The purpose of Lundgaard’s book is to draw our attention to the Beloved—to the triune God. It is to draw our attention to Him, not so we can admire Him from a safe and comfortable distance, but so we can truly draw near to Him.
We make a lot of all the distractions that come with life in the modern, always-on, electronic world. And certainly it can be hard to have minds that remain focused for any significant stretch of time before the next beep, the next buzz, the next little burst of dopamine. Yet we do not need to look far into the annals of church history to find that distraction—and especially the kind of distraction that keeps us from being spiritually minded—has always been a challenge and that God’s people have always had to take action against it.
Centuries ago, John Owen wrote a book about issues like this. The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded is not one of his better-known works, though perhaps it should be. But there is a legitimate concern when it comes to reading it today: while Owen’s works were never particularly easy to read, the intervening years have made them harder still. Some of his language has become antiquated and many of his illustrations have become opaque. Thankfully, Kris Lundgaard has done us a service by bringing the best of Owen’s old work into modern times in The Devoted Mind. This is the third time Lungaard has done this with Owen’s books, with the others being The Enemy Within and The Glorious Christ (the first two of which have just been reprinted so the trio now has a consistent and contemporary cover design).
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By Trevin Wax — 3 weeks ago
The deadliest temptation in a secular age, for the Christian and non-Christian alike, is the sidelining of God. The more we push God to the periphery, the more we take center stage. It’s our activity that matters. Our goals and aspirations. Our strategies. Our techniques. Our purposes. Our plans. We lose eternal perspective because the Eternal One plays only a supporting role.
Often when we talk about temptation, our minds run to certain attitudes and actions that exert a magnetic pull on our hearts. We know the experience well: what it’s like to lash out in anger, to indulge a lustful fantasy, to take pleasure in words that cut down someone else, or to dwell on a wrong done to us, nurturing and nourishing a root of bitter self-pity.
When we think of temptation, we think of sin. We think of selfish impulses. And we hope to fight sin and temptation with the truth of God’s Word in the power of the Spirit.
But I wonder if, in all our good and godly resistance to particular sins, we sometimes overlook a far greater and all-encompassing temptation, a deeper source of selfishness, a disposition that matters for the direction of life. This temptation lies at the heart of other transgressions, with consequences far more profound than those of individual sins or petty attitudes.
It’s the temptation of godlessness.
I’m not referring to the atheist’s refusal to acknowledge God’s existence. Nor am I referring to spiritual or religious people who deny certain biblical teachings about God. I’m talking about the temptation to elbow God out of daily life, to push him out of the center, to live without reference to our Creator. We may still nod to him, of course, but he’s secondary. We shrink the Author of life to a footnote in a story we write ourselves.
It’s fitting to name this temptation “godlessness” because, even if we don’t deny God, we can live as if he doesn’t exist. He simply isn’t relevant for most of what constitutes daily life.
Absence of God
In our secularizing society, it isn’t the presence of sin that defines our culture but the absence of God.
Leaked: Teachers Reveal How They “Stalk” Kids, Sideline Parents To Pull Middle Schoolers Into LGBT GroupsBy Elle Reynolds — 2 years ago
After [teachers] Baraki and Caldeira angered parents by using an “anti-bullying” presentation to teach kids what it means to be gay or lesbian, they explained to conference attendees that “Next year, we’re going to do just a little mind-trick on our sixth graders.”
Members of California’s biggest teachers union plotted how to push LGBT politics on children and undermine concerns about their tactics from parents, principals, and communities, reveals leaked audio from an October conference of the California Teachers Association (CTA).
“Speakers went so far as to tout their surveillance of students’ Google searches, internet activity, and hallway conversations in order to target sixth graders for personal invitations to LGBTQ clubs, while actively concealing these clubs’ membership rolls from participants’ parents,” Abigail Shrier reported on Thursday.
Three people from the “2021 LGBTQ+ Issues Conference” in Palm Springs, Calif., titled “Beyond the Binary: Identity & Imagining Possibilities,” sent recordings to Shrier revealing the radical content of some of the workshops.
Multiple seminars at the conference encouraged hosting LGBT clubs for middle schoolers. An audio clip reveals teacher Lori Caldeira explaining why such clubs keep no rosters, noting, “Sometimes we don’t really want to keep records because if parents get upset that their kids are coming? We’re like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe they came?’ You know, we would never want a kid to get in trouble for attending if their parents are upset.”
Caldeira has noted in a separate podcast appearance that, in the club she runs that includes other people’s prepubescent minors, “What happens in this room, stays in this room.”
At the CTA conference, Caldeira and another teacher, Kelly Baraki, led an additional seminar about “How we run a ‘GSA’ [Gay-Straight Alliance club] in Conservative Communities,” and discussed their strategies for how to “get the bodies in the door” and ensure kids keep coming back when “we saw our membership numbers start to decline.”
By P. Jesse Rine — 1 week ago
Written by P. Jesse Rine |
Monday, November 27, 2023
Although the careerist may value the institution’s unique mission, its faithful pursuit is ultimately incidental to his primary motivation: ascending to the next rung on the professional ladder. Maintaining the distinctive character of Christian higher education and ensuring its enduring efficacy will require intentional, robust, and principled leadership that both understands and resists the mechanisms of isomorphic homogenization. If Christian colleges and universities are to continue the vital Gospel work of changing hearts and renewing minds, their leaders must eschew the temptation to play the coward, copycat, or careerist.
The soul of Christian higher education is its distinctive institutional mission: to pursue the implications of the Lordship of Christ over every academic field and discipline. This mission defines the Christian college’s purpose, which distinguishes it from secular peers and provides an organizing framework for institutional action. Given its central nature, it is little wonder why so much thought has been devoted to understanding the role of institutional mission within Christian colleges and universities. Scholarly treatments have ranged from profiling specific ecclesial models for higher education, to constructing typologies that span various theological traditions, to examining the negative effects of denominational disengagement. Yet common to all is a recognition that these vital organs of the church will flourish only insofar as their unique missions are intentionally maintained.
It is therefore disheartening to witness instances of mission drift within Christian higher education, for we know where this path leads: further compromise and eventual secularization. Perhaps most insidious are the forms of drift that appeal to conditions or standards within the industry at large to justify a departure from the college’s historic character. Although the details may differ across cases, the formula remains constant: Campus leaders point to a particular aspect of the college’s historic character as a rationale for moving the institution into better alignment with recent trends. For example, one institution reaffirms its Christian commitment to caring for all students by approving an official student club for sexual minorities. Another institution demonstrates its devotion to institutional excellence by appointing a vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion to implement “best practices” for achieving racial justice on campus. A third institution expands the reach of its Christian witness by reducing its core requirements to attract greater numbers of prospective students. Whether compromising on sexual ethics, uncritically adopting secular approaches to race, or sacrificing curricular substance on the altar of the market, the institution has mutated even as its leaders declare its mission to be more vibrant than ever.
For those concerned with the continuance of authentically Christian higher education, it is imperative to understand the mechanisms that lead to this form of mission drift. To the outside observer, the above examples might appear to be separate, one-off occurrences of poor administrative decision-making. In actuality, these choices are united by a faulty view of leadership, as evidenced by the lack of integrity between the institution’s stated values and the behavior of its principal. This discontinuity betrays a troubling reality: The chief executive has conceptualized and operationalized leadership in ways that elevate deference to external entities above institutional self-determination.
The aforementioned approach is problematic because organizations operating within the same industry tend to become more alike over time as they respond to shared external pressures. This phenomenon is known as institutional isomorphism, and its effects can be seen within Christian higher education. Isomorphism is a natural and common occurrence across various industries, but it becomes corrosive when it pulls an organization away from its distinctive mission. College presidents who fall prey to the above character flaw—the tendency to subordinate the interests of their own institutions to the wishes of the wider academy—ultimately function as accelerants of mission drift because they go with the flow instead of resisting the homogenizing forces of isomorphism. Leaders who exhibit this trait regularly appear in one of three different small-souled forms, each corresponding to a particular mechanism of isomorphic change: Coward, Copycat, and Careerist.1
In their seminal work, “The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields,” Paul DiMaggio and Walter Powell describe institutional isomorphism as “a constraining process that forces one unit in a population to resemble other units that face the same set of environmental conditions.”2 This constraining process occurs through three mechanisms, and each pushes Christian colleges and universities to become more like the rest of American higher education. The first is coercive isomorphism, which DiMaggio and Powell describe as “formal and informal pressures exerted on organizations by other organizations upon which they are dependent, and by cultural expectations in the society within which organizations function.”3 These pressures can “be felt as force, as persuasion, or as invitations to join in collusion.”4
Two primary sources of coercive isomorphism within the field of higher education are government regulation and institutional accreditation. Both exert coercive force, though the former is more direct while the latter is more indirect. Numerous government regulations influence the behavior of postsecondary institutions, yet the most consequential relate to eligibility requirements for participation in the federal student loan program. Christian colleges are roughly 70% tuition dependent on average, which means they rely upon student tuition and fees to provide 7 out of every 10 dollars for their annual operating budgets. Moreover, most Christian college attendees depend upon the federal student loan program to finance their education. As a result, changes to eligibility requirements, such as compliance with Title IX regulations that define traditional approaches to human sexuality as discriminatory, have the power to induce coercive isomorphism within Christian higher education.
Institutional accreditation, itself a requirement for participation in the Title IV federal student loan program, presents another, softer source of coercive isomorphism. While postsecondary accreditors are staffed by full-time officials who coordinate the activities of the association, the site visit teams that actually review institutional performance against the accreditor’s standards of quality are populated by administrators from its member colleges and universities. These administrators not only issue requirements to address areas of noncompliance, but they also share recommendations they believe would benefit the institution, and these recommendations often reflect the consensus of the wider field that includes but goes beyond Christian higher education.
On its own, coercive isomorphism has the potential to exert significant pressure on Christian colleges, and this potency can turn pernicious when faith-based organizations are led by cowards.