David Barton has produced a new study Bible entitled The Founder’s Bible. It has not yet been released but it is available for pre-order.
Barton bills himself as an historian, and on the front cover of the book, he is labeled as a “signature historian.” I’m not sure what that is exactly. I do know that Barton reads his political agenda into the past. This has the inevitable result of distorting the past and misinforming his audience. His recent book, The Jefferson Lies, is a good example of his presentist interpretation of the past. Go to John Fea’s blog, “The Way of Improvement Leads Home” to read his detailed critiques of this work. You can also get Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter, Getting Jefferson Right, which is a good answer to Barton’s work and historical method.
What I find more distressing, apart from Barton’s presentism, is his use of the Scriptures to forward his politico-historical ideology. With all due respect to Barton, the world simply does not need yet another study “Bible” that is aimed at a particular audience and topic that really have nothing to do with the central message of the Scriptures.
The subject of the Scriptures is Jesus Christ, and His work making atonement for human sin. The message of the Scriptures is the gospel of God revealed progressively through His people Israel, and thence through His Son, who Himself is the Word.
The relationship of the Bible to the founding of the United States is an interesting, edifying, and relevant issue. But to cast that issue as the focus of the message of the Bible is unconscionable. I have not seen Barton’s Bible, but what he is doing may even be fairly called prostituting the Bible out for his own ideological hobby-horse agenda.
The production of Barton’s Bible points to another deep problem for evangelical Christians. That is, their view of Scriptures as reflected in the number of “study Bibles” that have become available in the past several years. One list of study Bibles contains 183 titles, such as the American Patriots Bible, the Men of Color study Bible, the College study Bible, the Holy Spirit Encounter study Bible–and the list goes on.
I realize that the purpose of producing study Bibles that are geared to specifics topics, audiences, and agendas can make the Bible seem more relevant and attractive to folks who may not otherwise read the Bible. But something definitely does not seem right here. Why is the message of the Bible itself not a sufficient witness to the truth claims that are made within its pages?
Barton is next up in a long line of writers and publishers who feel the need to spruce up the Bible by framing it consistent with a particular agenda. I’m sure it will fly off the shelves. Still, I wonder if this is not an example of being a false prophet, of speaking a word that God has not spoken.
“‘I did not send these prophets,
But they ran.
I did not speak to them,
But they prophesied.
‘But if they had stood in My council,
Then they would have announced My words to My people,
And would have turned them back from their evil way
And from the evil of their deeds.'”
Isn’t this the purpose of God’s word after all?