March 26, 2012

Archival Series: Is NIU Unchanged?” Northland Baptist Bible College Position Statement on Contemporary Issues in Christianity

This republication of the January 10, 2011 original is a companion to the previous article, NIU: Let’s Get First Hand on the Facts. It was this article that I forwarded to Dr. Matt Olson, for his personal review, two weeks prior to its publication. In our brief email exchange afterward Dr. Olson cited no factual errors whatsoever!
An individual recently provided me with an official document used at Northland International University. The document is titled, Northland Baptist Bible College Position Statement on Contemporary Issues in Christianity. This document was originally prepared by the college and endorsed by the NBBC board. This document was once and still may be distributed to visiting guests with questions about Northland’s stand on issues. Topics that the NBBC Position Statement address, but is not limited to, but includes: Accreditation, Divorce, Promise Keepers, Social Drinking, Billy Graham, Jack Hyles, Calvinism, Bible Versions and Navigators. For today’s purposes, however, I am highlighting four topics from the document. Let’s review these four categories from the NBBC Position Statement and then consider certain current events at Northland in light of those official position statements.

Bob Jones, Jr. and Bob Jones III speak on campus occasionally. We are a Baptist school but appreciate their strong stand on Fundamentalism.1

1. Principles of Music- We believe that all music must glorify and be a direct reflection on the life of a Spirit-filled believer (Ephesians 5: 18-20). We do not believe that music is amoral or “Value-neutral,” but that music plays an important role in the spiritual life of a believer. The style in which a piece of music is written and the manner in which it is performed strongly colors the message of the music. Or desire is to promote the style and type of music that will edify the believer and encourage holy living, and to avoid styles that contradict or hinder the spiritual well-being of the Christian. With these principles in mind, we have developed the following guidelines:
2007 Resolved, "Rock Out?"

2. Types of Music- Sacred music must be conservative in style. The music should support the message, and the message should be scriptural. We avoid music classified as “Contemporary Christian Music”- sacred music which is written or performed in a popular or worldly style. These styles include rock, Blues, Jazz, “big band,” rap, New Age, and other styles normally associated with worldly entertainment or dancing. We also avoid “pop” or rock arrangements of traditional hymns, recordings with the typical rhythm section of bass and drums used in pop and dance music.

Some styles of secular music, such as classical music, marching band music, fun songs, or traditional folk songs may be appropriate for certain occasions. However, some styles, such as jazz, rock, rap, punk, dance band, or New Age are never considered appropriate.

3. Music Performance- We do not encourage a singing or playing style which mimics the style of popular musicians. This includes scooping, sliding, breathiness, unnecessary syncopation, “scat” singing and other techniques common to nightclub, jazz, and other popular singers. We do encourage a style of singing and playing based on traditional, legitimate principles of good musicianship, including rhythmic precision, breath and tone support, proper intonation, and a direct, unaffected mode of expression.
From Resolved 2008

4. Music Performers- Because of our conservative stance regarding music and performance, we do not endorse “Contemporary Christian” artist who use worldly techniques in performing or recording their music.

Christian Rock Music
We view this as a contradiction in terms and reject it as being Christian.

John MacArthur
We have no institutional ties with Dr. MacArthur. We disagree with his view of church polity, but see value in his writings and in his expository preaching. We disagree with his neo-evangelical associations.2

With those NBBC Position Statements in mind, please consider the following four events that took place on NIU’s campus in 2010. Read objectively, and as you do ask yourself, has anything changed in principle and application at NIU?

1) NIU Initiates and Establishes Institutional Ties with John MacArthur
In April 2010 NIU President Matt Olson with Sam Horn, Les Ollila and Doug McLachlan traveled to the Grace Community Church to meet with John MacArthur, Phil Johnson and Rick Holland. This meeting was not publicly disclosed until Matt Olson’s Friends in Ministry open letter (Nov. 2010).3 See- NIU’s Convergence with Evangelicalism and Our Children Learn Not Only By What We Teach Them, But by What We Tolerate

2) Rick Holland, executive pastor of Grace Community Church Founder/director of John MacArthur’s CCM/Rock youth conference Resolved was presented to the undergraduates in an October chapel meeting.4

While NIU views Christian Rock “as a contradiction in terms and reject it as being Christian” by putting Rick Holland in the chapel pulpit NIU’s leadership, at the minimum, gave tacit endorsement to his Resolved conference. Dr. Peter Masters correctly describes Rick Holland’s Resolved Conference as an,
...extreme charismatic-style worship…sensational nervous impact of loud rhythmic music on the body that they would experience in a large, worldly pop concert.... Biblical sentiments are harnessed to carnal entertainment. Pictures…betray the totally worldly, show business atmosphere created by the organizers [Rick Holland].”5
3) Wayne Simien Speaks in Undergraduate Chapel
Simien’s Called to Greatness, among other ministries, offers dance classes for girls age 8-12, “intended to instill in young people a love for dance along with the fundamentals of ballet and jazz,” as well as Jazz/Contemporary dance instruction for girls 13-17. See-
Former NBA Player Speaks in Chapel 6

4) NIU Students and Staff Perform Music From and Dance to Broadway play Wicked
In the video link you will see Wynne Kimbrough, dean of students, on the platform with another student performing the duet lead role along with four off stage (student) dancers. You will see Dr. Kimbrough and five students performing a song and dance selection from Wicked, What is This Feeling, Loathing.

From the Music section of the NBBC Position Statement above, “We avoid music...styles normally associated with worldly entertainment or dancing.” Not anymore! One might assume that since this was Spirit Week on campus that this was done as a parody. Nevertheless, there is no justification whatsoever for this presentation on the campus of a fundamental Christian college. As the NBBC Position Statement indicates, “…some styles, such as jazz, rock, rap, punk, dance band, or New Age are never considered appropriate.”

In his Friends and Fellow Followers letter Les Ollila wrote, “…the foundational principles and historic theological positions to which we have always been committed remain unchanged.” In Matt Olson’s Open Letter to Friends in the Ministry he stated,
Our Music Philosophy: Philosophically, it is unchanged. Let me say it again... unchanged. What we have always been trying to do, and will continue to do into the future, is to make sure Northland’s practice of music (as with every aspect of the Christian life) is built principally on clear teachings from the Bible…. 7
Has NIU remained unchanged? In 2010-11 school year would NIU hand the Northland Baptist Bible College Position Statement on Contemporary Issues in Christianity to a visiting pastor and/or parent and state that the university still abides by the philosophy and practice it defines? Is the NBBC Position Statement still in force, or has it been set aside to allow for what has the appearance of a change in direction for NIU? Did the name change from NBBC to NIU negate and dissolve the Northland Baptist Bible College Position Statement on Contemporary Issues in Christianity?

NBBC was so “Baptistic” that when the NBBC Position Statement was written they found it necessary to offer an explanation for having in Dr. Bob Jones, Jr. and Dr. Bob, III. Today, NIU presents non-Baptists and Southern Baptists in the classroom and chapel pulpit who are not known as, and do not want to be indentified as fundamental Baptists or with Fundamentalism. Yet NIU’s president and chancellor insist the university “is unchanged.”

The happenings of recent months from Northland’s campus strongly suggest that NIU is moving in a direction that is at odds with some elements that the NBBC Position Statement articulates. In light of tangible evidence that NIU has embarked on a new course in its philosophy and has formalized ties with evangelicals, the administration must decide to either:
1) Publicly disavow the NBBC Position Statement or,

2) Repent of recent activities identified above and live up to the NBBC Position Statement in principle and application. Cease and desist immediately from the new trajectory the administration has set for the university.
What tires objective observers is letters like those from Les Ollila and Matt Olson where they seem to use subjective imprecise language to quell any concerns. Complete details of what is transpiring in the administration and on campus are obscured for the sake of the new philosophy, trajectory and agenda for impressionable NIU students.
“Northland’s new trajectory has a historic parallel. The devastating effects of introducing Evangelicalism’s philosophy and practices into a biblical Fundamentalist setting are no more stark than the demise of Pillsbury Baptist Bible College.”8


1) Northland identified itself as a, “Baptist school but appreciate their (Bob Jones, Jr. and Bob Jones, III] strong stand on Fundamentalism.” Fall 2010 semester’s guest speakers on NIU’s campus (Rick Holland and Wayne Simien) are not Baptists and do not have a “strong stand on Fundamentalism.” So, what is it that NIU appreciates about Rick Holland and Wayne Simien that would have them invited to speak on campus?

2) NIU disagrees with John MacArthur’s “neo-evangelical associations.” Yet, NIU officials (Olson, Ollila, Horn, McLachlan) flew to California to meet with John MacArthur, Phil Johnson and Rick Holland. the meeting resulted in establishing “institutional ties” with the invitation to MacArthur’s executive pastor, Rick Holland, to speak in NIU’s chapel to the undergraduates. Who changed? It wasn’t MacArthur, Johnson and Holland!

3) Dr. Matt Olson’s Open Letter to Friends in the Ministry

4) See- NIU Presents executive Pastor of Grace Community Church to Its Student Body

5) “Resolved is the brainchild of a member of Dr John MacArthur’s pastoral staff [Rick Holland], gathering thousands of young people annually, and featuring the usual mix of Calvinism and extreme charismatic-style worship. Young people are encouraged to feel the very same sensational nervous impact of loud rhythmic music on the body that they would experience in a large, worldly pop concert, complete with replicated lighting and atmosphere. At the same time they reflect on predestination and election. Worldly culture provides the bodily, emotional feelings, into which Christian thoughts are infused and floated. Biblical sentiments are harnessed to carnal entertainment. (Pictures of this conference on their website betray the totally worldly, show business atmosphere created by the organizers.)” (Dr. Peter Masters, The Merger of Calvinism With Worldliness)

6) See Wayne Simien’s Called to Greatness Event Information tab, CTG Dance link.

7) Dr. Matt Olson’s Open Letter to Friends in the Ministry

8) Discussion Over the Closing of Pillsbury Baptist Bible College

Additional articles in the NIU series include:
Northland Int’l. University’s Convergence with Evangelicalism: What Does it Mean for Impressionable Students?

Dr. Matt Olson UnInvited from BJU Baccalaureate

Northland International University’s Music Department to be Dissolved
By the end of the 2010-2011 academic year every NIU music faculty member had resigned or had been asked not to return.

Is NIU “Unchanged?” ReDux: NIU Students Engage the Issues, Part One

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

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

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