Has Northland Drifted Away From Fundamentalism?

Perhaps this isn't a popular topic to bring up, but I wanted some opinions from the larger fundamentalist community on NIU. I have heard some disconcerting things about Northland, both from alumni who are close friends and from other fundamentalist bloggers, such as Lou Martuneau's In Defense of the Gospel blog. The concerns of my alumni friends echo the very issues Lou brings up in this important blog post here -

http://indefenseofthegospel.blogspot.com/2011/01/is-niu-unchanged-northland-baptist.html

Lou also has a number of other blog posts chronicling his concern with Northland's direction; all of which can be found at his site. Let me reiterate, his concerns echo the very things my friends have mentioned to me. I am well aware Lou is a sharp critic (perhaps that word is too kind?!) of SharperIron. Let's leave that aside. I'm not interested in ad hominem arguments against Lou's character - that isn't the issue.

Is there a problem at Northland? Should fundamentalists be concerned? Should fundamentalists speak out? I would not recommend this college to any teenager at my church. What say you?

19521 reads
Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Tyler,

There are a number of threads on SI regarding both Matt O and NIU. You can search the archives for them. Lou is not well regarded in these woods; I am not aware of anyone here who respects the things Lou has to say. So, I would encourage you to keep looking for better sources.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

would be attempting to address unsubstantiated and unsupportable speculations and rumors.  Anonymous sources and "I received an email" and links to one's own blog posts are not evidence. This kind of backbiting and extortion-by-blog is a violation of Scripture in and of itself. Lou himself is a brother in serious error, and should be treated as such.

There is also a question of what defines Fundamentalism. Is not going to movies still a defining issue for Fundies? Is contemporary music the greatest of all evils we face in our churches and colleges?

One of the problems I have with this kind of sin-sniffing is that it hopes to continue the perpetuation of a double standard. Folks used to hide the fact that they watched movies, or listened to modern music, or occasionally did a jig at a wedding or family get-together, because they didn't want to be blacklisted by 'leading Fundamentalists'. Now they aren't hiding anymore, and this is supposedly a departure from Fundamentalism. No- it's a departure from deceitful, manipulative Phariseeism. 

By all means- be discerning and responsible, but don't pretend you don't watch movies, read books, listen to mainstream music, and stream Netflix on your laptop. And don't use a list of extra-Biblical rules in an attempt to dominate and control others. We have seen where this leads at HAC and SGM. Be warned.

To announce that one has departed from something means that you have to define the original location. Things have changed in many areas of Fundamentalism, and I'll grant that, but I don't think 'change' means what Lou thinks it means. 

rogercarlson's picture

Tyler,

 

I took my daughter and son up there to camp last summer.  I know the camp is different than the university, but I still thought it would help.  What I saw at the camp did not bother me for the most part.  But the one thing that really bothered me, probably would not bother those who are raising concerns about Northland. 

 

What I see going on at NIU is what I see in alot of our churches.  I think they have done some things that are unwise, but I would still recommend them with reservation.  Actually, that is what I am doing with all of the colleges.  My daughter is a high school senior, and we are not sending her to any of the schools.  i will not elaborate further on that, unless you want to private message me.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Jay's picture

Tyler,

Let me encourage you to find someone who is at Northland currently and talk with them directly, like Roger, or talk with the administration directly to find out what's going on.  I would take Lou's writings with a very large grain of salt.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jim's picture

Who said: "I would not recommend this college to any teenager at my church. What say you?"

Question: Why is your role to recommend colleges?

--------- My 2 cents on Northland --------

  • It's not Lou's fundamentalism and not of the same fundy stripe as some
  • But it is a fundamentalist school
  • It's doing a good job preparing young adults for ministry
  • Has it changed? Yes. For the better
fljones3's picture

Tyler,

I would email or set up a phone appt with Dr. Olsen. According to his blog he is open to such correspondence. Since he is making himself available, talk to him directly.

 

Frank Jones, Pastor

www.faithmemorialbaptist.org

Anne Sokol's picture

written Dr. Matt Olsen recently; you can, too Smile He'd love it. Put together a list of questions and set up time for a call.

TylerR's picture

Editor

My concern came about from good friends who have expressed their concerns to me.

I referenced Lou's blog because he gave voice to what my friends, who are Northland alumni, have expressed to me.

I wanted to get the opinion of others to see if what everybody else is feeling.

That is all.

Nothing malicious.

Nothing sadistic.

Nothing malevolent.

Nothing evil.

I wanted to see what the consensus was.

I beg everybody to please banish any thoughts that my motivations are sadistic and intentionally divisive.

My goodness . . .

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

TylerR wrote:
I beg everybody to please banish any thoughts that my motivations are sadistic and intentionally divisive.

I haven't seen any comments in this thread that indicated anyone thinks that about you. Please don't take in concerns about this topic as being personal attacks. 

Jay's picture

Hey Tyler-

I get where you're coming from.  I understand trying to facilitate a discussion on a subject and having it devolve to be about what you said instead of what you were trying to discuss, because it's happened to me.  That being said, I don't see a lot of people beating up on you here.  There have been several responses, most of which told you to contact the school, and one of which asked you a question that is totally legitimate (whether or not you should be endorsing colleges).  If you're, say, a pastor, then yes, that makes sense that you're recommending colleges.  If you aren't really in a position to recommend colleges, then that makes the responses different. 

You should keep in mind that we're all taking different things away from what you write because we each come to the table with existing prejudices and preconceptions of what you're trying to say.  I know that as soon as I saw "Lou's blog", there were all kinds of things I thought you were going to say - most of which was not what you were asking about.  I finally settled on writing to contact Northland, be discerning about Lou, and left it at that. 

Biblical guidelines on communication have to come from the Bible, which tells us to:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  -Eph. 4:29-31

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. - Proverbs 18:17

In my case, I don't know a whole lot about what's going on at NIU since it's been years since I've interacted with the school, so it's best to just contact the source directly, as Proverbs states.  It's very, very easy to see something online and jump to a bunch of conclusions based on scary pictures or associations of associates who are associated with someone else who's actually there, and it's going to save you a bunch of headache and hassle if you just get both sides of an issue instead of Lou's.

If you really think that this thread is becoming about you, then why?  It doesn't seem like anyone here is making you the issue, but there must obviously be something there for you to be concerned.  In that case, the best thing to do is to go to your brother (or sisters, in Susan and Anne's cases) privately and work it out, as Matthew 18 tells us.

I hope that's helpful.  PM me if you want to talk more about this - I don't want to hijack the thread.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Joel Tetreau's picture

Tyler,

I appreciate your note and I'm sure it's given with good motivations. Just a few points for you to consider:

1) we actually had this discussion months ago - actually I think we've had this discussion two or three times over the last year or more. 

2) There has been hundreds, if not thousands, if not ten's of thousands of pages with lots of vibrant ink spilt on this topic - you might start off looking at the forum's or even the archives of all the threads within fundamentalism here on SI. Here at SI you have at least four views - One view wants to see fundamentalism taller. A second view wants fundamentalism to be shorter. A third approach longs for a more round, heavy or girthy fundamentalism. The fourth and final view desires fundamentalism to remain skinny.

I alone have my own desire - I just want us all to be happy.

Straight Ahead!

jt

 

  

 

 

 

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Jim's picture

Change is not necessarily drift

What Bible college hasn't changed over (let's say) the last 40 years

  • Rules have changed. The role of rules and their relationship to sanctification has changed
  • The KJV is no longer Bible # 1
  • Many now have some sort of accreditation which was eschewed in the past
  • The offerings have increased - most are more than just a Bible college

Additionally there is no "one" fundamentalism. See Bauder's Taxonomy (PDF attached)

Northland is definitely a fundamentalist school. It's not MBBC, Faith, or BJU. But it hasn't drifted from fundamentalism. 

 

Greg Linscott's picture

Is there a problem at Northland? Should fundamentalists be concerned? Should fundamentalists speak out? I would not recommend this college to any teenager at my church. What say you?

Tyler,

Let me ask this question from the other direction. If someone in your church sent their child there in spite of your lack of recommendation, how would that impact their standing in the church? Would you be uncomfortable with service in leadership positions like deacon or SS teachers for a person like that? Would you take them off of the music schedule, just to be safe? What would the implications be?

Or look at it a different way- if a congregation was looking at you as a pastoral candidate, and you had people who were sending their children to Northland, or even broader, say, like Liberty- would that be a reason for you to withdraw your name from consideration?

If you were pastoring in a small town, and the church options were limited to choose from, how would you handle transplants from churches that didn't always line up with how your congregation parsed out Fundamentalism?

I understand the concern you are raising, and in many ways can identify with what I perceive are the sentiments behind your questions. At the same time, as time moves on, I expect we will see more of this kind of change. If you look at the list of schools in the AACCS (http://www.aaccs.info/members.asp), I would observe that the changes seen at Northland do not make them unique in that relatively small network of schools, which I think one  can safely say would fit a general definition of Fundamentalist institutions.

I think it is also safe to say that if one's "concern" would result in isolating themselves from anything hinting at influences like what you suspect is manifesting itself at Northland, you would end up with a very short list of people and churches to interact with in most any location in the USA that wasn't in a 100 mile radius of Greenville or Watertown (slight exaggeration). That isn't to say that you can't (or shouldn't) have a ministry philosophy that guides your decisions and so forth. But it does mean that wielding it rigidly can reduce your influence with others who might listen, and can have significant impact on the makeup of your congregation (not to mention applying it to your missionary roster) and who you partner with in ministries like church associations, camp, and that kind of thing.

But with all that being said, you are obviously not alone in the concerns you seem to be hinting at with your questions. Schools like Baptist College of Ministry and West Coast Baptist College, for example, offer an alternative to the philosophy at Northland, and are finding their audience from some who no longer are looking Northland's way (I personally know a few who fit that description). I'm not sure you're going to find a vocal contingent of those people here, though (but I could be wrong).

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Here is what I see in Northland. I believe that certain segments of Baptist Fundamentalism have awoken to some realizations that some things from their past were not sustainable with regard to the essentials for Baptist Fundamentalism and that is good. That might be called collective maturing.

Unfortunately, like all maturing entities, there is the awkward stage of decision-making regarding new enlightenment. Unfortunately, NIU appears to believe its sophomoric stage to be the best stage for decision-making and change-making. Their contradictory actions regarding their stated beliefs and policies as opposed to their practices have been documented by Lou Martuneac.

They certainly have every right to claim to be one thing and do another thing, to many this is distasteful. They ought to do one of two things which is either change their stated beliefs and policies so as to reflect their new practices or keep their practices within the limits of their stated beliefs and policies. They aren't doing that.

I would not send my child there, but less because of their changes, though that is an issue with regard to their theological and practical development, and more because of the question of integrity in light of their contradictions.

TylerR's picture

Editor

For those who haven’t written me off as a troublemaker, I’ll offer a few responses to what’s been written:

I didn’t grow up as a Christian, so I am not beholden to any particular “orbit” of fundamentalism. When I questioned whether Northland was “drifting” away, I meant drifting away from the broad brush definition of fundamentalism, more particularly militant separation (something which I didn’t make clear in my post). It is true that I go to Maranatha – but I would question my bias towards that school as well. I have my MA and am chugging along with an MDiv, but have only been to campus twice. Maranatha to me is a website! My BA is in Emergency & Disaster Management, and I'm not beholden to that school either!

Jim: I’ve seen Bauder’s taxonomy. Dr. Oats, from Maranatha, has developed his own from Bauder’s original. It is very useful!

Greg: Because I don’t have any loyalty or ties to a particular “camp” of fundamentalism, I honestly don’t care what school somebody came from. I don’t even know most of the schools, and am unaware for the most part the particular orbits around each. I’m really that clueless! I wouldn’t discriminate against somebody based on their school – it really doesn’t matter to me. Fruit will make itself known – for good or bad.

Everybody:

I’m not concerned with Northland’s academics. I am certain they are very conservative in what they teach. My overriding concern with any school I’d send my own children to is the stand they take on separation. Any implicit or explicit tolerance of carnality is a major black eye to me. This is the major concern which prompted my initial post, for the most part.

Due to cost savings and my concerns about carnality at any school, I am conflicted on whether online education may the way to go in the future for our teenagers. However, teenagers don’t want to stay at home and go to college – they want to escape and start their own life. I understand. That is why college is such a major mile marker, a coming of age event. Should we take that away?

I must admit I am being rather hypocritical here. I left home and joined the Navy when I was 18. I’ve been married 11 years and am only 29 – do the math! We had our first child when I was 19. I jumped headlong into adulthood. I am concerned my children may be corrupted by a carnal culture at college (any college) and I naturally want to protect them from that. I am hypocritical because I left for the military at 18, newly married, and I turned out just fine (if we allow “fine” as a very loose definition!).

I want to protect my children when they go off to college. I want to protect the teens in youth group when they go off to college. This is a time for maximum danger for young people. Therefore, I am very concerned when I see potential indicators of loosening of standards of separation and tolerance of carnality. This is the dividing line for me – tolerance of carnality among the student body. Acceptable behavior becomes an acceptable standard. For this very reason, the standard for behavior must be set high. How does any college do this in a loving manner without alienating the students and driving them towards the evangelical fold? Who knows . . .!?

I don’t know if there is a “problem” at Northland. I phrased the whole thing poorly. I’m not looking to attack somebody because they’re re-orienting their stand in the eternal taxonomy of fundamentalism. I just don’t want to see a Christian college slip on separation, because at its core, that is the dividing line between fundamentalism and evangelicalism. I pray there is no “problem” at Northland. I also pray I can strike the right balance between letting my kids go their own way and protecting them at the same time when I send them to college.
 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jay's picture

Therefore, I am very concerned when I see potential indicators of loosening of standards of separation and tolerance of carnality. This is the dividing line for me – tolerance of carnality among the student body. Acceptable behavior becomes an acceptable standard. For this very reason, the standard for behavior must be set high. How does any college do this in a loving manner without alienating the students and driving them towards the evangelical fold? 

Tyler,

I get your point, but I think that the problem is what you (or I or Lou) bring to the table when we start throwing out terms like 'separate', 'carnal', or 'worldly'.  Lou's definitions is not like mine, and I don't know that you and I would agree either, because I don't know you all that well.  This is why I find it hard to agree with anyone who says that (for example) Dallas Theological Seminary makes it's students (or has students that are) 'carnal' or 'worldly'.  What do they mean when they say that? 

NIU's emphasis is on discipleship and disciplemaking even in the educational milieu, so it makes sense that students won't always be as 'spiritual looking' as, say, BJU students.  That's why I think that it's important that you talk with NIU's leadership and figure out where they want to go instead of going on third or fourth or tenth hand spectators that are playing 'telephone'.

It's important to keep in mind that rules and laws can not and do not make people holy.  The best they can do is enforce the external appearance of righteousness (the Pharisees - Matthew 23) or make us fully aware of our own sinfulness (Romans 7-8).  But that's a different topic.

Hope this is helpful.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

TylerR's picture

Editor

Jay - good point here:

NIU's emphasis is on discipleship and disciplemaking even in the educational milieu

That being said, forget about Northland. My post above re-casts this as more of a broad brush concern. We would have all been better served if I had cast my concerns in this manner from the beginning. I fully understand the balance between separation done from the heart and that done out of rote adherence to "rules." This is a distinction too many people fail to grasp!

 

 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Greg Linscott's picture

I understand what you are saying about carnality, Tyler. I am just not convinced that issues like music are a sure-fire indicator of it. That being said, I also have no problem with someone concluding they will not put themselves (or their children) in that kind of campus environment. I think there are factors one can take into their decision-making process that include some of the concerns you were hinting at in the original question. I just don't think they are the same thing as concluding whether or not they qualify as "fundamentalist."

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Larry's picture

Moderator

My overriding concern with any school I’d send my own children to is the stand they take on separation. 

I think this has long been a staple of some forms of fundamentalism, and it may be why we have the mess we have now. People cared less about what was loved and what was taught, and more about who someone might speak with, listen to, or have a friendship with. So some would have fellowship with someone who taught weak or even bad doctrine because they separated from the "right" people. And they would reject fellowship with someone who taught correctly because they might speak for someone who spoke for someone else. (Obviously, I am generalizing there, so feel free not to point out someone who didn't do exactly this thing.)

I think it created a situation in which we have in fundamentalism aberrant views on the Bible and inspiration, on salvation and sanctification, on preaching and the handling of the text, not to mention a lot of moral abscesses in the "body." But it was considered acceptable because they said the right things about MacArthur, the SBC, or some other topic du jour.

So I don't know enough about Northland to have a view on whether or not they have drifted in a bad way. But, regardless, it would be wise to regain a solid theology of truth and fellowship.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Outward show can frequently fool many people. This is why Deut 10:16 is such an important concept for me; the outward behavior should be merely the practical outworkings of a right heart - in anything we do. How do you differentiate between formalism and authentic response of the heart when it comes to acceptable standards? You can't - this is a matter between the individual and God.

What you can do, however, is set a high standard and ensure you teach everybody that this standard is predicated on a willing heart, not grudging conformity to "rules." As long as men are sinful, some folks will get it and others will hate it. That doesn't call for anybody to lower the standard and implicitly capitulate to pragmaticism- which I don't believe anybody here is suggesting, by the way. 

 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Don Johnson's picture

Larry wrote:

So I don't know enough about Northland to have a view on whether or not they have drifted in a bad way. But, regardless, it would be wise to regain a solid theology of truth and fellowship.

None so blind as those who will not see, etc.

But this post is mostly about getting that other thread off the top of the New Posts lists, at least for awhile...

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Anne Sokol's picture

probably neither here nor there,

but I dont think northland sees itself as 'drifting' anywhere. I think the changes are intentional.

interesting to think about--what made people perceive them as anchored before ... like what were they anchored to that has now been somehow cut off in some people's eyes. Might be revealing to question that.

Charlie's picture

I think it's interesting to reflect on the difference between Calvin's Geneva and fundamentalist colleges. Calvin's Geneva is often portrayed as a repressive theocracy. Yet, it's remarkable how little Geneva actually legislated regarding the inner life. The statutes mostly regulated gross outward sinful behavior - domestic violence, drunkenness, adultery, etc. Some church attendance was required. By modern standards, the Genevan consistory was something of a busybody, but late medieval cities tended to have strict moral codes anyway. It was obviously NOT their intention to regulate all the Genevans' internal motivations or to shape them into super-Christians.

In the 17th century, there arose three rather similar groups: 1) In Catholicism, the Jansenists; 2) in Lutheranism, the Pietists; 3) in Calvinism, the Puritans. Despite all the theological differences, all three groups agreed on the need to regulate all the actions and motives of life by the highest standard of Christian life. They wanted to be the very best Christians they could be, by exhaustive itemization and self-awareness. What makes them significant is that they did so in communities that regulated themselves according to their ideals. The people in these communities were always subject to each other's impressions and judgments about how "really" Christian they were. (A good chapter on this is "The Domestication of Grace" in The Domestication of Transcendence by William Placher. His bibliography is good, too.)

These latter groups exercised coercive force, not to keep people from being outwardly bad, but to make people be outwardly good. This is really a watershed moment in Christianity. A Christian was being asked to prove every day that he or she was authentic, something not very easy to do. I think this is reflected in many fundamentalist Christian colleges in two steps. First,  all sorts of positive Christian activity is mandated - Bible reading, witnessing, church attendance, chapel attendance, special service attendance, mandatory attendance at prayer meetings, dressing like a good Christian, listening to the best Christian music, etc. So, the bar is raised sky-high. Second, because the bar is in fact mandatory, it no longer serves to distinguish real Christians from mere conformists. So a person might be asked in a variety of explicit or implicit ways what he or she is doing over and above to demonstrate one's sincerity. 

So, I might summarize the ethos of most fundamentalist colleges in two ways: 1) one is coerced not just not to be bad, but to be good, and perhaps very good; 2) one is constantly in the position of having to demonstrate one's Christian sincerity, a task that can be extremely difficult. 

I wonder if that historical contrast illuminates the decisions various Christian colleges are making. Is there a move back toward prohibiting badness but leaving extra goodness outside the realm of coercion/discipline? Is there less of a "prove yourself" expectation? Are some rejecting coercive pietism for a more traditional Protestantism?

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Larry's picture

Moderator

None so blind as those who will not see, etc.

It's not about blinders, Don. I simply don't know and am not willing to comment on something I don't know anything about. My point was actually about something else.

 

Jim's picture

How it hasn't drifted:

  • The doctrinal statement is the same
  • IMO they produce a good product (kind of impersonal to call grads that ... but I know a lot of grads including recent ones). Grads have a heart for ministry

How it has changed:

  • Changed the way rules are administered. A change for the better
  • Less dogmatic about some issues (music)

 

Ron Bean's picture

If someone believes that Northland has drifted away from fundamentalism, would they please give me some specifics. So far I've just heard generic rumors such as:

they've dropped their music standards (still waiting for that to be defined)

they've quit policing the music listening habits of their students

they've embraced the charismatic movement by speaking positively about a SGM church/pastor

they used a song from "Wicked" in a student body production.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Jim's picture

Hey Don ... would you be kind enough to explain your post "Don't send your kids to Northland"

http://oxgoad.ca/2012/12/10/dont-send-your-kids-to-northland/

If I understand you.

  • Olson posted a link to this video
  • http://youtu.be/bjB47756hFI
  • And he (on FB) said: "Thank you Steve for your contributions to the church!”
  • So based upon his posting this video on FB and making that comment you conclude: "Don’t send your kids there, you will be very disappointed."

My questions (and please don't respond "it's obvious")

  • What's wrong with this song? 
  • What's wrong with the artist?
  • What's wrong with Olson's comment - "thanks Steve ...."?
  • What does this have to do with Northland (other than the fact the Olson is the President)?
Don Johnson's picture

I stand by my comments.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

"What a masterful performance it was. An amazing job acting and sustaining the difficult and intense role."
— Dr. Charlotte Burke, Bob Jones Universiity Speech Department

 

So, are we not supposed to recommend BJU now as well?

 

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