This is a message from my mentor, Dr. Mal Couch, who passed away two weeks ago. It is short and sweet, but good to the last drop. Give it a listen.
In March of 2012 I wrote an article (March « 2012 « They Call Me Pastor) dealing with the abrasive tone that some in the discernment branch of the Christian community have adopted in the last several years. In this article I specifically addressed Brannon Howse and Chris Pinto as they attacked fellow Christian and evangelist Kirk Cameron. At the heart of that article was the desire to direct the readers’ attention to an article written by John Eidsmoe, a man who is both an expert in the Law and the founding of our nation, and who has the mind of a theologian.
That post generated more debate than any that I had done before or have done since. Many of the comments were quite abrasive themselves and were directed at my gall for having published anything that was deemed as negative towards Brannon Howse. Many also sought to defend Mr. Pinto’s view of our history, a view that I am more convinced now than ever before to be not only erroneous, but at the very least based on ignorance and at the worst an outright and purposeful deception.
Amidst the negative and rude comments were also those who offered support, agreement, and even direction for further study. One of those who offered support and direction was a man by the name of Bill Fortenberry (website here). Bill is an interesting fellow with an ability to research like none I’ve ever personally witnessed apart from that of John Eidsmoe. Mr. Fortenberry was in the process of dealing head on with Mr. Pinto’s false view of our founding by writing on his personal website concerning the misleading nature of Mr. Pinto’s documentary, “Hidden Faith of Founding Fathers.” From his interactions with Mr. Pinto and his research into the matter, Mr. Fortenberry has produced a very well researched and fully documented little book (158 pages not including the footnotes and links to quotes and original source material) entitled Hidden Facts of the Founding Era. I have recently completed reading his work and would like to recommend that anyone wishing to know the truth about the matter – READ THIS BOOK. Allow me to explain.
Mr. Fortenberry has taken the falsehoods found in Mr. Pinto’s work and systematically destroyed them with the facts. He examines each section of the film, beginning with the accusations against Jefferson, Adams, Franklin and Washington, compared what each man stated in his own words with the comments from Mr. Pinto, and refuted wholly and completely the half-truths, misstatements of fact, and (seemingly) bold-faced lies that are presented as truth in the documentary. After reading this book anyone still wishing to hold out as truth the message of Mr. Pinto’s film will find him/herself on the same level of the congresswomen who recently complained to a constituent that he was confusing her with facts. It is not my intention to go into a detailed account of the contents of Mr. Fortenberry’s book because I want you to buy it from him and read it yourself. It can be found here in both electronic and hardcopy formats. In fact, if you are an Amazon Prime member, the book is free to you on Amazon. The hardcopy book is very inexpensive – $7.50 – while the e-book is only $2.99.
The genius of Mr. Fortenberry’s work is seen most clearly in the footnotes. Most if not all of them lead to websites where source documents, a.k.a, original writings containing the actual quotes from the founding era, can be examined by the readers themselves. This practice is something that Mr. Pinto admittedly did not use consistently throughout his research. That is not to say he didn’t search original source documents at all, whether he did or didn’t I do not know. However, he did use information from sources that were at best second-hand, some even being written one hundred years after the founding era, and at worst were wrong in their statements. When I was in college my professors taught me not to do that. “Original source material; no second-hand quotes” they would say time and time again. As the country folk where I grew up would say, “Get it from the horse’s mouth.” Mr. Pinto didn’t practice that consistently and Mr. Fortenberry did.
There is another practice that Mr. Fortenberry utilized more consistently than Mr. Pinto in his research, which was to examine the writings of those closest to the men and occurrences about which the discussion centered. By this I mean closest in relationship and closest in time. It is safer to take as fact the accounts from those who were more intimate with the person or event than those who would come later and write from a historical perspective that may or may not be accurate. Mr. Fortenberry focused on those who were most knowledgeable of the actual people and events based on either the proximity in time or intimacy with those who would have been. Mr. Pinto utilizes more those who came later and were not as intimately associated with either the facts or the persons about whom he testified. Mr. Pinto’s poor research and ignorance of the facts are compounded by the fact that he also uses sources that are questionable at best – see Mr. Fortenberry’s book for this argument.
Finally, at the conclusion of his book Mr. Fortenberry has done us a great service. He has taken the time to examine many of the Articles of the Constitution and demonstrated from Scripture where the Founders developed their ideas concerning a self-governing, free society. For those who believe that our freedoms and laws were developed from enlightenment thought I would suggest you curb your enthusiasm for such an idea and examine Mr. Fortenberry’s book.
All-in-all I must highly recommend Mr. Fortenberry’s book to all who would like to take a closer look at the question of whether many of our Founding Fathers were Christian, and if we were founded on Christian principles. His extensive research and source documentation is a tribute to a man who loves the truth, the Author of Truth, and the country that He providentially brought into existence. His work far outshines the product delivered by Mr. Pinto.
My good friend Dr. Chris Cone has written a very helpful piece concerning a couple of questions that I recently posed to him; What are the “essentials” and who gets to decide what they are? The majority of Christian leaders refer to “essentials” as those issues dealing with salvation and all other things are variously considered as “non-essentials” that are left to personal or denominational beliefs. I’ve struggled with this idea for some time and Dr. Cone has given a very well thought out answer to my enquiry.
Interestingly another good friend of mine, Dr. Ron Merryman, gave me an almost identical answer with hermeneutic method being the heart of the issue. As you read through Dr. Cone’s piece it may, or may not, become apparent that Dr. Cone’s first two points are conclusions reached based upon his third division dealing with presuppositions and hermeneutic method.