August 24, 2012

Is NIU, “Opposed to and Reject[ting of] the Modern Charismatic Movement,” Part 2

Earlier we saw that Dr. Matt Olson, Northland International University’s (NIU) president, praised a Charismatic church, its pastor and by extension the Sovereign Grace Ministries, founded by charismatic preacher C. J. Mahaney.1 Praising a charismatic ministry is a stark contravention to NIU’s current Articles of Faith, its Faculty, Staff and Student Handbooks,2 which state,

Among the gifts listed in the Bible, we believe that sign gifts have ceased for today. Therefore, we reject the modern charismatic movement and the confusion which it has brought. (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; 13:8; Ephesians 4:11-12).” 
The university’s position is not to cooperate with any organization or movement that is connected with apostasy or that places less than primary emphasis on the authority of the Word of God…. Furthermore, Northland is opposed to Liberalism, Neo-Orthodoxy, New Evangelicalism, Hyper-Calvinism, and the Charismatic Movement.” 
Therefore, we cannot accept the position reflected in the Ecumenical Movement, Neo-Orthodoxy, New Evangelicalism, or the various branches of the Charismatic Movement. We believe cooperation should be limited to those of like precious faith. (1Thessalonians 4:16–17; Revelation 3:6–19, 19:11–16, 20:1–6, 11–15; 21:1–8).”
Let’s take a closer look at Pastor Ian McConnell. First, I am sure Ian loves the Lord and wants to please Him with his life. Second, I believe we will see Ian in Heaven worshipping our Lord together.  Ian has, however, gone off into what I believe to be doctrinal error. Ian is [senior] pastor for preaching and vision of the Grace Bible Church. The Grace Bible Church is listed among the Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) membership of churches. SGM is unashamedly a Charismatic organization, with roots in the Catholic/Charismatic movement, believing the sign gifts of tongues, prophecy and healing are active and should be sought after today.
The organization of over 70 member churches grew out of the charismatic renewal of the 1970s under the leadership of Catholic Charismatic Larry Tomczak and has its roots in the Gathering of Believers (now Covenant Life Church) in Maryland. It was formally established in 1982. CJ Mahaney and Larry Tomczak were the co-founders of both Covenant Life Church and People of Destiny International (PDI), the former name of Sovereign Grace Ministries. Mahaney describes himself as a ‘former pothead.’ Both Mahaney and Tomczak withdrew from the Charismatic Catholic scene shortly before the creation of Covenant Life Church.”3
Ian McConnell
Ian McConnell is closely tied to the modern Charismatic Movement and SGM. Ian serves on the SGM board of directors and he is scheduled as a special speaker at SGM’s 2012 Pastors Conference (Oct. 30-Nov. 1) in Orlando.4 In 2011 Ian McConnell spoke briefly at SGM’s PLANT conference. At 2:30 into the video (link below) Ian describes himself as a, “Twenty-Eight year old guy holding a seminary degree from a fundamentalist institution, who’s a Reformed Continuationist.”5 On the platform, seated to Ian’s right, is CJ Mahaney. It is a Reformed Continuationst pastor, and his charismatic SGM church that Matt Olson praised and stated that he has, “great confidence in this next generation [and] they get what matters most.”
How can NIU’s president, in good conscience, personally and publicly praise a charismatic church and its pastor when the official doctrinal position of the university opposes, rejects and cannot accept the modern Charismatic Movement?
Pastors/parents it seems you can expect impressionable NIU undergraduates to be influenced to accept and praise the “modern Charismatic Movement” just as the university president has done. Will NIU students will be encouraged to tolerate the aberrant theology and practices of the modern Charismatic movement? This is new wave New Evangelicalism in stark relief.

Are you prepared to send your student to a school where “Reformed Continuationists,” gives the university president “great confidence” and that they, Charismatic pastors and churches, “get what matters most?”
If acceptance of the “modern Charismatic Movement” is a component of the education you want for your young person then NIU appears to be the right choice for you.
At some point Dr. Olson must begin answering questions. Until Matt Olson answers questions in precise terms he is causing confusion and uncertainty about where Northland is headed and/or going to stand. Clearly, NIU is not what it once was as Northland Baptist Bible College. It has changed! Under Matt Olson Northland has changed, “radically” some would say.

In the next article I am going to post a short series of questions that any pastor or parent can ask Dr. Olson. They are brief, simple, but penetrating questions that can’t be answered with imprecise language or vague terminology. These questions get right to heart of the actual changes at NIU and others that may have already taken place or appear to be just over the horizon.


1) Is NIU, “Opposed to and Reject[ing of] the Modern Charismatic Movement?”
2) Northland Undergraduate Catalog, Articles of Faith 
3) Source, Wikipedia, accessed August 23, 2012
4) SGM’s Pastors Conference
Ligon Duncan is the keynote speaker for this conference. Among non-separatist evangelicals Ligon Duncan is best known for co-founding T4G, but especially for ecumenical compromise in having joined with Al Mohler to sign the Manhattan Declaration alongside apostates and Roman Catholic priests.
5) Ian McConnell: Revitalizing Instead of Planting


  1. Lou, you might want to check your facts...Ian is not a Northland Graduate. Ian is a Bob Jones graduate. Ian never attended Northland.

  2. Lou,

    Your article here shows you are not actually familiar with this situation, because Ian McConnell is not a Northland graduate. First of all, Olson never said he was. Secondly, McConnell said he graduated from a fundamentalist seminary, and Northland does not have a seminary. Thirdly, I know Ian, and he did his undergrad and graduate work at Bob Jones.


  3. Gentlemen:

    Thanks for the biographical update. Corrections have been made. We have, therefore, removed a minor distraction from the focal point of the controversy, which is:

    NIU president Matt Olson is lauding a Charismatic church, its pastor and by extension the SGM and CJ Mahaney. According to Dr. Olson men who believe that the Charismatic sign gifts are active and should be sought after today give him, “great confidence and get what matters most.”

    Olson’s praise for such is a radical contravention of official NIU doctrinal positions. IMO:

    1) Matt Olson must apologize for and retract his statement on behalf of the Grace Bible Church.
    2) The NIU board must insist Olson fully support and live by the NIU Articles of Faith and Handbook statements and relieve him of his duties if he will not, or
    3) Revise and/or eliminate the NIU doctrinal position on the “modern Charismatic Movement and the confusion which it has brought” to the NT church today.

    The series of questions for Matt Olson, which I will post next week, get to the heart of the changes at NIU under his leadership.

    And GA Dietrich: I believe you are a Northland graduate, staff member and will be on Northland’s payroll while attending and supporting a SGM Charismatic movement church, which NIU doctrinal statements say should be “opposed and rejected.” Isn’t that right?

    Thanks again,


  4. Thanks Lou, indeed, Dr. Olson must answer the question of how he reconciles his "doctrine" (the statements within Northland's printed material which rejects the charismatic movement) and his "practice" (his endorsement of a charismatic church). Something must give. Either his "practice" must be brought back into line with "doctrine" or else "doctrine" will be brought into line with this new "practice."
    As a BJU alumni it saddens me that a graduate of this institution does not see the error of charismaticism/continuationism.

  5. Brian:

    I am sure everyone and I would include the NIU board believes that one or the other has to give. Either Olson or the NIU doctrinal statements have to be brought into conformity with the other. I suspect that if we hear of NIU board members resigning, based on who resigns we will know which way NIU is going to go.


  6. Actually, I think the most likely "response" is going to be an attempt to sweep it under the carpet, ignore it and hope it goes away.

  7. One of the reactions I expect to read from NIU president Matt Olson is a declaration stating that there is a difference between those who “practice” tongues, prophecy and healing and those who “allow” for continuationism of the Charismatic sign gifts. Suggesting that, “After all, we don’t want to be too dogmatic, do we?”

    Earlier Matt Olson attacked the history of fundamentalism when he said that fundamentalism “has always been about the gospel.” That is a revisionist apologetic! “It’s all about the gospel,” is the mantra of Kevin Bauder, Dave Doran, Tim Jordan,, who are cooperating with and themselves becoming non-separatist evangelicals. “It’s all about the gospel,” allows for, tolerates, excuses or ignores aberrant theology, ecumenical compromise, cultural relativism and worldliness. It allows Matt Olson to say a Charismatic church, “get[s] what matters most.”

    I suspect we are going to read of the same to legitimize Matt’s lauding of a church, its pastor and financially support a NIU graduate/staff member (GA Dietrich) all of which are actively engaged in advancing the “modern Charismatic Movement” and CJ Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries.

    And with all of this Dr. Olson and Dr. Ollila ask us to accept their earlier statements that “NIU is unchanged.


  8. An important related message would be the BJU chapel series by Dr. Bob Jones, III. He said,

    “And if we embrace the philosophy that it’s just about the gospel we can put our arms around about every wrong, unbecoming Christian behavior in all the world. We can put our stamp of approval on counterfeit Christianity. If they’re preaching the gospel… no matter what else is going on in those ministries, no matter what endorsements and involvements they have with liberal unbelieving religion, no matter what ecumenical reach they may have, no matter what distortions they may have, no matter what tolerance for the intolerable…we can embrace all of that and say that’s fine, that’s good they’re preaching the gospel. This verse [Phil. 1:27] makes it very clear that there is a lot more than that….

    See, The Faith of the Gospel