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April 16, 2008

How Institutions Fall

Many speak on the decline of American education, especially higher education. Though education (Christian education in particular) was high on the priority list of our founders (Harvard was founded in 1636!), many institutions quickly drifted from the strong moorings of a Biblical worldview.

This morning, I was struck with how this really happens.  I receive a daily email from T.M. Moore, dean of the Wilberforce Forum’s Centurions Program. This morning, Moore clarified for me that, in reality, institutions don’t drift.  People drift, and therefore institutions drift.

Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-Fil-A, would agree.  I heard Mr. Cathy speak to a group of students recently, and he stated something like this bluntly to them: “Businesses don’t fail. People do.”  He also said, “There is no such thing as business ethics. There is only personal ethics.” I wonder how many would consider this too simplistic.  Certainly, there are external factors beyond our control. On the other hand, vernacular can easily remove the responsibility from our own shoulders where it belongs. For example, do marriages collapse? Does love cease? Do churches split? Or, do people?

We have stewardship over institutions.  And, it is the stewardship we exercise over our lives which inevitably play out in those institutions. Moore’s thoughts from this morning are too solid not to quote:

I’ve been reading again of late George Marsden’s, The Soul of the American University, which details the decline of American higher education from its foundations in the Gospel and the Biblical worldview to its largely secular and unbelieving condition today. Institution by institution, each generation of Christian leaders made decisions and took actions which opened their college or university to the influences of secularism, sapping the foundations of faith and turning loose the mavens of modernity to rewrite the agend of learning and the framework of truth. I shake my head in disbelief that good men could have been so unaware of what they were doing, but then I am led to wonder about my own life, the care I take of this temple of the Spirit and truth entrusted to me: what am I doing, day by day, that I either consider to be harmless to my soul or that I simply have not assessed with sufficient scrutiny to know that it is tarnishing the gold of truth and breaking apart the foundations of faith I otherwise hold so dear? What influences am I allowing into my mind and heart, to what priorities do I defer without thinking, and what practices do I follow of which I will be thoroughly ashamed and without explanation on the day I stand before the Lord? Schaeffer wrote that it is the influences of the unbelieving age, which we grant entry to our souls without recognizing their destructive influence, that will rob us of the reality and power of our faith. May God give us eyes to discover the ways we are granting such influences entry into our temples of His Spirit, and may we send them packing - like Nehemiah evicting Tobiah (Neh. 13.4-9) - before their corroding power works its dire effects.

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