I was excited to hear recently that Northland International University (formerly Northland Baptist Bible College) was formally accepted by The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and will become Boyce College at Northland. Northland’s president, Daniel Patz and Southern’s president, Albert Mohler announced the news. See this link for a fuller story. The video below provides additional details.
For many independent Baptists, this step is unthinkable – and it marks the end of faithfulness. Another college has capitulated. But have they really? What is the point of breaking off of groups like the Southern Baptist Conference? Wasn’t it to preserve doctrine or take a stand for truth? The SBC turned around, and under Mohler’s leadership among others, the SBC is now a bastion for theological conservatism. Sure Southern has an emphasis on Reformed theology that many Baptists are leery of. But the majority of Southern Baptists do not embrace Reformed theology wholeheartedly. In many respects, the SBC is a mirror image of many groups of independent Baptists. There is a lot of autonomy in the SBC structure. And that Baptist autonomy is part of the problem when it comes to assessing the SBC. The SBC is not completely pure in every respect, because it is not an entity that can cause direct change in a top-down sort of way. The very independence and autonomy that independent fundamental Baptists prize is the reason that many of them view the SBC with suspicion.
Looking at Northland, by joining with Boyce College, Northland continues its overall mission. And in difficult financial times (for all private colleges everywhere) this decision makes sense. Both the SBC and the IFBs who have supported Northland over the years, are driven by a Great Commission calling. Both of them long to stand for truth and equip students to live courageously for Christ in today’s world. Strategic partnerships and inter-dependence among churches and missionaries — that is what we see as we read the book of Acts and study the early years of Church history.
Perhaps it is time to reevaluate the status of the IFB movement. Are churches staying independent just to be different? Are they insular and isolationist or is independence a means to a healthy end? Why must there be three, four or even five IFB churches that have virtually nothing to do with each other in the same town? Why can’t we overlook minor differences and truly stand together for the Gospel? We can respect differences and appreciate distinctives even as we work together around bigger realities and shared Gospel truths. That is what is driving Northland’s actions.
May we see more Christ-honoring inter-dependence in the future. “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1).