Some theses on the Merritt-Peterson imbroglio.
- Merritt asked fair and reasonable questions. I’ve no idea what the dynamic was like in the conversation, but there’s nothing about the way the questions were posed or the subject of the questions that was inappropriate.
- Peterson was unprepared. I would hate to see Peterson moderate a session or congregational meeting. Apparently he’s one to think on his feet.
- Merritt isn’t much of a journalist. His writing is part journalism, part advocacy, and part self-promotion. The interview in question was remarkably shallow and after reading it I felt that I’d lost five minutes of my life that I would never recover.
- Peterson isn’t much of a pastor-theologian. I appreciate Peterson’s writing, I really do. Good theology proceeds from first principles and works its way down to concrete situations. Peterson tends to start with situations–a great way to be a popular, but only marginally faithful, pastor.
- Merritt comes off looking like a guy who fleeced an octogenarian. Again, I don’t know what the dynamic of the conversation was, but one way to spin it is that Merritt somehow influenced the way that Peterson answered. As Hunter Baker has pointed out, no famous evangelical octogenarians are safe!
- It’s all a bit of a pump fake. At the end of the day we all know that Peterson probably believes along the lines of his first answer to Merritt. He has stated such publicly in other contexts (as Fred Harrell has decided it is his moral duty to “out”–yes, it is tacky isn’t it?) and hinted at it over the years. His recantation is reminiscent of Rowan Williams statement about not favoring gay marriage on the basis of factors like: history, global context, etc. All very noble ways of saying that a man favors it personally but would rather not rock the boat.
At the end of the day/week, the most we can say is that both Merritt and Peterson are emblematic of the shallow nature of our national discourse.