That’s the excellent question brilliantly asked in the Atlantic today and the answer given is must reading- especially for the mobs which follow Barton so blindly. Some of the highlights-
Barton’s errors, exaggerations, and elisions have been exhaustively cataloged; no credible historian defends his work or his conclusions. And yet millions continue to find his message compelling. Why do they trust him?
Barton’s focus on returning to the original text, and his pointed disdain for the scholars whom he accuses of distorting its plain meaning, seems to resonate with his largely evangelical audience. There is a reason for this. It echoes the general doctrine of sola scriptura, the bedrock of the Reformation, that the text of the Bible alone contains the knowledge necessary for salvation. It draws on the tradition of prooftexting, using verses lifted from a larger text to buttress specific points. And in particular, it mirrors the notion of the perspicuity of Scripture — that its essential teachings are sufficiently clear that “not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”
When his critics insist that he subject his work to peer review, or disparage his credentials and his logic, they only reinforce the strength of his appeal to his target audience. He deals not in history, but in hermeneutics.
His error, of course, is that the hundred thousand documents he treasures were all written by men, bereft of divine inspiration, muddling through as best they knew how. Their authors were creatures of their time and place, seized by the usual sets of contradictory impulses and passions, changing and evolving with the passage of time. To apply the same exegetical principles to the works of man as to those of God is folly.
Read the whole (and I thank a kind reader for sending an email about it letting me know). It never ceases to amaze me how blind, willfully blind, political sycophants can be and how easily they can be taken in. Apparently, evangelicals are either too trusting or just too ignorant to know when they’re being duped. But that willingness to be tricked does explain their love of Rick Warren, Newt Gingrich, and Benny Hinn along with Todd Bentley.