Moral Intelligence (1/08)

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By Larry McNeill
Latin America Theological Seminary
Facultad de Teología

Global Positioning Systems can pinpoint your exact location anywhere on planet Earth within three feet!  While riding a bus in Mexico I can zero in on my Bluetooth to recent satellite pictures of the jungle path I recently walked from the tiny, off-road village of Mazarari to the Ashaninka settlement of Teoria on the banks of an Amazon tributary.  You can sit in a cave in Colorado and listen to every word spoken while it is being spoken in a private, closed-door board meeting in Singapore.  Your emails and phone conversations are exposed to millions of wandering eyes and ears.  It may not be stretching it to say that there are no secrets anymore.

Such astounding scientific achievements were only the substance of science fiction until our generation in the history of humankind.

Imagine if there were a Moral Positioning System that would enable a person to know at anytime how his or her conduct measured up with what is moral and right.  In today’s global culture such a system would be impossible to construct and operate because “Who can say what is moral and right?”  Every person’s opinion of what is moral is as valid as everyone else’s.  But does biblical-theological education have anything to offer here?

Two highly successful secular leadership training executives, Doug Lennick and Fred Kiel (Moral Intelligence, 2005) argue that humans, even postmodern ones, are born to be moral.  Other leadership experts join in this assertion that men and women are hard-wired to be moral.  What’s missing or defective, they say, is the software.

They emphasize the need to fine tune the on-board moral compass, moral intelligence within the human frame.  It is here where they are precisely knocking on our door.  The moral skills Lennick and Kiel highlight as critical to developing moral competence are integrity, responsibility, compassion and forgiveness.  Does biblical, ministerial training address any of these as essentials?  Are our Bible institutes and ministerial educational programs stepping up to the plate as confidently as we should?

In paradoxical postmodern culture it seems that everybody talks about morality but nobody knows what it is.

Lennick and Kiel have designed an immensely practical 40-question Moral Competence Inventory.  The accompanying scoring and interpreting tools might provide an assessment device that could prove useful in our ministerial training programs.  If a member of ACLAME should use this inventory, I would like to hear from you to know if you think it was helpful for your students.  We would need to add some additional questions.  What do you think they should be?

One of the most sought after leadership training experts of the past 35 years, Warren Bennis made no mistake of emphasizing the primal importance of character over skills.  He wrote profoundly, “character matters.”  Do you suppose that we sometimes emphasize skills at the neglect of character?

Yassin Sanher wrote in the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, “Character not charisma is the critical measure of leadership excellence.”

Since we are in the business of training ministers and church leaders, do you think we have a responsibility to look for better ways to shape the moral character of the leader?  What are some of the practical ways we can do this?

Is there a tendency in ministerial education to add to one’s faith, knowledge; and to our knowledge more knowledge; then more knowledge and finally more knowledge?  Yet the apostle Peter instructed us to “add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  2 Peter 1:5-8.  Should our ministerial educational programs develop ways to “add” these qualities to the lives of ministers and church leaders?  How are you doing this?  Would you be willing to share some guidelines with others?