The conflict between Wheaton College administration and Professor Larycia Hawkins has revealed an immense fissure in the evangelical world.

Some side with Hawkins in her statement that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, or at least are willing to extend enough grace to make such a statement less than a flat-out renunciation of orthodoxy. For others Hawkins’ statement is so far beyond anything they can embrace that her words constitute a fireable offence:

William J. Kelly – “Wheaton College Must Fire Larycia Hawkins

Was Wheaton College right in suspending Dr. Larycia Hawkins for violating the Christian college’s Statement of Faith and Educational Purpose? Yes, they were.

Now they need to fire her.

Some in the media are trying to make this about Islamophobia or about the hijab Dr. Hawkins, a supposedly Christian professor, is sporting during advent to “express love and solidarity” with her Muslim brothers and sisters.

So what really is the problem with Larycia Hawkins statement?

Hawkins’ offending statement is:

we (Christians and Muslims) worship the same God.

So presumably, if  the offense is stating that Christians and Muslims do worship the same God, what the professor should have said, what would have been acceptable to the administration of Wheaton, is that Christians and Muslims “do not worship the same God.”

If Wheaton claims as an article of faith, that Christians and Muslims worship a different God, they presumably also believe:

  • Our God is the right one and their god is the wrong one.
  • Their god is an idol, a false god, a delusion, a lie and therefore dangerous.
  • They should come over to our side, worship the One True God and join us.
  • Everyone should be Christian; there is no room for any religion other than Christianity.

Of course, no one would ever state it quite this boldly. But these conclusions follow naturally from the statement implied by Wheaton when they discipline someone for saying that “We (Muslims and Christians) worship the same God.”

The problem is that the Wheaton administration and their supporters believe their formulations about the nature, character and action of God are absolute, irrefutable, and unavoidable for any right-thinking honest person.  Muslims, Jews, Hindus are all wrong about God. If you do not understand God in Trinitarian terms, or if you refuse to accept the Incarnation of God in Jesus, or sign on to Wheaton’s doctrine of substitutionary atonement you are not worshiping God. Wheaton seems content to disenfranchise a sizeable group of deeply loving and compassionate people.

But for Wheaton College apparently compassion is not adequate. Christianity Today reports that,

In a statement released late Wednesday night, the college said that Hawkins was free to wear a headscarf as an act of care and compassion towards Muslims.

But the school maintains that “compassion must be infused with theological clarity.”

What is a “compassion” that is “infused with theological clarity”?

Would the administrators of Wheaton refuse an act of compassion extended to a person in genuine need because the act was not “infused with theological clarity”? How much clarity is necessary before the action qualifies as a legitimate act of compassion?

From my reading of the New Testament, I cannot recall Jesus administering a theological clarity test to anyone. I do not see Jesus worrying unduly about what people believed. In fact when Jesus wanted an illustration of a truly godly life he used the example of a Samaritan, whose theology according to Jewish tradition in Jesus’ day, was certainly disordered. The priest and the Levite in the story who almost certainly had all their theological ducks in a row, are the ones who failed the test of compassion. (Luke 10:25-37)

According to Jesus, a plant is known by its fruit (Luke 7:16) not by the clarity of its theology. And, according to Paul, the fruit the one true God seeks to produce is:

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22,23)

Any force, belief, commitment or conviction that helps these fruit grow, has its source in God and should be supported and encouraged by all who desire to see these qualities grow in the human community.

There is only one God. Wherever love is, God is present and at work.