So I was finishing up my 21st conference at Covenant of Grace Church in St. Charles when I heard people talking about “the coming storm.” So I started looking at the weather and my travel plans. Let’s just say I am thankful that I invested an extra four hours of travel today and have managed to get myself out of at least the direct path of this winter storm, and guaranteed my being in Conway on time to begin teaching my first class as a full professor at GBTS (Apologetics) starting this Thursday. I am from Phoenix, and while I have already seen snow on this trip, they are now talking about more than six inches in areas I had planned on being over the next few days. No thank you! My detour should also make it possible to do a DL Tuesday and Wednesday as well.
So last evening I was trying to catch up after the conference with what has been going on when I see a discussion in passing about Greg Bahnsen. I see someone named David Pallmann giving a “hot take” on Bahnsen, and some discussion taking place. So I go, “Did I miss something? Who is David Pallmann, and why are Reformed folks responding to his ‘hot take’?” So I clicked on it and found the “hot take.”
Hot Take: Greg Bahnsen wasn’t a particularly brilliant or original thinker. Most of his ideas predate him and have been developed far more rigorously by other thinkers. I would go as far as to submit to you that Bahnsen’s popularity has nothing to do with his rigor and everything to do with his rhetorical capabilities. I believe that his fans generally mistake his strong and confident words for sound argumentation. While we’re on the topic, I don’t think that Bahnsen is an isolated case. The Calvinist community in general is easily seduced by strong rhetoric which tells them what they want to hear. Think of James White, Scott Oliphint, Paul Washer, Jeff Durbin, Sye Ten Bruggencate, etc. All of these gentlemen are, in my opinion, very shallow thinkers and yet they are lauded by the Calvinist community. I don’t say this to be demeaning towards these individuals or to Calvinists. I would simply urge those who listen to these individuals to be careful that they are not mistaking rhetoric for rigor.
So, I track this gentleman down on Facebook and look at his information. He looks like maybe 25 years old, maximum. And he self-describes as:
I am not even sure what he means by some of that, but any young man who puts all of that on his FB bio is hardly going to be in a position to provide much of a meaningful insight into the work of Greg Bahnsen. In fact, you would expect an “evidentialist” and a “classical Arminian” to not find a lot of helpful material in Bahnsen, or in any of the others listed (including myself).
So I did not say much about the topic other than to screenshot his own description, and I purposefully included his own provided employment: sales associate at Dillard’s. It’s relevant.
I saw nothing in his “hot take” that demonstrated the slightest meaningful knowledge of Bahnsen’s work. His words sounded like a kid dissing a new band for not playing music in the exact way he wants it played. There was no substance. And when you then looked at his age, his self-description, and his standing and work, you found absolutely nothing that would explain why anyone, and I mean anyone, would care in the least about this “hot take.” A twenty-something Arminian kid thinks Greg Bahnsen was not a deep thinker and is only popular for his rhetorical skills. Forgive me for not thinking he has read Bahnsen’s work on Van Til, or, if he did, that he understood it.
But here is what has me just a bit hot under the collar this evening. I dropped the screen shot not for this young man, for I doubted he would even see it. I put it there for my fellow Reformed folks. Its purpose should have been obvious. Why on God’s green earth are we even talking about a single paragraph that simply has no standing? It has no substance, its author has yet to produce anything that would give him standing to make such sweeping conclusions no matter how much time he may have to read between customers at Dillard’s. So why are we wasting our time? I see stuff like this every day. I just scroll on by, or, if it is particularly egregious, mute, or maybe block, just to save myself aggravation in the future. But my whole intention was to say, in passing, to my own tribe, “Uh, really, guys? You are surprised this young fellow broad-brushes Bahnsen when this is how he describes himself? Don’t we have more important things to be doing?” The whole thing might have taken five minutes, probably less, last evening, and I sure did not give it a second thought afterward.
Until this morning, that is, when I find I have been messaged by Chris Date, rebuking me for posting the graphic, and saying it was “beneath me” to include his own information concerning what he does. I did not have time this morning for any of this silliness, to be honest, as I had to get out of the way of an oncoming winter storm, and I had no desires to be pulling my 5th wheel in bad weather, especially snow or ice. But the thought crossed my mind, “I wonder if that young fellow is one of Chris Date’s students at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary?” Upon getting set up at my new location, and hearing from another person about the topic, I checked and, yup, lo and behold, there is the connection. If you are not aware, that particular school is home to such folks as Johnathan Pritchett, Braxton Hunter, Leighton Flowers, and Tim Stratton. To say that presuppositionalism would be an unpopular view there would be to engage in massive understatement.
So I am sorry people missed the point of my tiny little graphical comment. I asked, “Who is David Pallmann?” and then provided his own self-provided information, all of which was directly to the point: he is clearly committed to a denial of Bahnsen’s foundational premises, and, he is in no position to provide a “hot take” that is anything other than “hot air”. He has not, as yet, produced the work, teaching, writing, or studying, to give him a basis for making broad, sweeping statements dismissing the depth of work (and the broad expanse of work) that Greg did in an even tragically shortened life.
I will close with this. The Internet encourages youthful arrogance and foolishness. When I read great men of the past, I see Calvin producing the first edition of the Institutes, and Owen writing The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, both at very young ages. And yet both works breathe maturity. Cyber activity does not seem to produce the same kind of maturity that hard work did in the past. I do not know Mr. Pallmann, but I would very strongly suggest he take the time to track down (it is available on line) Bahnsen’s final sermon. I knew Greg, not well, but well enough to know that he had diabetes, and was facing yet another open heart surgery in late 1995. He knew the chances were not good he would survive, and so he preached the last Sunday before his surgery. In essence, he got to preach his own funeral service. For years I had a cassette tape copy of that sermon (I am sure I still do, in a box somewhere). I listened to it again just recently. I would like to think that if Mr. Pallmann would listen to that sermon, he might hesitate, next time, before giving a “hot take” on a departed servant of the Lord who did so much in such a brief time given to him.