American History Jefferson Lies

Published on August 30th, 2012 | by Dr. Joel McDurmon

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Evil revisionism: Did Barton’s Jefferson get fair treatment?

[UPDATE Oct. 3, 2012: See end of article.]

David Barton’s latest book The Jefferson Lies promised to expose “the myths you’ve always believed about Thomas Jefferson.” These various myths—especially pertaining to Jefferson’s alleged “atheism” and “secularism”—are the result of twentieth-century practices of historiography which Barton calls Deconstruction, Poststructuralism, Modernism, Minimalism, and Academic Collectivism.

Barton intends to correct the errors concerning Jefferson that these practices have created, and in the process give us an antidote to the further use and effects of these practices.

Let me admit and say readily that a book like this is needed. I learned from reading Jefferson’s correspondence with Adams a long time ago that while Jefferson was hardly an orthodox believer (neither was Adams, by the way), he was certainly not the rabid atheist that many often portray him as.

For example, in a letter to Adams, August 22, 1813, Jefferson clearly affirms Unitarianism and denies the Trinity as one of many priest-manufactured “Platonic mysticisms.” He writes,

It is too late in the day for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticisms that three are one, and one is three; and yet that the one is not three, and the three are not one. . . . But this constitutes the craft, the power and the profit of the priests. Sweep away their gossamer fabrics of factitious religion, and they would catch no more flies. We should all then, like the Quakers, live without an order of priests, moralize for ourselves, follow the oracle of conscience, and say nothing about what no man can understand, nor therefore believe; for I suppose belief to be the assent of the mind to an intelligible proposition.

On April 11 of the same year, he had attacked John Calvin, even calling Calvin an “Atheist” (!), and yet at the same time, Jefferson affirmed an afterlife and final judgment:

So much for your quotation of Calvin’s ‘mon dieu! Jusqu ‘a quand’ [Lord, how long!] in which, when addressed to the God of Jesus, and our God, I join you cordially, and await his time and will with more readiness than reluctance. May we meet there again, in Congress, with our ancient Colleagues, and receive with them the seal of approbation ‘Well done, good and faithful servants.’

Now, modern Christians would recognize Jefferson here as placing his hope in a false God and false religion created out of human rationalism. But this view also refutes the claim that Jefferson was an atheist who believed in no god or gods at all.

But this is exactly the thing that gets Barton and many of his followers in trouble. For some reason, they harbor the tendency to overreach, to distort the evidence, and try to make Jefferson (as well as most of the other fathers) to be orthodox Christians who had a biblical worldview when nothing could be further from the truth. In the case of TJL, this tendency manifests many times, and even though it is interspersed with admissions that Jefferson denied the Trinity and held many other “unfortunate” positions, the bold claim that Jefferson was at any time “nothing less than orthodox” requires substantial evidence as proof, which we shall see is unfortunately nowhere near the case in Barton’s effort.

So while it is good to have a work which contains plenty of information to refute the more radical pro-atheist Jefferson critics, it is misleading and in fact damaging to the greater cause to stretch the truth and distort the image of Jefferson in the other direction.

Revisionism is needed in every generation and after ever movement. This is because the first historical writings are always skewed. These get revised by revisionists. But at every level in this process, agendas creep in. Further revisions are needed to revise the revisions of the revisionists.

Christians should not be afraid to enter this process. Indeed, we should be the best and most prominent leaders in the process of historiography. But we absolutely have to get over the fear of painting our heroes—and those who we want to make into heroes—warts and all. If Christians cannot stand and tell the whole truth bravely, we lose several important things:

1) We lose the moral high ground in criticizing liberals who distort history

2) We lose credibility when our own exaggerations are exposed publicly

3) With number 2, we lose influence in society

4) Most importantly, by papering over the deep faults of our revered figures, we lose the ability to chart the proper course forward.

In short, when we create a false reality of what a Christian and biblical society is or may be, we blind ourselves to the real changes and sacrifices we need to make. And in stretching the facts to create that false reality, we discredit ourselves and hand power and opportunity over to liberals to have free reign. But in the end, we have no one to blame but ourselves, because we have deceived ourselves, lied, and become complacent in the first place.

This is why I wish to offer an overview and partial critique of the important factual errors in Barton’s book. It is important that Christians see and understand the depth of these so they can have a true foundation from which to plan and to move forward.

The Controversy

The book initially flew off the shelves, reached the NYT Best Seller list, and went through several printings. Especially with the promotional help of Glenn Beck, Barton’s resurrection of Jefferson seemed to be a smashing success.

Then came the bad news. Early this month (August 2012), publisher Thomas Nelson abruptly announced they were ceasing publication of The Jefferson Lies (TJL).  World Magazine reported how this decision came about:

The Thomas Nelson publishing company has decided to cease publication and distribution of David Barton’s controversial book, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed about Thomas Jefferson, saying it has “lost confidence in the book’s details.” . . .

Casey Francis Harrell, Thomas Nelson’s director of corporate communications, told me the publishing house “was contacted by a number of people expressing concerns about [The Jefferson Lies].” The company began to evaluate the criticisms, Harrell said, and “in the course of our review learned that there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported. Because of these deficiencies we decided that it was in the best interest of our readers to stop the publication and distribution.”

The decision to pull the book was widely reported in the news. Liberals greeted with cheer and the sentiment (paraphrasing), “We knew Barton was a crank all along.” Some conservative historians were less gleeful and less harsh in rhetoric, but no less critical of Barton’s work in general.

One liberal, and the most outspoken activist against Barton, has been Warren Throckmorton of Grove City, College. Throckmorton has written a book-length response to Barton, and has been introduced by some as a professor of “a largely conservative Christian school.” This is highly misleading. Not only has Grove City long since gone “liberal” theologically, and largely secular academically, but the outspoken critic in question is himself not even an historian. Throckmorton is a psychology professor, and worse, one who specializes in “sexual identity” and lists as his interest “sexual orientation research.” He has mitigated this deficiency somewhat by having a colleague from the political science department co-author.

(Just for reference, some time ago LifeSiteNews.com outed Throckmorton for his practice of “sexual identity therapy” and for “endorsing same-sex civil union legislation, and claiming that homosexuals can live ‘normal, natural and healthy’ lives.”)

Thus this highly-referenced critic is not only not trained in historiography himself, but focused on an agenda which puts him at odds with Barton from the start. [For a correction on Dr. Throckmorton, see the UPDATE at the end of the article.]

More level heads have seen both good and evil at work in this whole debacle. I agree largely with Doug Phillips of Vision Forum, who wrote:

My first thought after reading about the withdrawal from Thomas Nelson was this: Something else is going on. Even if the accusations were true, this withdrawal is an unprecedented move against a giant of the Christian community by a company that publishes a broad spectrum of books, more than a few of which could easily come under scrutiny for containing inaccuracies.

Scott Lively had the same question, and offers these thoughts about the withdrawal of The Jefferson Lies from the market place and the smear campaign against David.

For the sake of argument, let us say that David’s book did have errors. Why not just fix them? Why drag David through the mud? Why not recall the book and fix it?

David and I agree on many things, but like all men who try to fine-tune our understanding of faith, politics, and theology, we have some differences as they apply to politics, history, and theology. I am not, for example, persuaded that Thomas Jefferson had a robust Christian faith. My present understanding resulting from the course of my personal studies over the last thirty years is that he was an unbeliever, but an unbeliever who benefited greatly from the common grace of God, and who operated in the context of a very distinctively Christian and Calvinistic understanding of politics and social order. But I have not read David’s book, and I am ready to be persuaded.

I hope that Thomas Nelson will reconsider their decision. More importantly, I earnestly pray that those forces which hate David’s many heroic stands, including his opposition to the homosexual agenda, will not be given a foothold as a result of what appears to me to be a rather flippant and incongruous decision to pull the book and issue such a negative public statement.

I disagree that the move was unprecedented, as I will cover in a moment. But I do agree that there is something larger going on here. It’s just that Barton’s book, as we shall see, virtually handed the liberals an opportunity to savage him as they did.

But perhaps you can see why a Throckmorton would take the opportunity to lead a crusade against Barton. Not considering this at first, I asked Throckmorton for a review copy of his book, so as to consider it as I offer my own critique of TJL. This was three weeks ago. As of the time of writing this article, I have received no response, and no copy.

What bothers me most, however, is that few of the reports of Thomas Nelson’s decision actually included any substance to show the alleged errors in Barton’s book. I have to admit, I did not doubt they were there, but just a couple of solid illustrations would have gone a long way toward justifying their decision to the public.

In the interest of doing this from a conservative Christian perspective (not leaving to the liberals’ public agendas), I offer the following critiques. I cannot cover the whole book (in the interest of time), so I have focused on one of the chapters most relevant to my ministry and background: “Lie #7: Thomas Jefferson Was an Atheist and not a Christian.”

Of course, any analysis like this requires one to define “Christian” and “Christianity” up front. Barton never does. So while it’s easy to show Jefferson was no “atheist,” the other side of the coin is left indefinite. In the end, as we know, Jefferson was a Unitarian. Barton argues that Unitarianism was considered a type of Christianity in its day, which implies that we can rightly call Jefferson a “Christian.” I would reject this notion outright. So you see, it all depends on definitions.

What’s more troublesome, however, is the tendency to argue that Jefferson was “orthodox.” When Barton crosses this line, I expect serious justification and argumentation. And here, Barton is at his weakest.

Examples

“Nothing less than Orthodox”

For example, Barton argues that the First Great Awakening impacted young Jefferson, and “for well over a decade after it, Jefferson’s writings and statements on religious faith can be considered as nothing less than orthodox.”(1) As his proof for this, Barton notes:

  1. When elected as vestryman in 1768, Jefferson promised “to conform to the Doctrine and Discipline of the Church of England.”(2)
  2. In 1776, Jefferson “affirmed that Jesus was the Savior, the Scriptures were inspired, and that the Apostles’ Creed ‘contained all things necessary for salvation.’”(3)

The first point is interesting, but not conclusive to the degree Barton claims. The promise made by Jefferson was a standard oath taken by vestrymen and was printed in many vestry books of the era. It was taken by many men—then as today—for whom the phrase “doctrine and discipline of the Church of England” was hardly taken to mean “after detailed study of the 39 Articles of Religion and assent to every detail in them.” Similarly today, elders are sworn in many churches agreeing to uphold either the Articles or the Westminster Confession, for example, and yet hardly any has even read them, let alone could expound them, and most would disagree with many elements, or consider the theological quibbles and curiosities. In short, without anything from Jefferson about what he understood that phrase and those doctrines to mean, we cannot conclude one way or another. And we don’t have that, at least not at this point in his life.

Keep in mind that in 1768, Jefferson was fresh out of law school, unmarried, and a bare 25 years old—hardly the image of the wise vestry member. He was likely selected for his connections and intellectual reputation. But of the orthodoxy of his personal opinions—despite his taking the routine vestryman’s oath—we have little to nothing written. It would be years before Jefferson wrote anything substantial on religion.

In 1776, as Barton notes, Jefferson wrote his personal “Notes on Religion,” but this is where Barton’s claim gets most egregious. He says these notes reveal that Jefferson personally “affirmed” that Jesus is Savior, the inspiration of Scripture, and that the Apostle’s Creed taught “all things necessary for salvation” (this would include, of course, the Trinity and the virgin birth of Christ). Is this true?

Turning to Jefferson’s “Notes” we do find such statements written, but they are not affirmations of Jefferson’s. They are, as the title of the work says, “notes”—in particular they are notes of other people’s affirmations, many of which contradict each other.

For example, in these notes Jefferson does refer to “our Saviour,” the “holy Scriptures,” and the Apostles’ Creed that contains “all things necessary to salvation.” But these are clearly in the context of descriptions of other people’s views.

In particular, Jefferson is making notes on the works of John Locke and the Earl of Shaftesbury—both very popular works on religion at the time, but also very rationalistic and unorthodox works as well. This is especially true of Shaftesbury’s work, and it is this work to which Jefferson devotes the vast majority of his attention in these notes.

The nature of Jefferson’s notes being so, Barton’s presentation of these comments as beliefs that Jefferson “affirmed” is simply untenable. It’s simply wrong, and as a piece of historical scholarship, it is beyond naïve, it is beyond a high-school level mistake. Among the first questions one should ask when interpreting a primary source document is “What is the nature of this document?” What is it, what is the context of it, why does it contain the text that it does in the way that it does? These are fundamental questions a historian would ask, and it does not appear in this case that Barton did.

Nevertheless, he rushed to present the text of this document as evidence of a highly controversial and radical claim—that Jefferson was nothing less than orthodox—and in doing so badly distorted its nature of context.

In some places, Jefferson’s comments are so taken out of context that Barton has to leave out actual words from the original quotation itself in order to make the case he presents. Note in particular Barton’s selective quotation of “contain[ed] all things necessary to salvation.”(4) Reading this in Jefferson’s context, however, does not reveal that this was Jefferson’s view, but just the opposite: he specifically attributes this to others. Speaking of the early Christians, Jefferson writes, “The Apostles creed was by them taken to contain all things necessary to salvation, & consequently to a communion.”(5) This changes the meaning entirely.

This level of misquotation cannot be a mere mistake. When important qualifying words are left out from the very heart of a quotation, it brings the trustworthiness and integrity of the author’s entire work into under suspicion. I hate to sound harsh, but there is simply no other explanation of the matter.

This particular quotation is also merely a summary from Locke’s work, so Jefferson is providing a summary of Locke’s description of early Christians—not Jefferson’s own personal affirmations. Notably, it is in this same contextualized paragraph that Jefferson refers to Jesus as “our Saviour.”

As for the Scriptures being inspired, it seems this idea has been lifted from its context as well. Jefferson cites Locke as teaching expressly the opposite: some of the Scriptures, notably the Epistles, are not to be considered inspired. Even if the writers may have been generally inspired, we are not to consider everything they wrote in the Epistles to be inspired and authoritative:

The Epistles were written to persons already Christians. A person might be a Xn then before they were written. Consequently the fundamentals of Xty were to be found in the preaching of our Saviour, which is related in the gospels. These fundamentals are to be found in the epistles dropped here & there, & promiscuously mixed with other truths. But these other truths are not to be made fundamentals. They serve for edification indeed & explaining to us matters in worship & morality, but being written occasionally it will readily be seen that their explanations are adpated to the notions & customs of the people they were written to. But yet every sentence in them (tho the writers were inspired) must not be taken up & made a fundamental, without assent to which a man is not to be admitted a member of the Xn church here, or to his kingdom hereafter.

Despite what he may have said elsewhere about the Bible (and he did praise parts of it and the use of it in other places), he recorded in his “Notes on the State of Virginia” in 1782 the State’s move to take the Bible out of schools, and why:

The first stage of this education being the schools of the hundreds, wherein the great mass of the people will receive their instruction, the principal foundations of future order will be laid here. 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.

It is not clear whether or not Jefferson supported this measure. As a mere chronicler, he doesn’t say either way.

Jefferson’s “Notes on Religion” further contain quotations that are clearly from the heterodox and heretical world of Christian history. He lists all the anti-Trinitarian and Christological “heretics”: Sabellians, Sorcinians, Arians, Apollinarians, Macedonians. Does Jefferson’s inclusion of all their views here mean that he “affirmed” them? Hardly.

The response may be, “No, but he clearly labeled them ‘heretics’ in the notes.” True, but this is also as per the convention of history—a description—not necessarily Jefferson’s own affirmation. Indeed, later when discussing Shaftesbury’s positions, he seems to believe that Trinitarian views are peripheral and not part of the “fundamentals” or earliest history of Christianity:

A heretic is an impugner of fundamentals. What are fundamentals? The protestants will say those doctrines which are clearly & precisely delivered in the holy Scriptures. Dr. Vaterland [Daniel Waterland] would say the Trinity. But how far this character of being clearly delivered will suit the doctrine of the trinity I leave others to determine. It is nowhere expressly declared by any of the earliest fathers, & was never affirmed or taught by the Church before the Council of Nice.

So what was Jefferson’s purpose in taking these notes? The editor of this edition of his works ventures a best guess: “They were probably materials and notes for his speeches in the House of Delegates on the petitions for the disestablishment of the Episcopal church.” Indeed, in highlighting all of the random controversies in the Christian church, and arguing from the rationalistic basis of Locke and Shaftesbury—two know proponents of “toleration”—that the tedious aspects of Trinitarianism and Christology should not be matters in which the civil government has any involvement or sanction, Jefferson (and Madison) could and did argue for religious tolerance of all sects, as well as the disestablishment of the Episcopal Church in their State.

And Jefferson would later note that this did not mean toleration for denominations of Christians only, but also for all non-Christian religions as well. Thus, Jefferson noted, the names of “Jesus Christ” as the “the holy author of our religion” was proposed but explicitly rejected by the Virginia legislature.

The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason & right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that it’s protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read “a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it’s protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.

Note that: “by a great majority.”

These things considered, these “Notes on Religion” are little more than Jefferson’s own white papers from which he was studying before he launched his charge for toleration and disestablishment in Virginia. They were politically-motivated, mostly, and nowhere near personal affirmations. It is little wonder that Jefferson himself endorsed these notes as “scraps.” They are simply notes he took on other people’s views not his own. We cannot tell what he thought of any of these views merely from this document, and we have little else up to this point to help us tell.

So based on this slim and dubious information, we cannot come anywhere near confirming that Jefferson at this period was “nothing less than orthodox.” On the contrary, he seems to have been wary of the Trinity and Nicea, and already thought with Locke that parts of the Epistles were not inspired. Indeed, Barton himself notes that Jefferson “had always” held this view.(6) It makes no scholarly sense at all, then, to cross the line and claim Jefferson was so orthodox. There is absolutely no evidence to support this claim, and lots of evidence to refute it.

Lapse and return to Orthodoxy

Barton then claims that after Jefferson’s wife’s untimely death in 1782, his faith was “shaken.” There is no doubt that Jefferson entered a great period of depression, but the long anecdotal quotations Barton provides say absolutely nothing about his faith or religious beliefs (I will not recount them here for length). But then, as if he had proved that point anyway, Barton writes, “But by the time he became president, he had returned to a stronger and more orthodox position.”(7)

Again, when we expect some clear lines of evidence for such a claim, none are forthcoming. The only support we get is an anecdote. After the death of Jefferson’s daughter Maria in 1804, the following is allegedly reported by his granddaughter:

My mother [Martha] has told me that on the day of her sister’s death, she left her father alone for some hours. He then sent for her, and she found him with the Bible in his hands. He who has so often and so harshly accused of unbelief, he, in his hour of intense affliction, sought and found consolation in the Sacred Volume.(8)

This granddaughter, unnamed by Barton or his 1858 source, was identified as Ellen Coolidge in 1832 by B. L. Rayner. Ellen was born in 1796. As such, this anecdote would have taken place when she was but eight years old at the time.

Nevertheless, despite being a childhood memory recounted almost two decades later, Coolidge could indeed be correct when she insisted that “I have no doubt of its accuracy,” though she admitted, “I have no recollection of the time when I made this memorandum.”

Even granting its authenticity and accuracy (and why not?), the evidence in this quotation for Jefferson becoming “more orthodox” is non-existent. The fact that Jefferson was once found holding or even reading a Bible says nothing about what he actually believed. It says nothing about the content of his faith, or even that he had faith. We learn absolutely nothing about this at all from this anecdote, unfortunately.

Heck, I’ll bet Barack Obama has been observed holding a Bible. I suspect Hitler once was, too. Shall we call them “more orthodox” for this?

To say therefore that this anecdote reveals that Jefferson had “returned to a stronger and more orthodox position” is nowhere near tenable or even reasonable. And to present this weak anecdote as the sole support of that same claim is, to be blunt, embarrassing and unscholarly.

From bad to worse

Barton spends most of the rest of the chapter showing how the second great awakening and the Unitarians of the Restoration Movement had profound impact upon Jefferson’s views late in his life. He sees it as a sea change in Jefferson’s life. I don’t think so. We’ve already seen him amiable to anti-Trinitarian views and rationalism as early as 1776. Thus, everything Barton writes throughout this section actually does little but confirm that Jefferson indeed was not orthodox, and that he grew more entrenched in unorthodoxy as he grew older.

Barton provides only one more piece of evidence that directly supports his young orthodox thesis. He cites the autobiography of Benjamin Rush, saying,

Jefferson had personally assured Dr. Benjamin Rush that “he believed in the Divine mission of the Savior of the World,” “in the Divine institution of the Sabbath,” and “likewise in the resurrection, and a future state of rewards and punishments.”(9)

Now that sounds pretty impressive, but it is really a half-truth. Barton adds, “(Although Rush acknowledged that there still existed some theological differences between himself and Jefferson.)” This, of course, makes it sound like these differences were a minor thing, enough to be passed over and not mentioned specifically. But when you learn what Barton passed over here, the whole story changes. In the very same sentence mentioning Jefferson’s belief in the “Savior of the World,” Rush notes that Jefferson nevertheless “did not believe that he [Jesus] was the Son of God in the way which many Christians believed it.”

Some theological difference! It turns out to be the fundamental teaching of Christianity: that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, God of God, very God of very God, made flesh and dwelt among us as the Incarnate Son of God, etc.!

Yet Barton selectively quotes Rush to give just the opposite appearance of Jefferson’s views. Indeed, he uses this sole piece of butchered evidence to prove his claim that “for nearly every Christian doctrine that Jefferson called into question in his last fifteen years, there were times in his earlier sixty-eight years when he had embraced that very same doctrine as orthodox.”(10) As we have seen, this is utter nonsense, and is unsupported by anything Barton has presented. It is not clear by any means that Jefferson at any time in his life held orthodox Christian views. That anyone would claim otherwise, especially upon such terrible evidence, is a disservice to both historical scholarship and the Christian faith.

With all of these exaggerated and outright dishonest claims about Jefferson, there is indeed one thing about Barton’s book that is apt: its title, The Jefferson Lies. They abound not only from the “academic collectivists” and “deconstructionists,” but in this book as well.

As such, it is no surprise that when alerted, Thomas Nelson reacted as quickly as it did.

Not unprecedented

Whereas some have noted Thomas Nelson’s decision as “unprecedented,” it actually is not. Granted, it is not common to see a book abruptly pulled this way, but it does happen.

In fact, just this May, Westminster Seminary professor Carl Trueman severly criticized a recent book by G.R. Evans, The Roots of the Reformation: Tradition, Emergence, and Rupture. Trueman’s criticism was the same type as has been leveled at Barton: multiple factual, historical errors. As a result of Trueman’s devastating blog post, within weeks, IVP pulled the book abruptly from publication:

[T]he issues Trueman points out clearly do not represent the academic standards we as a publisher hold ourselves to. Unfortunately, these issues were not caught during our standard, thorough review procedures. The presence of such oversights in manuscripts is common in the publishing process, however, especially with large and complex texts.

Nonetheless, we as the publisher take full responsibility for them. Therefore, as of the beginning of June, IVP has taken The Roots of the Reformation out of print and will no longer be shipping orders of this edition.

However, IVP did at least give the author a chance to publish a revised edition.

Our goal is to publish a carefully revised second edition of the book by the end of August, in time for Fall semester classes.

While the reader might expect the same courtesy to be shown to Barton, I suspect that the very nature of his work made it impossible. After all, when several theses are to prove that Jefferson was an orthodox Christian (at least during parts of his life), and absolutely none of the evidence confirms this, but instead refutes it, this means essentially an entire rewrite of the whole chapter, or even an elimination of that chapter.

And if the rest of the chapters are of the same caliber, it may mean scrapping the whole book to start over. This is more than Evans’ need to fix a series of factual misstatements that don’t really impact the thesis of the work. It is essentially pulling the rug out from under the main thesis altogether. This a serious black eye for Barton and for Thomas Nelson together.

Conclusion

Sadly, with the level and degree of error I have found in just the chapter I reviewed, I cannot recommend this book to the average Christian reader. While a book like this needs to be written vindicating Jefferson from much liberal nonsense, the reader nonetheless will need to fact-check nearly every claim Barton makes for accuracy. And this is way too much to ask of the average reader. If that is to be the task, it would be better to skip Barton’s book altogether and go read all of Jefferson’s papers directly, because that what the reader will have to do eventually anyway.

For those with the patience and access to at least some of Jefferson’s papers, feel free to venture through The Jefferson Lies, though not without a critical eye. There is much to be gained here, but it will all have to be vetted before believing it.

In short, sometimes those revising the evil revisions need good revisionists of their own. Christians should be at the forefront of both admitting and solving these problems.

[UPDATE Oct. 3, 2012: I have been assured via email exchanges that Dr. Throckmorton is not a "liberal" in the traditional sense, and that his criticism of Barton has no connection at all with their respective views on homosexual marriage.]Endnotes:

  1. The Jefferson Lies, 168.()
  2. TJL, 168.()
  3. TJL, 168.()
  4. TJL, 168.()
  5. My emphasis.()
  6. TJL 179.()
  7. TJL, 169.()
  8. Quoted in TJL, 170.()
  9. TJL, 190.()
  10. TJL, 190.()
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About the Author

Dr. Joel McDurmon

Joel McDurmon, Ph.D. in Theology from Pretoria University, is the Director of Research for American Vision. He has authored seven books and also serves as a lecturer and regular contributor to the American Vision website. He joined American Vision's staff in the June of 2008. Joel and his wife and four sons live in Dallas, Georgia.



86 Responses to Evil revisionism: Did Barton’s Jefferson get fair treatment?

  1. aCultureWarrior says:

    If you review David Barton’s resume’, unlike you Mr. McD, he’s considered an expert on the Founding Fathers. Besides, I’ll go with the word of a Christian conservative any ole day over a Libertarian.

  2. Wow! Gentle Dove – Its amazing when someone stand firm on the truth, how they are attacked. I commend you on your courage, well done.

  3. Pete Coker says:

    Not to excuse Barton’s exaggerations, but do liberal authors receive this kind of scrutiny? Do their publishers have to discontinue their authors works to protect their reputations? Did Al Gore’s publisher discontinue his inconvenient crap? Just wondering…

  4. JAS says:

    The fundamentals of being a Christian are believing Jesus was born of a virgin; He suffered, was crucified, and died for my sins; He rose from the dead. Many of the founding fathers didn’t believe in these basic fundamentals, never mind the Trinity. Jefferson, John Adams (not Sam), B. Franklin were definitely not believers.

  5. Jim Fisher says:

    Easy to write comments without Barton present for rebuttal. You made your points, Barton made his (Also saw Barton on Beck). I could refute some of your points and logic. There is a whole lot more here. I really could care less if Jefferson was “Orthodox” or not based on our modern day interpretation or even in his day. He showed so much more respect for the word and belief in God than the enemy wants to give him credit. That is what we should be celebrating From all the evidence, we can only speculate, but God spoke to him and used him in a way that can only be called a miracle, an act of providence. Whether he believes in the Trinity or not is irrelevant. From all the evidence I think it can be stated he was a man of God, and it wasn’t allah!

  6. GentleDove says:

    It looks as though Glenn Beck plans to publish a new edition of The Jefferson Lies.

    http://www.worldmag.com/2012/08/doubting_thomas

    • A. Sharpe says:

      LDS to the rescue! What would we do without the ecumenical movement which gives us those awesome bumper stickers “WE ARE ONE”? Good for Barton. Beck may arrange for him to get some of the special “onderwear” required for the worthy performance of the faithful.

      What is interesting is Olasky’s “A message to WORLD readers on the David Barton controversy” in which he not only backs Jefferson into the ekklesia with a hearty “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” ruse, but also into the panoply of great men of God who were also Fathers: Abraham and Jacob; prophets: Moishe, and Kings: David on the ground and basis of “having faults”. How liberal he is with admittance of Goyim into the Commonwealth of Israel, wherein the middle wall of partition was yet intact. And he says he was born a Jew.

      Thus in Olasky’s world, it is sin and faults which qualify one for admission into the House of God, and not faith in Messiah who offered the Acceptable Sacrifice which Jefferson denied in several different ways: the spurious translation of John 1:1-3 to his favor, exchanging “Logos” with “Mind”, the labeling of the virgin birth as Mithraic myth, and even the direct denial of Yeshua as Messiah, instead labeling Him as a great moral teacher who attempted to lift the Jews to a higher moral level, above that of their vengeful, violent and ethnic God, and then, expressing the hope that the founding of the United States with its “freedoms” and “liberty” would destroy the scaffolding of the mythology of the virgin birth.

      In Olasky’s world, such a marvelous collection of “faults” would more than qualify Jefferson for admission to Olasky’s ekklesia. And, may I say, what a marvelous plan for evangelization of the world, wherein the faultiest of the faulty achieve instant status as “Christian”, and that without repentance, a new birth or shed blood. Those of you that are overwhelmed with concern for your purse should immediately consider the printing and merchandising of the “WE ARE ONE” bumper stickers, cause they are going to sell like hotcakes. Franchising has already begun.

      I didn’t directly quote Olasky since his junk is copyrighted. You can find it a his World, under the header “Barton controversy”.

  7. George Feltham says:

    Mr. McDurmon,

    A thoughtful column on the Barton controversy. However I must take issue with you on one of your initial premise statements; where you are suggesting that a book such as ‘The Jefferson Lies’ is still needed; but in this, you only echo another version of Barton’s similar contention:

    “…he was certainly not the rabid atheist that many often portray him as.”

    You have begun your case by setting up the very same straw man that Barton has used so successfully over these past decades. Where is this evidence that ‘many’ see Jefferson as ‘the rabid atheist’?? Why do you sense that that perception exists? The only reason that I have found for such a view is that it is, in-so-far, directly related to Barton’s own repeatedly hammered exhortations of the same statement,over the last, oh-so-many years. Please enlighten me; where else might such views be held, to think that they are representative of such a common perception in our culture? I find no substantive evidence for your claim.

    • GentleDove says:

      I think most people think Jefferson was a Deist. But there are some atheists who are just as eager as some Christians to claim Jefferson as “one of their own.”

      http://www.ocregister.com/articles/jefferson-323913-quote-one.html

      • George Feltham says:

        GentleDove,

        Had Mr. McDurmon used the term ‘Deist’ instead of ‘rabid atheist’, I would never have submitted my comment. There is a vast difference in those terms, as I’m sure you are aware. And I am aware of the billboard incident that you reference; that particular group would certainly fit into your defined category of ‘some atheists who are just as eager…etc”. However, those atheists really were just a ‘backyard’ group that didn’t do much homework on their issue, and also almost immediately suffered for their ineptness. In the very article you refer to, the group does admit to having screwed up on their facts (how many times has David Barton done that?). Sure, you can point out an example or two, nation-wide of some group of atheists doing stupid things; but they do not represent the view that ‘many’ ‘often’ do. Please compare that with the audience that David Barton commands. He has been the darling of the Christian conservative Right for decades. He has so indoctrinated even your leaders that it is only in recent months that they had a real awakening to the reality of the distortions he has implanted into our history. There is an imprint of that thinking in McDurmon’s use of terminology. I reiterate, (because it remains the main point) where is the substantive evidence that many believe that Jefferson was a rabid atheist. I would contend that most do not hold such an opinion; and Mr. McDurmon’s words intend to foster a chase after a phantom that does not really exist in any meaningful way.

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  8. GentleDove says:

    He’s done this in the past!?! Okay, I guess I’ll reply anyway.

    Barton’s quality of work as an historian is a reflection of his character. Barton removed words and phrases from quotes to completely change the report of Jefferson’s actual beliefs. Barton quoted Jefferson’s writings about the beliefs of other people and attributed them to Jefferson. That’s perpetrating lies, not exposing them. It was a kindness to Barton that Mr. McDurmon only reviewed one chapter of Barton’s book.

    No historian includes so many badly twisted quotes by accident. Even if he’s just a moron who doesn’t know how to be a historian, where did Barton get all these botched quotes which “support” Jefferson’s supposed Christianity from secondary sources (there was more than one!), when he was supposedly exposing the lies of liberal hacks who had written on Jefferson’s “atheism” up to Barton’s book?

    How do you think Mr. McDurmon was able to easily find so many “mistakes”? (For just ONE chapter! There shouldn’t have been that many in the whole book! What would you think of a liberal who conducted his scholarship that way?) He looked up Jefferson’s writings! In historian lingo, it’s called working from primary sources. That’s what Barton should have done, or refrained from writing the book at all. Seriously, that’s BASIC to historical scholarship.

    As I have already stated, I hope Barton will publicly repent. Perhaps then the publisher will give him the opportunity to correct his book, even if it involves changing the thesis of it. However, I haven’t heard about anything resembling repentence from Barton or his blind followers. Just bluster and and blame-shifting. I know that unless I hear of his repentence, I’m not going to trust a thing he says about the founding fathers’ beliefs. Why should I? Why should anyone?

    I don’t think the publisher is obligated to give Barton another chance. Barton’s in the wrong for what he submitted to that publisher for publication. In fact, we should be grateful for what TN removed from the book, if the 40% they removed had the quality of the rubbish that was left intact.

    Even so, Barton’s The Jefferson Lies (ironic title in retrospect) is just another embarrassing example of the low standards of scholarship and integrity and diligence on the part of so many Christians before a watching world. May the Lord help us in our weakness and painful lack of godliness.

  9. E Harris says:

    The faster we let go of Nicaea, and the faster we find BETTER WAYS of describing God than using blasphemous titles like “trinity” “personS” and worst of all “coequal”… the sooner we will probably be able to win over many Mormons and Muslims. Many Mormons and Muslims remain so, because of their only valid argument against (most) christians is summed up in: there is One God.

    I have a hunch that when Nicaea is systematically dealt with, including all of its stale doctrines loudly, thoroughly, and openly refuted… the result will not be weakness: but a de-centralized revival of the likes we have never witnessed in history.

    • E Harris says:

      I wrote a lot on this topic of “oneness” and “trinity” because I think it may be the unspoken center of this Jefferson debate.

      Before we can even DISCUSS or answer any question pertaining to Jefferson and his “christian” beliefs, I think the first question we should answer is this:
      1) Can anyone who denies “trinity” be considered Christian?

      • Norm Farnum says:

        1 Timothy 3:16 (NIV)
        16 Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:
        He appeared in the flesh,
        was vindicated by the Spirit,
        was seen by angels,
        was preached among the nations,
        was believed on in the world,
        was taken up in glory.

        Or in other words…

        1 Timothy 3:16 (NKJV)
        16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:

        God was manifested in the flesh,
        Justified in the Spirit,
        Seen by angels,
        Preached among the Gentiles,
        Believed on in the world,
        Received up in glory.

        May I respectively submit (and some of you scholars may not agree), but I would posit that it may not be intended for us (His creation) to have a complete & total comprehension as to the full nature of our Creator, YAHWEH.

      • E Harris,
        You ask, 1) Can anyone who denies “trinity” be considered Christian?
        My answer is, I think anyone can be “considered” a Christian, who “considers” himself a Christian. The real question is, are you a Christian? You wrote: “My prism for measuring how biblical someone’s belief is, has never been (and never will be) Nicaea or the Trinity.”
        Granted, this is a controversial issue, and numerous non-believers consider themselves Christians. Therefore, I’ll offer for you another “prism for measuring.” Do you believe that Christ is the Savior? I think this is not controversial at all. I think all Christians (with no exception) believe that Christ is the Savior. Either you believe it, or you must admit that you are not Christian.
        But, if you say yes, how can you explain this? “I, even I, am the LORD, and besides Me there is no savior” (Isaiah 43:11).
        It is well established throughout the Bible that only the Spirit of God saves.
        Even so, Christ has the power to forgive sins, and He demonstrated this power while He was on earth (Mat 9:6, Mark 2:10, Luke 5:24). How is this possible, if He is not part of the Godhead? No wonder that the people were shocked hearing this!
        Jesus said, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30).
        This is a “prism for measuring”: “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (2Jn 1:9).
        The Doctrine of the Trinity did not come from Nicaea; it is fundamental to Christ’s teaching and mission. Christians are not polytheists. We believe in ONE GOD. There is no Father without the Son and there is no Son without the Father. Father and Son are ONE concept.

  10. E Harris says:

    I reject Trinity as well, as well as most of what was passed down from the Council of Nicaea. I was raised in the tradition of Oneness Pentecostals, who most other christians (at least until recently) considered heretical.

    Joel, you are right that every generation or movement seeks to make sense of history in light of their own beliefs. I may be wrong, but it seems as if your belief in the orthodoxy of the Trinity is flavoring your interpretation of Jefferson’s belief in God and just how “christian” his understanding was.

    My prism for measuring how biblical someone’s belief is, has never been (and never will be) Nicaea or the Trinity. I am not bound even by the traditions of the sect I was raised in. Yet I (for myself) believe that every word of the Bible is relevant for discussion. Some words uttered by the real characters in the bible obviously portray the human perspective; and other words portray the divine perspective, or everything in between. It is the Spirit, and proper study and reflection, that guides our interpretation and discussion. Here a little, and there a little, until we all build each other up in our most holy faith.

    Some beliefs I hold may be considered ‘unorthodox’ (whatever that word means). But I can provide at least a few scriptures for every one of my beliefs, and more than that: they make sense to me on many levels.

    • E Harris says:

      And speaking of Calvin…

      I happen to believe that Jefferson was right about him. (Ironically, maybe Jefferson at some point had more of a living, abiding faith than Calvin. In his mind, he was certainly more of a freethinker – and yet it still didn’t get in the way of his fervent belief. Sometimes the Roman Centurions put the disciples and the Jews to shame. So. It is possible that greater faith arises outside of the camp.)

      Calvin showed awesome mental prowess. But he did not have enough faith in the obvious human experience (of the will); or even in God’s revelation of Himself to a freely feeling & thinking individual human soul.

      I’m not saying that Calvin didn’t have faith, or was not christian. But I have carefully thought through some of his main propositions about predestination, salvation, sanctification, etc… and his doctrines seem to carry the flavor of one who places WAY too much faith in a rigid mental conceptions (as if a modernist had decided to translate the Bible into a modern framework), and not enough belief in the plain words of the Bible meaning what they say they mean! Calvin has a strong belief in God, just not in the common experience of everyday living, or in the plain text of some scriptures dealing with human will and relationship with the Father. So strong is Calvins belief in “God”, that the One almost obliterates the many! Its a similar thought pattern that can be found in places like Nazi Germany (but idolatrously applied to a visible man, in that case): “the party is hitler, hitler is germany.” Folding all of existence into One Will, and calling that formulation a ‘triumph’. Calvins formulation was not a triumph for the gospel. It has a certain mental strength and rigidity. But it lacks a lot of the basic realities of seperate wills, the freedom that GOD sustains and empowers us to have (in order to even make choices, in the first place).

      I would also argue that Calvins logic, and his formulation of how a church body should work, lends itself toward statism (or at least statist thinking). It’s important for me to remember that he was working in a different time: not long after an exodus from an even larger, more tyrannical, more complex system lording it over people. So, by comparison, Calvin’s formulations FREED people from what came before…while ‘retaining’ what many probably thought was necessary for ‘order’. This forms the inner tension within the Christian Reconstruction movement itself: most of them are Calvinists, and are locked in a struggle inherent in their own theology. Thankfully, I do believe that common sense, Bible, and freedom are winning out, over time!

    • E Harris, you wrote:
      “It is the Spirit, and proper study and reflection, that guides our interpretation and discussion.” I think you are on the right track.
      But, unfortunately, you also wrote: “Some words uttered by the real characters in the bible obviously portray the human perspective; and other words portray the divine perspective, or everything in between.”
      Where did you get this idea? If you think this is true, what is your method to sort the Bible out? Exactly, what is your “prism for measuring” (using your own words)? It is your own understanding? If you can’t understand it, it is just “everything in between,” and it goes to the wastebasket?
      I can see why you (and many others) think that the Nicene Creed is unbelievable. The word “Trinity” is not in the Bible, and the whole statement is badly worded in an alien philosophical language. I can see why Jefferson dismissed it as “Platonic Christianity.”
      But I know that if you are a serious student of the Bible, soon you will see that it reflects the basic tenet of the Christian faith, really and truly.
      When I was young I did not believe in the Trinity either, and I knew I was not a “heathen.” Nevertheless, I was not a Christian in the true sense either, because I did not understand that Christianity is precisely about the absolute and indivisible relationship of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. No matter how you slice it, these three Powers work together (as Jesus clearly revealed), and they cannot exist separately.
      Christianity is a complete system, built upon the doctrine of Jesus. It is about the true relationship between God and mankind, and Christ, who is the tie between us. Christ is God’s hand, reaching down for His wayward children.

      And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32).

      If Christ is just a “good man,” how can He fulfill this promise?

  11. Shawn Keating says:

    It is a shame that Joel McDurmon was the on e to do this article. He has demonstrated a uniformly low opinion of the majority of the founders in his previous articles because they did not agree with his particular version of reformed theonomy, rather than an appreciation for what they accomplished as flawed men and Christians. His idealistic perfectionism makes him as critical as the progressives in many cases. There are two ways to interpret scarce evidence in the case of Jefferson’s faith; minimalism- they show lack of conformity because they are not exhaustive, or maximalism, demonstrating a congruence of belief by positive mention. Jefferson’s notes could have been noted with critical comments against Christianity a la Paine, but instead quote the beliefs in an affirmative style w/o contradiction. How many layman can give a completely orthodox description of the Trinity today, using terms like aseity, etc.? Barton demonstrates Jefferson’s warm friendship and support for many evangelical preachers, agreement with their sentiments, publishing Bibles, and building churches. I found it most disturbing that McDurmon imputes a degree of disingenuousness to Jefferson’s vestry vows because some other men are disingenuous. That contradicts all the other evidence of Jefferson’s honesty and character. If he disagreed, he would not forswear himself. And lastly note that Mcdurmon is also not a historian, yet he criticizes Throckmorton for not being one either. Just some thoughts.

  12. Iowan says:

    Thank you, Mr. McDurmon, for calling for Christian authors to present truth as best as they can. It is obvious to me that Mr. Barton did not do this in many instances in his The Jefferson’s Lies.

    • Douglas says:

      I see Mr. McDurman is of the Episcopal Theology. Seeing how the Episcopal Church is falling apart because the have gotten away from true scripture, ie: virgin birth and gay marriage, I can understand how it is easy for him to be very wrong about Mr. Barton.

      • Joel McDurmon Joel McDurmon says:

        Douglas, you’ve made a mistake a few others have. I am not Episcopal. I studied at a REFORMED Episcopal Seminary which is from the conservative church that split with ECUSA in 1873. It is still conservative today. Nevertheless, I do not belong to that denomination, and do not even hold to high church liturgy at all. Thanks.

      • TXHistorian says:

        Douglas refuses to confront the issues so he attacks the messenger because he doesn’t have the answers to know if Barton has duped him or the integrity to admit Barton may be wrong.

      • Douglas says:

        To TXHistorian. It seems to me that it is Mr. Barton who is the messenger being attached or he would not be criticized in this forum. As the article asks, “Is David Barton getting fair treatment”? I say no. His research is from original sources. And this is an opportunity for his critics to pile on to pad their egos.

      • TXHistorian says:

        Douglas,

        Barton cited 276 UNORIGINAL sources out of 740 total sources with Lie # 7 citing an authorless Facebook page to prove Barton’s claim that “modern writers” see Jefferson as an atheist. That is a mistake not even a high school senior would make on a term paper let alone a book. Barton cherry picks quotes changing the context of the entire source as in the Coles letter and Barton quoting a SECONDARY source that lied about Jefferson inviting preacher James O’Kelly to speak at the House of Representatives. The attacks against Barton are his own fault for entering a world of professionals as an amateur.

  13. John B. says:

    David Barton’s exaggerations are not new. I noticed some about ten years ago and they have only gotten worse and increased in number. I finally bought Chris Roddi’s book, Liars for Jesus, to help me find the truth. It is shameful to have to go to the other side in order to do so.
    Evangelicals “worship” Mr. Barton and maybe that is what motivates him. He obviously is not seeking the truth. “Your sins will find you out.” That truth doesn’t change.
    Another discredit to our Savior. “Christians are liars and no different than anyone else.” We end up chasing others away. We need to get on our knees and beg forgiveness. Lord have mercy.

    • David Barton has forgotten more about the history of our founding fathers than any 100 Liberals ever knew, Barton spends his life researching the Founding Fathers, the Liberals get most of their limited knowledge from each other , or liberal blogs intent on rewriting history, those wanting us all to believe the Republicans are the party of the Jim Crows and KKK, when the truth is, Jim Crow was a Democrat, and the KKK were the democrats militant arm, and the democrats never will allow Blacks an Equal footing, “note it is the Congressional Black Caucus” that is a bunch of Democrats who cant belong to their party any other way, you don’t see the need for a republican Black Caucus now do you, google “the missing 52 years of democrats history”, if you don’t believe me, democrats don’t want anyone knowing their past…so they just removed it…….

      • CaptTom says:

        Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that anyone/everyone who calls out Barton’s prevarications (or who believes our Founders were right in adopting a fully-secular Constitution) is a liberal. I’m not a theist, but I’m a strong fiscal/Constitutional conservative and have been voting for GOP tickets for over 30 years.

      • TXHistorian says:

        Chief Cabioch,

        My professors in grad school were fiscal conservatives who were published authors and deep readers of the primary sources of the era they specialize in. Professional academic historians research their area of expertise and teach on it as a full time career unlike Barton. Unless you have spent any time in a formal undergraduate or graduate academic setting for history dont talk about what you dont know. Don’t parrot Barton’s words. Think for yourself. Read a Pulitzer Prize winning historian like Jack Rackove, or Oxord American Heritage authors Gordon S. Woods, James McPherson, or Daniel Walker Howe. THESE men have forgot more than Barton has ever or will ever know.

  14. CaptTom says:

    Barton’s problem is that he so badly laments the fact that the Founders….regardless of their individual personal faiths….made the conscious and deliberate decision to impart to us a wholly-secular constitution, ensuring that the rights to openly and freely practice your chosen faith could not be abridged by the state AND that the state could not act in deference to any religion over another (or none).

  15. Chris says:

    To Joel McDurmon,

    As others have said Thomas Nelson removed many pages of references that appeared at the end of each chapter of his manuscript. If fact for each chapter dozens to scores of references were removed. This shows clearly that any lack of evidence rests not with the author but with the publisher.

    That point aside, any attempt to judge someone as not being Christian simply because they, along with millions of biblical students throughout both history and geography, question the Nicean creed or Trinity view of the Godhead is absurdly bigoted and overly limiting on the spectrum of Christian believers who daily walk with Christ and look to him for redemption.

    The only proper definition of being Christian is a person who accepts Jesus Christ as their personal savior and the Messiah of the world. Those who believe on his name, pray in his name, and have faith on his name, are Christians! Those who look to him for grace, and those who seek to follow him are Christians! More importantly those who covenant to bear his name, to represent him, to do as he would do and to be his eyes, ears, voice and hands in the service to others, doing all of these things for his glory and name’s sake are Christian for they bear his name, as a son bears the sir name of his father.

    You can’t judge the depths of someones salvation or their personal Christian conviction/devotion on the mere basis of their belief in the precise nature of the Godhead! Many Christians question the trinity with good reason since it originated with a conference and was decided by men as a compromise to end a wide scale and very confused debate Christians of the time all holding differing views of the Godhead but all being part of the same church. The doctrine of the trinity is at best unclear in the bible. Jesus prayed to himself? My point here is not to attack that belief, but to emphasize the ridiculous and prideful judgement of someone else’s Christian Faith on the basis of doctrinal questions which lie well outside of the doctrines which define a christian believer or follower; namely believing that Jesus is the savior and the only way to return to live in heaven with God after this life.

    I utterly denounce the bigoted and unnecessarily judgmental viewpoint that one must accept the compromised viewpoint of the trinity to be considered Christian. Jesus said, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) He didn’t say I in combination with two other beings who are merely other forms I take, at my pleasure, are the way the truth and the light and if you don’t come unto me you can’t come unto… er… uh… me..

    Given the logic you use to indicate that Jefferson’s lack of faith in the trinity means that David Barton can’t accurately conclude that Jefferson had a Christian Faith is like me saying to you that, “Because you believe in a magical three-way combination of a God like Father, a God Like Son and a God like Ghost who constantly take different forms and sometimes even land on each other in the form of a dove while throwing their voice into the sky in order to praise their own deeds, you can’t possibly be Christian!” Sound fair? You are doing the same thing.

    You remind me of Clinton trying not to admit his guilt by discussing the definition of what “is” is. He had sexual relations with Monica in the oval office, because sex organs were involved in their contact. Jefferson was/is a Christian because Faith in Christ was involved in his daily walk and any person who professes a sincere belief in Christ and seeks salvation through faith on his name are Christian.

    Jefferson was Christian. A mountain of evidence exists whether much of it made its way into Barton’s book or not. The man financially supported multiple bible printings for various denominations as well as church construction projects, but most of all he believed in Jesus Christ as his savior and was a diligent student of biblical doctrine throughout his life. Just because evidence exists to prove that he had a healthy doubt about some of the doctrinal tenants accepted by certain denominations is in no way diminishing to his status as a God-Fearing-Bible Believing-Christian.

    Why is anyone threatened by honest truth seeking regarding the nature of God and man? Do you define only blind followers who do not think for themselves as Christians?

    I believe that the idea of the trinity as defined by mainstream Christianity is absurd. One in three and three in one with no evidence in scripture whatsoever to support it? The folks at Nice may have meant well but they clearly got it wrong. Yet I believe the bible is the word of God and that Jesus is the messiah and my personal savior. I am Christian.

    David Barton believes in the traditional Christian Catholic/Protestant trinity. He thinks my beliefs are nuts. He has however wisely accepted Jefferson as Christian. But to be even more precise, Jefferson believed in One God and thought that the trinity professes a belief in three. I believe in three separate beings who are one in purpose and therefor one ruling body over the universe, but are not one in form or body. In my view we have God the Father, who is separate from Jesus Christ his literal offspring (e.g. only begotten son) and the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit. This is NOT what Jefferson believed and is at odds with the trinity view as well. So we actually have here three different beliefs about the construction of the Godhead or Trinity, all professed by Christians.

    All are fully acceptable Christain views, held by millions of Christians throughout the world. So what! Why are we arguing over definitions instead of pulling together as the body of Christ to accomplish his will?

    • GentleDove says:

      In this entire comment, you did not state the Biblical doctrine of the trinity once. Unitarians are not Christians, because they do not believe in the God of the Bible, Who is triune. You may not like that, but it doesn’t matter, because that is how God presents Himself to be. What He says about Himself is the true definition of Himself. Jefferson is in hell, and you will go there when you die, too, unless you repent of your belief in a false unitarian god. I hope you will repent, and believe it or not, that’s the only reason I made this comment.

      • darrelljr says:

        Wow, gentle dove, stating that Jefferson, or anyone for that matter is in hell is quite a revelation. I also think it dis-credits you as an individual in further getting your point across. Maybe you should restrain yourself in this matter. It really makes you look narcissistic.

      • GentleDove says:

        All unbelivers go to hell. I didn’t make it up from myself. It’s in the Bible, as I’m sure you know.

      • TXHistorian says:

        “Not so”Gentle Dove,
        WOW! Can you show me where the Bible speaks about the Trinity? You can’t because it doesn’t. Chris talked about believing in Jesus as his personal savior as the way to heaven and he discussed how Jesus says no man is to come unto the Father except through Him. I may be a Lutheran, but even I can see he isn’t going to hell based on his belief that Jesus is his Savior.

        Chris,
        It is clear Jefferson rejected the Trinity while following the moral teachings of Jesus. However, does documentation exist of him asking Jesus to come into his heart, forgive his sins, and be his savior? This is the true meaning of being a Christian, as you mentioned. Barton never proved this. Jefferson paid for Bibles like the hot press Bible for himself and his family. Just because he donated money to build a Church doesn’t make him a Christian. “For not by works are you saved…” He has to have accepted Jesus as Savior and I am not aware of anything in the historical record to indicate his acceptance of Jesus as Savior.

      • GentleDove says:

        TX Historian,

        My online moniker comes from Matt. 10:16.

        Mormons confess that Jesus Christ is their personal Savior as well. Does that make them Christians? No, because their definition of “Jesus Christ” is not the Bible’s definition of Jesus Christ. We are not saved by faith in a golden calf we’ve named “Jehovah.” Ex. 32:1-7.

        It is cruel to condemn people to hell when there is yet time for them to repent by telling them they are saved when they have clearly indicated that they are not saved.

        For a link explaining the Trinity, please read my September 1 reply to E. Harris.

      • TxHistorian says:

        Gentle Dove,

        Have you ever read John 10:16? Even though I am not Mormon, I am not so arrogant as to believe only one denomination of one religion has the monopoly on salvation.

        Does not the Bible say in John 5:24 “I tell you the truth,whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me HAS ETERNAL LIFE AND WILL NOT BE CONDEMNED; he has crossed from death into life.” (emphasis added)

        As Chris said, all a believer needs to be a Christian is to be saved, believe in Jesus and love His Father. Merriam-Webster defines
        a Christian as: “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.” Therefore, Mormons,Jefferson, Chris, and myself are, by definition and by scriptures Christian.

        Mormons claim Jesus came to the Americas citing John 10:16 as their source. None of us were alive and there exists in the historical record Native American accounts of seeing a man much like Jesus appear to them. While, I personally don’t believe it, I also cannot say it is wrong because I can’t prove it. This faith, the absence of temporal proof.

        As of 1985, Catholic apologeticist, David Barrett counted 22,150 Protestant Christian denominations. The United Nation identified
        23,000 competing and often contradictory denominations worldwide in 1985.

        http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/a120.htm

        Regardless of Protestant or Catholic doctrine, all that is needed to be saved is belief in Jesus as our Savior as pointed out above. Rejection of the Trinity is not the same as rejecting Jesus as the Savior or as the son of God who sits at the right hand of the Father. Accepting the Holy Spirit as Jesus but not as Jesus and God is not rejecting either entity. Ergo, one can still be a Christian and be saved without accepting the Trinity. Rejection will not cause one to lose their salvation any less that not being baptized.

        Forcing our beliefs of Evangelical Christianity on other sects of Mainline Protestant denominations with doctrinal differences does not make us the only ones with the fast track to heaven .

      • GentleDove says:

        TX Historian,

        Have YOU read Jn. 10:16? This verse indicates that salvation requires the belief in one Shepherd, Jesus Christ, the God of the Bible. It indicates that Jews and Gentiles alike must give up their false gods and believe in Jesus, the incarnate Word of God, alone.

        Yet you believe that several different gods, as long as they are all called “Jesus,” offer and effect salvation and eternal life for sinners:

        Mormon gods;
        Merriam-Webster’s god;
        Jefferson’s god;
        Chris’ god [he states: "Jefferson believed in One God and thought that the trinity professes a belief in three. I believe in three separate beings who are one in purpose and therefor one ruling body over the universe, but are not one in form or body. In my view we have God the Father, who is separate from Jesus Christ his literal offspring (e.g. only begotten son) and the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit. This is NOT what Jefferson believed and is at odds with the trinity view as well."]; and
        your god

      • TXhistorian says:

        Gentle Dove,

        In John 10:16 Jesus referred to other flocks. All Christians who believe in Jesus, including Mormons, worship the same God. Not even your self-righteous denomination can prove that you have a monopoly on the only track to heaven .

      • A. Sharpe says:

        TXHistorian:

        I take it then that you contend that Jn. 10:16, and the preceding verse mean that “Father” is Adam-God, the exalted Man, ha Adam raised to a God, the Fall being upward, rather than downward? And that Father is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whose only begotten Son is Yeshua haMessiah?

        And, along that vein, you believe that Lucifer is the brother of Yeshua? And, that Mormons are, in fact, Jews, most of them from the Tribe of Ephraim. And that the LDS organization is the only true Church and there is salvation in none other, although many folk, after getting multiple chances at salvation after they die, may later be admitted to a lower level of existence, but can never reach Exaltation as Gods? And that Adam-God had spirit babies with his wives, and the ones who were “bad” were shot down here into bodies with considerable melanin in the skin, whereas those who were “good” were given fair skin here and could not tan up if they laid in the Sahara naked for a month during the day, although the LDS actually began admitting “darkies” to the priesthood after being threatened by the NCAA with expulsion which would have cost them millions? And that the Communion cup is to contain water? And that salvation is impossible on any of their multi-tiered levels unless one is baptized in water in a Mormon Temple, even if by proxy? And that a good Mormon man should have a minimum of 10 wives, sealed to him in the Temple, to even be considered for the exalted state? And that there is no Original Sin? And that a “good” body of doctrine is obtained from kaballah, and not the Tanach and the NT? And that the location of the Garden of Eden was in Ohio, and that Jesus of the Mormons will touch down in Missouri when He returns? And that Jesus of the Mormons was of the Tribe of Benjamin? And that true Christianity died early on, and it was restored only by Joseph Smith? And that scryers (Smith used stones, not crystal balls), who are practitioners of sorcery, may come to Messiah Yeshua without repentance but only on the basis of seeing “visions” of personages who claim that all the denominations are an abomination, and may continue the scrying and the like as “Christians”? And that the Book of Mormon was translated by Smith from gold plates which vanished, and the translation was perfect, although the text has since been changed at least 3913 times? And, finally, that the blood of Jesus is not sufficient, and that “blood atonement” is required of certain sinners, wherein an elder will slit the throat of such an one over an open grave, in order that the sinner may atone personally with his own blood? Firing Squad? Utah? Get it? I imagine the Japanese converts really dig the blood atonement thing, as it matches perfectly with Seppuku, except that the Mormon’s throat rather than the belly is the target, and in Seppuku, the belly cut is self-administered.

        Thanks for your valuable input.

      • TXHISTORIAN says:

        A. Sharpe,

        Rofl. I only raised that point to say that it is entirely possible that Jesus appeared in the New World as the native Americans held a prophecy that describe many similarities to Jesus. I am not a Mormon, but I cannot say it isn’t possible.

        I am not a Mormon expert as you obviously are. They are free to worship as they please. I am sure Muslims say similar things about Christians even though they recognize Him as a prophet. Btw the whole 10 wives thing was outlawed by U.S. law in the 1800s. Thank you for the information. Now I need to fact check it lol

    • Truth Preacher says:

      Christ said:
      The doctrine of the trinity is at best unclear in the bible. Jesus prayed to himself?

      Two serious problems are here:
      1- The doctrine of ther Trinity is NOT “unclear” in the Bible. Such an assertion is PREPOSTEROUS
      2- You don’t even understand nor properly represent the doctrine of the Trinity because your objection is valid only to those who are Sabellion, or Oneness, not Trinitarians! If you understood the Trinity, then you couldn’t ask how Christ prayed to Himself, since He prayed to the Father, with whom He is ONE, and with whom He shared the Divine nature and glory before the world was-John 10:30, 17:5 Phil 2:5.

      So this entire rant is rooted in your own ignorance and not valid. Thomas Jefferson CLEARLY had a Christian worldview and was a brilliant man, and hated Calvinism and its rotten fruit, and I AGREE WITH HIS REASONS. But your post is mostly nonsense, though I agree the Lord is very merciful towards those whose understanding of things is lacking or even wrong. I believe Michael Servetus went to heaven, and John Calvin the murderer is in Hell-1John 3:15

      • TXHistorian says:

        “Truth” Preacher,

        Good points. Even though the Trinity is never mentioned specifically, as a Christian, I believe in it because of the information below which is the best explanation I have ever read.

        http://www.gci.org/god/3bible

        The fact remains, however that TJ rejected the Trinity and he that he had a strong distaste organized religion. Trying to paint him as a 21st century Evangelical Christian in the 18th and 19th centuries is an exercise in futility.

      • Lee says:

        You sir, show a complete lack of understanding of history and facts concerning Michael Servetus and John Calvin. It was the Civil Magistrate that executed Servetus, not John Calvin.

  16. First of all I have great respect for American Vison. I also have great respect for David Barton. But a fundamental question needs to be asked here, are any of you, me or any book ever written the last say on who is God or what is Christianity and what makes a TRUE Christian?

    All of you including me have our own biased opinion. Are any of us INSPIRED? Do we have visions of God as said in the Bible as said to our TRUE prophets and men or woman that were inspired?

    Num_12:6 And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.
    Job 33:15 In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed;

    Is your knowledge of God face to face? ( through an Angel )
    Deu_5:4 The LORD talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire,

    So the point I am making is ALL of us have opinions.

    As to Jefferson being an “orthodox” Christian, that makes me laugh. He was probably more “orthodox” than many reading this. The point is he had an opinion. You have an opinion. The FINAL opinion on whom is right is ultimately up to God through his son to, as the Bible says ” in righteousness he doth judge and make war” Rev 19:11

    As to the trinity debacle, another “opinion” by you feeble uninspired men. MANY early Forefathers were not Trinitarians. So PLEASE take your sermons of un inspiration somewhere else, I have heard it ALL. Yes, you can quote your few scriptures proving you point, but guess what so can I, you can read Greek, big deal so can I. Am I any worse or greater than you? Let the rider of the white Horse decide that, you all aren’t Calvin in his apostate murderous glory when disagreement meant burning at the stake. You are just feeble men who have a lot of human knowledge but knowledge that could be wrong. Remember, you’re not inspired, you could be wrong.

    Last point:
    Scott Liverly brought out a great point:
    “whose agenda is in this case”

    That is the real issue. Are their religious sources here being pushed by a group of people noted for their anti-Christian rants? Their underhanded reasons for destroying anything resembling a Christian past of any of our Forefathers?
    That is the main question here. Certain groups that control a high amount of media are certain doorkeepers to open debate and our Christian history and other debates.

    They want it stopped and this book burning is another means it is going to happen. Don’t let it happen people because these evil people are using you Christians as the battering ram and you are doing a great job.

    I am like Thomas Jefferson in a lot of religious ways. I don’t agree with everything he believed in but I will tell you something here, he was probably more Christian that most of the leaders in the hypocritical churches and ministries I see and hear about. I personally see establish so called “orthodox” Christianity like probably most of you believe, as an apostasy, sorry, but that is my OPINION, let the rider of the white horse judge me. Your trinity is IDOLATRY, sorry, but let the rider of the white horse judge me.

    The comment about the Trinity being idolatry came from Newton whose comment about the Trinity and Idolatry was exactly what I have always felt. It’s good to find this out that others of like mind believe the way I believe. But like I said, let the rider of the white horse judge me and even Newton and Jefferson and Michael Servitus, and Joseph Priestly and George Washington, and John Adams and to infinitum……

    Their are plenty of books out there that have lies all though them. I currently research Holocaust history and have found lies much more worse that anything David Barton could say, but those books are still on the market. Why? Who runs the media people, what is THEIR AGENDA.

    Joe Rizoli

    • john cummins says:

      feelings, merely feelings

    • Chris says:

      Very well said Joe!

    • GentleDove says:

      Jefferson wasn’t a Christian, and, based on your words, it is my opinon that neither are you, Joseph Rizoli. The “rider of the white horse,” Christ Jesus, the second Person of the one triune God, Who took on a human nature including flesh and blood, Who lived a perfect life and died and was resurrected for the salvation of His people, granting them faith in HIM, will indeed judge you. Unless you repent and trust in the God of Scripture before you die, rather than a unitarian god of your imagination, it will not go well with you. There is an inspired book that has the last say on who a true Christian is–the Holy Bible.

      • E Harris says:

        GentleDove, I mean no disrespect. You are an upstanding person. However, I must mock some of your words. They are not biblical, and they are merely recited for effect. They are passed down by the traditions of men, and they do not come by the revelation of scripture.

        “Jesus Christ, the second Person of the one triune God…”

        What? Say that again?

        Read Hebrews 1:3. You will see God referred to as A Person.

        1) NEVER is the plural for person, used in reference to God.

        2) NEVER is the word “Triune” or Trinity” used of God. It is a greek formulation, and it does NOT bring clarity or logic or even scripture to the table. I believe that all 3 “manifestations” (and possibly more?) can originate from One Person. And that Jesus is the Son, in his humanity. But the Spirit in him was the Father. So don’t go accusing me of blasphemy. I am a christian.

        3) “Co-equal” existence in the trinity, is NEVER USED in the Bible. And THAT part of Trinity doctrine IS blasphemous (There is ONE Creator God, and HE has no equal.) “Coequal” in a Godhead sense, is illogical…when talking about ONE GOD. (But I am not allowed to question it? Interesting. What should be the punishment for me?) Even trinitarians and papists cannot make sense of it. Hence, it gives AMMO to the muslims, whose FIRST QUESTION, straight out of the gate, is how can 3=1?

        There is a simple solution. But earnest trinitarians won’t like it. Don’t start with 3. Start with ONE. Shema Israel. Then move to 3. It may be described in many ways without being anti-biblical. A human person is not the same as God (the Divine Person). God’s Person (in its entirety) is capable of being housed in an earthen vessel, forming a lesser person and a greater Person. Like concentric circles on a target bulls eye. God’s Person is the Center. And radiating outward are the different levels of existence/awareness/consciousness…forming the different realms which all beings exist in. These levels each have their own intrinsic ‘laws’ and ‘freedoms’. Somehow, God sustains and enables the lesser freedoms of all lesser beings – but He (of course) cannot and will not extinguish Himself. He is the Sustainer of it all.

        It is because faith is not complex, but because it is precisely THIS simple… that the Roman Centurions could hear his voice and follow. One approached Jesus with greater faith than any in Israel. Another approached Peter, after having discerned God’s voice SEPERATELY from any Biblical revelation of the Godhead. Abraham walked with God, without having seen all of these revelations that occurred in history. Indians in America worshipped the Great Spirit. Who is to say that SOME of them (the wiser ones) did not see deeper into reality, and open themselves up to receive God’s Voice, and walk with God? After all there is One God, and He wants to be understood. That is why He created us! He wants ALL to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth.

        But for TOO LONG, this whole twisted theory about “trinity” being passed on with a heavy hand… has divided people, stripped them of faith by the power of human intimidation, complicated human relations, and made it more difficult to understand God than it needs to be.

        It is time to undo Nicaea.

      • E Harris says:

        Rick Joyner once prophecied about a coming ‘civil war’ within the church. We’re almost upon it. Maybe it was progressivism versus libertarianism. But I think it goes deeper than that: for much progressivism came from an improper marriage between ‘clergy’ and empire, in those striving for Biblical faith (a little too hard). And christian libertarianism has ALWAYS been the true house of the christian believer. Always. The true church, the tabernacle of God made without hands, living stones fitted together by His Spirit… is only now beginning to be ABLE to come out into the open without persecution.

        And this de-regulating, de-centralizing movement will affect theology as well. For many of our theologies and thoughts were passed down to us using statist mannerisms. As Glenn Beck said a few days ago: we don’t need a mediator. Why? Because we HAVE ONE: Jesus Christ. And we can communicate with each other more than ever, and with greater tolerance from each other (and from the civil sword).

        I would posit that this “civil war” within the church is greater than the statists versus the libertarians. It is also between the traditions of the statists of millenia past, and the traditions of true believers from millenia past. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty. But how much liberty do we sense within the reasonings Calvin? Or in Catholicism? To the extent that it is gracious, free, loving, AND TRUE… is the only good that can be found in it. But many of the old and stale traditions need to be Left Behind.

        Ironic. That our ‘rapture’ should come along with a coming down to earth with each other.

      • GentleDove says:

        E. Harris

        You write many long comments and you seem like a genuinely nice person. However, you do not understand the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the one God of Christianity (1 Jn. 5:7), in a Biblical manner. I do not believe that you are a Christian. All the Bible verses that teach the doctrine of the Trinity are very well known and taught in the churches, confessions, and in public sermons on SermonAudio by godly Christian men. I assume in your vain war against God and His Scriptures you have come across Biblical arguments for the trinity. It is your obligation, even as a non-Christian, to study the Scriptures and learn God on this topic. I hope you do, and that you will not be blinded by such a high regard for your own intellect that you reject God’s wisdom as “foolishness.” You are certainly not the first person to hold heretical views regarding “manifestations” and “modes” of your god, which you claim is the same as the Christian God, and you won’t be the last. I pray that God will regenerate you, grant you repentance, and Christ will dwell in your heart by the person of the Holy Spirit.

        Here is one link re: the Biblical doctrine of the trinity for anyone who might be interested:

        http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/Trinity/Biblical-Evidence-for-the-Trinity/

        I don’t want to be used as a foil or an pretext for the airing of others’ heretical views or for the derailment of this thread, so I will not be replying to further anti-trinitarian or unitarian statements.

      • E Harris says:

        GentleDove, obviously we have differing perspectives on what makes a Christian (or at least a follower of God). I am pro-Oneness, before I am anti-Trinitarian. I do confess Jesus Christ, although I fail to live up to His standard.

        All the language that I use to describe God is secondary to the language in the Bible text itself. That is a MORE generous and spiritual approach than that of Trinitarians, who turn non-biblical words into litmus tests for what it means to be Christian.

        Many of the words that I have spoken in the past would have gotten me burned at the stake (plenty of times over) by professing “Christians”. But yet it is precisely these people who we hold up as an historical authority adequate to pass down traditional non-scriptural wording. This forms many difficulties in attempts to bridge relationships between believers, and even in those who want to believe.

      • opinionVSopinion says:

        Dear Gentle Dove,

        God does not exist, neither have any Gods for that matter.
        Since I am not a Christian, Hindu, Muslim, or any believer in the Supernatural, in your opinion I will find eternal damnation in the everlasting hellfire.
        Well, since that doesn’t exist either, just like the “all white” dress up party, Theme Park in the sky, we just have these lives and our words and actions that we have to take responsibility for.
        I know this discussion for you is about whether or not Jefferson was a Christian, which is evidently obvious. So please refrain from advising people, that in your mind are not Christians, to repent before they die, or else they’ll go to hell, ok?
        Please keep the little voices in your head and the discussions you have with your imaginary friend to yourself.
        Any other comments concerning the topic of this thread are always respected.
        Sincerely,
        A. T. Heist

      • GentleDove says:

        “A.T. Heist,”

        No, I won’t stop. I do not serve you, but God. If He wants to save some sinners from eternal hell fire through the work of His Son by His mighty Spirit, and by the “foolish” preaching of His word by other earthen vessels who have been like brands plucked from the fire, who love Him because He first loved them, that is because He is a merciful and benevolent God. You will bow the knee to Him as Lord of all, here or in hell. I pray my LORD God will turn your stony heart to flesh before it’s too late, and you discover that your “omniscient” knowledge of whether or not there is a true God has failed you, that you were only suppressing the truth in unrighteousness all along. May He grant you saving faith in Him. I’m glad you’re trolling this site; you might learn a thing or two.

        GentleDove

  17. Chad Bull says:

    I liked David Barton’s book on the Constituion, “Original Intent”, and thought him to be quite intelligent and on target. Then some years later I read his book, “American History in Black and White” and was a little surprised and disappointed. He gushingly fawned over President Lincoln as the saviour of all black people in time and history, despite the mountains of evidence that he really was no friend to or at least did not care one way or the other for free blacks or black slaves in this Country. He hardly acknowledged Lincoln at all as a fallible human, but held him out to be a messiah. Much of his time in this book was spent as a cheerleader for the Republican Party and passed unfair judgement on the Democrat Party of the day and this was probably why he held Lincoln above reproach. There was no attempt to weed out the good from the bad. It was the same pablam I here preached everyday from the millions of “well meaning” but pietistic “conservative” Christians of “Republican good, Democrat bad”. It’s the same old Rhetoric that gave us President George W. Bush and will probably give us President Mitt Romney, with the same results I might add. And this may actually be his goal (take it easy now… not just Mitt Romney specifically or just this election, but any neo-con Republican at any time).

    As I said at the beginning, David Barton struck me as on target and quite smart after reading “Original Intent”, but his intellectual dishonesty and unabashed, cheerleading for one party over another in a “scholarly” work makes me question either his actual ability to discern or his actual intent. I don’t believe him to be a dummy, but something is amiss; discernment or intent.

    We are all guilty at times or probably most of the time of letting our world and life view define facts for us. Barton is no exception, but it seems so bad in American History in Black and White, that its hard to imagine that this is all that he is guilty of.

    • TxHistorian says:

      Chad,

      You are spot on. I started following Barton on Beck’s FNC show and, like you, thought him to be intelligent on the Founders. I decided to pursue a masters in history and truly studied the historical record and saw Barton’s truth twisting for what it was. Read “Getting Jefferson Right” AFTER reading “The Jefferson Lies” and any reasonable person with an open mind and an eighth grade literacy level, will start to see where Barton leaves out key parts of the primary sources he cites because they would disprove his assertion if he included them. He is counting on his minions to not research these sources. Even if they do,he knows most won’t be able to understand 18th and 19th century American Englsh enough to understand the author’s intent.

  18. Wayne says:

    The concept of the Trinity may be difficult to understand, but cannot be dismissed. All three members are recorded in Scripture as having raised Jesus from the dead. They were all present at his baptism. It is clear Jesus and the Holy Spirit are subordinate to the Father for the words they both speak are from the Father. Genesis says we were made in the image of God. I usually tell people that they are a triune being. They have a body, a soul (mind, will and emotions) and a spirit. These of course are analogous to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. One of the things Jefferson did was to create a Red Letter Bible containing only the words of Christ. There was a time when I only wanted to read the Words of Christ so I can understand that. The other thing, like Isaac flooding New Orleans on the 7th anniversary of Katrina, as the imprimatur of God’s judgment, I see God affirming this man’s great work when he died along with John Adams on the 4th of July in 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

    • E Harris says:

      1) Persons.
      Not in the scriptures, in the plural use.
      2) Trinity, or triune.
      Also not in the scriptures.
      3) Coequal.
      Blasphemy, straight up. There is ONE God, and He has no equal. The Son came from the Father, prayed to the Father, looks to the Father, serves the Father.

      Nicaea is puny human intellects trying to resolve THEIR OWN plurality of opinions into a unity that even THEY couldn’t understand in the end. They probably just wanted to satisfy the emperor’s demand for a document (and each other’s demand for an empire-wide consensus) so they could get back home to their wives and children. That is, before the “church” that they created by their fiat, told them that they couldn’t have wives!~

      • Truth Preacher says:

        And the Oneness or Unitarians are here spreading blatant lies and falsehood. For example, two have said the word “co-equal” in unBiblical and blasphemous.

        No it isn’t. PROVE IT. Asserting this is not proof, and I say it is a LIE.

        And in Phil 2:5-8, we are told Christ existed in the form of God and THOUGHT IT NOT ROBBERY TO BE EQUAL WITH GOD. There it is. Co-equal! You two are guilty of blasphemy in DENYING the truth about the Triune God and spreading slander.

        Further, in John 5, we are told that Christ MADE HIMSELF EQUAL WITH GOD by saying what He did. So the CONCEPT of c0-equality is PLAINLY STATED in Scripture.

        Now then, cease your foolish lies and your false reasonings againt the trinity. Anyone versed in logic can see your objections to the trinity based on your logic is actually LOGICAL FALLACIES, and the error in thinking is in your own depraved minds.

      • Way4JC says:

        Rapture’s not in the Bible either, but it symbolizes a doctrine of the return of Christ and our gathering together to meet him in the air. The Bible speaks of Christ that he was equal to God (the Jews were going to stone him for this John 5:18). Check also John 1:1-15, Col 2:9 and Phil 2:5-11, but subordinate since he only did what his father wanted. All power in heaven and in earth was given to him and all judgment (Matt 28:18; John 5:22) but in the end Christ will be made subject to the Father that God may be all in all (1 Cor 15:27,28). All I know is we can pray to the Father; we can pray to the Son and even the Holy Spirit. It’s all going to work out in the end, just the way God planned it. We’ll have eternity to ask questions. The important thing is are you saved? Have you made Jesus Lord of your life and have you repented of sin? Being ready for his return and doing God’s will are pretty much all that’s required. Of course understanding God’s will and having sound doctrine is important, so this exercise in being a Berean is a good thing, if we can do it without hostility and sectarian predudice.

      • E Harris says:

        Way4, if you carefully read how I use the term ‘rapture’ it is not in the ‘catching up’ sense at at… it is in the traditional literary sense of the word rapture. It’s a play on words.

        TruthPreacher, obviously you are very worked up. I’ve seen Oneness Pentecostals just as worked up. So Jesus Christ existed in “the form” of God, equal with God? That’s not trinitarian language, is it? But it is Bible. So we both agree. I would propose that when the Pharisees took up stones, it was because THEY had an improper concept of the Godhead. They saw a man saying “I’m equal with God” or “This fleshly body is God.” That is not what Jesus was saying, in my opinion. I think he was saying: “I am in communion with My Father, I do His Will perfectly, and we ARE ONE in Spirit. I AM my Father (in Spirit, as a Person).” But the Son was crucified, broken, given for us.

        In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Well…we know that God is ONE, and that there is none beside Him. He does not share His glory with another. So is God one Person or 3? Look up Hebrews 1:3.

        I think the misunderstanding (collossal misunderstanding) can be cleared up when we understand that the WORD comes from a SOURCE. The Father begets. The Father originates. The Father creates. The Son comes FROM. Is begotten. Is sent into the world. The Son is human, and is now a life-giving Spirit. The Father IS God, Spirit, the Almighty. The Son does not tell the Father what to do, except by the Father’s prior permission. This is not a co-equal relationship.

        For there to be love, justice or ownership, there must be a giving. Moral clarity requires rigid heirarchy – not a committee. For something to be unavoidable, for there to be no other way (even though the Son pleaded for one) there was an unavoidable moral order. The sacrifice wasn’t a committee decision. The sacrifice was a vuluntary one BASED ON the Love that binds the universe together (the Father is Supreme). So, in fact, the Father (and His needs) are greater than the Son. The Father IS THAT Love which binds.

        Otherwise, why didn’t the “Father” come himself? Because… he did. (“If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”) But the Father couldn’t DIE, because He is the Eternal One. The Father is the Creator and Sustainer of all that is (even His Word). The Son died, and was resurrected by the power of God.

        The Father gave HIS Son, so that we can be adopted into His Son, as sons, and be welcomed into the family. Jesus wishes that we would be one – as he is one with his father. So… you wouldn’t have a trinity. That points to something much larger than a trinity. Jesus was the firstborn of many brethren. Adopted as sons, with the Holy Spirit, we are called into fellowship with God – the same fellowship that Jesus shared (through Jesus as intercessor). I do not negate that the Holy Spirit, the Father, or even the firstborn Son are greater than I. However, this points to a startling conclusion: even if you accept the “trinity” in all of its terminology, God desires MORE than a trinity. Almost infinitely more.

        Call me what you want, but I am christian. And I deny the trinity and almost the entirety of the traditions founded at Council of Nicaea. Believe it or not.

      • TXHistorian says:

        E. Harris,

        Were not these fallible human intellects the same who determined which writings would be considered as “divinely inspired” enough to be canonized as part of the Christian Bible? We trust these human, fallible,men to decide what is God’s Word and what is not?

        These same men attribute 13 epistles to the authorship of Paul, when he only wrote six in their entirety with the other seven being co-written after his execution circa 65 C.E.

        All we need to be Christians is to accept Jesus as our savior, obey his Father,repent of our sins and love one another. It’s THAT simple. Why do others make it more difficult than it needs to be?

  19. TexasHistorian says:

    If true, how can we believe that Barton did not create that document himself with a color printer at his home? We don’t because he has been caught in so many lies and half truths that it is difficult to discern truth from fiction with him.

    Barton’s fifth reference in the chapter on Jefferson’s atheism was this link to an authorless Facebook page:

    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=360240177811

    Do you see an author listed for this article? You will not see one because it is an anonymous article.

    Barton writes “Or more to the point, he was not a Christian. Is this true? For modern writers the answer is simple:…Jefferson …It’s very likely he was a an atheist.” (4)

    So who is the modern writer Barton cites here when this article is authorless? This is not scholarly work.

  20. kennethos says:

    I got two phrases for the David Barton mess: peer review, and answering your critics. Barton hasn’t done much of either, to my knowledge (feel free to correct me if I’m mistaken). Barton has written much for biblical believers, but when conservatives begin to follow progressive leads regarding his scholarship, either Barton’s got something to answer for, or there’s a hidden agenda (or, possibly, both). However: much as I disagree with her, Chris Rodda, a progressive researcher, has documented many of Barton’s mistakes. He needs to comprehensively answer her, and put his work out to the scholarly/academic historian community for some form of peer review, in order to gain back any respect, and salvage his reputation. He’s given the impression of playing hard and fast with the facts and truth for too long, and it’s come back to bite him.

  21. A. Sharpe says:

    If the latter Jefferson wrote the contents of the letter which I included in my post on Darnell’s “Were the founding fathers egalitarians? What did they mean by “all men are created equal”? “, then it would take an Arminian, semi-Pelagian mindset to claim that he was early on what he obviously was not later, at the close of his years.

    Not being an atheist, that is the recognition that there is a “Nature’s God” in accord with the plain teaching of Romans 1, that is that the Natural man may see the Creator in the creation, is no guarantee of salvation, nor laudatory, in that it is demanded by God. Since Jefferson absolute and categorically denied by his translation of the first verse of John’s Gospel the Logos, also denying a virgin birth, he was not Christian, but in his actions, was antichrist.

    James 2:19 You believe that God is one; well and good.31 Even the demons believe that – and tremble with fear. (NET bible)

    Thus, the truth of Romans 9 is revealed, since Israel prayed daily the glorious “Shema” daily, yet not all of Israel is Israel, or as Romans 11 declares, “…God blinded Israel in part…”, the potter having power over the clay, from the same lump making some vessels fitted to mercy, and others fitted to destruction – and that from the entire lump of haAdam, and not merely the Jew.

    When Darnell praises “the lofty ideals of the Declaration”, he serves the notions of an antichrist, and the document which espouses “Demos”-”Kratos”, which is rule of the governed, and also Rebellion, not to mention the non-biblical “inalienable” right to the pursuit of Happiness,which no man may enjoy in this world or the next without benefit of Messiah, or the non-biblical notion of Liberty, wherein it is a fact that all are born slaves to Sin, their Will frozen by Sin so that they can do nothing to please God, and Liberty proceeds only from that Freedom purchased by the only begotten Son, which He does not give freely to nations, but only to the men and women who are called out of this world (and those nations) into the Kingdom of God and the ekklesia.

    When McDurmon praises Jefferson and his sense of an afterlife, you might also praise Pharaoh who also had a greatly exaggerated and wrong view of an afterlife, his “boat” left in the tomb, whereas his soul was taken to the terrible part of Sheol, where, a few days later, he was joined by Mr. Jefferson, and his god Reason.

    Which is to say, Barton is no more revisionist than is the AV Gang.

    • Calvin Lindstrom says:

      Mr. Sharpe, I don’t understand how you state that McDurmon praises Jefferson and his understanding of an afterlife. Throughout the entire article, McDurmon shows the need to carefully define our terms. His definitions show no great praise for Jefferson as being in any sense orthodox. Perhaps I have misunderstood your comments, but it appears to me that you have not understood McDurmon’s entire article.

      • A. Sharpe says:

        Mr. Lindstrom:

        The AV “dialogue” is a continuing one. The praise of Jefferson by McDurmon and Darnell were written in previous articles. Mr. McDurmon is not always as “careful” as he suggests others should be. The praise is not direct, but oblique. And, the blog design disallows an efficient search just as it disallows a “preview” of a post which would allow for the correction of misspellings, etc.

        Many of their articles are so brief and some of those also so devoid of content, suggesting that a mere emotional response is desired. However, if you read the AV Gang over a lengthy period of time, their statements add up to a dogma, a body of doctrine. They obviously depend on both short articles and also short memories in their readership. They will cry ‘ad hominem” forbidden, and then proceed to destroy another Christian not of their party, and not merely on the basis of “doctrine”, as in the case of T. David Gordon, John MacArthur or Al Mohler.

        Thomas Jefferson was an intelligent and able man. He was an intellectual and skilled in letters far beyond anything the AV Gang might offer. Like most of those admitted to the universities of that day, he had Greek, Latin, English and French also and was conversant with the Classics. Many graduates of the Universities of that day were graduating at an age where, in this day, many are just entering the 11th or 12th grade of “high” school. However, if someone portrays him as a Christian, having read both his public and his private writings, it is obvious that those so categorizing him cannot define adequately “Christian”.

        If an “orthodox” Christian praises Jefferson’s published “ideals”, that is an indicator that they have not read their Bible in an “orthodox” manner. There is also a problem with orthodoxy itself, as it is a late template, that is it appears long after the first ekklesia in Jerusalem. Additionally, Jude makes the inspired yet simple claim that there was a faith ‘which was once delivered to the saints”. I offer all due respect to the Orthodox Church, but it ain’t the “first” ekklesia, which was Jewish (Judean).

        Thus, Jefferson was an antichrist in that he opposed Jesus as Messiah, and God and also “hoped” that the creation of the United States would “destroy” belief Y’shua’s divinity. By using the term “virgin birth”, he neglected in convenient fashion the biblical fact (a part of the faith delivered unto the saints – once and for all) that that holy child was “formed”, “made”, “conceived” of the Ruach haKodesh, the Holy Spirit.

        Thus it is not a matter of the philosophical term “orthodox”, but his “violation” of the faith once delivered to the saints in that he denies that faith. Simply put, Jefferson never once offered up the “Christian” confession of Romans 10, whereby a verbal, public announcement is made that Jesus is Lord (Kurios, Adonai – thus God). Mr. Jefferson also despised revelation as a basis for Christianity.

        Jefferson, of course, is dead. Yet, the Declaration lives on. And, it reflects the anti-God, antichrist mind of its author. There are no “lofty ideals” unless one tosses the Bible aside, puts on a carnal mind, and entertains the flesh, relying on ratiocination, which Jefferson called Reason.

        Now, a reportedly anti-trinitarian Servetus (Villeneuve) was slow-roasted by the Geneva Council for transgressing their edict that criticism of the “Institutio” was forbidden. Reportedly, his dying words were “Lord Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on me”. Apparently, there is a discrepancy in the account, either in the indictment or in the remembrance of the last words.

        I think there is no such contradiction evident in the end of Jefferson’s
        life. Certainly none is published.

        I commend you for reading with comprehension and seeking clarification.

      • E Harris says:

        Mr. Sharpe, you seem to have a more balanced & accurate view of Jefferson than Mr. Barton, Mr. McDurmon, or even myself (in my replies here).

        After all, Mr. Jefferson fell head-over-heels for the French Enlightenment (a godless movement) and saw no difference between it, and the Reformation-based American Revolution.

        That’s like not seeing the difference between Occupy and the Tea Party.

  22. SLIMJIM says:

    Thank you for this article as the problem of most people’s conception of Jefferson is so off…and thank you for being balanced and also showing Jefferson was not orthodox Christian either.

  23. GentleDove says:

    I really appreciate this call to integrity in Christian scholarship/academia. I remember Greg Bahnsen said in one of his lectures (paraphrased), “I know very well why the world laughs at us. We [Christians] are not serious about our scholarship.”

    Lying about what Jefferson wrote and believed and passing it off as historical fact is a serious blot on Barton’s integrity and Christian witness before a mocking world. Bluffing and waffling will only make it worse. I hope he will publicly repent of this and will be given the opportunity to revise this work, even if he has to change the thesis of his book and rename it “Jefferson Was Not an Atheist.”

    In the bigger picture, I believe all of us who are Christians need to guard against our own tendency to want so badly for those we respect and admire and love to like us and like Christianity, so that we might be tempted to “fudge” a little (bear false witness) and call something (or someone) Christian, when it (or he or she) isn’t.

    • TXHISTORIAN says:

      Gentle Dove,

      Well said! It is that very witness of Christians to no believers that I take issues with Barton.

  24. Gary DeMar says:

    Did David Barton know about these edits before TN published his Jeffersonbook? TN published a book of mine in 2001. I got to see all the edits. If the editors had mangled what I was trying to get across to the readers, I would have made a big deal about it. Of course, things could have changed at TN since they published my book.

    • Chris says:

      Yes, he knew. However, what TN did in this case was to reduce the number and depth of his citations. They did not materially alter his thesis or intent, they just cut off his proof after a few examples, when in fact he had included many additional pages for each chaoter that were cut out for print cost reasons. The end result was a 40% drop in page count. If you have six or eight references proving your point, why have thirty or more? But the biggest critique of this book is his lack of references. This is the fault of the publisher not the writer.

      The book was fact checked by a number of the publisher’s employees before being published so their turnaround is obviously due to political pressure and not their comfort with the facts.

    • Rodder says:

      From personal experience with Thomas Nelson, I can only say that I wouldn’t hire them to print note pads much less another of my books. Their management will have much to answer for before the Bema Seat . . . . or perhaps the Great White Throne.

  25. Isaac says:

    Wow! This was quite a review. Thank you for pointing those areas out. However, throughout this critique you call for more evidence to back-up Barton’s radical claims. This was the same criticism leveled at him by others: his documentation was lacking. Barton himself responded to this on Glenn Beck’s show. In the clip I saw, he pulled out a manuscript of his book that had been edited by Thomas Nelson. They had marked all the content of the book that would be removed from the text before publishing in red ink – there were pages and pages full of red. If this is true, than much of the evidence you wanted to see could have been removed by Thomas Nelson beforehand. Barton said that he will include the removed content in future printings, should he get the opportunity.
    Then you say, “While the reader might expect the same courtesy to be shown to Barton, I suspect that the very nature of his work made [revision] impossible.” Barton claims that Thomas Nelson never contacted or consulted him about the matter, they merely informed him that the book was being pulled. No discussion or chance to defend his work. This, combined with the massive editing done by the publisher makes the whole thing smell fishy.

    • Stephen says:

      Gary, I listened to an archive on Barton’s radio show at his website and he stated that he did not get to look at the edits.

    • Chuck Teal says:

      Thanks, Isaac; I saw the same episode of Glenn’s show with Barton’s defense, and I agree with you; something about the whole thing doesn’t pass the smell test. Mercury Ink intends to publish future editions, and with that and the missing 14+ pages of footnotes restored) perhaps the critics (if their own agenda doesn’t prohibit) will revise their commentary.

      • GentleDove says:

        Hopefully, in addition to the missing 14 plus pages of footnotes, they will add back in the words omitted from the “quotations” that made it into the book. Unfortunately, doing so would change the meanings of the sentences and undermine the thesis of Barton’s book.

      • Chris says:

        14 missing pages just for chapter 4.

        40% of the manuscript was end notes that were cut for the final printing.

      • Isaac says:

        GentleDove,
        Considering the sizable amount of the book that is not in the published version, I don’t think that we can say at this point one way or the other. There may be evidence for that thesis, there may not be, but until we hear more, we just don’t know.
        Even if it turns out that it is untenable, and even if Barton misquoted certain sources, I am shocked at how many wild accusations and attacks on Barton’s character are flying around.
        As to the misquotations that Mr. McDurmon brought up, it is possible that Barton deliberately misquoted Jefferson, but it is inconsistent with his past. Barton says he is continually re-checking the facts in his books, and is always ready to make revisions with every new edition of his books, based on errors being brought to his attention.
        From Wallbuilders.com: “In using this higher standard, he discovered there were about a dozen or so popular and widely-used quotes by historians and others (David had quoted these sources with documentation properly footnoted in The Myth of Separation) that he could not find in the Founders’ own writings. Importantly, some of those quotes had come from works nearly a century-and-a-half old and therefore would seem to have been credible; yet David could not find those quotes in original documents.
        David therefore released a paper entitled ‘Unconfirmed Quotations’ in which he listed those dozen or so quotes that he had used in Myth of Separation and which he would voluntarily no longer use.”
        So if he’s willing to admit his mistakes, and take steps to correct them, then why would Thomas Nelson not give him a chance to? No historical work is going to be perfect, and sometimes even competent historians make egregious mistakes. I think that there must be something more to Thomas Nelson pulling “TJL” than just that Barton wrote a bad book. Barton’s responses to his critics so far seem to make sense, or at least are plausible enough to have a spot at the table. Even if a lot of people disagree with his conclusions or the way he proved some of his points, that still should not get a book recalled. There are probably tons of errors and misrepresentations in some of the books that Thomas Nelson publishes on modern-day politicians, and yet a scathing review of those books won’t kill their shelf-life.
        I think we should give our brother in the Lord the benefit of the doubt before we say he is lying and question his integrity.

      • GentleDove says:

        That lying in print and in his scholarship may not be not consistent with his past, is not a “get out of lying free card.” He published a book that deliberately twisted Jefferson’s words more than once in the one chapter that Mr. McDurmon reviewed, and made no outcry when that book was published (only when the publisher pulled it). Christians have a responsibility to tell the truth more than unbelievers, so as to present a godly contrast with the world. When we Christians fail to tell the truth, then we have to repent of it and thank God for His mercy upon us for Jesus’ sake.

      • Isaac says:

        I agree we need to hold to the highest standard of truthfulness and scholarship, but what is happening is people jumping to conclusions. Like I said, we don’t know that he *deliberately* misquoted Jefferson. There could be many factors and possibilities here. It may have been the fault of a seemingly-credible source, as has happened in the past to Barton. Or it may have been Barton’s own fault.
        He made no “outcry” when it was published because, to the best of his knowledge, the facts in the book were correct. Then Thomas Nelson’s team combed through it, and they made no “outcry” and did not catch the mistakes that Mr. McDurmon has. In fact, Barton has been willing to go back and check the veracity of his claims, and defend his work, against his current critics.
        What makes you so certain that, if this article is shown to him, (unless he can back-up his point,) he won’t do the same as he has done in the past and set the record right? Are you so set on making an example of scholarly dishonesty out of Barton that you won’t even consider that possibility? Question the quality of his work as a historian, sure. But why question his character?

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