Larycia Alaine Hawkins on Administrative Leave

Bob Smietana:

A tenured Wheaton College political science professor who pledged to wear a hijab during Advent in support of her Muslim neighbors has been placed on administrative leave. Not for donning the Islamic head covering, but over “significant questions regarding the theological implications” of her explanation of why she was doing so.

“Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution’s faith foundations with integrity, compassion, and theological clarity,” the college stated in announcing the decision. “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.”

Larycia Alaine Hawkins, an associate professor who has taught at Wheaton since 2007, announced last week that she’d don the traditional headscarf as a sign of human, theological, and embodied solidarity.

“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she wrote in a Facebook post on December 10. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”…

“This statement is unbelievable,” tweeted Baptist blogger Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College in Louisville. “Really jaw-dropping.”

“A holy kiss to you who disavow the idea that Muslims & Christians worship the same God: I love you,” Hawkins wrote in a Facebook response to critics. “Peace & respect.”

[Miroslav} Volf told CT that “all Christians don’t worship the same God, and all Muslims don’t worship the same God. But I think that Muslims and Christians who embrace the normative traditions of their faith refer to the same object, to the same Being, when they pray, when they worship, when they talk about God. The referent is the same. The description of God is partly different.”

Wheaton College said the disciplinary action was taken not because Hawkins was wearing a hijab, but “in response to significant questions regarding the theological implications of statements that [Hawkins] made about the relationship of Christianity to Islam.” Hawkins will receive “the full review to which she is entitled as a tenured faculty member,” the college stated….

The debate over whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God is a perennial one. The question topped CT’s most-read stories of 2002 and top questions of 2014….

In a 2002 CT cover story, Baptist theologian Timothy George also considered the question of whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

“Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? The answer is surely Yes and No,” he wrote. He continued: Yes, in the sense that the Father of Jesus is the only God there is. … Christians and Muslims can together affirm many important truths about this great God—his oneness, eternity, power, majesty. … But the answer is also No, for Muslim theology rejects the divinity of Christ and the personhood of the Holy Spirit—both essential components of the Christian understanding of God. … Apart from the Incarnation and the Trinity, it is possible to know that God is, but not who God is.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.