Certainly, much of the culture surrounding Christianity at the moment militates against the kind of commitment that making a choice, rather than merely having a choice, demands. The language of conversation, so popular in certain quarters, has a certain open-ended quality to it. Once upon a time, arguments and debates were designed for the express purpose of reaching a conclusion, of deciding which, if any, of two or more positions was the best or the strongest or the most true. Conversation has more of a `I'll hear what you say; you hear what I say and we can all agree to differ while remaining friends' feel...Read the entire article HERE. Very helpful!
All of this is sad in a tragicomical way; and it is perhaps not surprising that as adolescence creeps into middle age, so does the fear of making choices and closing down options; but I wonder if most lethal of all will prove to be not the lack of commitment and stability that characterises Marks' [Dever] `cult of options'. Rather the worst of it may well be that a generation is growing up that is happy to sneer and snipe at the decisions of others, but for whom making decisions that bind is something they themselves are incapable of doing, an alien concept no less; and that means not only, as I suspect Mark Dever fears, that a generation will grow up with no real commitments other than to themselves as individuals but also with no real leadership potential.
One of the striking things about great leaders in history is the strong passions they have aroused. Churchill is surely a great hero to many on both sides of the Atlantic, but, interestingly enough, my grandfather hated him with a passion because in the 1920s he had set the troops on striking miners. Lloyd George was the other great war leader Britain produced in the twentieth century, a brilliant orator and political strategist, but he was hated and reviled as much as he was praised and adored. The same is true in America: think of a significant leader in any sphere and you find someone who polarizes opinion, whether it is Franklin D. Roosevelt, General MacArthur, or Martin Luther King, Jr. Why? Because great leaders make tough choices and, in so doing, commit themselves to courses of action that can bring praise but also excoriation. They do not sit on the fence; they do not nor do they sit on the sidelines, throwing potshots at those who have to make the decisions; they do not enjoy the luxury of always knowing what should be done but never actually having to take responsibility for doing it. And they understand that, sometimes, it is better to make a decision that proves to be wrong than to make no decision at all...
This leads to one other concern about future leadership. It is what I call the emergence of the professional statesman. The professional statesman is the person who thinks and acts as if they can rise above the fray and speak to issue in a way that transcends the typical struggles involved in any leadership situation. I have witnessed this so often over the last few years, both in observing the wider political scene and in the church which seems to me to be increasingly marked by such men: they are those who try to defuse theological conflict by playing the moral equivalence card whereby they argue that the struggle is really petty and personal, a moral conflict between lesser men above which they and they alone can stand and see the way forward. My suspicion is that too often this simply reflects the problematic patterns in wider society: a need to be liked; a need to avoid making divisive decisions; and a desire to have the perks of leadership with none of the responsibilities and pain involved.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
"To Lead is to Choose"
Carl Trueman's latest entry over at Ref21 deals with our "cult of options" and the lonliness and even hostility that is experienced by the leader who dares to make choices.