April 4, 2011

Has NIU Backtracked From Its Plan to Dissolve the Music Program?

In February 2011 I posted an article that is part of an on-going series on Northland International University (NIU). That article is titled, Northland International University’s Music Department to be Dissolved, which included commentary such as,

On Feb. 4th Dr. Antone Goyak e-mailed to all students a copy of NIU’s new music program, which is known as, Emphasis in Church Music. I was provided with a copy of NIU’s Statement of Vision: Enriching Christ’s Church with His Word through Music, which you may download from the link provided [in the Feb. 2011 article, see link above].

“There are colleges where students once were taught a conservative philosophy of music that focused on uplifting the Lord and not the performer or the personal listening tastes of the hearers. Today they have become an environment where music has no moral quality, style is supposedly unaddressed in the New Testament, and institutional standards are a hindrance. Is it possible NIU is on that track? Significant changes are being made and put into affect at NIU. There are important questions that every parent and pastor of a current or perspective student might consider asking the NIU administration. You might contact NIU Music Department faculty to ask questions you may have.”
In that thread a young man named “Ryan,” who identifies himself as a current NIU student, submitted a comment. Normally, in my new comments policy, I will not post a comment unless the full name is disclosed or the individual is a regular here. On this occasion, however, I decided to allow Ryan’s comment to appear because I wanted to briefly address what he shared then and to reply in greater detail with this subsequent front-page article. On 3/17/2011 Ryan wrote,
I saw this site and hoped to add a little encouragement. I’m a Music Education student at Northland and came in 2005, and I was discouraged to hear what they planned to do with the music program. At the second meeting they had with all of the Music majors, much of our anxiety was relieved. Northland reverted from its plan to dismantle the music program and place it under the Bible degree and are keeping the program much the same. The changes they decided to make were to combine classes like theory and aural skills and a couple other classes so as not to remove teaching, but present it in a form that allows it to be more cost-effective for the school and still equip students to do what they need. I took classes with every music faculty that left or will leave, and I’m not convinced after talking with them that they left because of Biblical philosophy as much as the practical philosophy they thought Northland would bring in, but no longer are. Being here and actually seeing what is taking place rather than hearing about it allows me to be certain that Northland is still an excellent college for any Fundamental Baptist Christian.
My initial response to Ryan appears in the thread. What follows here is a revised and expanded version of that first reaction to Ryan’s comments above. I’ve composed much of the following from discussions with various persons intimately close to NIU, its faculty and staff. Brother Ryan: I am going to address what you’ve shared above on what you feel is happening at NIU, but not entirely as a direct response to you. This will be meant for all readers.

From what I know for sure about the events unfolding at NIU I thought what I was reading in your comment could be attributed to either blissful ignorance or youthful naiveté. Did these NIU faculty members leave only over practical philosophy? No, of course not. The mere fact that three individuals left the university MID-contract year shows that the stakes were much higher than merely working conditions.

If Ryan has been in college since 2005 he may be about 24. Still relatively young and inexperienced in the ways of having an occupation that would lead him to truly believe someone would uproot themselves and alter their livelihood just because classical music training wasn’t on the menu. If Ryan believes that then he may believe virtually all the music staff have left because they didn’t feel qualified to move this new music application forward and because of their love for NIU and biblically based music they volunteered to step down in the worse economy in decades where housing sales in their communities is terribly weak, give up years of relationships and leave in the middle of their children’s education. This is preposterous. I have been an administrator and have overseen staff. Staff leave either disgruntled, discouraged, out of principle, or because they have another opportunity.

The other consideration is the increasing number of other faculty/staff who have either chosen to leave or been let go (the count, at present, is over fifteen). Or, the simple fact that, with the exception of a part-time strings and part-time piano teacher, there are no other remaining music faculty come next fall semester. What is mind boggling is that NIU administration can make direct statements to the students, and then come back mere weeks later and make completely different statements, without much repercussion. Of course, when all of the dissenters are gone (their reasons for leaving all already being discounted), altering statements will be even easier.

Ryan, you wrote, “Northland reverted from its plan to dismantle the music program….” If that is the case, has all former faculty/staff been reoffered their positions back? A school that randomly dismantles a major, only to say they were not really serious about it, brings greater concern for that school’s reliability and credibility.

When you’re in the slowly heating water (“being here and actually seeing what is taking place”) it is hard for you, as the frog, to feel that you are actually boiling to death.

Has NIU changed in philosophy and practice? This video, taken in chapel at NIU (Fall 2010), is sadly representative of the new face and direction of NIU in regard to music standards.

It is clear to me, from the actions and statements of the administrative team, to the conferences the administration attends, to the evangelicals they have reached out to, traveled to convene with, the non-separatist evangelicals and Southern Baptist Convention men they invite to the NIU pulpit, classrooms and Heart Conference, the personal testimony of staff, students, and guests who have left, the lowered music standard in the dorm rooms and the tolerance of music style throughout the campus are evidence enough of principled, positional, philosophical, practical change at NIU.


For Related Reading:
Is NIU “Unchanged?” Northland Baptist Bible College Position Statement on Contemporary Issues in Christianity

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

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


  1. Bro. Lou,

    Your illustration of a frog in boiling water fits perfectly in describing the inability of those leading (and those learning from) the current compromise among "separatist" ministries to discern their own error or the error of those leading them (IE - Ryan). Preaching through I Corinthians, I am reminded of Paul's admonition to the carnal Corinthian church in I Cor. 3:18-21a. "Let no man deceive himself..." The Bible teaches clearly that we can be deceived by the subtilty of Satan, false teachers, but also by our own hearts! Decisions and direction that may be heralded as "wise" by others, may actually be "foolishness" in God's evaluation. Those that are leading such "conversations" about change from the separatist foundations of historic Christianity, indeed, may be deceiving themselves into thinking they are walking in wisdom, when in fact, they are fading into foolishness that displeases God. So much of the reasoning and explanations given by Olson, Bauder, Doran, & Jordan smack to me of the "men seeming to be wise." Take heed, brethren, and get back to wisdom based on "it is written..." over "I think..."

  2. Ps. Rogers:

    Sorry I am late in replying. When young people loose their sense of directionn that is unfortunate, sometimes expexcted, but they can often be recovered successfully.

    It is quite another thing to have mature men changing direction and trying to influence the young to follow them in that (downgrade) direction.

    I see our role as one not unlike Paul's as he warned with tears about those within the church who would seek to draw away disciples. Acts 20:30-31


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