I don't know Dr. Oord or the details of his theology. Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed has suggested that the reason has to do with his affirmation of evolutionary creation. I don't know if that is the case, although Jaschik seems quite off in his sense of how that might violate NNU's faith statement. Oord is also an open theist, which is someone who believes God suspended his knowledge of the future so that we could have free will. As far as I know, Oord would not claim to believe in process theology.
I understand the pressure Christian colleges can experience from their constituencies, and the fact sheet I've seen on the crisis would indicate that NNU has received its share of pressure in relation to Dr. Oord. Colleges need students. If a certain professor is perceived to undermine enrollment, that is serious indeed. On the other hand, if tenure is good for anything, it is to protect competent professors from these forces of popular nature.
I'm sure Dr. Oord will land on his feet. My impression is that he might be able to win this one in court. In any case, I don't think he will have any trouble finding a job somewhere else.
There are reminders here, though, of things that I try to keep in mind:
- Colleges are businesses. They can only continue to exist if they have students. Students come because they want what you are selling, and it's a big problem if professors aren't selling something they want to buy.
- Academic freedom is somewhat of a myth. There are things you just can't teach or say anywhere, and I'm including Harvard and the University of Chicago in that statement. Professors don't have carte blanche to say just anything they want and think there won't be repercussions. If a university wants to get rid of you, it will usually find a way.
- A good college will go a long way to protect competent faculty from popular uprisings and the power of wealthy donors. But faculty and administration should work together to do so, which means that both sides are willing to give a little.
Sometimes it wins the day. But most of the time thus far, it hasn't.