Northland International University (formerly Northland Baptist Bible College) just announced a formal partnership with The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. NIU President, Daniel Patz says this move will “energize our mission, and anchor our institutional stability for generations.” You can read some of Al Mohler’s comments on this partnership and learn more about the announcement here.
I have some positive reflections on this move, for Northland in particular. And I have a question about Fundamentalism’s next chapter.
Positives for Northland
1) Students at Northland can see that their degree may mean more now, with an academic institution like Southern “backing” it.
2) There are lots of churches who are loosely IFB but not committed to one particular sphere or fellowship, this partnership makes Northland attractive to some of these churches now.
3) It allows Northland to receive help from another institution and continue to exist – and in the area of Northland there are not an abundance of conservative evangelical schools of any stripe.
4) It expands the base of Northland to other conservative churches aware of Southern but not necessarily aware of Northland.
Fundamentalism’s Next Chapter?
Remember this is a connection with a particular institution not the SBC as a whole, nor every SBC seminary, just Southern. As such, Northland doesn’t have to be seen as eschewing fundamentalism. Fundamentalism was a para-denominational idea to unite around the gospel. Might it not be time for conservative IFB churches to unite more formally as NIU is doing here, with conservative bastions of evangelicalism, whether they be The Master’s College, Southern, or what have you?
The IFB movement prizes independence. Northland is acting independently. They already forged a partnership with the CCEF, and now with Southern. This is not old-school fundamentalism, but it might just be the natural progression of the growth of Type B/C Fundamentalism.
What exactly would be the case for separating from Northland for partnering with Southern? What exactly is the case for not sending students to Southern, or for being willing to send them to The Master’s College but not Southern?
Is Fundamentalism an idea that is more important than a movement? Time will tell. For now, I applaud Northland for being willing to go their own way and unite around what matters. Some will “nay say,” but for Fundamentalism to stay relevant to the church both now and into the future, it is exatly this kind of independent thinking (that stays true to the spirit of historic fundamentalism) that will be needed.