A Little Help for Your Charitableness from Kevin DeYoung

by Jul 1, 2022ChurchLife, Piety2 comments

There are few figures on the national evangelical scene that I like and trust more than Kevin DeYoung. I think he nails the balance between, on the one hand, graciousness and fairness and charity and, on the other (can anything be on the other hand from charity?—yes!), a willingness to stand clearly with Scripture against sin of all kinds.

I listen faithfully to his podcast, Life and Books and Everything, and I really appreciate that he has begun reading his WORLD Opinion articles there. Excellent stuff. I also enjoy his discussions—minus the sports talk, I must say!—with Colin Hansen and Justin Taylor.

In a recent episode of the podcast, DeYoung made a few points that I’ve always wanted to articulate myself. As often when this sort of thing happens, DeYoung took unformed thoughts I had and very much improved upon them.

These thoughts have to do with the apparent double standard we use with friends. If they err, we don’t criticize them publicly the way we might do with people in our out-group. I’ve often heard people say that this is hypocrisy, a good-ole-boy network. But I’ve often found myself thinking, Really? You’d go public against your friends rather than talking to them first?

DeYoung said (and he literally said this extemporaneously, so forgive the inelegant prose, in which I’ve made minor fixes):

I feel like we try to play by an informal set of rules that says, “Well, we’ve met these people—…maybe you really are a friend, or maybe you were a friend, and we sort of moved in different directions, but at least I feel a sense of, hey, I’m I am, it’s gonna take a lot to trip over that wire that says, These people that I know, personally, and are friends with or have been friends with, now, I’m going to go on the attack on social media.”

Now you could say, well, that’s, that’s a problem. That’s the good-old-boys network; that’s circling the wagons; that’s protecting your own. Or on the other hand, you could say, well, everybody does this with you have some some group of people you consider kind of your family, your tribe, and some group of people that you wouldn’t go publicly to discuss things. You’d say, there’s a relational dynamic…, or… we’ll deal with that offline, or we’re just not going to go there.

Because of that, right or wrong, people on the inside, maintaining institutions…, end up feeling like…it’s harder to speak to a lot of things. Whereas if you just say, “Forget that, I’m the outsider.” Whether it’s moving left or right, we might say you have a newfound power, because now you’re unconstrained by those sorts of unwritten relational dynamics that all of us feel. And if you are sort of a movement sort of guy or woman, and you’re connected to 50 different people, well, there’s 50 different people that you’re going to feel like…, I’m not looking to pick this fight in public. If your circle is three, well, you’ve just got 47 more people than somebody else that you can go after. So these are just the dynamics that are there and why the internet prizes the outsider over the insider. And as I said before, the insider has to work with boards and donors and institutions, and account checks and balances in a way that the outsider doesn’t.

There’s some real wisdom there. I think it’s important to work with institutions if one can. They are incredible stewards and directors and multipliers of human power. I owe incredible debts to multiple educational and religious institutions. I’ve been trained by them and have been working for them my whole adult life—or, well, actually since I was a teenager. And I recently re-committed to institutions after briefly entertaining the idea of going solo. I saw a path toward doing this, but I really felt I’d be missing out on working with a team.

In any case, the person you think is “playing politics” may actually be trying to show respect to friendships he’s had for forty years. At least consider this option before you blast away.

That’s all, folks. A bloggable thought on a blog that isn’t getting many of my energies nowadays. Those energies are going to YouTube, I’m afraid.

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  1. dcsj

    I like DeYoung, “for a Reformed guy” (heh heh). I think these are good thoughts. Actually, the sluggishness of Fundamentalists to finally make breaks with people can be chalked up to this. Often a lot more goes on behind the scenes than outside observers realize. If you look back to the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy, the Baptist Fundies began to really speak up beginning in 1920, but it wasn’t until *years* later they began coming out of the mainline denomination. The GARB was first, can’t remember when it was, maybe in the late 20s or into the 30s. W B Riley stayed in the Northern Convention until quite late, as did the group that is now the FBFI.

    Sometimes people urge us to “take a stand” when we see a beloved institution going the wrong way. Well, we try, but we try first behind the scenes. I think the “flamethrower” mentality is an immature understanding of Fundamentalism. There does come a time to make breaks, but it often is agonizingly slow.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  2. Mark Ward

    A good application of DeYoung’s words!