In October, David Barton said he worked with about a dozen colleges that he believed were right on history and theology. Messiah College historian John Fea followed up and identified six he thought might be on the list. One that is probably not on the list is Grace University in Omaha, NE. Grace’s president emeritus Jim Eckman posted a critique of Barton’s book The Jefferson Lies on the university’s website late last week. Before he identifies three specific problems, he summarizes his findings:
I am a Christian, and a published historian, who teaches history and have done so for over 35 years. My Ph.D. is in history, and my other three degrees are in history or historical theology. I am also an ordained minister and have served in the administration (as Academic VP and as President for a total of 20 years) of a Christ-centered University. I take research and teaching very seriously. I believe it is wrong to distort evidence or be selective to prove a point that the evidence does not support. I believe very strongly that David Barton has done just this in his book on Thomas Jefferson. As Christians, if we are going to make an argument, it must be true and it must be supported by the evidence. What makes David Barton’s situation even more significant is that many evangelicals like what he says because it fits with their Republican or Libertarian worldview. Even if he has distorted things, it does not seem to matter. Before the Lord, as evangelicals, we cannot misrepresent history to prove a preconceived point.
As a Christian historian and Christian leader, I believe very strongly that we must be truthful and forthright about our beliefs. We must also be people of integrity and be scrupulous in how we present our case. In my judgment, David Barton has not done this. (Thomas Nelson has ceased its publication of Barton’s book on Jefferson.) He needs to be called to task and evangelicals in the US must be much more discerning and careful in what is claimed about our Founders.
Eckman was moved to write because Barton had recently spoken at Westside Church in Omaha. Videos of his messages are archived on the church website. The message is about the same as other recent messages he has delivered in various churches around the country. In this speech, he claims the free market system “came out of five Bible verses,” and the republican form of government came from the Bible, the Constitution cites the Bible, and that violent crime has gone straight up since the removal of the Bible from schools, among many other things. I debunked the last claim in an earlier post.