercede reason, on what It DOES NOT SPEAK ABOUT, that is simple common sense. Reason is superior when the Bible is silent.

OTF

plum grenville said...

Tell me OTF, how exactly does the bible "support, confirm, and corroborate" those THINGS IT DOES NOT SPEAK ABOUT?

Lindsey Shuman said...

And the puzzle is clear on almost every framer; they were orthodox; there is nothing on Madison until after he helped form the nation, only affirmation of the bible, which is sufficient.

Are you kidding me, OFT? Have you ever heard of the "Memorial and Remonstrance? Jefferson and Madison were DEEPLY in collaberation over that document...hardly sounds like orthodoxy to me when I read it.

Anonymous:

I'm sorry that you did not click on my sources. I will be sure to include some additional ones, even though I don't think it necessary. Jon Rowe already cited more than enough.

Jonathan said...

Thank you Plum. I think it's quite clear from that passage that Wilson is saying revelation's role is to support the findings of man's reason, not the other way around.

Re Madison "supporting" the Bible, as opposed to having enigmatic religious beliefs, as James H. Hutson put it, examining Madison's writings:

Madison, on the other hand, defies definition or description. Seeking evidence of his faith quickly leads to the conclusion that there is, in the words of the poet, no there there, that in the mature Madison's writings there is no trace, no clue as to his personal religious convictions. Educated by Presbyterian clergymen, Madison, as a student at Princeton (1769-1772), seems to have developed a "transient inclination" to enter the ministry. In a 1773 letter to a college friend he made the zealous proposal that the rising stars of his generation renounce their secular prospects and "publicly . . . declare their unsatisfactoriness by becoming fervent advocates in the cause of Christ." Two months later Madison renounced his spiritual prospects and began the study of law. The next year he entered the political arena, serving as a member of the Orange County Committee of Safety. Public service seems to have crowded out of his consciousness the previous imprints of faith. For the rest of his life there is no mention in his writings of Jesus Christ nor of any of the issues that might concern a practicing Christian. Late in retirement there are a few enigmatic references to religion, but nothing else. With Madison, unlike Jefferson or any of the other principal founding fathers with the possible exception of Washington, one peers into a void when trying to discern evidence of personal religious belief.

Anonymous said...

You don't even need to go beyond the quotes shown in the intro of this video to find Barton's first deceptive use of a quote.

One of the three quotes shown in the intro is Jefferson's "History by apprising them of the past will enable them to judge of the future."

This shows the brazenness of Barton. He's using a quote that comes from Jefferson's explanation of why, according to his proposed plan, the Bible WOULD NOT be used as a reading text in Virginia's public schools.

What Barton quotes comes from Jefferson's Notes on Virginia, shortly after this: "Instead, therefore, of putting the Bible and Testament into the hands of the children at an age when their judgments are not sufficiently matured for religious inquiries, their memories may here be stored with the most useful facts from Grecian, Roman, European, and American history."

Jefferson, still talking about the choice of reading texts, goes on to say, "For this purpose the reading in the first stage, where they will receive their whole education, is proposed, as has been said, to be chiefly historical. History by apprising them of the past will enable them to judge of the future."

So, Barton is using a quote from what Jefferson said about NOT using the Bible in public schools in the introduction to a video series (the same quote is at the beginning of all 26 episodes) in which he argues that all of the founders said the Bible should be used in public schools.

Amazing.

Our Founding Truth said...

Tell me OTF, how exactly does the bible "support, confirm, and corroborate" those THINGS IT DOES NOT SPEAK ABOUT?>

That oracle inside you and every other person called the conscience, that's how. The Bible doesn't speak on every single problem we will face, so we are to use our conscience to determine the correct action, not ignore it.

hardly sounds like orthodoxy to me when I read it.>

Check out my blog on Madison, there are two posts.

Thank you Plum. I think it's quite clear from that passage that Wilson is saying revelation's role is to support the findings of man's reason, not the other way around.>

Like I said, take it to any english comprehension expert, I believe Jon has the incorrect interpretation.

Jonathan said...

I think we often need an English comprehension expert to decipher OFT's posts and correct his grammar. Tell me OFT, do you know the difference between "tenant" and "tenet"?

Hercules Mulligan said...

If I may interrupt the train of discussion briefly here, I think it is useless to debate whether or not Barton's material or method of determining conclusions is accurate, in order to decide the "Christian founding" issue. What historians point out is of very little weight, when we have the writings of the Founders themselves.

Personally, I have read Barton's work, and I think that he does use common sense, and he relies upon the original sources much more heavily than the mainstream historians tend to do. Just look at the bibliography and footnotes of his "Original Intent."

He also admits things that would be hard for a person to admit. He shows both sides of the picture. He shows how some of the Founders were not Christian, etc. He also had the gall to publicly abandon the use of several quotations by the Founders that he discovered were unconfirmed by their own handwritten papers. However, it is a lie that he made these quotes up, or that they are pure frauds; they may be, but for now, all we know is they are unconfirmed.

I have not been too impressed by the "rebuttals" of Barton's material on the websites introduced by Jon and Lindsey. Criticisms of professionals may satisfy some, but "my historian is better than your historian" debates are useless and irrelavent.

I do not need to rely on Barton or on any other historian to have evidence that our nation was built to rely upon Christian morals and a general Christian framework.

This is a rather short comment because I have not had much time to write. I renew my promise that I will continue to discuss these matters in my leisure.

BTW --
Jon, I agree that proper grammar and spelling are highly valuable and ought to be pursued and cherished, but I don't think it is right to ridicule someone for their grammar and spelling. Washington didn't have either in great supply, but he was the greatest American who ever lived. And faulty grammar and spelling didn't detract from his mental abilities or his judgment.

Lindsey: With all due respect, I ask you to carefully re-read the Memorial and Remonstrance. How do the following sound "hardly orthodox"? --

"Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offence against God, not against man: To God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered."

"Because the establishment proposed by the Bill is not requisite for the support of the Christian Religion. To say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian Religion itself, for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world: it is a contradiction to fact; for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them, and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence." (emphasis added)

These are just a few selections. More on OFT's blog. How can you call these unorthodox? Not only does he appeal to Christianity as authority for his opposition of the "religious support bill," but says that "we hold it to be of DIVINE origin," and that it survival was owing to the miraculous.

But now we need Madison to say, "And oh by the way, don't get me wrong -- I believe in the divinity and atonement of Christ, the Trinity, etc." before we can believe that, at least during the time that he penned this he was "unorthodox"???

Somehow we must conclude that because the Founders' didn't wear their faith on their sleeve they weren't Christians? Somehow their silence is inferred as "pieces of the puzzle that strongly suggest their heterodoxy"? Why can't we just use common sense, and assume that "Christian" really means "Christian" (which is synonymous with "biblical" and "orthodox") unless (as in the case of Jefferson) they themselves defined Christianity another way?

I'll present more on Madison later. He took some notes on the Gospels and the New Testament which are interesting.

Jonathan said...

Herc.

Fair enough with the grammar thing. My spelling grammar often isn't perfect; and it's really hard to completely extirpate all typos from one's pieces (which is what editors are for). Sometimes criticism pushes folks to improve an area which they are in need of improvement.

Re Madison and explicit evidence for his unitarianism, the following from a very prominent unitarian, George Ticknor, the Founder of the Boston public library, on Madison, is telling:

I found the President more free and open than I expected, starting subjects of conversation and making remarks that sometimes savored of humor and levity. He sometimes laughed, and I was glad to hear it ; but his face was always grave. He talked of religious sects and parties, and was curious to know how the cause of liberal Christianity stood with us, and if the Athanasian creed was well received by our Episcopalians. He pretty distinctly intimated to me his own regard for the Unitarian doctrines.— TICKNOR, GEORGE, 1815, Letter to his Father, Jan. 21 ; Life, Letters and Journals, vol. I, p. 30.

As I noted in the above linked post, Madison also appealed to Samuel Clarke, a reputed Arian and Anglican divine, as religious authority when asked to give his theological views. Yet, little from Madison's mouth one way or the other on what he really thought about the Trinity and related doctrines. These are reasons when dealing with America's Founders, I will not presume nominal references to Christianity like those found in the Remonstrance mean "orthodox Trinitarian," as opposed to some broader meaning.

Our Founding Truth said...

He pretty distinctly intimated to me his own regard for the Unitarian doctrines.— TICKNOR, GEORGE, 1815, Letter to his Father, Jan. 21 ; Life, Letters and Journals, vol. I, p. 30.>

Proves my point! The date is 1815, not 1785. The world has no proof whatsoever of unorthodoxy for Madison until the 19th century; he changed his views. The Memorial affirms the Bible, not parts of it.

OTF

Jonathan said...

It does not prove your point because there is no evidence that James Madison changed his religious views from the time he wrote the Remonstrance till the testimony of George Ticknor.

All the Remonstrance does is make a few nominal references to Christianity which are entirely compatible with the "unitarian doctrines" of "liberal Christianity."

Likewise when John Adams testifies late in age that he had been a Unitarian for 65 years (since around 1750) there is nothing in that testimony that evinces a "change of mind," but the opposite, that his religious views were consistent all those years.

Brad Hart said...

I also think it is worth noting the fact that Madison questioned Christianity in the notes he drew up during the debates in Virginia. His question, "What is Xnty?" has to make you stop and think.

Also, OFT's statement that Madison somehow changed his religion in the 1800 (thanks to Jefferson) doesn't hold up. Madison and Jefferson were in constant contact during the latter part of the 18th century. Madison even consulted Jefferson when he was writing his "Memorial and Remonstrance."

If you really want to point to a period in Madison's live where he changed his religious views, I think you have to go back to when he attended college in New Jersey. That seems to be the TRUE point in his life where he did change.

Lindsey Shuman said...

You secularists are making a mountain out of a mole, if someone believes every tenant of orthodoxy, yet denies the Trinity. You harp on that, granted, he isn't truly born again, but, it's in the bible, a hundred times, you can't miss it, It's the same book, same God, different person. So, some founders denied one fundamental, and affirmed all the others, that's their problem; let's not assume, it's bad scholarship.

OFT:

I think you are treading on VERY thin ice when you make statements like this. To say that secularists make a "mountain out of a mole" whenever they point to these HISTORICAL discrepancies actually shows the weakness in YOUR argument. Remember, the burden of proof is on YOU to prove YOUR point of view. After all, as you point out, if the founders denounced certain orthodox principles, we cannot call them ORTHODOX Christians.

Nobody is saying that the Founders were not religious. Of course they were. I would be shocked to hear anyone call them otherwise. However, just because they chose to embrace SOME orthodox principles, while rejecting others is AMPLE proof that the Founders were anything but orthodox.

I personally feel that the evidence strongly points to the fact that the majority of the MAJOR founders (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Monroe, Hamilton) were clearly Unitarian in their beliefs. They certainly cannot be classified as true Deists or orthodox Christians.

Trent said...

How could anyone consider Barton to be a legitimate historian? WHat really gets me about the religious right is the fact that they take historical data out of context, and then once questioned by a TRUE student of history, they do nothing but complain about "those darn liberals." What a ridiculous defense.

Here is the facts: Barton has used (on many occasions) sources that he later claimed to be bogus. He has had to repeatedly backtrack on so many stupid statements that it has become his full time job now. The historical community simply laughs whenever this guy opens his mouth. His claims are the equivalent of somebody delclaring that the British won the war. I mean...come on!

Our Founding Truth said...

It does not prove your point because there is no evidence that James Madison changed his religious views from the time he wrote the Remonstrance till the testimony of George Ticknor.>

That's disingenuous; every major authority claims Madison was a Christian, and orthodox his entire life. Not until the 19th century is there a smoking gun:

Because the policy of the Bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity. The first wish of those who enjoy this precious gift ought to be that it may be imparted to the whole race of mankind. Compare the number of those who have as yet received it with the number still remaining under the dominion of false Religions; and how small is the former! Does the policy of the Bill tend to lessen the disproportion? No; it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light of revelation from coming into the Region of it...Because the establishment proposed by…the Christian Religion itself, for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world: it is a contradiction to fact; for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them, and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence.
Memorial 1785

"Because the Bill implies either that the Civil Magistrate is a competent Judge of Religious Truth; or that he may employ Religion as an engine of Civil policy... The second an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation."
Memorial 1785

Madison understood eternal salvation is based on faith; the faith in orthodox doctrines brings salvation, not infidelity. Orthodoxy is what he was taught at seminary. Salvation at his seminary included belief in: Biblical Inerrancy (complete bible is inspired), Virgin Birth and Deity of Jesus Christ, Vicarious Blood Atonement for Sin, Death and Resurrection, Great White Throne Judgment, etc. There isn’t a shred of evidence James Madison denied any of these doctrines he learned at seminary.

"What is Xnty?" has to make you stop and think.>

Madison’s notes on his Memorial show he didn’t want courts or any part of government deciding which they might have to do if government aid were to go to teachers of “the Christian religion” only. This is also supported by the experts. He grew up with the Westminster Catechism; he knew what orthodoxy was.

Also, OFT's statement that Madison somehow changed his religion in the 1800 (thanks to Jefferson) doesn't hold up. Madison and Jefferson were in constant contact during the latter part of the 18th century. Madison even consulted Jefferson when he was writing his "Memorial and Remonstrance.">

Based on what I posted, and his comments on the Great Spirit, Jefferson did influence him.

whenever they point to these HISTORICAL discrepancies actually shows the weakness in YOUR argument.>

I have supported it, it is you have need to support your accusations of Barton.

However, just because they chose to embrace SOME orthodox principles, while rejecting others is AMPLE proof that the Founders were anything but orthodox.>

For smoking guns, beside the one's I've mentioned, who else out of the 300 or so?

Here is the facts: Barton has used (on many occasions) sources that he later claimed to be bogus.>

You mean facts from historians and Professors, hardly his fault.

His claims are the equivalent of somebody delclaring that the British won the war. I mean...come on!>

If you can't back up your statements with evidence, it's false.

Anonymous said...

From what I understand from historical research, the signers of the DOI did not want to place great emphasis on religion, as they had seen the havoc it had wreaked in the country so many had fled. The majority of signers, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, as well as John Adams adhered to a deist philosophy of God as a sort of creator who set things in motion, and the rest was up to us. This suited them well in the DOI because it allowed for individuals to practice their religion without fear of persecution, in its perfect form. These men with the exception of John Adams were also Masons.

Jonathan said...

"That's disingenuous; every major authority claims Madison was a Christian, and orthodox his entire life."

This is nonsense. Who is every major authority? I'll give everyone a hint; there are none.

Jonathan said...

Madison understood eternal salvation is based on faith; the faith in orthodox doctrines brings salvation, not infidelity. Orthodoxy is what he was taught at seminary. Salvation at his seminary included belief in: Biblical Inerrancy (complete bible is inspired), Virgin Birth and Deity of Jesus Christ, Vicarious Blood Atonement for Sin, Death and Resurrection, Great White Throne Judgment, etc. There isn’t a shred of evidence James Madison denied any of these doctrines he learned at seminary.

This perfectly illustrates reading things into the primary sources that aren't there, complete with the factual misstatement that Madison was a seminary student.

For a real historian's authority on Madison, here is James H. Hutson's summary once again:

Madison, on the other hand, defies definition or description. Seeking evidence of his faith quickly leads to the conclusion that there is, in the words of the poet, no there there, that in the mature Madison's writings there is no trace, no clue as to his personal religious convictions. Educated by Presbyterian clergymen, Madison, as a student at Princeton (1769-1772), seems to have developed a "transient inclination" to enter the ministry. In a 1773 letter to a college friend he made the zealous proposal that the rising stars of his generation renounce their secular prospects and "publicly . . . declare their unsatisfactoriness by becoming fervent advocates in the cause of Christ." Two months later Madison renounced his spiritual prospects and began the study of law. The next year he entered the political arena, serving as a member of the Orange County Committee of Safety. Public service seems to have crowded out of his consciousness the previous imprints of faith. For the rest of his life there is no mention in his writings of Jesus Christ nor of any of the issues that might concern a practicing Christian. Late in retirement there are a few enigmatic references to religion, but nothing else. With Madison, unlike Jefferson or any of the other principal founding fathers with the possible exception of Washington, one peers into a void when trying to discern evidence of personal religious belief.

And keep in mind that Hutson is supposed to be on the religious right's side in this battle. D. James Kennedy has featured him in his Christian Nation propaganda specials.

Our Founding Truth said...

"That's disingenuous; every major authority claims Madison was a Christian, and orthodox his entire life."

This is nonsense. Who is every major authority? I'll give everyone a hint; there are none.>

His preeminent 19th century historian Ralph Ketcham, as well as his 18th century historian.

Hutson is wrong! Is is common knowledge Madison graduated in liberal arts in 1771, stayed on and completed seminary training in hebrew and theology, in 1772. Make no mistake, in his theology class, he was taught orthodoxy.

Madison got gigs for all his college buddies who ALL wanted to be ministers around Virginia. With his orthodox friends he planned on going to the Presbyterian Synod in May 1774, only the intolerable acts stopped this and forced his hand into politics.

Madison was going to be a minister, and contrary to what Hutson says, his mind wasn't changed two months later, because he decided at Christmas to go the Synod.

OTF

Our Founding Truth said...

Madison was going to be a minister, and contrary to what Hutson says, his mind wasn't changed two months later, because he decided at Christmas to go the Synod.>

Hutson got his dates wrong. The Go in the cause of Christ quote was in Sept 1773. There is no evidence he had a heartfelt change of mind into politics, but that his hand was forced by the community and his family, supported by his continued interest in religious matters of the Synod in May 1774. His dad was the head of the correspondence team in his county.

There needs to be more smoking guns to claim Madison was not orthodox, of which, there is none.

Paul said...

"what aggravates me about the religious right (and Barton in particular) is the fact that SERIOUS scholarly inquiry and discovery are completely rejected in the name of "Christian" values. Facts are often distorted, ignored or even altered simply to "fit" a particular agenda or belief. This sentiment of theological arrogance, which is used to trump sincere intellectual inquiry is one of the main reasons why so many in the mainstream community have a problem with the religious right today."

Interesting comment. Don't you think it would be wise to keep this in mind when looking at the development of Christianity or even when considering the historicity of the Bible?

Jonathan said...

His preeminent 19th century historian Ralph Ketcham, as well as his 18th century historian.

I think I'll go with the interpretation of the chief of the manuscript division of the Library of Congress as opposed to someone who doesn't even know how to properly date centuries.

And by the way, Bishop Meade, a 19TH Century historian, had the following to say about Madison:

I was never at Mr. Madison's but once, and then our conversation took such a turn--though not designed on my part--as to call forth some expressions and arguments which left the impression on my mind that his creed was not strictly regulated by the Bible.

Yeah -- that's some testimony to Madison's "orthodoxy."

David Mabry said...

Now for another perspective, the founders were intelligent to leave religion out of the political sphere. They had enough trouble asserting their political rights and legally justifying a break with Great Britain. Our Founding Fathers were quite aware of how religious strife had torn Europe apart for centuries and was transported to our shores in the early stages of colonization, i.e. the French Huegonots and the Spanish Catholic massacres in Florida. The Jamestown site itself was chosen primarily for fear of Spanish attack.
Now, trying to paint these brilliant men into one particular denominational faith with such a broad brush will not work. Simply because a person claims Christianity as their faith does not make them an "orthodox". I will admittedly claim little knowledge of the minds of the founders on their own personal religious beliefs. I believe that no one can claim to have that knowledge. In fact, many of them may have left their views out of their public papers simply for strife that it may cause. What I do believe is that these brilliant men of thought were making their own faith journeys and reconciling their consciences with their faith. Even today all Baptist or Church of Christ communities may not necessarily conform to all of the tenets of their particular denomination. I visited several of these faith communities that were very different. It is safe to assume that the same could be said about the founders.
Is this making sense? A Unitarian stance may be safer to asuume, though, when it comes to tis group of men, as the British learned, it is not safe to make assumptions or to label them particularly.

David Mabry said...

Oh, kudos to Lindsey for starting such a lively debate.

Our Founding Truth said...

I was never at Mr. Madison's but once, and then our conversation took such a turn--though not designed on my part--as to call forth some expressions and arguments which left the impression on my mind that his creed was not strictly regulated by the Bible.

Yeah -- that's some testimony to Madison's "orthodoxy.".

I agree with that, what was the date of this event?

Refute the content, not mistakes in typing.

OFT

Brian Tubbs said...

Quick question...

Are we saying that anyone who is driven by an agenda or who has, on occasion, over-reached should be dismissed as "dangerous" and/or "bogus"?

That seems to be the standard that Lindsey, Jonathan, Raven, and others are applying to David Barton.

I just want to be clear on the standard, and make sure everyone here is comfortable applying that SAME standard across the board to others.

Let's be clear. And let's be consistent. Fair?

David Mabry said...

History as driven by political agendas is dangerous. The facts are often skewed to reach a predetermined conclusion or chosen to reflect a particular point-of-view. A fact that I can appreciate, particularly with Ellis, is that he lays out his method or even discusses bias or his own views which affect the historical narrative that he is presenting. "Historians" with an agenda do not, they simply soldier through their presentation of their "historical truth".
Obviously the contributors to this blog as well as most of the readers are scholarly enough to recognize a bias within a historical work. I teach my students to do this early, with our textbooks. I even tell them that I am teaching United States history as I understand it. They are welcome to challenge me, if they know their stuff. Otherwise, it is U.S. history according to Mr. Mabry

Hercules Mulligan said...

Lindsey,

I am not sure how familiar you are with Barton's work itself. It seems to me that you are taking most of your information from reviews and editorials about Barton and his work. The reason I say this is because you say that Barton's work America's Godly Heritage is a book, when it is actually a video. I think that if you were familiar with Barton's work itself (take a look at his book Original Intent), your criticism would not be so harsh; he relies on and quotes the Founders' own writings more than any other historian or biographer of the Founding Fathers I have ever read. Then glance at his bibliography. Any objective reader would conclude that he has certainly done some real research, and that he relies upon primary resources, not "biased" books by other people of the same beliefs as himself.

he states that 52 of the 55 signers to the Declaration of Independence were "orthodox" or "evangelical Christians." Are you kidding me???

OK, several problems right away. This first one is probably a typo, but in light of what I am going to say next, it is important: 55 men did not sign the Declaration; 56 men did. 55 men attended the Constitutional Convention, and Barton was talking about the signers of the Constitution (see the rebuttal you linked to afterwards).

And speaking of that rebuttal, here is how it "rebutts" Barton's claim. The substance of the rebuttal was basically a quote from Clinton Rossiter, which began, "Although it had its share of strenuous Christians..."

THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT BARTON WAS SAYING!!! Some rebuttal. Rossiter goes on to lessen the number considerably, but without using any primary resources or quotations to prove his point -- this is exactly what the author of the rebuttal was accusing Barton of! This is very hypocritical, I'm sorry, but it is. Please tell my why the point-blank claim of one historian is automatically better than the point-blank claim of another historian.

I think you should read at least one of David Barton's books, and check out the claims for yourself, based on primary resources, not contemporary reviews. After reading Barton and other historians, I think his credibility rate is far higher. I also think that too many times, secular scholars get by with a whole lot more baggage, but they always lash out at Barton when he says something that they disagree with. Take a look at this excerpt from a book by two distinguished scholars R. L. Moore and Isaac Kramnick. This is how their "note on sources" at the end of their famous book "The Godless Constitution" begins:

"Because we have intended the book to reach a general audience, and also because the material we have cited is for the most part familiar to historians and political scientists, we have dispensed with the usual scholarly apparatus of footnotes."

!!!!! Did you just see that??? They basically said, "We don't think that it's all that important that we list our sources; after all, many scholars are familiar with this information, and this book is meant for the general public [implying that all the general public needs is the work of scholars, not where those scholars got their information]. So, we didn't take the time to present our sources." The authors then listed some modern books by contemporary historians; no primary resources!

I call that brazen arrogance and hypocrisy. So don't everyone come along Barton-bashing. Do your own homework.

Pinky said...

THIS IS THE FOUNDING STATEMENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
.
Where is the reference to the Bible in that statement?
.

verandoug said...

You are an extremist, if I understand your point of view correctly and perhaps David Barton appears to be one too. The man is just trying to show the Christian values of the men that framed and wrote the Constitution. If those framers were here today, they would completely and utterly refute the abuse of power displayed by the judicial branch of government and the way it has written law from the bench that is neither voted on or by the people. The framers were extremists as well trying to go to an extreme to prevent the abuses they had witnessed in Europe where the church had authority to rule through police type action. We should all be free to find God and worship as we please without fear of retribution or discrimination and that is what they were trying to avoid, which is why they separated the church from the state. But to remove God from the history of this world and science is unconscionable and has produced a generation of renegade teenagers that have zero minus minus moral compass. The only religion taught is one of negativity and yet another extreme.

Vera

Anonymous said...

I just had to chime in to your "critique" of David Barton. You claim to be critiquing Barton's book "America's Godly Heritage," yet this title is not so much a book, but a transcription of the video of the same name (actually it's the one that you've posted as an 'additional' example of Barton's methods). The reviews you link to (which are both the same reviews, BTW) are critiquing the video, citing lack of citations as lack of credibility. Well, duh, show me a video that cites its sources as accurately as a scholarly work does and I'll show you a paperweight. The video MEDIUM is not conducive to such accuracy, if watchability is desired! However, Barton does cite some original sources (Records of Congress, NE Primer, Locke's Treatises on Government) to back up his points.

So, as it should, this video merely serves to whet the appetite of the inquisitive in the hope that they will read Barton's other titles, such as "Original Intent" and "Separation of Church and State" which (despite the concise nature of the latter title) are copiously noted. Barton's baiting you to go look for yourself at the original documents. It's all there. He cites his sources because he's confident in his conclusions.

If you want to tear him down don't only give us someone else's quotes to the contrary; you must also prove Barton's alleged overstatements and inaccuracies.

J Keith Johnson said...

This is an interesting thread. Much of the problem is that there was a heavy Christian influence in the founding of our nation; but the founding was not a Christian endeavor. This is why we have many references to "God" or "divine providence" in the writings of founders, but little discussion of Jesus Christ. If our founding documents or the writing of founding fathers are to be Christian, then the Jesus must be named; or at least Scriptural references must be made.
As a Christian, I wish that all our founding documents were clearly Christian; much as the Mayflower Compact was. But the simple truth is that deism is not Christianity, and our documents are deistic, at best, regardless of the Christian influence present.
Barton has some good materials. I've enjoyed them. But I also grow weary of him giving early America such a heavy Christian character as to lead us to believe that every day in the street was like a day at church. He simply takes it to far.
On the other hand, he has brought back some of the ideas and character of our revolution that had been lost and perhaps rewritten by reconstructionists who dismiss God on all fronts.

chuck said...

As a scientist, I might can lend a different perspective to this discussion. Feeling as though Barton has been given his fair due, I cannot overlook the half-truths, omissions and falsifications myself and others have found in his assertions. I am not going to argue over these as they have been covered ad nauseum here and elsewhere. His intent seems rather clear to me, as his general audience are the credulous and incredibly naive fundamentalists who would love nothing more than to abolish separation of church and state for their own selfish reasons. Little do they understand the freedoms they've enjoyed due to that same amendment.

Barton, as he sees it, has uncovered "the truth" and it's had such a mobilizing effect on him that he has what.... kept it between himself and the fundamentalists? I have never seen the man stand and debate his revelations with other (I use the term lightly) Historians or proponents of separation of church and state. What should this tell us?

If I were to find something that discredits our understanding of say, Newtonian physics, I'd submit my work and meet the world of academia head-on! Barton on the other hand, has found a very comfortable home (not to mention the living) in the churches and in talking to people who agree with his point of view, as it bolsters their own political & religious agendas.

You need only open your eyes to stop blindness.

Founding Fathers as "Christian" or not, this is no longer a Christian nation, it is a nation of many denominations and no-belief at all and to intermingle religion and government will only result in the oppression of civil rights and our Founders knew this all too well.

chuck said...

About 50% of these tea-partiers are on-board with Barton's ideology, so it's pretty much right there in our face right now. All history aside, the First Amendment is under attack and I think people, especially the History academia, need to wake up and start talking more about this guy.

Science has been under attack for years now... well, evolution, has. They don't seem to have a problem with gravitational theory or quantum theory or any other theory but evolution –one can only guess why. The difference is that the scientific community as a whole has been very vocal in bringing the "Intelligent Design" proponents into the spotlight and examining them for what they truly are. Never mind the impact Kitzmiller v. Dover had on national awareness of this battle for the minds of our children. Scientists have done an admirable job of standing up to frauds, of course we have our own validation process through peer review, so anything not submitted to peer review automatically throws up a red flag with us. But, we really need to see a more motivated effort from History academia. This, "I'll give Barton consideration once I get around to reading him" is just not going to cut it. The man's out there propagandizing his way into the mind of Americans and now, through the pulpit of Glenn Beck. It really is time to start mobilizing academics against this type of misinformation.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this encouraging post, and the comments here. I'm fresh from a committee meeting (of the vibrant, believing church I attend) trying to present corrective historical documentation against some of Barton's claims made in "America's Godly Heritage," which was recently shown at church.

I think it ultimately comes down simply to the fact that Jesus said He IS truth; and we have a scriptural mandate to "test the spirit" of teachers to see if they're coming from His Spirit, or that of (the one Jesus called) "the father of lies."

It grieves me that this man is teaching a false history of our country. I mourn for the American Church, that the lies and partisan enmity Barton ministers are so readily embraced as "Christian." Barton falsifies our history: worse, he falsifies our faith.

Anonymous said...

Have to add a comment on OFT's post of 05-28-08:

"when a founder assents to the bible as authority, and approves the supernatural, it isn't wrong to call them orthodox Christians."

This is a good example of the ideas by which Barton falsifies our faith. No one's "an orthodox Christian" except by confessing Jesus Christ.

Dr. Benjamin Rush gives a good example of that: "My only hope of salvation is in the infinite transcendant love of God manifested to the world by the death of His Son upon the cross."
(1948 edition "The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush," p. 166)

No doubt Washington "assented" to the Bible, and "approved" the supernatural. You can search his papers online at the Library of Congress site and the University of Virginia site (about 200,000 documents total) without finding any kind of Christian confession. By his voluminous papers, any honest historian would be unable to produce evidence that Washington was a Christian at all.

Anonymous said...

I understand the arguement against Mr. Barton has been waged based on historical integrity. So beit. He gets a D in Historiography. There is no doubt that he is pushing an agenda rather than simply researching for historical truth and nothing more. However I wish to throw a bit of a twist in this debate. I contend Barton is wrong not for his historical opinions, but rather on what most would call theological grounds, but I would simply say on scriptural grounds. I will leave it at that and let those who may still be viewing this blog to ask questions or contend with this. To make it most clear; Mr. Barton is wrong on a scriptual basis. 's greatest sin is that he is wrong on a scriptural basis.

Mobil Keluarga Terbaik di Indonesia said...

There is no doubt that he is pushing an agenda rather than simply researching for historical truth and nothing more.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

I don’t understand such harsh rejection of Barton’s work. Before I ever heard of Barton I collected pages of quotes by our founders from Brainy Quote and other sources that appear to support what Barton says so I don’t see what is so “ridiculous” about Barton’s claim. Apart from that: Do you believe that the books and other documents that Barton shows and claims to have are phony and don’t say what he says that they say? I support healthy skepticism but I think that your comments go beyond that.

Anonymous said...

Economic downturn? No, it's just the "jewish" moneychangers doing what they've said they'd do for a couple of millenia: They're engineering economic catastrophies so they can take possession of all the goyim's wealth and property. Goyim is the word "jews" use for us Gentiles; it means "human cattle". "Jews" have God's permission to rule over us human cattle with an iron scepter. Read about it:

http://talmudunmasked.com
http://100777.com/protocols
http://tinyurl.com/JewsFoundedCommunismPeriod
http://tinyurl.com/JewsAmericasWorstEnemies

YOU'D BETTER PULL YOUR HEADS OUT OR ALL WHITE ANGLO SAXON PROTESTANT NATIONS ARE DOOMED.