David Barton, and the Abandonment of Christian Creedalism

David Barton seems to be another Christian celebrity who has sold out to the Republican establishment, in betrayal of the Christian principles he himself has taught many. On July 19, he, and Rick Green, and Matt Barber were on Wallbuilders Live, whipping their audience to vote for Romney by declaring that not voting for Romney is a sin. Here’s a transcript of part of the conversation:

Barber: We are admonished in Scripture to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Now the wise thing to do is to go in and support Mitt Romney because, again, the alternative is catastrophic.

Green: Absolutely. And like you said, not voting is not only a dereliction of duty, it’s really anti-Biblical. It’s actually being the servant, remember the parable where they gave the talents? It’s being the one that buried their talent. Well that was described in the Bible as being a wicked and slothful servant. I don’t want to be that one, man, I want to be one of the other guys.

Barton: So why do we have a question here? Because he’s a Mormon? Hey, we’ve got to get past labels. Just like Obama’s Christian label means nothing, Romney’s Mormon label means nothing. What matters is the fruit, which one is going to produce more biblical fruit …

There’s only two options Christians have. Christians do not have the option of sitting this one out. You do not have that option, it is not a possibility. You will stand before God and He will say “I gave you your vote, what did you do with your vote?” And we can’t just say “well, I chose to sit this one out.”

Green: Especially in a situation like this where so much is at stake. What’s the verse, when you know what to do and you do nothing? That’s sin!

Many things can be said about this conversation. We can talk about the legalism of making up new laws that are not in the Bible and placing them as a burden on the conscience of their listeners. We can talk about the loose interpretation of James 4:17 to make it fit the specific political agenda the speakers are trying to push on the audience. We can talk about the shameless manipulation of claiming that there are “only two options” for Christians in these elections. We can talk about the dishonesty of assuming that Romney is going to be the Republican nominee way before the Republican convention in Tampa, when there is another candidate, Ron Paul, who is a Christian – unlike Romney – and obviously has much more support among conservatives and Christians than Romney (just look at the rallies). All these show that Barton and his buddies have sold out to a political establishment which is anti-Christian enough to push a Mormon with a rich history of liberal policies and verbal flip-flopping on its predominantly conservative and Christian constituency. Barton can not be trusted. This conversation shows that in this specific matter he is a not a Christian leader, he is a taskmaster in service of a political Pharaoh.

But for this article, I will put those issues aside and focus on a very strong religious statement that David Barton made, which I believe is of utmost importance for the church today:

Barton: So why do we have a question here? Because he’s a Mormon? Hey, we’ve got to get past labels. Just like Obama’s Christian label means nothing, Romney’s Mormon label means nothing. What matters is the fruit, which one is going to produce more biblical fruit …

Faith, or confession of faith, Barton says, has no practical consequences. It’s just a “label.” It certainly has no connection to the fruit we produce. The fruit a person produces comes out of nothing, not out of our self-conscious faith which shapes our thinking, our ideas, our understanding of the world, and our practice. Faith is a label stuck on top of things. The essence – the fruit – is independent of faith.

It is strange to see Barton say that when he has been arguing in the past that America as a nation was based on the faith of the Founding Fathers. He even specifically talked about The Faith in Our Foundation, meaning the foundation of America as a culture and society. Apparently, the Christian faith of the Founders wasn’t just an insignificant label which they stuck on top of their other views. Their faith in Christ, as Barton points out, informed their worldview. The majority of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were educated by John Witherspoon, the Presbyterian parson who seduced cousin America to elope with him and revolt against Britain. It was his sermons, where he faithfully applied the Word of God to the political and economic issues of the day, which energized the Founding Fathers. Faith, as David Barton knows very well, was at the foundation of everything that happened in 1776.

Ironically, it is modern liberals, atheists, and Marxists who claim that the Christian faith of the Founding Fathers was simply a label of no significance.

And now David Barton is taking the same position as those liberals, atheists, and Marxists, in respect to our modern political situation. “We’ve got to get past labels.” Why then all the effort of proving the Christian foundation of America? Let’s get past labels and agree with the liberals that American would be the same if founded by Buddhists, or Muslims, or animists. The “fruit” is important, after all, and that fruit has nothing to do with faith.

I have talked in other places about the creedal culture Christianity produced. (See here, here, and here.) I have also pointed to the fact that that creedal culture – a culture self-consciously based on the concrete, communicated and communicable faith of the Christian creeds – has been rejected in our modern times by the church in general, and specifically by many of the Christian leaders and celebrities. We talk about “Biblical worldview,” we talk about “Christian foundations,” we talk about “praying for our society,” but we continue to commit the dualist fallacy of separating our faith from real life and from history, and we continue to refuse to self-consciously subject life to the creeds.

Barton’s statement is a good example of that: Whatever fruit a man has, has nothing to do with his creed. Barton’s credo is weak and dualistic, it limits his faith to his personal convictions only. The real world works on the basis of other principles.

And therefore, when the conditions are right, he will sell out to a stronger, more forceful and universal credo, which gives him a practical agenda for action: the political credo of the political establishment. You can’t beat something with nothing. And Barton is not alone. Hundreds of Christian leaders and celebrities are like him: their faith is weak enough to surrender to a political agenda every time the establishment needs them as taskmasters.

That’s why for several years now I have been consistently promoting the most unique book ever written in the history of Christendom, Rushdoony’s The Foundations of Social Order. In it, Rushdoony does what no other Christian author has done: he shows how the Creeds and the Councils of the Early Church, far from being limited to the formation of our historical theology, were actually instrumental in shaping the total worldview of the West, including its political, economic, social, legal, etc. ideas, practices, and establishments. Our superior civilization was produced by our superior faith; or, put it in another way, the faith of the Church produced the fruit of the Western civilization. The faith, thus, wasn’t a label which was insignificant to what the West has become, it was the very foundation of everything it was and still is, as Barton very well knows and have taught. Or, to quote Rushdoony himself,

Law and economics are necessary aspects of man’s daily life: it is impossible to live without them. The more a sound knowledge of law and economics declines in a society, the more radical will the decay of that society be. A decadent and dying society is one in which law and economics are in a state of radical decay or collapse. Together with theology, law and economics constitute the foundations of order in a society, and what men think of law and economics depends on their theology. (R.J. Rushdoony: The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, 1975, p. 7.)

And therefore, that same Christian faith can not be dismissed as a mere “label,” looking past it for “fruit” which can not be produced without it. Barton has rejected the creedal culture of Christianity, and it is he who is in sin for dismissing his faith as irrelevant, not the Christians who reject Romney. Barton needs to repent and return to his own previous convictions, and advise his listeners to vote for the only professing and practicing Christian in the race: Ron Paul. And the other Christian celebrities need to do the same.

One comment

  • The whole truth of the Biblical belief system is not too difficult. Advances in differing areas are ‘baby steps’ but cumulative. Certainty and confidence are Biblically promised, historically evidenced, and firm ground that defends our efforts and hope.

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