This morning, progressive Christian blogger Jonathan Merritt interviewed theologian Peter Enns on the Bible and inerrancy. Merritt prefaced his interview with a disclaimer, explaining that the post was originally intended to be two part dialogue with Enns and pastor Kevin DeYoung, who has also published a recent book on the Bible. The issue is that DeYoung declined to be interviewed by Merritt.
That shouldn’t be too big of an issue, right? Interviews get declined every day for many reasons. But apparently Merritt was very upset that DeYoung didn’t take the time to contribute to his blog. In fact, Merritt was so upset that he salaciously implied that DeYoung had lied about his schedule in order to avoid sharing a platform with Peter Enns:
“Upon discovering” that he would be involved with Enns, Merritt says, Kevin DeYoung “claimed” he was “now” too busy.
While Merritt does not explicitly accuse DeYoung of lying (which would be very foolish, given the fact that Merritt would have to personally know DeYoung’s mind and schedule), he clearly implies that DeYoung acted in bad faith towards him.
What justification does Merritt have for this implication? I can think of no answer to that question that doesn’t end up seriously damaging Merritt’s credibility as a journalist. Kevin DeYoung took the time in the comments section to respond to the disclaimer, and flatly contradicted Merritt’s words:
The explanation from Jonathan about my lack of response is misleading at best and dishonest at worst. I never received an email or a phone call or any personal communication from Jonathan. I never told him I would do the interview. I was told by my agent (yes I have a literary agent) that Jonathan had spoken with the PR department at Crossway and wanted to interview me and Pete Enns. The questions were attached. I declined to participate because I am, in fact, busy. I get requests for interviews and projects often and almost always decline them. I was also suspicious that Jonathan would not treat me fairly, a suspicion that the explanation in this article has only served to confirm. To suggest I backed out of a prior agreement once I found out Pete Enns was being interviewed is entirely false. I do not know what the PR department may have communicated, but I never agreed to do an interview with Jonathan and will continue to decline interview requests from those whose motives and methods I do not trust.
Merritt has simply committed a serious lapse in journalistic integrity. Assuming bad faith on the part of Kevin DeYoung was completely unnecessary and appears to be wholly untrue. Merritt could have simply written that DeYoung declined to participate in the exchange. Such a comment would have absolved Merritt from the accusation of stacking the debate (in the comments he says the deflection of that accusation is why he wrote the disclaimer). Implying that DeYoung withdrew from the discussion because of Enns and that he misrepresented the reasons why is beneath journalistic responsibility, basic civility, and Christian behavior. Merritt should retract the statement and formally apologize, in writing, to Kevin DeYoung.
Update: Merritt’s posturing in the comments section is laughable.
That’s how adults who blog say, “Na na na na, I can’t heaaaaaaar youuuuu.”
Merritt’s behavior is just embarrassing. It’s becoming very difficult to believe Merritt when he says his goal was to create dialogue. Sounds like it was to throw a tantrum.