Is Wheaton College’s Response to Faculty Asserting That Muslims and Christians “Worship the Same God” Adequate?

UPDATE: Wheaton places professor on administrative leave

The evangelical flagship, Wheaton College, has issued a statement affirming that “salvation is through Christ alone,”  following the assertion by some of its faculty that Muslims and Christians “worship the same God.” The college also promised to initiate discussions on campus about appropriate ways to reach out to the Muslim community.

I am grateful that the college will address this issue… However, I fear that Wheaton’s solution is not commensurate with the seriousness of faculty publicly advocating grave theological error.

“Some recent faculty statements have generated confusion about complex theological matters, and could be interpreted as failing to reflect the distinctively Christian theological identity of Wheaton College,” the college statement read.  “We will be in dialogue with our faculty, staff and students in the days ahead to explore how best to articulate our love for our Muslim neighbors in ways that are consistent with our distinctive theological convictions.” 

I am grateful that the college will address this issue with faculty, staff and students. However, I fear that Wheaton’s solution is not commensurate with the seriousness of faculty publicly advocating grave theological error. The college’s statement comes after political science professor Larycia Hawkins announced on Facebook Thursday that she will be wearing a hijab for Advent to show solidarity with her Muslim neighbors. “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims,” Hawkins wrote, “because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

 

I don’t love my Muslim neighbor because s/he is American.I love my Muslim neighbor because s/he deserves love by…

Posted by Larycia Alaine Hawkins on Thursday, December 10, 2015

 

At least two Wheaton College professors commented on Hawkins’ post, expressing support for her statement and gesture. New Testament Professor Gene Green wrote, “Whom did Jesus identify with and stand with? Those whom the rest rejected. Thanks, L.”  Similarly, communications Professor Michael Stauffer wrote, “Absolutely!  You go girl!”

Also on Thursday, a group of Wheaton College staff and students visited the Islamic Center of Wheaton to deliver flowers and a letter of apology for statements made by Jerry Falwell, Jr., chancellor of Liberty University. In the wake of the San Bernardino shooting, Falwell encouraged the student body to arm themselves saying, “If more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed them.” 

The letter of apology that the group delivered to the Islamic Center was written on official Wheaton College stationary, and was posted to the Islamic Center of Wheaton’s Facebook page. In the letter, Tiffany Eberle Kriner, associate professor of English, wrote, “Please accept these flowers as a token of our grief at Jerry Falwell’s actions, our repentance for the ways in which evangelicals have abused Muslims, and our desire to be better friends, whose shared love of the one God may make them able BETTER to converse than to oppose one another.”

I would agree that these statements certainly have “generated confusion.” But, beyond that, they have expressed profound theological error. Muslims deny the Trinity and do not believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Anyone confused about these basic facts should listen to a debate I moderated between Nabeel Qureshi of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and Muslim Imam Shabir Ally.  The debate addressed “What is God Really Like: Tawhid or Trinity?” and left zero doubt that Muslims and Christians worship two distinctly different gods.

I appreciate Wheaton’s efforts to address the error its faculty expressed, but I wonder if the college needs to do more?  Scripture is clear that those who teach should be held to a higher standard. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” Christian college professors carry an especially weighty responsibility. They are molding the minds of future church leaders and impacting young Christians during some of their most formative years. The erroneous views expressed by these Wheaton professors are simply inexcusable. Rather than merely prompting a discussion, perhaps the college should be considering dismissals – or at the very least, public retractions? 

So, as believers, let’s commit to communicating both truth and love – especially those who act as gatekeepers for communities of young, impressionable believers. And, let’s remember that the great commission is a command to disciple all the nations not in the name of Allah, but in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. 

Christians must reach out in love to those who don’t know Christ. But, if we forsake the distinctiveness of the gospel, we are merely expressing sentimentality, not love – and doing more harm than good. Muslims don’t merely need to know that we love them.  They need to know that the God of heaven loves them – in fact, he loves them so much that he became a man and died for their sins. Also, Christian students need to be inspired to share the gospel, not to pervert it to satisfy the politically-correct consciences of misguided professors. 

In addition, political science professors like Professor Hawkins need to be careful about the organizations they promote. In her Facebook post, Professor Hawkins said she sought the “advice and blessing” of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, to ensure that donning a hijab wouldn’t be perceived as “patronizing, or otherwise offensive to Muslims.” Certainly, Professor Hawkins realizes that CAIR is considered by many, including the United Arab Emirates, to be a terrorist group with ties to Hamas, another a terrorist group. Over the years, CAIR has declared its support for Hamas, donated money to Hamas front groups and received money from Hamas front groups, as well. Also, several CAIR board and staff members have been found guilty of terrorism. 

Is this really the group Professor Hawkins should be consulting? Perhaps instead, she should have consulted some Jewish families, who have suffered at the hands of Hamas. Or, perhaps Professors Hawkins and Kriner, and the rest of the group that visited the Islamic Center of Wheaton, should have consulted the families of the victims of the San Bernardino massacre. Incidentally, conspicuously absent from the Islamic Center of Wheaton’s Facebook page and website is any expression of regret or condemnation for that latest act of terror. Certainly, Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s, statements were offensive and unhelpful. But, they pale in comparison to the slaughter of innocents both domestically and around the world at the hands of Islamic militants. 

So, as believers, let’s commit to communicating both truth and love – especially those who act as gatekeepers for communities of young, impressionable believers. And, let’s remember that the great commission is a command to disciple all the nations not in the name of Allah, but in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. 

UPDATE: Wheaton Places Professor on Administrative Leave

Wheaton College announced Dec. 15 that Larycia Hawkins, the professor who claimed that Christains and Muslims worship the same God, is on administrative leave pending a review. Here’s their statement:

“In response to significant questions regarding the theological implications of statements that Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Larycia Hawkins has made about the relationship of Christianity to Islam, Wheaton College has placed her on administrative leave, pending the full review to which she is entitled as a tenured faculty member.

“Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution’s faith foundations with integrity, compassion and theological clarity. As they participate in various causes, it is essential that faculty and staff engage in and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the College’s evangelical Statement of Faith.”

 

 

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23 thoughts on “Is Wheaton College’s Response to Faculty Asserting That Muslims and Christians “Worship the Same God” Adequate?

  1. I would find the token of the flowers an appropriate gesture had a member of the Wheaton community made the statement (or a similar comment) rather than Jerry Falwell, Jr. It should be up to Chancellor Falwell himself or Liberty University to take such steps. I find one apologizing for acts one cannot be held morally accountable to be in effect of very little value, even with acts of contrition and the best of intentions. Even as a Liberty Online alum (and a Baptist!), I would not make an attempt to make amends for the words of the Chancellor.

    The gesture aside, the more distressing and awful thing taking place is the phrase given on behalf of Wheaton in reference to Christians and Muslims having a “shared love of the one God.” There needs to be some sort of inquiry as to why and more importantly how this major theological error has taken hold in even a tiny minority of Wheaton’s population, especially among the faculty. Its cause must be found and uprooted, the damage stopped, and Wheaton re-established in firm Biblical doctrine and nothing less. The fact that this has even happened brings disrepute not only to Wheaton but also to Christian education and, ultimately, the cause of Christ. This is no minor point. Especially since the Allah of the Muslims cannot have a son nor, according to the Koran, did Christ die on the Cross for our sins, so this error would eventually give a birth to a Christless Christianity. Even one soul buying into this heresy is one too many. This error must stamped out immediately. None of us can be guilty of standing by and addressing the problem with inaction. Souls are at risk! If churches are not country clubs for members but hospitals for sinners, then our Bible colleges, universities, and seminaries are the medical education for our EMTs, therapists, nurses, and doctors. Not giving them all the best possible training would make us guilty of spiritual malpractice, both to the lost and the redeemed. We are to give of our best to the Master and I daresay those going out in His name to do His work — and ultimately those to whom they will minister — deserve no less.

  2. Tandi

    So glad I’m sending my kids to Grove City College where the profs are more intellectually rigorous and orthodox Christian — and the tuition is half of Wheaton’s.

  3. m

    Hello Julie, Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic. First, please do not misquote people, Jerry Fallwell Jr. did not say, “end those islamist terrorists.” as you quote him saying, rather he said “end those muslims” as can be heard around the 2 minute mark in the video you linked yourself. Please do not try to water down the hateful and bigoted remarks of this man.

    I do not want to argue with your concern about theology at Wheaton. One thing that Wheaton prides itself on is being evangelical, and not tied to a specific denomination. This means that people have different theological views, even at Wheaton. Evangelicalism does not have one specific set of doctrine or theology because each non-denom evangelical church would have difficulty agreeing with the one right down the street. Thus, feel free to debate theological concepts and constructs.

    My issue is in your lack of compassion. A man who is president of one of the largest Christian universities in this country is basically telling his students to carry guns so they can kill those of another faith. Wheaton should do EVERYTHING they can to distance themselves from this man. And yes, they should look to make amends with the Wheaton Islamic Center. That warms my heart that students and faculty did this. If Christians truly are one body, then we do need to apologize for our brothers and sister who wrong others. We need to repent for the history of the abuses by the Church and by Christians. We nee to repent to Muslims around the world for the lack of love we have shown them. And yes, we also need to support those who are victims of violence, ALL violence, and condemn violence towards anyone.

    I recognize and respect the concerns you have. But you present them in such divisive and fearful ways. Rathe than approach the Other with arms crossed and suspicion, approach them ready to embrace them in fellowship. It is very difficult to love our neighbor when we will not even interact with our neighbor.

  4. Thank you for addressing this situation, Julie. It is difficult for some to understand that when working in an organization, your voice is not solely your own.

  5. Nancy Longhurst

    I find it confusing that Wheaton College fired a Catholic professor a few years ago who had a strong faith in Jesus and yet tolerates this latest incident with merely a dialogue with students and faculty. Concerning.

  6. Mitch

    Lots of sophomoric, cowardly, superiority, masquerading as Christian goodness these days. Up is down. Down is up.

  7. Denice

    You make some great points here Julie. My favorite is the rush to apologize when Wheaton was not in the wrong on the Liberty U issue. I am so thankful for your voice. Keep writing.

  8. Scott

    To m:
    It seems that rather than approach Jerry Falwell and like-minded Christians with arms crossed and suspicion, you should approach them ready to embrace them in fellowship. It is very difficult to love your fellow Christians when you are so ready to condemn them.

  9. M. Thank you for alerting me to the error on Falwell’s quote. I have adjusted the copy accordingly. I’m not sure what I said that you interpreted as divisive or fearful. I love Muslims. I also love orthodoxy. I think Christians can, and must, reach out in love to the Muslim community without sacrificing truth. We believe in two different gods. And normally, Muslims are more than happy to converse with us about our differences. Unlike most Westerners, they actually enjoy debate and and disagreement. So, let’s be honest in our engagement and share Christ, not platitudes.

  10. Denice

    m, with all due respect it is you who is being incorrect. What fallwell said was not as you quoted, either. If you take his comments in context he was talking about self defense only. In fact, the way you quote him, he sounds like a radical jihadist. ISIS and AlQueda and Hamas etc. DO promote killing because a person has a different religion. Is that not the point of Jihad?

    Additionally, where do you draw the line on Christians standing together as one body and repenting of wrongs done to others? This seems strangely burdensome and beside the point.

    the gist of this post by Julie is:

    “Christians must reach out in love to those who don’t know Christ. But, if we forsake the distinctiveness of the gospel, we are merely expressing sentimentality, not love – and doing more harm than good. Muslims don’t merely need to know that we love them. They need to know that the God of heaven loves them – in fact, he loves them so much that he became a man and died for their sins.”

    This is Jesus’ loving take on the situation, however according to your framework and those whom Julie is referring, Jesus himself must seem unloving: he did not tolerate nor comfort those who did not handle the truth appropriately: from John 5….

    19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

    24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

    28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

    31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true.

    33 “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 35 John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.

    36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

    “I do not accept glory from human beings, 42 but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

    this scripture also clarifies that Chrstians and Muslims do not worship the same God.

  11. Dave

    To “m”: You say you are interested in truth…why not quote ALL of what Mr. Falwell said. In the video, he said “if more people had conceal/carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walk in and kill us.” It appears that Mr. Falwell’s context was referring specifically to armed Muslim terrorists trying to kill people, not Muslims in general as the media is trying to paint him, and as politicians like Hillary Clinton have misquoted him the same way as you have. Personally, I do not agree with Mr. Falwell, but misrepresenting what he said is wrong too.

  12. Willard Helander

    Thank you for sharing more detail on a story with vague coverage in the news.

  13. Price Grisham

    I think the professor’s point is well-taken, but it perhaps would have been wider to have expressed her sympathy for persecuted Muslims at an Evangelical college without approaching quite so closely to Universalism: for example, by taking a leaf from Lewis’ reflections that those of other faiths devoutly seeking God in their hearts, through the only avenue available to them, may recognize Christ at the door of heaven as the One for whom they have been searching and accept him there (especially since Lewis is held in high esteem at Wheaton). While news stories give us little about her academic background, to be employed at Wheaton, I suspect she probably had to sign a statement of faith, which apparently passed muster, so I think a careful review is definitely in line, especially since this has hit the headlines and placed the college in a bad light that may not be justified. (And between having the college in the news for a heat-packing President encouraging students to “go after those Muslims” or for a faculty member trying to empathize with persecuted Muslims in an unusual way, I should infinitely prefer the latter.)

  14. Price Grisham

    That should be “wiser” not “wider” in the first sentence; hadn’t had my second cup yet. ;)

  15. Anon

    The fear-loving, xenophobic bias is amazingly well-written here. I commend you on the effort you put into this work :)

  16. Lars Jacobson

    Thanks for this post, Julie. You have expressed my thoughts on the situation far more eloquently than I could. I agree that the heart of the issue is love and truth, which are mutually exclusive.
    Truth without love is a noisy gong, love without truth is an empty shell (and seemingly the core tenet of secular humanism). Larycia may be trying to express the simple idea that we as Christians love rather than hate our Muslim neighbors, but she’s not understanding the difference between loving them and identifying with them. Secular humanist thought demands that in order to love, we must embrace, identify with and celebrate. The minute we start embracing or identifying with a faith that is anything other than the Gospel, we find ourselves on a slippery slope. I’m glad my alma mater (’87) is giving her a full review and pray it will be resolved in a way that honors the kingdom.

    As for Dr. Falwell’s remarks, I have two thoughts. One, he made a very poor choice of words when he included “Muslims”. Had he just encouraged his students to be prepared to defend themselves from a “terrorist threat”, Muslim or otherwise, that would have been fine. I believe this is what he was trying to convey. Two, I think the press is totally misrepresenting the whole thing, truncating the sound bite to make it sound like it’s open season on Muslims in Lynchburg. Very unfair in my opinion.

  17. I looked on Wheaton College’s website and did not find any words of condolence or apology for the shooting at the Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs. Since I also know that there are many Christians who support terrorist actions like these I must also assume that Wheaton College supports them too. And since you are defending Wheaton College in this article I may safely assume that you are a sympathizer with such actions as well.

    I may be wrong of course, but I’m trying to utilize the same reasoning that you are using.

    Wheaton College (M.A. 1984)

  18. Lars Jacobson

    With all due respect, your comparison of is completely off-base. Robert Dear is a lone-wolf drifter with a criminal record who as far as I can find has never identified himself as Christian or affiliated with any denomination or religious organization. To say that Wheaton College or the body of Christ owes anyone an apology for that attack is absurd.

  19. Lars Jacobson

    FYI…the previous comment was a reply to Dean. There is no way to edit a post once it’s submitted.

  20. It’s impossible to argue that Muslims and Christians address their worship to different Gods. I ran into this off and on for half my life as a minister in the Middle East. Besides the fact that Arabic Bibles employ the term “Allah” for God, the argument rests upon the mistaken belief that since Muslims don’t affirm the Trinity and the Incarnation (deity of Christ), we therefore must worship different Gods. But that’s ridiculous. Do we believe the same things about God? Of course not. But neither do Christians all believe the same things about God. And even if one presses the distinction on the basis of the Trinity and Incarnation being the two fundamental beliefs which Christians hold but which Muslims deny, then maintain the argument equally in the case of Jews who also deny the Trinity and the Incarnation. But that’s impossible. None of the apostles believed themselves to be worshiping a God different than the God which Jews worshiped. Wheaton is just embarrassing itself.

    Tom

  21. Tom

    Even on the unique affirmations with respect to salvation in Christ (with which Jews disagree with Christian claims as much as Muslims), there’s no need to suppose Jews or Muslims direct their worship to some other ‘God’.

  22. Tom

    Same person (tgbelt and Tom)! Sorry.

  23. This Wheaton case is a difficult one as the professor tries to find solidarity with Muslims in a season of anti-Muslim actions and rhetoric, and as the school tries to faithful to its doctrinal convictions. However, the question of “the same God” is not so cut and dried depending upon how it is analyzed in the Abrahamic tradition. I don’t know that this professor would deny that God is conceived of in very different terms by way of nature. She seems to be coming at it in a different way. On this see treatments like the volume edited by Jacob Neusner:http://www.amazon.com/Jews-Christians-Muslims-Worship-Same/dp/1426752377/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1450293232&sr=8-3&keywords=do+christians+and+muslims+worship+the+same+god

    and the volume edited by Miroslav Volf:http://www.amazon.com/Do-Worship-Same-God-Christians/dp/0802866891/ref=pd_bxgy_14_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=0SDRV7F5CH9NHATTNJ6Q

    As I said, tough decision, particularly for evangelicals who are very boundary maintenance oriented and often have strong fears of syncretism.

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