Friday, September 28, 2012

Non-Calvinists: We're Not A Monolithic Group

In a post at SBC Voices entitled "Trust and the Trustees of MWBTS," deep in the comments, Rick Patrick said, "Calvinists think Dr. Allen is eminently qualified, while everyone else thinks his only real qualification is that he knows Al Mohler." The subject of the post is the nomination of Dr. Jason Allen to the helm of our seminary in Kansas City and the subsequent reaction to that nomination by some friends of mine (we'd probably all agree that this post by Peter Lumpkins and the several that followed it on Peter's blog have given leadership to the voices dissenting against Allen's nomination).

It's Rick's comment, mostly, that brings me to my keyboard tonight. I'm not a Calvinist. I'm also not opposed to Dr. Allen's candidacy in Kansas City. And I like to speak for myself rather than to be defined by being lumped into some group. Really, I wasn't sure WHAT I thought about Allen's candidacy, because until all of this came up I really didn't know much about him. But I've performed a little bit of research, and here are some of the questions I would ask my non-Calvinistic brethren:

  1. Are you sure Dr. Allen is a Calvinist? Because one of his best friends in the world says that Dr. Allen holds to fewer than 4 points and always has. Now, if he were a Calvinist, that wouldn't exclude him from service in the SBC as far as I'm concerned, but I've yet to see a single quote from Allen in which he actually claims to be a Calvinist. Working for Dr. Mohler, I wouldn't think that he would have been afraid to own up to it, if he actually is a Calvinist at all.

  2. Are you sure that Dr. Mohler is behind Dr. Allen's candidacy at MBTS? Because the rumors I hear are that Judge Paul Pressler is a big booster of Dr. Jason Allen. I haven't spoken with Judge Pressler directly about this, but I do live in Texas, and from not too many hops away, that is my impression of things. I don't doubt that Dr. Mohler is supportive of Dr. Allen, but why is that one relationship, above all of the others, the one that defines who Dr. Allen is? Pressler's endorsement would have some persuasive force with me.

  3. Is Dr. Allen's performance at his seminary church really the right measure of his candidacy? I served FBC Farmersville while I was a Ph.D. student. It was tough. Dr. Allen, as I understand things, served a church while being a Ph.D. student and holding down a full-time job at SBTS. Wow. I'm not sure how prudent that is, presuming as I do that Dr. Allen has not cloned himself, but I must admit that, from someone who has lived some portion of that life, it earns a bit of my admiration.

  4. Is Dr. Allen a member / leader / Manchurian Candidate from the "Founders movement"? I don't know. Again, if he's not a Calvinist, then I doubt that he's a leader in the Founders movement. I believe it when I read that he served a church that was listed as "Founders-friendly," but I don't know what that means. You know, CBF will list your church among their affiliated congregations if one wayward member is sending them money. How does a church wind up on the Founders list? Does the church have to vote to affiliate? Or is it just the pastor? What if the church changes pastors—does the listing automatically come down if the new guy doesn't have the same relationship with Founders that the last guy had?

  5. I wonder whether all of the YRR supporters of Dr. Allen know what he believes about beverage alcohol? I hear that he's a convictional teetotaler like me, or at least something close to that. Peter is the author of an excellent book on this topic. It's interesting to me to discover that, on this issue, it's (I think) Peter Lumpkins and Jason Allen on one side, and Mark Driscoll on the other.

So, things are a little more complicated than Rick's comment makes things out to be. Not that I'm picking on Rick. His comment generally summarized what had been the tenor of online discussion up to that point. But that's because I wasn't saying anything, and perhaps a lot of other people who aren't Calvinists but aren't opposed to Dr. Allen's candidacy likewise weren't saying anything. I've decided to speak up, not to strike a blow against Peter, who is my brother and stood up for me in a difficult hour once upon a time, but just because Rick's comment made it clear to me that the discussion had come to speak for me in a context in which I'd rather speak for myself.

Whatever happens in Kansas City, I'll be praying for Midwestern and for Dr. Allen. May God lead the seminary there to carry forward the gospel into new work states where it is increasingly needed!


Dave Miller said...

Great article. I take back 3/4 of the mean things I have ever said about you!

Mark said...

Cheers! ;)

Bart Barber said...

Well, that only leaves 1,420! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Well done! Thanks for not making me wait for the second post. :)

peter lumpkins said...

Hey Bart,

Hope all is well. Thanks for the clarity you bring about your own thoughts on the Allen nomination not to mention the honorable dissent toward the position I publicly maintain without also trashing me personally (nor Rick either for that matter). Far too many SBC bloggers have it out personally for one another.

I do have some initial thoughts toward your piece already in the oven but they are only half-baked presently. I'll probably follow-up later (surely before the trustee vote).

One line you twice expressed, however, particularly struck pay dirt with me:

--"And I like to speak for myself rather than to be defined by being lumped into some group...because Rick's comment made it clear to me that the discussion had come to speak for me in a context in which I'd rather speak for myself" (italics added)--

I couldn't agree more about "speaking for myself" rather than be clumped into a theological groupie gig just because I might have some things in common with them. So with you I'd rather speak for myself and not be defined by others.

The kicker concerning the Allen nomination is, the trustee search team placed Dr. Allen in this position, the very position both you and I agree we do not want to be. We'd rather speak for ourselves and not be defined by others. What, therefore, is the alternative if I cannot speak for myself, or will not speak for myself, or am placed in a position where I'm made not to speak for myself? I think it's clear--others will speak for me...others will define me.

And, mind you, it's not necessary that others will deviantly define you. Perhaps it will take place some. Perhaps inferences will be made which are at best unreasonable and at worst ungodly. Yet, fair critics do exist contrary to the hysteria so often found in SBC blogdom and reasonable inferences can be made and ought to be made--at least tentatively--until more data surfaces.

The point I'm making is simple: Dr. Allen is being defined by others because neither he nor the trustees will adequately define him for us (please know I fully realize Dr. Allen may have been placed in circumstances where he's been "gagged" so to speak). Contrary to some who've placed ridiculous caricatures in our mouths about demanding details and desiring breaches in confidential matters, we've inquired about his possible Calvinistic underpinnings. Now if wanting to know his position on the most provocative subject facing Southern Baptists presently is considered "details" and/or a "breach of confidentiality" then we plead guilty as charged. We think, however, this is not an unreasonable question for the trustees to offer an answer before Allen's hired not after And, I say that as a pastor, not as a blogger.

The fact is, if there is unfair speculation taking place, from my side of the river, the search team is culprit that spawned it by being so tight-lipped about Allen. They created the aura of suspicion by their very refusal to not only talk to individual pastors, but even the media has been turned down. I know for a fact some editors who asked and the search team told them the same as us--nothing will be answered until after the trustees meet and vote.

What is more, I talked to a Midwestern trustee for upwards of an hour Friday a week ago, and he shocked me with his words: "Allen is being driven through...we only know what BP printed and almost precisely the same time BP printed it." Hence, if some of us on the outside appear frustrated with the lack of data, know there are some on the inside who remain just as frustrated as we are.

Thanks for listening. I'll give your piece some more cook time and probably serve it with Sausage gravy :^). Grace, Bart.

With that, I am...

Rick Patrick said...

"Not that I'm picking on Rick. His comment generally summarized what had been the tenor of online discussion up to that point."

Bart, you are correct. My purpose in making the comment was indeed to summarize the discussion.

For MBTS to announce the candidate, while still withholding critical information about him, was a strategic mistake, in my opinion. The candidate's name and qualifications should be presented publicly in a simultaneous manner.

Surely, in light of the current Calvinism controversy, those of us with reservations about Dr. Allen's candidacy can be forgiven for asking seriously probing questions as we observe his seemingly thin qualifications combined with powerful connections to Dr. Mohler and the refusal on the part of the Search Team to provide full theological disclosure.

I don't like jumping to conclusions, but if the proper information is not disclosed, I do not mind at all "jumping to legitimate questions."

Philip Miller said...

As an outsider layman, non-Calvinist -and non-Traditionalist, for that matter- I can nevertheless see the heart of the issue here. The opposition to Dr. Allen's nomination is really not about Dr Allen at all; it's all about opposition to Dr Mohler and his calvinism. All of this just came down because of Dr. Allen's affiliation with Southern Seminary and Dr Mohler, plain and simple. Dr. Allen could be Jesus Himself and those who oppose him would still oppose Him, if they thought it would strengthen Dr Mohler's influence in the SBC. That's why I'm glad to see some pushback from a well identified non-calvinist like you, Dr. Barber. What been going on over at SBC Tomorrow has simply not been right. Not so much the posts, but some of the comments. Hopefully this will help tone down some of the vitriol. For the sake of disclosure, my interest in this is mainly because I have been helped a great deal by Mohler and other faculty at Southern to articulate my own theological underpinnings, even though I wouldn't agree with him in all things Calvinism.

peter lumpkins said...

Hi Phillip,

Presumably, you mean by “as an outsider” you’re not affiliated with a an SBC congregation. Or, perhaps I misunderstood. I think a clarifying remark would give us some helpful info (not, of course, that if you are not SBC affiliated, your commentary becomes of no significance).

Even so, I wanted to follow up on a couple of things you mentioned if I may. First, you appear to boldly conclude “The opposition to Dr. Allen's nomination is really not about Dr Allen at all; it's all about opposition to Dr Mohler and his calvinism. All of this just came down because of Dr. Allen's affiliation with Southern Seminary and Dr Mohler, plain and simple.”

While I personally (as others like Rick Patrick have also) have been clearly upfront that the perceived liaisons with Dr. Mohler surely makes for a stumbling block over the Allen nomination, I’ve been just as focused on the sheer lack of credentials and experience Allen seems to lack as he walks to the table to which he’s been invited. Hence, it’s definitively not “plain and simple” because of Allen’s association with Southern and Mohler. Other factors are present which are strong enough in themselves to raise questions over his candidacy.

Even more, I would go so far as to concede that Calvinism per se is not a sufficient reason, so far as I am concerned, to abandon the Allen nomination were it not for the presence of what many of us perceive as a clear Calvinization pattern being imposed upon the SBC, a pattern whose most vocal advocate is Dr. Mohler himself…a pattern already imposed and implemented at the institution over which Al Mohler presides. Pardon us in love if we infer—and with sufficient reason to infer I argue—that a high probability exists that the same Calvinization pattern will be imposed across the SBC as it has been at Southern if given the opportunity. We all know where Dr. Mohler stands on Reformed theology. For him, it is the only viable theology for the future…no alternative exists for the next generation of young Baptists, he boldly maintains, other than Reformed theology. He’s been quite clear in his position and he’s put the proverbial money where his mouth is at Southern by instituting a firmly entrenched Reformed paradigm there. Few will disagree with at least that much, Phillip: Mohler has shifted Southern toward a decidedly Reformed perspective.

With that, I am…


Part II follows

peter lumpkins said...


So, while yes Allen’s connection with Mohler is definitively part of the problem we have with the Allen nomination, the Allen nomination lethally suffers from other weaknesses as well, and so it is just not so that it’s “plain and simple” Allen’s connection with Mohler which we deplore. As an alternate example, I suppose one will be hard-pressed to questions the credentials of Russ Moore who predictably will be the nominee to replace Richard Land. Now I don’t know this for sure and I could be dead wrong. What I am fairly sure of is, suggesting Moore is a weak nominee because he lacks credentials and experience poses a real challenge. While I’ve not read much of Moore’s writings, one thing stands sure—unlike Dr. Allen there’s plenty out there through which to sift where one could reasonably determine what he believes on significant issues.

Finally, I think your disclosure is helpful and I thank you for it—“my interest in this is mainly because I have been helped a great deal by Mohler and other faculty at Southern…” Presumably since both Dr. Mohler and Southern have been a positive influence upon you, you would undoubtedly see the Allen nomination as a good thing. I can respect that. We would only ask that folk like yourself respect us when we say that though Dr. Mohler may have been a good influence in many ways, too much of a good thing often leads to tragedy. We are convinced that Al Mohler’s reach into the pool of our leadership has already extended what is healthy for an ecclesiology like ours. Too much power concentrated in one place used to be the bane of Baptists everywhere. I’m not so sure that’s the case anymore even among those who claim themselves solidly Baptist.

Lord bless.

With that, I am…


Dale Pugh said...

Peter (and all):
Is the trustee who reported that the Allen nomination is being "driven through" simply going to sit by and let it happen? Even if Allen is imminently qualified, shouldn't our trustees be expected to act with more honesty and guts than that? Isn't this simply reducing the process to the same "good ol' boy" system that many bemoan as a sad fact of the SBC inner workings? I, for one, could never sit quietly by and just allow such behavior. This trustee, and any others like him, should see his position as the name states it--a "trust." Is he willing to stand up and do what's right by calling for something other than a "driven through" nomination?

Dale Pugh said...

Also......Bart, may I now call myself a "non-Monolith" instead of a "non-Calvinist"?

peter lumpkins said...


If I may. The indication I received from the trustee is that there will be questions asked, questions particularly as to why they were left in the dark pertaining to the nomination, and why, when they ask questions, they too were told they had to wait until the "official" meeting to get the answers. So much for communication. I supposed we on the outside should not feel so bad about not getting theological questions answered since those on the inside didn't get any answers either (at least at the time I spoke to the trustee).

With that, I am...

Anonymous said...


This is an excellent, balanced piece.

If you had been nominated, or our mutual friend Malcolm Yarnell had been nominated, I would be supporting you guys because I think that you are fine people and I would have some confidence in the Trustee system.

I might not believe either of you was the best person for the job, but I would believe that the Trustees did a search and picked whom they thought to be the best guy.

I can find nothing about Jason Allen that disqualifies him. I can see things that recommend him.

Is he the most qualified person among the 16 million? I don't know.

I also think it is extremely naive and unreasonable for laymen, like me, to expect to be able to publicly query the search committee after they have completed their process and nominated their candidate to start fielding questions from across the country from anyone in the SBC who has questions, particularly when the charges are as they are here.

There is no concern that Allen is a bad person, or that he doesn't agree with the BFM. The concerns involve technical theological questions, that, while important, have not moved most Southern Baptists to change the BFM or take action, or the concerns about Al Mohler.

I don't agree with everything Dr. Mohler has ever said, but he has done an amazing job at Southern over the last 20 years.

He has represented the SBC on some important committees and in other capacities. It's not like he is anathema or something.

Also, I believe in strong lay participation in SBC life, but that participation is designed to happen in certain contexts and at certain times.

It really seems strange to me that people expect to make demands of the search committee while the nomination is pending that they "explain themselves" or justify why they picked this nominee.

I frankly can't imagine making a demand like that of any search committee of any institution of the SBC.

If I did, it would have to be a really extreme situation - like Bishop Shelby Spong being nominated to be President of Southwestern.

Anyway, I thought this piece was as well thought through and balanced as anything you have written.


Bob Cleveland said...

Good article, and correspondingly good comments. I would just add that Calvinists aren't a monolithic group, either.

Bart Barber said...


I don't wish to offer any critique or commentary about the actions that the board or the search team has taken. I am, however, willing to look speculatively into the future and offer thoughts about how to go forward from here.

I've never been on the campus at MBTS. Not once. I'm therefore in no position whatsoever to know what has gone wrong with the past two presidencies at the school. I do, however, know something about the perception of those two presidencies and how they ended. Perception is important. The narratives regarding the end of both of those administrations included the word "anger."

If I were on the search team, I think I'd see your critique and the critiques of others as an opportunity—an opportunity having less to do with the new president's relationship with you than with the new president's relationship with the people of MBTS.

I'd host an open conference call through one of these services that allow people to listen to the call on the Internet, I'd invite you and whomever else to ask whatever questions that you wish, let Dr. Allen answer fully, and if he is a man of disarming charm, I'd hope that really came through in the event.

To reiterate explicitly what I have implied, my major objective here would not be to answer the questions that you have posed, but to address for the MBTS community what I perceive to be the most important question out there: Is this a different kind of leader who will bring a fresh wind of cordiality and open integrity to the office?

Bart Barber said...


That sounds like something from 2001.

Bart Barber said...


You know this, I'm sure, but just to make this abundantly clear to whomever might be reading: This committee never had my name, my resume, nada. I never aspired to this position nor entered the committee's field of vision.

However, I once read a story about a DOM in Montana who flew a Piper Cub to all of his meetings. If THAT position ever should come open…

Anonymous said...


Sorry to have implied that you are Yarnell were under consideration. It was a hypothetical, as you knew. Just hope everyone else does, too.

I can understand how the DOM job you mentioned would be appealing.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to say


KWS said...

One of these days I'm going to research how many of your posts and comments on the internet have the phrase "I'm not a Calvinist". The blogger doth protest too much, methinks.