September 25, 2012

What REALLY Matters Most: Personal Convictions

We have been discussing the series by Dr. Matt Olson titled, What Matters Most. Parts One, Two and Three appeared over the past week or more.  Last week we considered a very disturbing image of NIU students under faculty supervision doing a blasphemous RAP interpretation oJesus Loves Me.

Today we are going to review and discuss Matt Olson’s What Matters Most: Personal Convictions.  The challenge of theological musing is often discovered by asking, “What is not being said?” Dr. Olson’s lines of demarcation pose little trouble and are widely practiced within separated, fundamental Christianity. While it is beneficial that Dr. Olson produced his own personal paradigm it still begs that question, so what?

Dr. Olson’s musings provide no guidance on or assurance of his direction or the direction of NIU. Consequently, he gives no assurance to constituents who are asking, “Exactly what will NIU graduates believe and stand for?”

Within his series What Matters Most Dr. Olson speaks of “hard lines” (issues of orthodoxy), “dotted lines” (functional distinctives) and “space we allow” (matters of personal conviction). Because energy is expended and honesty is demonstrated in putting together descriptors and explanations appreciation for Dr. Olson’s efforts is in order. But significant questions, thus far, remain unanswered. Questions like:

1. In specific areas of doctrine where is the line that will not be crossed or tolerated?1 
2. How can the President of a well-known, separated, fundamental institution so openly disregard the printed positions of the institution as to retain an influential staff member who is a member of a charismatic, Sovereign Grace church?
3. Why is it acceptable for the president of a fundamental Baptist institution, which long has claimed to be dispensational and culturally-conservative, to promote the contemporary-culture and reformed ministry like T4G by taking students, hosting reunions and posting pictures from the event? 
4. Why would the president of a Baptist Bible College allow ‘Bible Chapels’ to be planted by faculty members?
Fundamentalist leaders have demonstrated grace throughout their generations (“the point” alluded to by Dr. Olson). It is certain that “law of kindness” must always be remembered and every generation must live-out the rejoicing required when the gospel is preached (Phil. 1:18). It is a well-known fact that the Drs. Bob Jones (Sr, Jr, III) of BJU have long associated graciously with those identified with differing denominations, differing eschatological schools of thought and differing sotereological positions. Dr. R.V. Clearwaters, long a champion of fundamentalism in the mid-west, was once associated with the non-denominational Northwestern Schools, serving in their seminary. Dr. Ernest Pickering, a well-known Baptist champion, once led, loved and served the IFCA. But all of these men were willing to annunciate and practice their particular theological and denominational distinctives while unapologetically attacking the worldliness represented by the musical styles, dress standards and recreational choices of the New Evangelicals.

Dr. Olson has not provided a statement or a model that would re-assure separatists. It’s not what he’s saying; it’s what he is not saying that raises the most concern and questions. Here are a few things he is not addressing and questions he is not answering:
1. Is there any musical form that would be inappropriate for contemporary worship?
2. Is it appropriate for students at a fundamental Bible College to exhibit Charismatic worship practices during chapel services? 
3. Is it appropriate for Bible College students to hang-out to perform and record RAP videos at the home of faculty members.
Several persons sent me a link (unsolicited) to the Sept. 11, 2012 chapel at NIU. I along with several others viewed the video several times. The video is no longer accessible at the NIU website.2 Had you seen it you would have the sound of CCM. You would have seen a student raising his hand and waving it about as the Charismatics do? One of the young men also appeared to nearly break into a dance to accompany his raised waving hand. In last week’s Focus conference you see more students worshipping in the Charismatic style.

The musical form of Matt Olson’s great “vision” is being fleshed out as he described two years ago for what he wanted the chapel time to be like? The music performed in NIU's chapel today have been described to me by professional Christian musicians as “mediocre and banal.” They went on to say that the chapel music was, “insipid, immature, somewhat depressing and not at all uplifting.” This “grand example” of “hymns,” as Matt Olson calls these songs in his prayer, is a poor substitute for Northland’s chapel music of five to six years ago or more.

NIU students performing a RAP interpretation of Jesus Loves Me and Chapel videos are revealing a sad commentary of what happened to the faculty and student body once Northland’s leadership took a tolerant view toward CCM and RAP behind closed doors, yet tells the public they have not changed. Maybe you have wondered if there are any music faculty left at NIU that would show the students why this behavior is inappropriate.   Dr. Dana Everson, former NIU music faculty member, answered that question in the previous article.  He wrote,
I think most of those who would have tried to teach the utter inappropriateness of this music have left the institution.  The former musical conscience seems to be gone; replaced with the new interpretation of worldliness and free grace.” (See, NIU Students Performing New “Jesus Loves Me” and Its Blasphemy)
On Romans 14
The language Dr. Olson is using about tier separation and dotted lines sounds like evangelical reasoning, much like Chuck Swindoll’s Grace Awakening.3 My impression is that Dr. Olson is using straw man arguments to tear down and replace in order to accommodate his new trajectory for NIU. Romans 14 is referring to Judaizers and the OT law. Romans 14 is definitely NOT dealing with the compromises that he and others at NIU are participating in. The Bible is clear on the cessation of the first century sign gifts, what the NIU statements refers to as the “modern Charismatic movement” and is, therefore, not a Rom. 14 area. The Bible is clear on godly music vs. fleshly music and is, therefore, not a Rom. 14 area.
Liberty cannot be used as a cloak to excuse the flesh! The point of grace is that it teaches holiness!
We all are in need of a Grace Awakening, but the Bible’s kind of grace.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,” (Titus 2:11-13).
Later we will discuss another installment from Dr. Olson’s What Matters Most series.  We will, furthermore, be posting articles on subjects related and that speak to what is becoming of Northland.


1) Matt Olson and NIU have already crossed a hard line set down in NIU’s Articles of Faith and student Handbooks. Those statements demand that NIU faculty, staff and students “reject and oppose the modern Charismatic movement.” Yet, Matt Olson praises one of CJ Mahaney’s SGM Charismatic churches, its pastor and will have a paid NIU employee in the membership of that church. See, Is NIU Opposed to and Reject[ing of] the Modern Charismatic Movement?

2) Where the NIU chapel of Sept. 11 once appeared you will see a blank screen with a note stating, “Not Available, The clip you are looking for has been removed.” In any event, the song service of most any NIU chapel today is as described above, “mediocre, banal, insipid, immature, depressing and not at all uplifting.”

3) The Closing of Pillsbury Baptist Bible College
Furthermore, the viewpoint espoused in his [Swindoll’s] book finds a sympathetic audience with some fundamentalists who have become ‘bent out of shape’ with what they view as the pettiness of certain segments of fundamentalist thinking. We are afraid that, given the impetus by the writing of Swindoll, some are about to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’.” (Dr. Ernest Pickering: Are Fundamentalists Legalists?)


  1. To All:

    Evangelist Gordon Phillips has written an article that addresses one of the overarching issues in what I find to be the new wave New Evangelicalism that is making inroads into some fundamental Baptist circles. Please read, Incompatible Gospels: The Misfit of Lordship Salvation and Gospel-Centric Fellowship

    Kind regards,

    Lou Martuneac


  2. Brother Martuneac,

    You made the following statement:

    The music performed in NIU's chapel today have been described to me by professional Christian musicians as “mediocre and banal.” They went on to say that the chapel music was, “insipid, immature, somewhat depressing and not at all uplifting.”

    If I understand the statement, the same can be said of a great many churches. Often times the hymn singing doesn't even qualify as a joyful noise. It's also confusing when the church skips around in a hymn book with hundreds of hymns many of which hardly anybody knows, and with difficult to read type and many verses being skipped so that people get lost. Many churches that are complaining about CCM bear much of the responsibility for driving people away and into the arms of it.

    How to improve? Give people the hymn numbers weeks ahead of time, encourage fathers to lead their families in learning the hymns and getting help if necessary, stick with a subset of 50 hymns and don't move on until they are learned, publish a smaller and larger hymnbook with those 50 hymns that have large type, don't skip verses, and don't send the children off to Sunday School until the singing is done so they can participate all the way. And continue to use the same hymns in the Sunday Schools and Youth programs if a church has those. And a great way to learn the hymns is to invite people over to dinner and have a hymn sing afterwards.

    1. Scott:

      I have personally been in attendance at a great many primarily IFB churches, at least 100. This is in part due to my years a missionary on deputation and furlough meeting. Of those I can’t recall one that even remotely fits the description you ascribe to a “great many churches.” I do, however, remember only one that was even remotely close to what you described here. It was in fact a CCM outfit that I visited while on deputation. Even if that church had offered me support I would have declined it.

      What I have listened to coming from the NIU chapel on the video broadcasts is what my friends have described. Frankly, I would not be surprised to see the song service grind to a halt due to the lifeless, insipid repetitions.

      End of discussion about other churches.


  3. Lou,

    It was just a couple of days ago that I read this verse as part of my daily Bible reading plan:

    "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these LEAST commandments, AND SHALL TEACH MEN SO, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." ~ Matthew 5:19

    The rallying cry of these men is "In essentials, unity, in non-essentials, liberty...". But it is clear here that Jesus was concerned about the "non-essentials". What is most notable is the fact that Jesus was not only concerned about keeping the least of the commandments, but there was an admonition to those who would teach others to not worry about "non-essentials". The faculty of NIU will have much to answer to our Lord about for what they are teaching to our young people.


    1. Andy:

      Thanks for showing from Scripture the egregious error of compartmentalizing Bible doctrine, which is to diminish doctrine. This goes well beyond Matt Olson and what of the NIU faculty that are following his leading toward the new wave of New Evangelicalism.

      Matt Olson, as well as Kevin Bauder, Dave Doran, Tim Jordan, et. al., have pushed this idea of gospel-centric unity, which comes at the expense of tolerating, allowing for, ignoring and excusing the aberrant theology, ecumenical compromise and cultural relativism for the sake a cooperative ministry with their new so-called "conservative" evangelical counter-parts.

      Erase a theology that is biblical by merging it with all kinds of aberrations…. Their argument is that only love, the gospel, unity, or any such singularity is all that matters….” (Dr. Clay Nuttall: Moderate Evangelicals)

      Btw, make no mistake about it- the rallying point, the magnetic attraction and glue that binds these men is Calvinistic soteriology in the form of the works based message Lordship Salvation (LS) interpretation of the gospel. LS is where their “unity around the gospel” converges.

      Thanks again,