In a Chicago Tribune article published Monday, I suggested that Wheaton College professors need worldview training. I’m sure that may sound presumptuous, given that most of them hold doctoral degrees, which I do not. Yet, the recent brouhaha sparked by Dr. Larycia Hawkins’ statement that Muslims and Christians worship the same God has made it painfully clear that Wheaton’s campus is a battleground of competing worldviews. And, if Wheaton College is going to restore its reputation in the Christian community, administrators need to confront these worldview differences head-on.
A worldview is a like a comprehensive map of reality that helps us navigate life. And, every worldview answers three basic questions: How did we get here? (Origins) What caused human suffering? (Fall) And, how can things be made right again? (Redemption)
Yet today, there are many competing worldviews that answer these questions in radically different ways. And unfortunately, we Christians are products of our culture, and rather than rejecting these alternate worldviews, we often syncretize them with our faith. Or, we compartmentalize our faith, restricting it to our private world, while essentially navigating our lives according to a completely different reality map.
Dr. Hawkins’ Marxist Worldview
From the beginning, there were indications that Dr. Hawkins’ statement and decision to wear a hijab “to show solidarity with Muslims” was motivated by an alternate worldview. Her constant references to oppressed and oppressor, and reliance on politics as the means of deliverance, betray a Marxist worldview, not a Christian one. This perhaps is not surprising, since as David A. Noebel documents in his book, Understanding the Times, Marxism reigns supreme on America’s college campuses. And, though this may have been true of only secular universities decades ago, it is often the case at Christian colleges, too, where most professors are graduates of secular universities.
The Marxist worldview is incompatible with Christianity. It reduces reality to matter and economic forces, and has an entirely political means of achieving salvation.
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Though Hawkins likely would reject the Marxist creation narrative, her rhetoric consistently betrayed what appeared to be a form of Christianized Marxism. Her initial gesture, for example, was an attempt to employ a political means to rectify her perceived oppression of Muslims. “Our love for Jesus,” Hawkins said, “compels us to make no peace with oppression because Christianity is political or it is not Christianity. That drove my solidarity with women in the hijab . . .”
Then, at her January 6 press conference, where Hawkins appeared with Rev. Jesse Jackson and Ahmed Rehab of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Hawkins revealed a commitment to another political battle to overthrow oppressors – that of organized labor. “Solidarity with labor is not just a cause I’m committed to,” Hawkins boasted. “It has become the fight of my life!”
Hawkins also mentioned that she served on the board of Arise Chicago, an interfaith organization that identifies “poverty’s root causes” as “workers being paid improperly” and “workers receiving less than a living wage.” Again, to Marxists who divide the world into oppressed and oppressors, poverty is not primarily caused by sin, like fathers abdicating their role as providers. Instead, it’s caused by the powerful elites oppressing the vulnerable. Interestingly, serving on Arise’s Religious Advisory Board is actor Martin Sheen, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and someone who once marched with Marxist labor organizer Cesar Chavez’s National Farm Workers Association.
Other indications of Dr. Hawkins’ Marxist worldview are revealed in her prior run-ins with Wheaton’s administration. According to the Chicago Tribune, Wheaton chastened Hawkins nine years ago for writing an academic paper supporting black liberation theology. This is a Marxist-inspired theological perspective that sees Christianity as a means of liberating blacks from white oppression.
Hawkins also was reproved after allegedly attending a party in conjunction with Chicago’s Pride Parade, again showing solidarity with a group often portrayed as an oppressed minority. As Pearcy explains in Finding Truth, diversity advocates borrow heavily from Marxists for their analysis: “some group is said to be victimized or oppressed, and the path to liberation is to revolt against the oppressors, often through political activism.”
Wheaton Professors and Students Okay With Marxism?
Despite these disturbing revelations, the Faculty Council of Wheaton College last month unanimously recommended that the administration reinstate Professor Hawkins. Similarly, 78 current Wheaton College faculty signed a letter calling for Hawkins’ reinstatement, and some posed in a video with signs supporting the embattled professor.
Perhaps following their professors’ lead, a handful of Wheaton students also announced a 40-day fast to show solidarity with Dr. Hawkins. Clearly viewing the controversy through the lens of identity politics (another outgrowth of Marxism), they called on Wheaton and other evangelical institutions to repent of their “racism, sexism and Islamophobia.” Flying in to help the students launch their fast was Rev. Peter Heltzel, a Wheaton College graduate and theology professor at New York Theological Seminary. Heltzel, who is an advocate of liberation theology, used Marxist language when praising Hawkins, saying she had “sown the seeds of revolution.”
Unfortunately, this is not the first time Marxism has reared its head at Wheaton College. About six years ago, I reported that Wheaton College’s education department was promoting Marxism and radical Leftist thinkers under the guise of “social justice.” I was stunned to discover that the conceptual framework of the education department was based on the teachings of radicals like Bill Ayers, who bombed the Pentagon; Brazilian Marxist Paulo Freire; and atheist philosopher Richard Rorty. I was even more surprised when the head of the education department said that these Leftists “have enlightened us” and that Marxism is “not necessarily” anti-biblical.
Thankfully, after President Phil Ryken assumed leadership of the college in 2010, he oversaw a complete overhaul of the department’s conceptual framework. Instead of basing the framework on Marxist notions of “social justice,” the new document was rooted in the biblical understanding of human flourishing. Yet, given the faculty’s favorable response to Dr. Hawkins’ recent show of Marxist social justice, I can’t help but wonder if Marxism is still quite prevalent at Wheaton. What’s even more confusing, the administration recently established an endowed scholarship in Dr. Hawkins’ name. What does it communicate when the college publicly honors someone who openly espouses such error?
In short, the college needs to provide intellectually rigorous worldview training for its faculty, who then can pass on that training to their students.
Currently, though, the Wheaton administration seems reluctant to require anything of its faculty beyond mere adherence to its statement of faith. In fact, in a recent letter by Provost Stanton Jones to the Wheaton faculty, Jones stated “the college has no explicit position on what can or cannot be said on the question of whether Christians or Muslims worship the same God.” Then, in a shocking admission, Jones said, “Ontologically, I would say — and here I am just speaking for myself . . . it seems logical to me that there must be some referential overlap or similarity in the divine being that each is referring to in each of the monotheistic religions.” So, the provost of the college sees no trouble with the same God assertion? That’s extremely alarming to those of us who see a serious problem with equating the God of the Bible with the false god of Islam, and initially thought Wheaton did too.
At President Ryken’s request, Wheaton’s Board of Trustees is conducting a thorough review of the many concerns raised by the Hawkins controversy, like academic freedom, due process and possible discrimination. But, definitely added to that list should be an examination of the worldviews held and espoused by Wheaton faculty. I understand the college may want to maintain a big tent. But, the tent should not be so large that it encompasses errant worldviews.