On occasion cars get recalled because of a threat to the physical health of their owners, but it is rare that a book gets recalled because of a threat to the spiritual health of its readers.
Yet that’s exactly what happened to self-proclaimed “Christian history expert” David Barton of Wallbuilders when he recently tried to whitewash the image of Thomas Jefferson for Christian readers. His book, The Jefferson Lies, reputed to expose alleged myths about American founder Thomas Jefferson, was recalled by the publisher August 10.
Nashville based publisher Thomas Nelson cited “historical errors” and stated that “it was in the best interest of our readers to cease its publication and distribution.” The recall was prompted by complaints from a group of conservative scholars and from a group of Cincinnati ministers.
MYTH: Even the most heretic of America’s founders may be enlisted to prove a Biblical worldview in America’s founding documents because they were constrained by the prevailing Christianity in the culture.
For years Wallbuilders’ spin of American history has been an embarrassment to the evangelical church, but David Barton consistently got away with it. Wallbuilders preys on an historically ill-informed Christian public. MythBusters was gratified with the news that they were finally called on the carpet.
As one lay reader admitted before the recall, “…from what I’ve read from the “academic” detractors, I find Barton’s positions to be more compelling. That may be because I want to believe in the goodness of the Founders.”
Wanting to believe the best, most Christians will give groups like Wallbuilders the benefit of the doubt and are consistently misled. Christian apologists for the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution like David Barton typically rely on the supposed Christian convictions of the founders to prove that these are Christian documents.
They seem willing to go to almost any length to create this impression, including attempts to “baptize” the image of even the most heretical of the founders like Jefferson and Franklin. It’s like washing a pig and expecting him to stay clean.
Volumes could be written to demonstrate that Jefferson was no friend of the evangelical church, but MythBusters will summarize just a few points here from our investigation.
- Jefferson was a self-professed Unitarian and Epicurean. These are hardly philosophies compatible with the Christian religion.
- It is not Jefferson that the Left has sought to denigrate as David Barton contends, but rather the Christian conservative caricature of Jefferson, of which Barton is typical. It was after all the New Deal Democrats who adorned the currency and coinage with Jefferson’s profile. They also carved his image in stone at Mt. Rushmore and erected a shrine in his honor at the nation’s capitol.
- No matter how David Barton tries to sugar-coat it, the fact remains that Thomas Jefferson did excise the miracles of Jesus from the New Testament in his notorious Jefferson Bible. In so doing he stands condemned by the New Testament itself which warns, “if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book” (Rev. 22;19).
- Christian leaders of Jefferson’s era were not buying Wallbuilders’ version of Thomas Jefferson. Pastor Timothy Dwight, president of Yale University, was a prime example of those detractors. During the campaign [of 1800] Dwight took advantage of his pulpit to rain fire and brimstone on Jefferson. He said, “Can serious and reflecting men look about them and doubt that, if Jefferson is elected, those morals which protect our lives from the knife of the assassin, which guard the chastity of our wives and daughters from seduction and violence, defend our property from plunder and devastation and shield our religion from contempt and profanation, will not be trampled upon? For what end? That our churches may become temples of reason, the Bible cast into a bonfire, and that we may see our wives and daughters the victims of legal prostitution?” (Gregory W. Hamilton, The Revolution of 1800)
- Most freemasonic organizations claim Jefferson as a leading member of the craft and he was in full sympathy with their revolutionary aims. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the Jacobin-inspired French Revolution and endorsed its lawless, bloody purge, which claimed 14,000 victims. He welcomed Citizen Genet to America with the words, “All the old spirit of 1776 is rekindling.” In other words, he saw the same spirit in the American Revolution as that which animated the French. Citizen Genet is said to be the guiding force behind the Whiskey Rebellion.
- The bottom line is that the best assessment of an individual founding father is a careful analysis of what they gave us. For one thing Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence draws its inspiration and authority from the autonomous mind of man (self-evident truth) rather than the Bible. For another, the Bible knows nothing of “inalienable rights,” but rather declares man to be “dead in sin” from conception and responsible to God’s law, with blessing dependent on obedience. The reader is referred to another article on this site for a more in-depth treatment of problems in the Declaration of Independence.
Case Closed: It does nothing for the Kingdom of God to pretend that infidels like Thomas Jefferson were in any way a friend of the church. The very words that Wallbuilders employs in praise of Jefferson – “classical Renaissance man” – are the words that condemn him from a Biblical perspective. The philosophy of the Renaissance was anti-Biblical to the core.
MythBuster Rating: Blue Flag to Thomas Nelson for integrity in publishing and Wallbuilders gets our Red Flag. David Barton’s writing should be approached with extreme caution by evangelical readers.