Thursday, December 17, 2015

Is Allah the same God?

Larycia Hawkins at Wheaton
from her Facebook page
You may have heard of the controversy at Wheaton College over the professor who donned a hijab (head covering) in solidarity with peaceful Muslims who are currently an object of hatred.

Christianity Today's article
Miroslav Volf in the Washington Post
Roger Olson on his blog

1. Wheaton's response was mature and measured. They found no fault in her wearing the scarf to express Christ's command to love both our friends and enemies. Implicitly, I do not believe they found fault in her implicit point that carpet bombing the Middle East, relishing the thought of shooting Muslims, or some attitudes toward Muslim refugees entering the United States were not particularly good representations of Christian values.

Here's Wheaton's statement: "The College has no stated position on the wearing of headscarves as a gesture of care and concern for those in Muslim or other religious communities that may face discrimination or persecution. We support the protection of all Americans including the right to the free exercise of religion, as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States" (Philip Ryken, President of Wheaton).

The college also stated, "Faculty and student expressions of concern about the treatment of Muslims have been grounded in a desire to live peaceably and respectfully with all people, including our neighbors of Islamic and other religious faith traditions. While these commitments are consistent with our Statement of Faith and Community Covenant, overtures of Christian friendship must be enacted with theological clarity as well as compassion."

2. What got Dr. Hawkins on suspension, pending review, is her comment that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. I've always found this statement ambiguous. It seems that it does not really say what it is trying to say. After all, there is only one true God out there.

Can we express the options in clearer, less ambiguous forms?
  • Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims all have hold of different parts of the same elephant? In this case, they would all be right on some aspects and wrong on other aspects of the elephant.
  • Does one of these groups have a more correct understanding of the one God than others, while the other two are at least trying to worship the same Being.
  • Are Jews and Muslims really worshiping Satan, demons, or fantasies, even though they think they are worshiping the one true God?
  • Are some Jews and Muslims seeking after the one true God genuinely in their hearts, while being mistaken in their thinking about God? Meanwhile, are some Jews, Christians, and Muslims not truly worshiping the one true God at all in their hearts?
Wheaton's response to her theology was, "While Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, we believe there are fundamental differences between the two faiths, including what they teach about God’s revelation to humanity, the nature of God, the path to salvation, and the life of prayer." Again, this statement is entirely accurate from a Christian perspective.

3. Personally, I feel sympathy as usual all the way around. I respect this faculty member's sense that America is a little out of whack right now in its values. I hope she passes muster in her review.

On the other hand, I would completely agree with the theological statement of Wheaton two paragraphs above. Islam is not an equally true religion to Christianity, at least not from a Christian point of view. Evangelical colleges do not espouse the elephant view above. As a pietist in the Wesleyan tradition, the fourth bullet point above is the one I hope is true. In that case, some Jews and Muslims would be seeking after the one true God of Christian faith, but they would not be understanding him correctly.

I of course feel sympathy for the administration of Wheaton too. Pesky faculty. :-) Always making statements without any consideration of the political implications or consequences, not to mention the impact on the donor base and potential students.

Academic freedom simply is not absolute, and it's foolish for any faculty member to think so. Having a teaching position at a university simply is not a license to say or do whatever you want to say or do.

But then again, her spirit does not seem to be contentious. She sent out a "holy kiss" to those who disagreed with her. :-)

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