WSJ.com's Opinion Journal has posted an article by Jeffrey Lord criticizing Mitt Romney for having a passion for data without a passion for principle. Whether you agree with Lord about Romney or not, we must all agree that he raises a significant point. One important lesson we must all learn is that "facts" do not give us wisdom. "Data" cannot tell us what to think or what to do in any given situation. Bare statistics on a page cannot tell us what ought to be done. That word "ought" is important here, for it shows us that every decision made and action taken includes a moral component. That moral component will always include moral commitments or principles. If a man does not have a sharp moral vision, he will always be wandering hither and yon in a forest of facts.
I want to take this point and apply it to the work of the church. I fear that many church leaders look at the latest polls, studies, and research, and unthinkingly transmute these things into some kind of imperatives for action. If Barna research says that young adults are forsaking traditional church structures, then that must mean that we should find non-traditional structures to reach them. If Lifeway research says two-thirds of young adults between 18 and 22 drop out from church for at least a year, then that must mean that we have to find new ways to reach the college demographic. And so on and so forth.
My response is, Oh really? Why must the data mean that? The data actually means nothing of the sort. It is actually our own moral vision which determines how we will use the data. This is why we need Christian leaders who are deeply imbued with a biblical perspective on everything. We need men who are widely acquainted with history and humanity and not captive to the fads of the moment. We need men with more than education in the facts and techniques; we need men with wisdom. Men (especially young men) with narrow minds who think they are being so relevant by following all the latest studies and the latest cultural trends are some of the most disintegrating factors in our churches. In the hands of a barbarian, "just the facts" are potent weapons of destruction.