Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Frazer Responds to Barton

I sent Gregg Frazer David Barton's comments which mention him and Dr. Frazer responds as follows:
Barton says it’s not clear that I “bothered to read” Jefferson’s Lies and that my critique was of a 20-year-old video.  
He does NOT point out that: a) he is still making the same claims as those I critiqued in the “old” video; b) when defending his claims on the radio, he restated the claim – he misstated his own claim while World and even the New York Times got it correct in their articles; and, perhaps most importantly, c) he misses the point that I did not criticize Jefferson’s Lies BECAUSE I had not read it – but he criticized my book on the radio WITHOUT HAVING READ IT!  The fact that I didn’t criticize what I hadn’t read should be an example to him, but somehow it’s a negative.  He feels free to criticize my work without reading it – just lumping it in with others with whom I disagree.


Tom Van Dyke said...

Barton says it’s not clear that I “bothered to read” Jefferson’s Lies and that my critique was of a 20-year-old video.
He does NOT point out that: a) he is still making the same claims as those I critiqued in the “old” video

Savaging a 20-yr old video is a cheap shot. Just the sort of thing that makes his defenders rally 'round the flag.

Gregg Frazer said...

He is still selling the 20-yr-old video, still makes the same claims in various venues, and it is still shown on television and in Christian schools.

How, exactly, is that a "cheap shot?"

If he had disavowed it, pulled it from his "shop," or issued a correction, that would be another thing. THEN it would be a cheap shot.

Gregg Frazer said...

By the way, Tom, have you actually read my book yet?

One might consider it a "cheap shot" to continually and repeatedly criticize my work and declare it to be wrong and without substantiation without having read it in context with full evidence and support.

I did not criticize Barton's "The Jefferson Lies" book because I had not read it all -- only parts. It is not intellectually honest -- or simple courtesy -- to criticize what one has not read.

If you have read my book, that would be another thing and it is appropriate for you to take issue with it.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I can't believe you're losing to this guy. ;-)

But you lost the debating point by dragging in a 20-yr old issue. the topic was his current book. [This is a formal observation, not a substantive one. But he slipped your noose with that.]

As for your book, Gregg, pls send me one. Your thesis is no secret--Jon Rowe's posted it here often and you yourself have come around to defend it.

I counterargue that with 30,000 sects of Protestantism, the socio-historian has no business calling balls and strikes about who is and who isn't "Christian."

The unitarians of the founding era work fine socio-historically: they believed Jesus was the Messiah, the Gospels were of Divine Authority.

To you they're heretics and therefore not Christians, but by your standards, so that goes for Martin Luther King.


You can punk the Founders, but train your guns on MLK and I bet they blow you out of the water as too blindly sectarian.

I'm quite fluent in your thesis, Gregg, thank you.

As for Jefferson, no, I don't see him believing in Jesus' messiahship or the Bible as transcendent Divine Writ. But Barton has an arguable case in that Jefferson Bible includes the Second Coming.


Warren Throckmorton mocked Barton on this point, so I looked it up for myself. There it is--Barton was right, Throckmorton was wrong. And that's why you're losing to him--live by the factoid, die by the factoid. You'll get support from the foaming anti-religious mob that inhabits places like The Huffington post, but Barton will keep his core, methinks.

As his de facto public defender, I don't say David Barton is right--I say that many of his points are at least arguable in his mind.

I'm more amused by this war against Barton than anything--so eager are his critics to nail him that they too overreach. But truth is the victim.

For our real purpose is to seek truth, not to seek out error, and to locate the God of the Founding.

"Judeo-Christian" is a 20th century term, but it works in obviating the question of Jesus' divinity, and indeed your entire thesis, a checklist of "must have" creedal beliefs*.

"May the same wonder-working Deity, who long since delivered the Hebrews from their Egyptian oppressors, planted them in a promised land, whose providential agency has lately been conspicuous in establishing these United States as an independent nation, still continue to water them with the dews of heaven and make the inhabitants of every denomination participate in the temporal and spiritual blessings of that people whose God is Jehovah."

---G. Washington, Letter to the Savannah Jews

I ordered [the British captain] to deliver to me the fort instantly, who asked me by what authority I demanded it; I answered, "In the name of the great Jehovah ant the Continental Congress."

---Ethan Allen, famous deist

So you can split your theological hairs on the "Christian" part, but as for the "Judeo-," the God of the Founding was unmistakably Jehovah. The rest is sectarian theology or spite, and socio-historically speaking, I have no place for either.


Jonathan Rowe said...

If Gregg chooses to reply, he can. One point on the "Jehovah." Yes, the Founders' God was more active than the cold Deist thesis lets on. An inclusive Jehovah who is not necessarily Triune? Sure. The Founders also thought Muslims worshipped the same God. And that Jehovah went by the title "the Great Spirit" to unconverted Natives.

Is that the real Jehovah or God of the Bible?

That's a rhetorical question that I won't answer.

Gregg Frazer said...

You don't know the context in which I submitted my review of Barton's video. It was NOT all about his latest book. The group of 10 Christian historians were organized to confront Barton regarding ALL of his work -- not just "The Jefferson Lies." I was ASKED to review that video because it is his "flagship" video which he STILL SELLS and is still "out there" on his TV program and in Christian schools. The arguments in it are THE SAME ARGUMENTS HE MAKES TODAY. He hasn't changed or backed off of them at all.

I can't help it if Barton suggests in the article that it was all about the latest book -- he was as correct here as he is about nearly everything. When he attacked me on the radio, he even misquoted himself -- even though "World" and even "The New York Times" got it correct. He also suggests that Thomas Nelson pulled the book because of criticisms from the group of 10 -- but Nelson pulled it BEFORE the group even organized. No one from the group ever spoke to Nelson. Saying otherwise fits his conspiratorial victim narrative, though.

Suggesting that one cannot deal with something simply because it's old means that this whole blog is inappropriate -- and so is the Constitution.

You just made my point about not reading my book. Your quote from GW's letter to the Jewish congregation is in my book -- but you don't know that or know my entire argument because you haven't read it.

Clearly, you're not fluent in my thesis. More importantly, you have no awareness of EVIDENCE other than snippets which find their way into this blog. If you think that makes you an expert on my thesis, then you're not as good a historian as I've always thought you were.

You're like Barton, who (on the radio) waxed eloquent on my position without reading my book and, of course, WAS COMPLETELY WRONG and categorized me with people I wrote the book to separate myself from.

I cannot simply send you a copy of the book because it was published by a university press and I don't control it, they do. I'd be hesitant to do so anyway, because I doubt you'd read it. Like Barton, you've decided and you've categorized me and you're not interested in evidence that would disrupt your caricature.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I cannot simply send you a copy of the book because it was published by a university press and I don't control it, they do. I'd be hesitant to do so anyway, because I doubt you'd read it. Like Barton, you've decided and you've categorized me and you're not interested in evidence that would disrupt your caricature.

You've been privately circulating various forms of your thesis for years, Gregg. I believe I asked for a copy way back when. So cut the bull.

You also have had full access to our main page as a guest poster anytime you want it. So don't cry to me, Argentina--you're the one who's like Barton, playing the aggrieved.

I think you're both wrong yet somewhat right. I only stand up for Barton because he's the one getting ganged up on and I think his critics punt their share of arguments too---for example the Second Coming in Jefferson's Bible.

I'm just watching the watchers, and frankly I'm not too impressed with you either.

As for your thesis, it equates "Christianity" with the Nicene Creed. Fair for an orthodox Christian, but socio-historically too restrictive.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Is that the real Jehovah or God of the Bible?

That's a rhetorical question that I won't answer.

It's not a "rhetorical" question atall, and you need to try to answer it.

The properties--the nature--of the Founders' God comports exactly with Jehovah, indeed Washington explicitly says in his letter to the Savannah Jews that the God who led them out of Israel was the same God whose 'invisible hand" was so conspicuous at the American founding

No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their United Government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most Governments have been established...


Indeed, even Franklin put the pillar of fire of the Israelites on his proposed national seal!


It's disingenuous to say that the Founders' God was any but this Jehovah. The Jesus-is-God bit was a bit too specific--especially in an age where the Protestant Reformation had put all such doctrines up for dispute.

But One God--monotheistic, providential, the author of not just creation but of the "natural law," and specifically of "our religion," meaning the Bible---this is not a "new" God of deism or the Enlightenment, it's the good old one. The one Jesus prayed to. [Jefferson left the Lord's Prayer in the Jefferson bible, you know.]

Jonathan Rowe said...

Even if it's the "Great Spirit" that unconverted Natives worship AND the monotheistic Allah the Muslims worship?

Tom Van Dyke said...

I think you have far less specifics on that other stuff. Washington explicitly sez the God who saved the Israelites is the God who guided the Founding. Franklin specifically uses the pillar of fire from the Bible. Even Ethan Allen [of all people] invokes Jehovah!

The fact is, the Founders don't really understand Islam or the Native American religions. They're taking a shot at co-opting their God, just as St. Paul does on Mars Hill.

Acts 17

22Then Paul stood in the middle of Mars' hill, and said, You men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are too superstitious.

["Superstitious" is also translated approvingly as "religious."]

23For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore you ignorantly worship, him declare I to you. 24God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth...

The Founders couldn't intelligently equate the Islamic or Native American notions of God to Jehovah any more than they would have known about the Hindu or Buddhist notions of deity--which as you know do not map very well to providential monotheism as we know it, and they knew it.

That Brahma or Allah would have providentially created a nation-state where liberty, not theocracy, is the guiding principle, that simply doesn't work, or has not worked to date. And as we know, Buddhism doesn't even know a Godhead as the West imagines Jehovah.

If they assumed that all Supreme Beings were more or less the same---and I think they rather did---that was cultural provincialism, and ignorance.

["Jefferson's Koran" is interesting. That George Sale translation was rather unsympathetic.


Gregg Frazer said...


I noticed that you did not acknowledge my explanation for why I reviewed the "old" video. And that you did not apologize for the "cheap shot" remark.

Re "you've been privately circulating various forms of your thesis for years": the correct statement would be that I circulatED it YEARS AGO. It is now embargoed (has been for years) -- a requirement of the publisher so that people do not have alternate access to it. That's what university presses do -- they want people to buy the book. No bull.

As for me having access to your main page: I have a job; I actually do research; I have a family; I speak at conferences for which I need to prepare; and I teach a very time-intensive Bible Study. As I explained to Jon some time ago, I do not have time to blog on a regular basis.

Besides, I WROTE THE BOOK TO LAY OUT MY WHOLE ARGUMENT WITH ITS FULL EVIDENCE! I have no inclination or time to reprint it here. If that and my time constraints must make me the target of unfair criticism, then I guess I'll have to live with it.

It is a rule of mine to not criticize someone's book without reading it (which is why I haven't criticized Barton's "The Jefferson Lies") -- but I guess everyone doesn't have the same rule.

I won't punt the "Second Coming" argument re Jefferson's bible. It is easy to explain why Jefferson included Matt. 25:31ff -- there is no indication in the text itself that it refers to the Second Coming and he removed it from its context.

As Jefferson relocates it, he separates it from the "kingdom of heaven" context (vs. 1). He simply attaches it to random teaching and parables (fictional stories, as far as he's concerned). Note that before the Matt. 25 passage, he inserts Luke 12:41 which speaks of "this parable" and after the Matt. 25 passage, he inserts Matt. 13:31, which begins: "ANOTHER parable put he forth. So, he puts the Matt. 25 passage in the context of parables -- not a prophecy or truth.

Secondly, he's comfortable with including it because it is a reference to the Son of MAN as opposed to the Son of God or the Christ.

Third, an uninformed, casual, average reader would not know that the reference is to a Second Coming OR that it is a reference to Jesus without the full context. There is nothing in the text which indicates that and Jefferson removed the overall context (Matt. 16) -- that is, the other time that Jesus mentions the Son of Man coming in glory with angels. In that passage, Jesus is affirmed as God and the Christ in answering the question of who the Son of Man actually IS. In that passage, Jesus explains that He will be killed and rise from the dead -- producing the need for a Second Coming.

But Jefferson cuts all of Matt. 16 out. One is left with a somewhat cryptic and simply human/natural statement about "someone" in the context of parables (mere stories). Try to read it divorced from the knowledge YOU BRING to it.

It is hardly an affirmation of the Second Coming. The fact that Jefferson included a passage which we know refers to the Second Coming and has great meaning does not mean that that was his intention. The way he included it, it clearly does not show such intention on his part.

If you read my book, you'd see that my thesis does NOT, as you charge, equate Christianity with the Nicene Creed -- but ignorance is, apparently, bliss.

I'm sorry that you're not impressed with me. I'll have to try to get by with the approval of Mark Noll, Thomas Pangle, Randall Balmer, Gary Scott Smith, Daniel Dreisbach, and numerous other scholars who are experts in this field. No one pleases everyone. But then again, they've READ the book.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Apply your same razor to MLK and they'll drop you like a bad curry. I've actually come around to the "theist" part but "rationalism" isn't exactly accurate, unless you apply it to all of Protestantism's re-examination of Catholic dogma in light of the Bible. And anyway I was referring to not being impressed with Barton critics in their role as such.

As for the rest of your thesis, if you decide to stop playing cat and mouse about what it isn't, post what it is on the mainpage. Jon will be happy to oblige. I find it too crude a tool with its qualifiers ['key" Founders, what "rationalism" might be] to be of much utility.