Gregg Frazer is a professor of history at the conservative Master’s College in CA. His book Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders provides a fine historical treatment of the founders and their religious views. Frazer coined the term “theistic rationalism” to describe the religious perspective of many of the founders. On Friday, World Magazine published a short response to David Barton on the subject of Thomas Jefferson’s religious beliefs. It is an important contribution to the ongoing coverage World has provided on the David Barton controversy.
As we did in Getting Jefferson Right, Jefferson does not leave us in the dark about his religious influences. He points to Joseph Priestley and Conyers Middleton as foundations of his beliefs. Both of these men denied the orthodox Christian position. In The Jefferson Lies, Barton does not tell readers about Jefferson’s statement to this effect.
Rather quickly, Barton replied on the World website. His reply seemed to signal that he was going to bow out of the discussion.
Throckmorton’s original assault on my book managed to avoid its major points and instead criticize minor and even obscure facts, and this new attack by Frazer seems to suggest that this “debate” may become a never-ending discussion over less and less. With so many important cultural battles that desperately need our focused attention, it seems a misuse of time and energy to continue arguing over relatively inconsequential points with those who profess to hold the same common Christian values, so I will now resume my efforts attempting to beat back the secularist progressive movement that wrongly invokes Jefferson in their efforts to expunge any presence of faith from the public square.
Shorter Barton: These critics are straining at minutiae so I am going back to more important matters. If evangelical leaders let him get away with this, it will be an effective strategy. If he can spin all of this as picky detail with no real relevance then he will be able to continue misrepresenting the facts in order to “beat back the secularist agenda.” Inasmuch as evangelicals allow this, we have no claim to provide a moral stance (something many outside the community say has already happened).
With that in mind, I want to thank Marvin Olasky and the folks at World Magazine for keeping this issue before the community.