January 19, 2011

Is NIUUnchanged?” Redux- NIU Students Engage the Issues, Part Two

Previously we heard from and the response to Northland International University (NIU) sophomore Phil Palmer. Please refer to Is NIUUnchanged?” Redux- NIU Students Engage the Issues, Part One. Today we direct our attention to the second NIU student, Ethan Kimbrough, who participated in the thread under, Is NIU “Unchanged?” NBBC Position Statement on Contemporary Issues in Christianity and was the fourth in a series about the new direction, trajectory of and practices at NIU.

In the Is NIU “Unchanged” discussion NIU students, Phil Palmer and Ethan Kimbrough, posted comments in which they offered their view of what is unfolding at their school. Both Phil and Ethan were sincere in their comments and we can all appreciate the good spirit with which these young men expressed themselves. To reiterate from the first in this two part series- Their concerns and comments deserved well-thought out answers, which IMO will be to the benefit of every reader who is interested in and/or concerned with the change at NIU. Today we will review Ethan Kimbrough’s comment and the reply to him from myself and Brother James Floyd. To set the table for the original discussion the following comment from James Floyd was his first in the thread. Brother Floyd wrote,

“Lou, Thanks for the article. I was concerned by the video in that they were using the skit as a way to then talk about what Northland is. It came across that they are willing to engage culture to reach the lost. This is code language for compromise. I remember skits and parodies that were done at times in the past at Northland that would have raised a few eyebrows had they been recorded and put on the internet. There were times where students went a little too far with their society recruiting skits but this is unacceptable. I would be more upset if I didn't know Dr. Kimbrough. I appreciated his ministry at Northland while I was there. I'm sure that he felt that there was nothing wrong with the skit but it looks very bad from the outside looking in. I understand that this is not an actual chapel service but it does convey that Northland has changed. I had a hard time making out what the young man was saying toward the end but it sounded like more of the same hype and philosophy that Matt Olsen and others are putting forward.”
Following is Ethan Kimbrough’s full (thread) comment to James Floyd:
I think you are definitely reading into things, like many people have been doing recently. Northland, like it has done for you in the past, is changing lives for the better - In this country and in over 70 other countries from Northland’s alumni. I am a current student at Northland, and I am seeing the amazing things that God is doing there. A guy named Peter Cushman just graduated from Northland, and he is already doing missions work, just like plenty of other students who are on fire for God will be doing next year. We send out so many ministry teams to different countries throughout our Christmas, Summer, and Spring breaks, and will continue to do that no matter how many people disagree with it.

All I know is that Satan would love to use trivial matters to bring down such an influential institution. Students are on fire for God here at Northland, and I can see that. Northland is an amazing place and I feel like it would be wrong for me not to defend it on here.

I know Dr. Olson personally, and I know he has spend hundreds of hours on his knees in regards to Northland’s future and it shows that he spends that much time with God in the way he speaks, and in the way he deals with the attacks on his character. I love that man, and I love Northland. I have been here for 19 years now and can tell you all that Northland really is changing, but for the better. Thanks and God bless all of you as you discuss this further. I'd love to see some of you come out and see for yourself all the amazing things that God is doing, instead of just speculating.

-Ethan Kimbrough
You may view Ethan’s original comment HERE which originally was submitted by him into the previous discussion thread. My response was the first to Ethan, which follows:
Ethan: Thanks for sharing your perspective, your comments are welcome.

1) No one I am aware of questions the intention that NIU has for its student body. Many do, however, question and are alarmed with the new way of doing things at Northland. I speak primarily of alumni and friends of Northland. I am not, speaking just for myself, and I suggest to you we are not “reading into things” at Northland. What is happening at Northland is in plain view.

2) “Attacks on his [Olson’s] character.” I trust you are not suggesting there are attacks on Dr. Olson’s good character in this or any of the articles that have been presented here. I do not and would not allow any personal attacks on the character or motives of Dr. Olson…. I hope you can understand that what is happening at and what NIU is becoming is under scrutiny and legitimate criticism not the character of men who are making the decisions for change at NIU. When what one does or the words he says come under scrutiny those who love and appreciate that man might feel as though his person and character are under attack, when it is in fact not so.

Ethan, are you aware that I sent an advance copy of this article (Is NIU Unchanged?) to Dr. Olson almost two weeks prior to publishing? I asked him to review it and inform me of any factual errors. I promised to rectify any verifiable errors in the article prior to publishing. We exchanged several cordial e-mails and Dr. Olson did not identify any errors or misrepresentation in the article.

3) For many observers the changes at NIU are not “trivial matters,” they are perceived as radical shifts away from the stands articulated in the NBBC Position Statement.

4) You wrote, “I have been here for 19 years now and can tell you all that Northland really is changing, but for the better.” I appreciate you recognize and acknowledge that NIU is changing. I think you appreciate that many alumni and others close to the school do not see these changes at NIU as for the better. I refer specifically to the items detailed in this and a previous article: John MacArthur, Rick Holland, Wayne Simien, Wicked, Bruce Ware, et. al. May I ask: You recognize that NIU is changing, but-
Why do suppose Dr. Olson and Dr. Ollila insist that NIU remains “unchanged?”
Finally, just as you have invited Brother Floyd to visit NIU…Dr. Olson invited me to visit, which I cordially declined due to family and professional responsibilities. I was on campus for several days in 2000 and again in 2001. What I saw then and can see now at the NIU website, through the video and other sources from NIU shows me a college that has changed dramatically from what it a when I last visited. IMO, we are not “speculating” at what is happening at NIU, it is plain for any objective observer.

Thanks again for sharing your perspective.

Kind regards,

Brother Floyd then responded to Ethan as follows:
Ethan, Thanks for articulating your point of view. I think it is great that your family has been at Northland for so long and that you are learning valuable truth there. I also love Northland and what it stood for. I am grateful for men such as your father, Dr, Ollila, Dr. Horn, Dr. Von, and Neil Cushman. I am saddened to see though that things have changed in philosophy at Northland. I personally don’t mind certain changes in application as they are called, but the most important core factor is what is being taught at a more foundational level. Subtle changes in belief there can then result in outward changes in application – for the better or worse. Northland is also under pressure to attract students. I’m wondering how far they will go to do so.

I will also say that I have nothing against the students or those who are truly trying to serve the Lord. I just would caution you as a student to search out the scriptures for yourself to see what is truth, and what is not.
Be careful of politics within fundamentalism and of overarching movements toward compromise, all while under the cloak of unity for the gospel’s sake.
I remember clearly Dr. Ollila preaching about the danger of Northland becoming an institution that no longer teaches the truth. He would bring up places like Yale and Harvard where truth was once taught, but now have become anything, but what they were in the past. He stressed the importance of not compromising on the truth. Not that Northland is anywhere near that level of compromise yet, but they have taken a posture that has open arms toward conservative evangelicalism and all that goes along with it.

I remember Neil Cushman teaching a lesson on black and white vs. gray issues in a men’s Christian service class. He made the point that there is really very little that is truly a gray area. I remember Dr. Horn teaching us that the biggest problem in ministry/fundamentalism lies with each of us men if we allow sin to corrupt us. Where does error fit into the picture?
If someone like MacArthur teaches error concerning Lordship Salvation, then why would men at Northland meet with him and decide that they agree with him enough to invite Rick Holland, one of his right hand men to speak at Northland – unless they don’t see a big problem with his [soteriology] views?
Dr. Olson basically confirmed this to me himself through email. While Olson does not articulate exactly what MacArthur does, he does not see MacArthur’s views as being a big problem.

What about Rick Holland’s Resolved conference? Do they support that? They would not have before.

I have not made pure assumptions about Northland. I originally wrote your father and my questions got passed on to Matt Olson. I have had cordial e-mails with Matt and I understand now where he is coming from, but we will have to agree to disagree about certain things. I told him that I would indeed like to come and visit Northland and talk to him about issues. I don’t know how soon that would be possible or if that would do any good. He seems resolute in his desire to take the school in this “new” direction. I have also talked to a recent graduate and he confirmed that things were getting worse there. I noticed a few things just a couple years back when I came up for the Heart conference.

There are others that have issues with Northland’s change, i.e. alumni and pastors around the country. Their concerns are warranted. My friends are divided. Those of them who favor things like reformed theology, Lordship Salvation, Calvinism, Acts 29 network, sovereign grace music, covenant theology, leaky dispensationalism, have tended to like Northland’s changes. Others that are more traditional fundamentalists do not. It is pretty simple to me to see what is going on.
This isn’t just confined to Northland. These issues are at play at seminaries like Central, Detroit, and Calvary of Landsdale.
My overall concern is that Satan is indeed getting a victory if the gospel message is being clouded at these four fundamental institutions.

Site Publisher’s Addendum:
Just prior to posting this article, I did take note of one particular excerpt from Ethan. He wrote, “We send out so many ministry teams to different countries throughout our Christmas, Summer, and Spring breaks, and will continue to do that no matter how many people disagree with it.” I do not know of anybody who would object to or disagree with NIU doing all they can to carry out the Great Commission unto the uttermost parts of the earth. When I was a missionary in South Africa (1996-1999) we would have welcomed a ministry team from Northland.

Previous articles in the series:
Is NIU “Unchanged?” ReDux: NIU Students Engage the Issues, Part One

Is NIU “Unchanged?”: The NBBC Position Statement on Contemporary Issues in Christianity

Our Children Learn Not Only What We Teach Them, but by What We Tolerate

Northland Int’l. University’s Convergence with Evangelicalism: What Does it Mean for Impressionable Students?

Northland Int’l University Presents Executive Pastor of Grace Community Church to It’s Student Body

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