Nathan Finn Calls Attention to the Pseudo-History of Barton or, Is This the Consequence of the Marriage for which Dr. Land Called?

I recall a conversation on politics last year. We stood in the hallway while others carried boxes of food to folks in need. She was lecturing me on American History. All she knew she learned at a series of events at a gun range. I don’t even recall the book in her hand except that she constantly referenced my need to read it. She came for a box of food but would save her money to buy me a copy. I politely declined.

During our conversation she assured me the United States Constitution was a Divine document. Glen Beck confirmed it. He may have endorsed the book she held in her hand. American Exceptionalism is a myth bought into by many, sadly.

My minor in college? History. Where? Oklahoma Baptist University. The 18 hours that comprise my minor do not make me an expert. But, it comes in handy to sniff out inaccuracies. I am hoping they have not entertained this sort of pseudo-history in the History Department there. It looks like the GOP has.

Last night I got home after a long day. Patty told me she may have to re-consider her party affiliation. She asked if I had heard of David Barton. I had. We had a discussion. Who knows? Maybe we will both become Independents. Marty Duren may yet convince me, if not Greg.

Recently I spotted a Facebook post by Nathan Finn. He also posted the same to Twitter. He noted,

He also Tweeted,

And today, Finn pointed to an article on the subject,

Finn is a Baptist History professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I met Nathan in person a few years ago. We had online exchanges prior to that encounter at Northwest Baptist Association. I am glad he is calling attention to the matter.

The situation with Barton reminds me of the reaction I read to an incident in Arizona. In early reports conservative media outlets claimed Christians’ rights were being trampled for simply wanting to hold a Bible Study. Upon further investigation it seems the media and The Rutherford Institute supported the wrong side of that story.

I fear too many Christians are on the wrong side of the Barton story. At least too many hailing from the conservative side of the world. It is nice to note that Finn, a conservative Southern Baptist, is not taken in. May his tribe increase and his voice be heard often. Unfortunately it will be hard to stymy Barton’s voice and his alleged 30-year plan. Texas appears to have taken in the Kool-Aid.

Barton will be speaking at the GOP National Convention. Surely this is the consequence of Dr. Land’s call for nothing short of a marriage between the Religious Right and the GOP.

Not satisfied with the relationship between between the Republican Party and the religious right, Land said in March 1998: “The go-along, get-along strategy is dead. No more engagement. We want a wedding ring, we want a ceremony, we want a consummation of marriage.”

Who would have thought a reference to intercourse would be the chosen metaphor for the Religious Right? Such bedding would require synchronizing agendas and histories. Who could be surprised that a revisionist re-telling of American history in support of the marriage would be an important project? Conservative politics needs chapter and verse.

Over the years I have heard conservatives charge liberals with revisionist history. Every politician contorts history to support their campaigns and policies. This is no different. My wife sees right through this and she has never read any of the things I do.

Bob Robinson, of Vanguard Church, posted a link to this NPR story on Barton and his outrageous claims. I realize many of my readers will immediately form an opinion based on my reference to NPR. Since many of you consider yourselves fair and balanced, click on over and give it a listen for some balance to what you hear from Barton.

One more reason for my oft apolitical position on the upcoming election. No party is immune. All their beds are full.

Image Credit

UPDATE: Nathan Finn Tweeted that Thomas Nelson pulled Barton’s book on Jefferson.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

45 comments on “Nathan Finn Calls Attention to the Pseudo-History of Barton or, Is This the Consequence of the Marriage for which Dr. Land Called?

  1. BDW says:

    There was a Southwestern Seminary professor who wrote a stinging takedown of Barton back in the 1990s – maybe in the SW Journal of Theology? I always heard that this professor was pushed out under Paige Patterson in part due to his scholarship on Barton.

    Do you know who I’m talking about? I can’t remember his name.

    If I can remember his name, I’ll look up the journal articles. His writings were perhaps the earliest scholarly critique of Barton.

    It’s amazing how much influence Barton has gained over the years and how he’s mainstreamed. I think most folks were content ignoring him until he landed with a major publisher in Thomas Nelson.

    1. Aaron,

      You may be referring to Jim Spivey. While I did not have him while at Southwestern, I believe my brother Paul did. As I remember it, he really liked Spivey.

    2. Aaron,

      I found additional information, that included the reference to Spivey here.

      1. Ryan Abernathy says:

        I believe the prof was Stookey not Spivey. I sat Nader Stookey for several classes including 2 by arrangement as I was finishing my masters. He was fantastic and I remember hearing that he was denied tenure because of some things he had written about Barton.

        1. Ryan,
          I think you are correct about Stookey.

        2. Ryan,
          I received and email that contained the following,

          But the Southwestern prof who critiqued David Barton and got in hot water was Stephen Stookey

  2. Howell Scott says:


    Thanks for the article. I’m not sure who has revised American history more — liberals or conservatives like Barton. I take everything that Barton teachs (or, more appropriately, “promotes”) with a huge grain of salt. I think that David Barton has been masterful at marketing a revisionist history to a willing and all-too unquestioning Christian audience. With the help of those in the Christian community who should know better, Barton has been able to use his marketing skills and connections to turn his “history lessons” into a multi-million dollar empire. Not a bad gig if one can get it 🙂

    Unfortunately, the marriage between Evangelical Christians and the Republican Party continues without showing any signs of abatement. Although there are clear differences between the two major parties in America, the church should never get in bed with any politician or political party, no matter how much we might agree with some of the agenda. That Richard Land called for such a consummation of that kind of religious/political marriage is yet another indication of why it is far past time for him to retire. Thanks again and God bless,


    1. Howell,

      Thanks for the comment. I really enjoyed your comments on the AZ case over at Voices.

      You wrote,

      That Richard Land called for such a consummation of that kind of religious/political marriage is yet another indication of why it is far past time for him to retire.

      This is precisely why I think it both dangerous and a mistake to risk his continue representation of Southern Baptists until October 2013. He led Evangelicals into the GOP boudoir, I think we should return to our love for Jesus and tell both parties, “Good Luck!”

  3. Robert I Masters says:

    I do not see in this article where you have proven David Barton wrong on the facts.

    The original sources that David Barton has on display and which are available for reading were the clicher for me. Facts do not lie.

    I simply care not if NPR thinks otherwise….What is the truth concerning U.S History? After reading original sources I am convinced that David Barton is right.

    1. Robert,

      I did not post a personal piece wherein I demonstrate anything about David Barton other than my agreement with Nathan Finn and others who believe he is offering hack-history. There are plenty of fine scholars are taking care of that well and good. If he (Barton) is right about Jefferson, for instance, why did Thomas Nelson just today announce they were pulling his book?

      If you want Barton to be right, I am sure he will be right. But, just because you want him to be right does not make it so. Further, that you suggest your reading of the original sources convinces you Barton is right does not require me, or anyone for that matter, to believe he is correct.

  4. John Fariss says:

    Well said, Todd. At one point I had seriously considered chunking my Deep South,Old School heritage and joining the Republican Party, whose candidates I usually voted for despite party affiliations. Then they were co-opted by first the tea party (and I mean its take-over by big money, not so much the initial grass roots efforts), now Barton et. al., and Land’s call. I am glad to hear of Nathan’s assessment and hope it prevails. I have never met him, but what contact I have had with him (e-mail, through blogs, etc.) suggests he is a scholar and a gentleman in the best sense of the words.

    John Fariss

    1. Thank you John.

      I believe your assessment of Nathan Finn is spot on.

  5. Robert I Masters says:

    I saw that link too….Keep in mind that Messiah is unashamedly Anabaptist and VERY much
    Arminian.aka they have an agenda too!

    HarperCollins is hardly someone who I want use as my guiding source …apparently you do!

    1. Robert,

      This is not SBC Voices. Turning this into a Calvinist-Arminian debate would be like me saying you like Barton because it worked for Calvin in Geneva. I did not take your first comment to want to head in that direction, I am not sure why you want to make such a turn on the subject now.

      As to Harper-Collins, you err here as well. It did not bother you before that Nelson, owned by Harper-Collins, published and helped promote the large money making enterprise known as David Barton. But, when they pull his book all of the sudden you become their detractor. One cannot have their cake and eat it too.

  6. Dave Miller says:

    I don’t think anyone can question Nathan Finn’s conservative bona fides. If he is questioning the historicity of Barton’s teaching, it should give all of us who are part of the vast right-wing conspiracy pause.

    At the very least, to check our facts!

    1. Dave,

      Right-wing conspiracy? You? Come on. I have my facts all wrong. 😉

  7. Robert I Masters says:

    My only point was that we need to follow the money which flows from the competing agendas which in turn flows from the theology of a group.

    BTW- Leaving David Barton aside I do like John Calvin’s Geneva. Thats why I am not an evangelical.

    1. Robert,

      If you do not see how your point subverts the sentiment of your original comment, there is little hope for us going forward. Big money flows in all directions. Everyone has an agenda. When a person begins re-writing history to advance their agenda, as Nathan Finn points out, then you have pseudo-history.

      We have witnessed your unflappable loyalty to John. If it is all the same, we are going to give our energies toward Jesus – Evangelical or otherwise.

  8. NJ says:

    I had Dr. Stephen Stookey for most of my history classes at SWBTS in the late 90’s. He adeptly exposed the inaccuracies and falsehoods of David Barton. My classmates and I owe him a debt of gratitude for that.

    A few years ago Barton was a featured speaker at a conference I attended. It was a very frustrating experience as a room full of otherwise earnest and Christ loving pastors and believers drank in every word he spoke without any pushback. As a matter of fact, he received the most raucous response of any of the speakers. Unfortunately, it never dawned on the majority of those listening that Barton was willfully distorting the truth. Those folks were sharp folks. However, they made the mistake that we all have a tendency to make – they trusted a charlatan. We can do better than that. We must learn to be more discerning.

    I’m conservative in my political orientation and it shows in my voting record. However, I’m concerned that evangelicals are making a significant mistake in our developing relationship with the GOP. It reminds me of the parable of the snake who convinced the rabbit to let him ride on his back across the forest one day. Even as he was very reluctant at first, the snake convinced the rabbit to let him ride. As they traveled, the rabbit and the snake had a pleasant visit. So pleasant that the rabbit began to think that he had been wrong about the snake all along. When they got to the other side, as he was climbing off his back, the snake sunk his fangs into the rabbit. As he was dying, the rabbit said “I thought we were friends, why did you do that?” The snake replied, “You knew what I was when you let me crawl on your back.” I’m afraid that the GOP is the snake that has crawled on the back of American evangelicals.

    God help us when we forget that our singular calling is Gospel proclamation, not political affiliation.

    1. NJ,
      I like your parable. Yet, under Land’s influence, it seems the rabbit demanded the snake take a ride n it’s back.I am reminded of the Pharisees insistence the Roman Governor do its bidding in the death of Jesus.

  9. NJ says:


    Regardless of how they came about, evangelicals, including Southern Baptists, would do well to divest themselves of allegiances to political parties and activism. History has proven over and over again that the collusion between the church and state always turns out bad for the church. I’m thankful for men like Finn, Spivey, and Stookey who call Southern Baptists away from the nonsense of Barton and his ilk. Good post that brings the attention of your readers to this significant issue.

    1. NJ,
      I agree. That is really the nexus for the post.

  10. Frank Gantz says:

    Todd, your fellow history minor from OBU is with you all the way on this one.
    Even if some lack a history background, we are supposed to be people who can exegete source material.

    1. Frank,
      Add in your PhD work in Baptist History and you may easily verify our mistakes are made when we have an idea in search of a text.

      Watch out for that bobcat.

      1. Frank Gantz says:

        Absolutely on “an idea in search of a text.” It’s not good whether we are using a biblical or historical text to justify our own ideas.

  11. Here is an excerpt, a telling one at that, from an article on Stookey and SWBTS –

    In these lengthy articles, Stookey demonstrates from an analysis of historical records that some advocates of America being founded as an explicitly “Christian” nation misrepresent the positions, writings or statements of some of the founding fathers. For example, while one prominent speaker on the “Christian America” circuit proclaims that 52 of the 55 framers of the United States Constitution were orthodox Christians, the historical evidence points otherwise, Stookey wrote.
    ___”In reality, the founders were a varied collection of orthodox Christians, nominal church attenders, Christian moralists, Deists and nonbelievers,” Stookey reported.
    ___Stookey’s articles specifically challenge the historical accuracy of statements made by David Barton, one of the foremost advocates of a “Christian America” perspective.
    ___Such charges no doubt ran afoul of some of Southwestern’s trustees who are supporters of Barton and other similar speakers and authors popular in the evangelical Christian world.

  12. Robert I Masters says:

    Lets be clear on one thing. Here is the primary reason why Thomas is stopping publication.

    The Tennessean actually got this right!

    The claim about slavery caused a group of ministers from several Cincinnati churches to call for Thomas Nelson to drop the book.

    “‘The Jefferson Lies’ glosses over Jefferson’s real record on slaveholding, and minimizes Jefferson’s racist views,” said the Rev. Damon Lynch of New Jerusalem Baptist Church, an African-American congregation in Cincinnati.

    Lynch said he and other ministers from diverse backgrounds had contacted Nelson about their concerns. He said that if the book hadn’t been canceled, he would have boycotted Nelson.

    “We love Thomas Nelson,” he said. “My library is filled with Thomas Nelson books, and I didn’t want to stop doing business with them.”

    1. Robert,
      So his book was pulled for inaccuracies? No argument here.

  13. Robert I Masters says:

    No his book was pulled because SOME blacks threatened to boycott Thomas Nelson.
    I believe that our response should be the same as Chick-Fila’s was too the homosexual threatened boycott.

    I personally bought a significant number of the books as a buycott and as a investment in the truth.

    May God Bless this Christian Nation

    sent from Ubuntu Linux

    1. Robert,
      It seems from my reading of The Tennessean that you seized on only one issue raised by Barton’s inaccuracies. The article points to more than the fear of a boycott.

  14. Robert I Masters says:

    I think that Frank L and John K, at SBCVoices, have done an excellent job of rebutting your basic premise here.

    Much of this discussion has centered around the conservative to moderate Baptist circles but the leaders in the “Reclaim America” movement that are orthodox are often times Presbyterians.

    My own journey to the Cultural Mandate was through the ministry of D. James Kennedy.
    Howell Scott;I know you keep attacking the Black Robed Regiment of Glenn Beck but really I heard that illustration explained by Dr Kennedy many years ago. They, the Black Regiment included many Presbyterian pastors.

    Here are some of the organizations and people that are doing yeoman’s work

    The Plymouth Rock Foundation
    The Providence Forum
    Peter Lillback, Yes even Al Mohler has had Peter Lillback on his radio program.
    D James Kennedy, yes the same man whose Evangelism Explosion is in every country of the world.The Cultural Mandate and the Gospel Mandate.
    American Vision
    Gary DeMar
    Vision America
    Rick Scarborough, He is a Baptist
    Salt and Light Council
    Douglas Wilson
    Andrew Sandlin
    Mayflower Institute
    Alliance Defense Fund
    American Family Association
    Chalcedon Foundation
    Home School Legal Defense Association

    1. Robert,
      I do not think that my basic premise has been understood, which may be my fault. That would make your assertion invalid.

      I am very familiar with D. James Kennedy and others who have touted this same thing. I will still contend that when the move was made by the Moral Majority, of which these recent movements are but iterations of the same, someone needed to write the narrative around which others would coalesce. Everyone couches their perception of history along the lines of whatever a prior commitments they make to the vision for America. For me, my reading of Christian history suggests that every time a segment/instantiation of the Christian movement allied with power it lost its voice and its way. I see these projects pointing us in the same direction.

  15. Robert I Masters says:

    You forget that I live in Nashville. My understanding is that this was the straw that broke the camels back.The boycott!
    I have heard this from credible multiple sources.

    Thomas Nelson has been on the downgrade for years.Last year the Human Resources director
    for Thomas Nelson,himself a Roman Cathlic, publicly advocated for Same Sex laws in Nashville on his blog.
    Thankfully do to the efforts of men like Richard Land , Thom Rainer and Glen Casada the legislature was able to overturn the city law.

    1. Robert,

      Christian publishing is a whole other animal. There are multiple reasons for their malaise.

  16. Robert I Masters says:

    Some other points concerning Thomas Nelson.

    You can read much of what David Barton says in “Jefferson Lies” in the past published books of
    D James Kennedy and many other authors.
    For example I have in my library a book by D.James Kennedy called “What if America were a Christian Nation Again? Chapter four is on the Real Thomas Jefferson. Guess who publishes that book in the year 2003. Thomas

    Here is the link to Mr Thomasons blog…notice that he is a Vice President.

    1. Robert,

      You simply illustrated my point that Barton is really not originating anything. He is simply continuing in the stream of others with whose vision he was taken.

  17. Robert I Masters says:

    You have backwards
    Dr Kennedy got it from David Barton!
    My question is why were the “inaccurancies” concerning what Dr Kennedy wrote not withdrawn in 2003.Same publisher, same original source, same facts.
    Two things changed.
    Dr Kennedy would have used his considerable political and legal authority to pursue his
    Secondly you now have a parent company that cares mostly about profits.

    1. Robert,
      But, until the likes of Kennedy and others whe wielded influence found Barton, he (Barton) did not possess a desired platform. And that Barton shares in those publishing profits. Thus, we cannot assault the publisher as if only they stood to benefit.

  18. Robert I Masters says:

    David Barton has been around for years. He has had a platform of his own for a long time.
    His original sources were what convinced me of the veracity of his thoughts.
    I read a number of them at A Reclaiming America
    for Christ conference.He has 100,000 such sources.
    We have Truth and Righteousness on our side.
    You not so much!

    1. Robert,
      Yes, Barton has been around for years, and other Christian historians have been rebutting him for years – some losing their jobs in the process. That you are convinced does not summarily mark Truth and Righteousness on your side. This is the worst sort, “I am convinced, so everyone else should be.”

      If we are heading toward your normal over the top hyperbole, let’s simply agree to disagree. It makes you no more righteous by asserting your self-righteousness. And, we will inevitably go off topic. Once that happens we shut down the comments.

  19. Robert I Masters says:

    I think you will find this article from John Fea as relevant and timely considering he was qouted in the NPR segment.

    1. Robert,

      I hesitate to reply for this is not a referendum on one article by Fea that could be construed any number of ways, not soley as a proof-text for your position. His initial reference to the Treaty of Tripoli, to my way of thinking, indicates there were a variety of influences at work – which has been my contention. For instance, if Fea’s argument is to be followed in all its implications, that the United States would shutter its identity in favor of economic favor, that immediately calls into question whether or not the more significant influence is economic. I would suggest that we are most absorbed with economics over religion seems to be an easy mark, especially in the way the church has fallen prey to the consumer economy on a variety of levels. Economic forces were certainly influential.

      That people have used God as a means to lay groundwork for their narrative is not new either. I am sure you noticed the way in which Fea referenced the telling of the story of the Yellow Fever and Native Americans – savages as they were called, hardly Christian.

      Even more, consider the Christian influence that muted human equality. Yes, all men were created equal, but it took more than one hundred years to include Blacks and women. You may point to Christian influence in overturning these injustices, but to suggest such a significant influence of Christianity in our founding documents surely becomes suspect when it is a rich white man’s vision of Christianity that protects its economic assets, namely land and slaves.

      During the Crusades, I am sure you will recall, God is called down on the side of the Crusaders. And, God had a split personality during the Civl War because he was called down by both sides as support and Divine Providence for their actions.

      In short, Fea’s piece seems to create as many problems as you think it solves.

  20. Mark Fenison says:

    I read all the posts and have yet to see one single documented fact where Barton is erring as he is accused by so many on this site.

    1. Mark,
      The point of this post was not a refutation of Barton, though I do not agree with his organization’s assertion that America was founded on/as a Christian Nation. My aim was that when such assertions are made it requires a revision of the historical record; a reality others have documented and chronicled. When the Religiuos Right wanted more influence and power they allied with the GOP thereby forfeiting a prophetic voice and creating an oft oxymoronic position. Dr. Richard Land’s line in the sand, “we want a marriage,” made for fertile ground for someone like Burton to then create for such a movement a view of the Constitution as a Divine document which cannot stand up under the weight of its own contention.

      Or, more simply any Christian group allying with a particular political party is a first order mistake. At least that is how I see it.

      Would your vision of Christianity require a Christian America?

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