On Standards in Christian Leadership -- By: David R. Dilling
GJ 6:2 (Spr 65) p. 24
On Standards in Christian Leadership
Instructor in Philosophy and Greek
One need not be an astute observer to recognize an expectation, even in the non-Christian world, of particular standards of conduct from the leadership of the Christian church. The Christian laity, as well, demand of their leaders, norms, albeit often ill-defined, that they are quite unwilling to apply to themselves. For example, common folk frequently talk as though there are certain activities which they practice that should not be done in the preacher’s presence. The preacher’s children are expected to behave somewhat differently from those of other members of the church. Greater stigma is attached to the pastor’s running off with his secretary than to a businessman’s committing the same offense. The word of churchmember-in-the-pew is sometimes accepted with more reluctance than that of the pastor.
If we suggest that this attitude implies an unfair double standard, that all Christians stand together as condemned sinners and recipients of the grace of God, and that the very highest ideal for Christian living is demanded of the most humble saint, we are met with the Biblical statements regarding bishops in 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:5–9 which seem at first glance to support the popular notion. It would seem better therefore to approach the matter by distinguishing standards for living from qualifications for office.
Ethical systems have traditionally been worked out relative to a highest good—that end which is to be supremely desired. The very first problem of moral philosophy is the determination of this highest good. All other particulars are related to that summum bonum. For the Christian, too, who is interested in moral problems this is the appropriate starting place. We do well to remember, in the words of the Westminster theologians, that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” This first answer in the Shorter Catechism was neither a hasty nor careless formulation. It is doubtful if the matter has ever been expressed so accurately and succinctly. The Christian leader must constantly be reminded that nothing less than the glory of God is his ultimate moral standard. Every other consideration must be brought into subjection to this one goal. This Christian standard immediately puts the Christian ethic on a level infinitely above any other human formulation. At the same time, we should observe that the Christian ideal does not in any a priori sense abnegate the legitimacy of specific observations in the history of human philosophy. The Bible teaches that all of human life with its pleasures and potenti...
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