Posts Tagged ‘david barton’

We are grateful that Kirk Cameron has apparently abandoned the fictional pre-millennialism of his early “Left Behind” productions.   In one recent lecture, he did a masterful job of comparing the plot of his “Fire Proof” film to the grand redemptive story that God is telling in history.

Kirk Cameron made it clear that he was talking about “redemptive” not only in the individual sense, but in the sense of God renewing the entire created order under the kingly reign of Christ.  The lecture pointed to the victory of the church in history prior to the second coming, which the Bible clearly foretells in Psalm Two and many other passages.

For example, Is. 2:2 predicts that “…in the last days, the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief … and all the nations will stream to it.”  Hebrews 1:2 informs us that the “last days” referred to began with the first advent of Christ.

More recently Kirk Cameron has turned his considerable talents to production of a documentary on American history.   MythBusters’ initial impression was that this project is perpetuating the historical “bait & switch” technique which is so common among the contemporary Christian defenders of 18th Century Federalism.

Further investigation confirmed our initial impression.  This new documentary, “Monumental,” unfortunately is another disappointing addition to the same shop-worn genre of Christian Constitutionalism.  This includes Gary DeMar, David Barton, Peter Marshall, Marshall Foster and a host of others.

MYTH:  The Constitutional framers of 1788 perpetuated the form of Biblical government established by the Puritan forefathers in the 1600s.

This sophisticated bait & switch technique is based on a monumental non-sequitor (pun intended).   First establish the Christian character and Biblical form of government of the early American colonists, which is true and accurate.   This is not difficult to do and is very emotionally and intellectually appealing to a Christian audience.

Most of the colonial constitutions were written covenant documents with the Triune God and required a religious test oath of public officials.  They did not just swear symbolically on the Bible, they swore to the Bible and God an oath to govern by it’s laws.  In some cases – like the Massachusetts Body of Liberties – Mosaic case law is actually written into the document word-for-word.

But then you throw in the non-sequitor.  Draw the illogical conclusion that the drafters of the United States Constitution shared the same faith and vision for Biblical government as the Puritan fathers.  Follow that up with the problematic claim that the United States Constitution is a faithful representation of Biblical principles of Civil Government.

Historical “Bait”

The “Monumental” kick-off cruise of the Northeast coastline is apparently designed to accomplish phase I described above.  According to this promotional piece, the focus of the voyage is to be on Pilgrim America.

Now you can experience Monumental as you join Kirk Cameron, Marshall Foster, and Gary DeMar as they retrace the steps of the forefathers and visit the historical sites, monuments, and locations of the Pilgrims. Every step of the journey will be filled with in-depth teaching, soul-stirring narratives, and unforgettable experiences.

There’s also an unanswered question about the lasting influence of the Puritans.  For a variety of reasons a Declension occurred among the Massachusetts Puritans that left a secularized skeleton of the original colony.   By 1700 the devout Puritan had been transformed into the self-sufficient, and secularized Yankee. Christian Federalists such as Kirk Cameron apparently overlook the unfortunate influence of the Puritan Declension.  The tract goes on to say….

….there’s no question the tiny band of religious outcasts who founded this country hit upon a formula for success that went way beyond what they could have imagined. How else can you explain the fact that they established a nation that has become the best example of civil, economic and religious liberty the world has ever known?  

Even the Great Awakening of the 1740s did not revive Puritanism after the Declension.  The Puritan vision of Christendom as A City Set On A Hill, was not rekindled in the pietistic, individualism that characterized the preaching of the Great Awakening.  Thus, it could not have been passed to the framers of the American Constitution.

Historical “Switch”

The monumental non-sequitor comes at that point in the film itself where the producer  travels to Texas to meet up with David Barton, “the leading expert” on the subject of the founding fathers.  Kirk wants to know if the Framers shared the same faith and vision of the Puritans, apparently unaware of the fact that David Barton is a master of the historical bait and switch.

After an interesting show & tell in David Barton’s library, he leaves with the conclusion that “the founding fathers did not ditch the faith.”  This conclusion is not based on any Biblical analysis of the Constitution itself.  Rather, Kirk Cameron appears to have been overwhelmed by the deluge of secondary source material in the Barton library.

Case Closed:   MythBusters concludes that the  “Monumental” film project is another victim (and now perpetrator) of the historical “bait & switch,” related to the drafters of the United States Constitution.   MythBuster Rating:  Given the proven inaccuracy of his research (cf. August, 2012 Archives), any documentary that relies so heavily on a David Barton interview is automatically awarded the MythBusters’ Red Flag.  Viewers should approach this film with great caution because of  its failure to evaluate the historical data from a Biblical standpoint.

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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.