Al Mohler is a great preacher. And he makes his point in this video very, very clear. Using a series of metaphors, he tells us that what we need in unstable times is greater certainty. When things are falling apart, we don’t want more conversations, we want action!
The context of his argument is Scripture. The preacher shouldn’t leave his study until he knows exactly what the text means — in fact, the preacher shouldn’t eat or drink until that happens!
We want desperately to take uncertainty out of the future but when we take it out it isn’t the future. It is the present projected forward.
Contrast this approach with the attitude of NT Wright, arguably the greatest living New Testament scholar. Wright is well known for beginning his preaching with this: “70% of what I am about to tell you is the truth. The problem is, I’m not sure which 70% it is.” Wright explicitly puts the onus on the hearer to do her own homework and not simply defer to his years of scholarship and language study.
But wouldn’t we all love it if the world were really the way Al Mohler says it is? In fact, the more unstable the times, the more we look for strong leaders. Fundamentalisms thrive in uncertain times (Cue Naomi Kline’s “Shock Doctrine.”)
Canadian author Michael Fullan summarizes our current state in terms of leadership in the West, as well as identifying the way forward. He writes, “I have never been fond of distinguishing between management and leadership: they overlap and you need both qualities. But here is a distinction worth making: leadership is needed for problems that do not have easy answers.” (Leading in a Culture of Change, 2)
Similarly, Ron Heifetz accuses us of looking for the wrong kind of leadership when the going gets tough: “in a crisis, we call for someone with answers, decision, strength, and a map of the future — in short, someone who can make hard problems simple.. Instead of looking for saviours, we should be calling for leadership that will challenge us to face problems for which there are no simple, painless solutions — problems that require us to learn new ways ” (Leadership Without Easy Answers, 21)
Fullan summarizes the challenge of these crazy times. “The two greatest failures of leaders are in decisiveness in times of urgent need for action and dead certainty that they are right in times of complexity.”
Elsewhere, Meg Wheatley writes that “Leadership in Turbulent Times is Spiritual.” Hint – that doesn’t necessarily equate with certainty of direction. In fact, faith is often opposed to certainty, since faith requires risk and dependence on a God who reveals himself in his way and at his speed, ie. he is not on call because we have a need to move forward.