Thursday, June 09, 2005

Sproul on Institutions

In his book Bound for Glory, R. C. Sproul, Jr. makes the following observation (from a US point of view, of course)
God, in His mercy and his power, has established in this world four institutions. One is the individual. The second is the family. After that comes the church. And finally he has established the state. The drive in our age is to reduce that number down to two, to eliminate what the sociologists call the "mediating institutions," the family and the church. The culture looks at each of us principally as individuals who are likewise part of the state. Our identity in the family or the church is seen as coincidental, if not problematic. But in actuality the family and the church are mediating or middle institutions, in that they protect us from being swallowed into one of the other two institutions.
(p. 26)

Sproul's identification of the four institutions is not something I have thought about before, but seems obvious now. Of course, it fits. The rampant individualism of the last 40 years has damaged the culture's concept of the family, and certainly corroded the way the church thinks about itself. It is no surprise, therefore, that when Christian individuals can't deal with issues increasingly even their cry is to the government to legislate and/or act to the point of damaging the middle institutions they are part of.

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