It appears that Matt Olson will be staying at Northland after all.
The board has changed their minds and allowed him to stay instead having him leave by the end of the school year. Another possible change is that Daniel Patz has been offered the leadership position on the board. It is my personal view that these changes will serve to put to rest any speculation that Northland might change their current direction. Rather, it appears that they will press on basically as they have been with some minor adjustments. My main concern through all of this is not related to anything personal but to the overall cause of Christ. It burdens me to some extent to see a school take a turn for “gospel centrism” and seek to shake off what are viewed as unnecessary weights. These are things such as, high music standards, dress standards, separation, etc. I am also concerned that something also changes at a deeper level concerning the gospel specificaly in how salvation is appropriated.
Northland, even during my time there in the late 90’s, was somewhat tolerant of students that had differing views such as Calvinism or Reformed views. They once had a doctrinal statement that articulated that they basically rejected Calvinism. Now it appears to me that the students they once tolerated are the ones being embraced and then some. Their gaze is definitely fixed on a broader more liberal constituency. The problem also comes in that this group by in large has already rallied around the Lordship Salvation view of the gospel. This new view of Northland greatly disappoints me but is a picture of what is going on in the realm of Christianity. Many other colleges have tried this type of change in direction.
Those of us looking on have a choice: Do we continue to support Northland and advise prospective students to go there? Or do we prudently foresee the error and advise them to look elsewhere? I think of it this way. Northland was more solid in the late nineties but many students that I was there with are now removed from fundamentalism and have gone on to embrace Reformed theology and or some form of new evangelicalism along with its practices. I would say that 50 to 60 percent of former students like Northland’s new direction and 40 to 50 percent do not. These are students that came out of there with degrees when they were more sound across the board. Now play that forward. If ten years from now, 60 percent of students favor even more liberal changes then what does that say? I think they have embarked on a slippery slope. The slope may also be a short one due to Northland’s financial struggles.
For the person that identifies with me and dislikes the change at Northland, I say that you should refocus your efforts to be clear yourself on all major doctrinal issues. There will be many battles ahead if we intend to defend the faith and the gospel. Sadly some of the arrows shot at us in this overall battle for the view of the gospel (LS vs Free Grace) may even be from people we once went to school with.