Friday, November 20, 2009

Wow David Barton Actually Debates

Barton is known for NOT debating critics. After watching this you'll probably see why. I think this is the only time I've ever seen him debate. I don't like the way Lee Strobel initially poses the debate by setting up a false dichotomy (the truth of the Founding is actually somewhere in between the two either or poles that Strobel announces). Other than that, Strobel did a good job at giving both sides equal time.

After setting up what sounds like a reasonable definition of a "Christian Nation," Barton steps in it a few times. He puts forth a number of points to challenge the "Godless Constitution" thesis.

Point one: The Constitution ties itself back to the DOI which is a "God oriented document." True enough. But 1) the DOI is not a "Christian" document per se (no references to Jesus). And 2) it's an indirect way of getting to God -- it hardly makes the Constitution a "Godly" document.

Point two: Sunday excepted clause. A nominal indirect reference to Christianity. Which again hits at the truth: The US Constitution is secular and godless, but not in the way the French Revolution was, but in a softer way and one that more accommodates religious customs.

Point three: Barton cites the Donald S. Lutz, et al. study in a misleading way. What that study actually says is that the Bible had little if ANY impact on the US Constitution.

Point four: Barton LIES about Washington and Hamilton citing verses and chapters of scripture for separation of powers. Sorry that's just not in the historical record. You can try to go back and throw spaghetti against the wall and see what parts of the Bible seem to match with what parts of the Constitution; but you don't see the FFs (at least none of the men at the Constitutional Convention or in the Federalist Papers) quoting verses and chapters for the principles and provisions in the Constitution.

In part two he gets confronted on his "unconfirmed quotations" and responds that they were all "footnoted," not necessarily to the original record, but footnoted to somewhere (in other words he kicks the can to the original fabricators).

Barton then tries to explain away the Treaty of Tripoli which states, "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;..."

Barton's critic makes a good point about the bogus quotes that Barton originally passed on: These bogus quotes, though Barton wrote an article saying "don't pass them anymore," have taken on a life of their own.

The critic also brings up Barton's shilling for the GOP.


Brad Hart said...

Very good stuff, Jon. Though I think Barton is, as you put it, "throwing spaghetti at the wall" with some of his evidence, I believe he kicked Gaylor's ass. She resorted to the stupid, "liar liar pants of fire" defense and used hardly any evidence for her side (and she could have used quite a bit). Why didn't she hammer him on Jefferson's 1803 Indian treaty? Chris Rodda and others have totally debunked that myth but this dumb lady simply resorts to a "Hey, Jefferson didn't like the Bible and you're an idiot, David" defense.

It's too bad somebody in the know didn't debate Barton and confront him on his "evidence." But since some brainless hack took him on, Barton came off the clear victor.

Barton and Wallbuilders - 1

Gaylor and Freedom from Religion - 0

When are you going to debate David Barton, Jon? I'd pay money to see that!

Jonathan Rowe said...

I'll debate Barton whenever he agrees.

He actually reminds me a little of myself in that debate: I really like the web because you have time to reflect and edit your comments.

I think I'm good at live stuff too -- but that has an added wrinkle of nerves, getting flustered -- something I have to admit I struggle with. But xanax (and sometimes a drink or two) helps.

You could see Barton's nervousness in his eyes.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I'd actually would better like to see Gregg debate Barton than me. Gregg shares the exact same theology (so you can't accuse him of being a "secularist") and he probably votes the same way Barton does up and down on every issue and for the same candidates.

Jonathan Rowe said...

And for the record Brad, I'd call the debate a wash. I wasn't too impressed by his critic. But I don't think he did much better.

Chris Rodda said...

My head nearly exploded watching this video. Each missed opportunity for a fact based, indisputable historical rebuttal that Gaylor missed had me cringing. I think I want to make a video showing how I would have responded to each of Barton's claims if I had been the one debating him. Maybe a few of us should do that and put videos up on youtube.

Brad Hart said...

Do it, Chris. I know several of would be extremely interested in hearing what you have to say.

jimmiraybob said...

Chris, I would love to see you get a live shot but would also be eager to see a video rebuttal.

That goes for Jon, Gregg and Ed (Brayton) too.

Pinky said...

I am currently reading Barry Alan Shain's "The Nature of Rights at the American Founding and Beyond".
It includes essays from these contributors: Akhil Reed Amar, Yale University * James H. Hutson, Library of Congress * Stephen Macedo, Princeton University * Richard Primus, University of Michigan * Jack N. Rakove, Stanford University * John Phillip Reid, New York University * Daniel T. Rodgers, Princeton University * A. Gregg Roeber, Pennsylvania State University * Barry Alan Shain, Colgate University * Rogers M. Smith, University of Pennsylvania * Leif Wenar, University of Sheffield * Gordon S. Wood, Brown University
I've only maneuvered about two thirds of it so far. The essays sure put a great deal of light on what's going on here.
Barton is a propagandist who has gotten way in over his head. Time will show him up for what he is. Yet, he does good service to help us search out the truth of which he is no friend.
You owe it to yourself to own a copy of this book.

Gregg Frazer said...

For the record:

I was supposed to debate Barton several years ago on a radio station out west broadcasting to five states. He backed out, so I debated John Eidsmoe (author of the book "Christianity and the Constitution").

A year ago, a guy who organizes seminars for Newt Gingrich, Barton, and others asked me if I'd be willing to debate Barton. I said "yes," of course. Then he learned that Barton had a conflict in his schedule.

A guy here at my college then tried to arrange a debate, but to no avail.

I did get to share 1 1/2 hours of time with Marshall Foster (Christian America guy who has written some books and runs "Christian" tours) at the Association of Christian Schools International conference at the Anaheim Convention Center several years ago. They (the ACSI) are heavily invested in the Barton/Peter Marshall view.

So, the "rules" were that it was NOT to be a debate. He presented things -- I used a lot of my time rebutting EVERYTHING that he presented and posing questions to him. He never answered a single one of my questions or responded to ANY of my evidence, but just continued his own presentation as if I wasn't there.

So, it wasn't very satisfactory, except that many of the roughly 150 people present came up to talk with me and ask for further info.

Jonathan Rowe said...


I'd love to hear those debates; though I presume you don't have them recorded (or the rights to upload them).

I hear your TMC Chapel lecture and linked to it on Positive Liberty years ago (not sure if I linked to it here).

I might link to it again here.

Christian tours said...

How about a trip to the Holly Land..Just came back and had lots of fun :) I traveled with my mom and dad..Walking in the footsteps of our lord Jesus christ