Christian Reconstructionist Takes David Barton to Task for Faulty History in The Jefferson Lies

I don’t know how large American Vision’s audience is but I suspect there is at least some overlap between David Barton’s Christian nation audience and American Vision’s Christian reconstruction constituency.

If so, this article today by Joel McDurmon could cause Mr. Barton some heartburn. Mr. McDurmon offers a devastating analysis of Barton’s chapter on Jefferson’s faith. He begins his critique by grounding it in his worldview:

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.

While I have strong differences with Christian reconstructionism, I understand this starting point. We started in a similar place in our book. We did not write it to attack Christianity (as if fact checking Barton is an attack on Christianity), we wrote the book to uphold our faith. A little later in the article, McDurmon calls me a liberal (compared to McDurmon, most people are liberals). It is all the more striking that McDurmon and I come to similar conclusions about the factual problems with The Jefferson Lies. As with other evangelical figures and groups (Chuck Dunn, Colson’s Breakpoint, World magazine), no one can accuse McDurmon and American Vision of being liberal.

I encourage readers to review the entire article, but here is a taste of McDurmon’s analysis of the claim that Thomas Jefferson was theologically orthodox throughout most of his adult years:

Yet Barton selectively quotes [Benjamin] 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.

Bam! By which I mean, he nailed it.

McDurmon closes by telling his readers that he cannot recommend the book because they would need to fact check everything.

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.

Or you can get Getting Jefferson Right where we do the heavy lifting and point you in the right way.

This article is a significant shift for American Vision. Currently, they are hosting, with Kirk Cameron, a cruise featuring the movie Monumental which prominently features David Barton’s stories. If McDurmon submits Barton’s work in Monumental to the same scrutiny as he did to The Jefferson Lies in this article, then there will be a need for a disclaimer at the beginning and end of that movie.


Christian reconstructionist warns of threat from New Apostolic Reformation dominionism

Note to dominionism deniers: Not only is dominionism real, there are at least two types alive and well within evangelical circles. In the category of it-takes-one-to-know-one, American Vision’s Joel McDurmon spells out the differences between the theonomy of Christian reconstructionism and the dominionism of the New Apostolic Reformation. In all seriousness, if you want to understand the two movements, this is an important article to read. I bring the highlights with some supporting information; you should read the whole thing.
Let me begin at the end of McDurmon’s post. He concludes that the Seven Mountain teaching of the New Apostolic Reformation is a dangerous top-down power grab.

Can you imagine John Hagee as Secretary of State?
This is exactly the threat—top-down threat, totalitarian threat, eschatological holocaust threat—that 7MD presents to us.
American Vision is not that; they are not us; we are not them.
Perhaps more should be written on these guys and the threats they pose to society. They may have a few better political ideas, but they are just as dangerous in degree as the most radical of the left.
Perhaps I am wrong about them. Perhaps I have misread them as national-power grabbers when they are not. If not, they should disavow everything I have quoted here clearly and unequivocally in print, and provide their viable limited-government, free-market alternative.

McDurmon, who openly believes that national civil law should be the same as Old Testament law, quotes several NAR writers, including the driving force behind the movement, C. Peter Wagner. He does not offer this quote but I want to point out what Wagner says about dominion from his book Dominion: How Kingdom Action Can Change the World. FIrst he says that “if a Christian majority wants to allow praying to God in the name of Jesus, the minority should follow the basic rules of democracy and attempt to prohibit such a practice. If a majority feels that heterosexual marriage is the best choice for a happy and prosperous society, those in the minority who disagree should conform — not because they live in a theocracy, but because they live in a democracy. The most basic principle of democracy is that the majority, not the minority, rules and sets the ultimate norms for society.” (p. 17)
If Wagner’s movement is ever successful with this view of democracy, the 14th Amendment will need to be repealed. Having defined away minority rights, Wagner then describes how dominion might work in a society:

In light of this, taking dominion or transforming society does not imply a theocracy. Taking dominion comes about by playing by the rules of the democratic game and, fairly and squarely, gaining the necessary influence in the seven molders of culture to ultimately benefit a nation and open society for the blessings, prosperity and happiness God desires for all people. God rules those who are faithful to HIm. Such people, filled with God, are the ones who I believe will govern the transformed societies of the future. This is not a plea for a theocracy. (p. 18)

Rick Perry’s The Response prayer meeting last month was full of New Apostolic Reformationists which is the kind of thing one would expect. Play the game, fair and square; get your people elected and then the majority will make rules to which the minority should conform. McDurmon calls this a threat.
McDurmon agrees with some tenets of NAR dominionism, saying:

Before my critical remarks, however, let me note a couple of great acknowledgements and key teachings associated with the 7MD movement. First, there is generally an emphasis on making disciples and not just converts. The church has too much focused only on “saving souls” and not enough on training those souls in obedience to all the teachings of Christ. This I affirm and applaud.
Second (and based on the first point), the leaders almost all make a point to acknowledge that the gospel and the Great Commission are so much greater than just the visible church itself. Rather, the gospel applies to every area of life, and the Great Commission is a renewal of the dominion mandate of Genesis 1:28. Thus, we should apply God’s Word to things like business, economics, government, family, media, art, etc., with the goal of dominion throughout the earth.
With these things—generally stated—I wholeheartedly agree.

However, he then notes that NAR dominionists propose getting control of the various segments of society “by any means necessary” which he asserts is at odds which reconstructionist thinking. In contrast, reconstructionists believe that government should be decentralized with local governments making rules for local entities. He favors implementation of Mosaic law but believes anyone who doesn’t like it could leave and go elsewhere. He adds that reconstructionists believe that such a reconstructionist society would come because a majority of people convert to Christianity without any top-down enforcement.
For anyone interested in what is shaping up to be a defining issue in the 2012 campaign, McDurmon has clarified some theological issues of importance.
Hat tip to Right Wing Watch for the McDurmon link.