Of late, I have gone from trying to change the problem to trying to understand it.
Numerous Christian academic historians have weighed in on the historical misadventures of David Barton, often with unclear results in the church world. A recent example is the decision of the Missouri Baptist Convention to sponsor a talk by David Barton in MO near the end of the month. Despite clear evidence from academic Christian historians that Mr. Barton’s talks are laced with significant historical problems, the executive director of the MBC told me:
We are grateful for the opportunity to help a leading Missouri Baptist church serve as host of the conference. Whatever your views on David Barton, we support the event and encourage Missouri Baptists to hear him out and decide for themselves. In my many years in Baptist life, I have found my fellow Baptists to be fair-minded and discerning people who love the truth. Certainly, we agree with the stated mission of WallBuilders: to educate the nation concerning the Godly foundation of our country; to provide information to federal, state, and local officials as they develop public policies that reflect Biblical values; and to encourage Christians to be involved in the civic arena.
Gregg Frazer, historian at The Master’s College said in response:
Baptists may well be “fair-minded and discerning people who love the truth” and it is good that the president wants Missouri Baptists to “decide for themselves.” The problem is that in order to properly discern and to properly decide on truth, people must have access to proper information and actual truth. Missouri Baptists, for example, would never come to the truth of the Gospel if all that was presented to them was Buddhism or Islam. In order to come to a proper conclusion, one must have access to the truth. How can they learn truth if Missouri Baptists hear only manufactured “history” – history as some wish it had been; history as constructed from partial quotes, quotes out of context, misleading half-truths, and complete falsehoods? The vast majority of Missourians/Americans do not have the time or resources to study primary historical documents – so they put their faith in people who claim to have done that study. When that trust is misplaced, Missouri Baptists will inevitably draw false conclusions – through no fault of their own.
If Missouri Baptists are going to hear the eccentric views of self-proclaimed historians and still have a chance to know the truth and to discern it, they must also hear from someone who can point out misleading tactics and errors and show them the actual texts that are distorted and manipulated. I’m from Missouri; I trust that Missourians could discern properly between two alternatives. But IF THEY ONLY HEAR ONE SIDE, HOW CAN THEY MAKE A PROPER DETERMINATION?
Of course, Frazer is correct.
Here is what I don’t understand. In the face of evidence that you are may be responsible for disseminating error, shouldn’t you check into it? This almost never happens. There is clear evidence that a problem exists and the person in charge does nothing but defend the decision.
Shouldn’t Dr. Yeats have a conversation with Hankins and Frazer?
I can supply him and his board with names of over 50 Christian academics who can provide relevant evidence regarding the matter at hand.
I wrote and asked the MBC why Christian academic historians don’t matter. No answer.
Southern Baptists send their children to Christian colleges to get an education from academics who have dedicated their lives to getting things right. Of course, we don’t always get it right but the values of the academy push us to correct where we are wrong and own up to it. However, when it comes to church work, respect for Christian colleges often goes out the window, at least in the area of historical scholarship. Wallbuilders has the right slogan so it doesn’t matter what the organization’s founder teaches or how many key facts he gets wrong.
Barton’s claims don’t just relate to America’s founding era. He has falsely claimed that violent crime has risen almost 700% since the early 1960s (crime did rise until the mid-1990s but has been falling since then). He has misled audiences about HIV vaccines, PTSD, and numerous other more current issues. He even claimed to play college basketball for Oral Roberts University. He didn’t. This was debunked by ORU. He claimed to be a translator for the Russian national gymnastics team (they brought their own). His book on Thomas Jefferson was pulled from publication by a Christian publisher after they fact checked it. Much more could be said.
Shouldn’t the people responsible for these meetings check into these things?
I realize that the MBC may be at odds with the parent convention over religion and politics. Recently, the SBC pulled an invitation for Ben Carson to speak at an event due to concerns about those entanglements. Perhaps the MBC leadership disagrees with that approach and wants a more political approach to religion. However, if so, that is no reason to mislead the people you are responsible for.
Think about that for a minute. The SBC pulled Ben Carson’s invitation but the MBC is rock solid on sponsoring David Barton.
Something is wrong with this picture.