Wheaton College, Doc Hawk, and a whole heap of trouble

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Larycia Hawkins speaks on Jan. 6, 2016, at First United Methodist Church in Chicago. Religion News Service photo by Emily McFarlan Miller

Larycia Hawkins speaks on Jan. 6, 2016, at First United Methodist Church in Chicago. Religion News Service photo by Emily McFarlan Miller

Larycia Hawkins speaks on Jan. 6, 2016, at First United Methodist Church in Chicago. Religion News Service photo by Emily McFarlan Miller

Larycia Hawkins speaks on Jan. 6, 2016, at First United Methodist Church in Chicago. Religion News Service photo by Emily McFarlan Miller

Wheaton College, arguably the premier evangelical Christian university in the country, is now out to fire its first-ever tenured black female professor, purportedly for violating its doctrinal statement. Her alleged sin: She posted on her Facebook page that Christians and Muslims “worship the same God” — and purportedly did not satisfy the administration’s follow-up theological questioning.

In this process Wheaton College has managed to especially offend women, African-Americans, Muslims, Christians who do not agree with a narrow and questionable interpretation of the college’s statement of faith, Wheaton students who have been positively served by Dr. Hawkins’ work, and every academic who thinks tenure protections and academic freedom exist precisely for these situations.

I have a theory about why this is happening, about how a fine college stumbled into turning what could have been a local personnel problem into a national, even international, spectacle. This theory is based on many years of being a part of the evangelical higher education world, including many visits as a speaker at Wheaton College.


READ: Larycia Hawkins ‘flabbergasted’ by Wheaton’s move to fire her


It’s about fear.

It’s about the world of conservative white American evangelicals, who feel embattled in America today. Increasingly, they are hunkering down in a reactionary posture. It’s visible in the difference between the public persona of Billy Graham and his son Franklin Graham, who now, sadly, speaks for him. It’s visible in all the legal actions being taken by evangelical schools to protect themselves against government mandates.

Conservative evangelical institutions such as Wheaton are governed and supported, overwhelmingly, by people who are not just theologically conservative but also politically conservative. I would wager that the boards, top administrators, and biggest donors of most self-identified evangelical schools would vote Republican at around 95 percent. Recall that in every recent presidential election, 75 to 80 percent of white evangelicals have voted for the GOP candidate.

Evangelical Christian universities walk a tightrope. They are precariously balanced between the need to build a faculty that is academically respected and the need to satisfy the demands of very conservative donors, trustees, and parents. They have to pluck graduates from mainly liberal research universities and find or develop enough of them who can toe an explicit conservative theological line and an implicit conservative political line. This is no mean feat.

Like every evangelical school, Wheaton has a quite conservative doctrinal statement, and seeks to hire faculty who believe it. Take a moment to read it if you will.

Larycia Hawkins read and signed that statement, and to this moment says that she remains in compliance with it. My theory is that what Professor Hawkins really violated were the implicit but very real political preferences of Wheaton’s constituency, not the school’s explicit theological standards.

And that’s the nub of the problem. A doctrinal statement cannot protect a school from accidentally hiring someone who will sometimes offend a 95% politically conservative constituency. Such troublesome faculty — I was once one of them — repeatedly force administrators to have to explain to trustees and donors that academic freedom protects professors who offer unwelcome political views, as long as they do not violate the school’s doctrinal statement.

Recall that what first caught everyone’s attention at Wheaton was Dr. Hawkins’ decision to wear a hijab on campus in solidarity with Muslims. Sources at Wheaton tell me it was not the first time that she had irritated the Wheaton administration by taking public, politically uncomfortable positions. But in this political climate, I am sure that protests from key people in the Wheaton constituency went through the roof. So then, all of a sudden, there was a problem with the professor’s adherence to the doctrinal statement.

Nowhere in that doctrinal statement does it say explicitly that to believe Muslims and Christians “worship the same God” is out of bounds. It is certainly quite possible to argue either side of the issue today, from an explicitly evangelical perspective. Consider evangelical theologian Miroslav Volf, who defended Hawkins in a recent response to the Wheaton controversy and has long argued for the exact point that has her in trouble.

So Wheaton is essentially saying this: Tenure will not protect you if you too visibly offend the conservative political views of our constituency. Whatever conservative politics looks like right now, that also is mandatory for faculty. The same is true in many other evangelical universities.

That’s another victory for culture wars polarization and another loss for higher education — not to mention Christian witness in American culture.

  • Monteclara

    We must’ve read different articles. Where did Dr. Gushee make this about Dr. Hawkins’ race? I see plenty about fear and our poor reactions to it, but I’m not seeing where he played the race card.

  • In this context, its ironic that Hawkins has stated that “Christianity is political or it is not Christianity.” She would seem to agree with Wheaton on the nature of their differences. I’d rather NOT see Christians divided over political differences, but when both sides politicize theology, then we see this kind of impasse.

  • Max

    April, I didn’t read this as “making it about race”…it’s true there’s an argument that political and doctrinal conservativism track closely among white evangelicals, but I understood the larger point to be that political conservativism and the perspectives of donors, generally, may well be behind this decision to seek the prof’s ouster.

  • April

    He made it about race in the opening sentence. Why the need to even mention her race, unless he’s making it at least partially about that?

  • Dr. Gushee, I applaud you for your comment and your courage to address the issue objectively. It is sad to hear that “Christians” think that we have a monopoly on G-d. In Exodus, G-d told Moses to tell the people that Ehyeh-Asher-Eyheh (אהיה אשר אהיה) sent you. “I AM THAT I AM” or “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE,” beyond the comprehension of humankind. Christians fail to understand that this statement is what prevents G-d from being named by man, because naming G-d gives man dominion over G-d and that is not my understanding of our relationship. The basis for this comes from the Creation story when G-d tells Adam to name the animals, giving humankind dominion over the animals. Western Christianity has so many theological fallacies, the first of which being exclusive rights to G-d.
    “Rev”

  • ADA

    As a former member of a CCCU-affiliated evangelical college faculty, this story has resonated with me in many ways. Your description of the motivating factor behind this furor is completely accurate and no doubt based on your own experiences. I saw many of my own colleagues treated in precisely the same manner by administrators though none had the resources and public persona to fight as Dr. Hawkins has. She is standing up for many, many professors in the evangelical academic subculture who (contrary to thoughtless, unreflective posters suggesting the opposite) don’t desire a purely secular environment but truly seek to (in the parlance) “integrate faith and learning.” What’s so frustrating for these professors is that their administrations leave them in the lurch after they have dearly and sincerely sought for truth with both academic and spiritual integrity. Now I’m on the outside looking in, but I am thrilled by the way Dr. Hawkins is handling the situation.

  • I agree with Dr. Hawkins. Jews, Christians and Muslims all worship the God of Abraham. Our understandings of the nature of God are very different. I visualize a mighty river branching into two tributaries, one Jewish, one Muslim, and then the Jewish tributary branching into Jewish and Christian streams.

  • Multiple causes, but add to them money. Quoting Dr. Gushee, “I would wager that the boards, top administrators, and biggest donors of most self-identified evangelical schools would vote Republican at around 95 percent. But so what if they are Republican? Would being Democrats make them more theologically correct? It is fear of loss of donations by biggest donors. This controversy is perhaps aided by Hawkins’ greater interest in making a statement rather than assuring the Wheaton powers that she is indeed a theological conservative. She could have put them at peace. Personally, I am ok with her stand. Wheaton should NOT fire her for theological reason.

  • ZG

    Critics of Wheaton claim that her termination process is politically motivated, but it appears to be just the opposite! Dr. Hawkins’ is not interested in clarifying her theological beliefs (which Wheaton has every right to ensure does not violate the school’s mission or statement of faith), rather she has opted for a spurious political defense playing the victim trying to discrediting Wheaton via the public media.
    https://zgreport.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/wheaton-provost-recommends-the-termination-of-dr-hawkins/

  • Personally, I prefer to differentiate between “political” and “partisan.” I agree with Hawkins’ statement to the degree that following Christ means being active in the world around us, acting to make things better. That’s political, but it need not be partisan. What gets people upset is not such positive action, but taking one side of the other (or, to put another way “the wrong side”) on any of various specific issues.

  • As a follower of Jesus, I believe that I am called to love. I can disagree with another’s view and still love. I can have a different faith and still respect the faith of others. I choose to love and not hate anyone. “Freedom of religion” is not just for those who agree with my religion. I am not afraid of someone who challenges my beliefs. My faith needs to be strong enough to meet the challenge.

  • RB

    To explain the photograph, most likely.

    Also it’s interesting that she is singled out as violating the statement of faith, when nothing she’s done contradicts Wheaton’s statement of faith. Considering Wheaton has multiple times had speakers speak on the exact same beliefs that the professor teaches and demonstrates, there does seem to be more to the case, and one of it is that by her history and background, she’s a target for a specific kind of politics. The politics, which were addressed in the article. The belief that Black Evangelism, which has its roots in liberation, and White Evangelism, which has its roots in orthodoxy is somehow the same Evangelism, and doesn’t bump heads is ludicrous. It’s just that Wheaton’s statement of faith never accounted for the idea that there was a kind of evangelism that its donors wouldn’t like. Hence the problem, and hence how part of it has to do with her race and background.

  • RB

    How is a multi-day frank discussion ‘Failure to clarify?’ It seems she was pretty clear, and the fact is, nothing she’s said or done violates the statement of faith. In fact, speakers sharing her beliefs have come to wheaton with the same arguments. In this circumstance, Clarification meant adhering to a political construct that the statement of faith itself doesn’t support, and will ultimately have to be modified accordingly, in order to ensure that Black Evangelism is appropriately marginalized.

  • RB

    Which is why you don’t have right-wing billionares funding you. That will modify anyone’s ‘statement of faith’. Always has, from Constantine to Franklin Graham.

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  • Paula

    There are gaping holes in my understanding.

    I assume Wheaton still holds the view that there is no salvation outside of Christ. And a majority of that community probably think that while Jews worship Yahweh, they haven’t got that part right, so their salvation is in doubt. Ditto Mormons, and maybe even Catholics or mainline Protestants. They may worship the same God, but their understanding of God is flawed, and they are wrong about Jesus. Why don’t Muslims fall in that same category among these sorts of evangelicals? Muslims trace their history to the God revealed to the ancient Israelites. They are people who are trying to worship Yahweh, but who hold the wrong understanding, and the wrong understanding of salvation in Christ, they’d say. So why contest this narrow point? They can happily assign such people to hell, but why deny their intent?

    Finally, does Franklin Graham and his anti-Muslim animus play a role at this school where his father’s papers are housed?

  • Liam Madden

    Not only do evangelical universities “pluck graduates from liberal research universities & find or develop enough of them who can toe an explicit conservative theological line,” these historically WASPY institutions often feel compelled to add a person of color to their faculty (and rightly so), often a belated half-measure which in itself does not adequately address historic inequalities/injustices or integrate into the academic or cultural life of the institution robust frameworks for productive & equitable intercultural discourse. Such faculty appointments often have the taint of tokenism with the minority faculty member (whether by virtue of race or holding a minority perspective or both) bearing a disproportionate burden of representing valid counter-cultural concerns. Their institutions don’t like to admit it, but these types of faculty are regarded as exotics. They often end up either being treated or feeling like caged birds or scapegoated if they become “controversial.”

  • alison

    This is not about offending someone white male hierarchy. This is about taking her theology to place where the school is not willing to go. She knew this when she started working at Wheaton I can only assume. She is the one that changed the rules, not Wheaton. For Pete’s sake it’s not about conservatism, it’s not about donors, it’s not about being white, it’s about staying true to God’s Word.

  • RB

    Actually, nothing she’s said is in contravention with Wheaton’s statement of faith. So, either Wheaton has to own up to why they actually want her fired, or modify the statement of faith so that allows for the removal of her position from Orthodoxy.

    http://drlaryciahawkins.org/2016/01/06/theological-statement-by-dr-hawkins/

    If you can find anything in contravention to Wheaton’s Statement of Faith, let me know.

  • B. Smith

    Do you mean she???

  • Scott Watson

    I graduated from an Evangelical Seminary overy 20 years ago. At that time there was a faculture search for an ethis professor. They were intentionally trying to diversify this search with black candidates. I asked one of my white NT profs about this and he told me that they want “an Uncle Tom”. This is at a progressive edge of the evangelical academy.

  • Brian Howell

    She provided a written response to questions from administration. You can read it on her website: She posted it yesterday, AFTER keeping it confidential for many weeks out of respect for the process. drlaryciahawkins.org

  • RWB

    This is the best post I’ve read so far.
    Had their been no pictures to accompany any article or news story regarding this situation, the word “black” would never be used. It has ZERO to do with the substance of the issue at hand. This is a theological debate.
    And for what it’s worth, the God of the Bible is not even close to the God worshipped in Islam. Whereas the God of the Bible is triune in nature, He is also loving, kind, compassionate, slow to anger, long suffering (1 cor 13). Islam, however, follows a God that is works based. Final judgement is dependent on the scales being tipped towards good or bad works. Not enough good works? You’re eternally damned.
    To say that both of these version of God are the same is asinine, and I cannot believe that other believers are coming to the defense of this false doctrine. Being true to God’s word is all we have, and in being true to God’s word, it also clearly mentions that in the last days even God’s elect will be…

  • RWB

    (cont’d)…that even God’s elect will be deceived.
    Even a former Muslim-turned-Christian doesn’t believe they are the same God: http://rzim.org/global-blog/do-muslims-and-christians-worship-the-same-god
    This doesn’t mean that we should be unloving to one another if we share opposing views. However, as a theological institution committed to holding close the truths of the Bible as their foundation, Wheaton College is doing the correct thing by not allowing false doctrine to be taught. How both sides are handling this leaves a lot to be desired, but nonetheless, it needed to be addressed.

  • Politics collides with religion and partisanship when following Christ means feeding the poor by means of food stamps, housing the homeless in our own midst, caring for the sick and healthcare needy when that is supported by Obamacare or Planned Parenthood’s routine women’s health services, loving the orphans and widows when they are Syrian refugees…and on and on. I have read some evangelical rebuttals to all those proposals, but they make me wonder, are we as Christians worshipping the same God?

  • Terese Kraus

    I must disagree. This is mainly about theology, not politics or race, and to try to skew it that way seems to be an overreach and disingenuous, since it is a fact that Wheaton College is a diverse mix of people with varying political beliefs. If an Imam stated that they worship the same God as Christians, he would no longer be an Imam, but an infidel. And there are multiple articles written by Muslim women who ask that she not wear the hijab in solidarity with them, since it represents repression, and does them no favors.

  • LCowper

    No, he mentions her race because it’s part of the *controversy* of them choosing to fire her. While there would be some controversy if Hawkins had been male or white or both, her double minority status adds fire to the controversy.

  • ben in oakland

    “are we as Christians worshipping the same God?”

    Thank you for stating it so clearly and baldly. The way I always put it:

    The New testament is for Me. The Old Testament is for you.

  • David

    Sorry, Dr. Gushee. When you are utterly determined to read Wheaton’s motives through a nasty hermeneutic of suspicion, and write of its motives in the most suspect, politically craven light possible — rather than concede that Wheaton may simply be defending its doctrinal boundaries — you don’t get to lament “another victory in culture wars polarization.”

    For a model of clarity and courtesy in this discussion, try consulting Nabeel Qureshi: http://rzim.org/global-blog/do-muslims-and-christians-worship-the-same-god

  • Arynne

    ” If an Imam stated that they worship the same God as Christians, he would no longer be an Imam, but an infidel.”

    “O people of the Scriptures, let us come to an agreement
    On that which is common between us:
    That we worship the one God
    And have no others beside Him
    And that we have no Lord apart from God.”

    …you were saying?

  • Mimi B

    Those people are CINO’S.

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  • Dean

    Thank you. My thoughts exactly. He may as well have included a line that said “Wheaton’s leaders are a bunch of liars.”

  • Walt Andrews

    Each of you have had the privilege and your 1st amendment right to express your opinion. Do you think you could express that same right in Syria, Iraq, Iran or any Muslim country. These rights come from Judeo-Christian laws which are the foundation of my – our county. My government was created to protect my God given rights as a man. Under a Muslim Sharia law there would not be any rights. As a woman this professor in the article would not be in the position she has been given at Wheaton University. My God sent his son to die for me. What did Allah do? My God sent his Son so that I would know the truth; the law was given through Moses: grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. I can not see how my God is the same as the Muslim God. Like a marriage this professor knew the doctrine of this institution when she signed up to teach just as she would join in a covenant of marriage between her husband and God. If her opinion is the Muslim God is the same then she does not know the truth.

  • Phil

    He didn’t make it about race, it is simply who she is. That being said it most assuredly is in part racist and sexist. tenure is supposed to protect the professor. Clearly Wheaton would rather bow to the likes of Mr Graham, one of the most mean spirited evangelicals around today, than honor the tenure they chose to award this professor.

  • cd

    Dr G, with a. due respect you miss the plot. I have had fhe pleasure of befriending, coming alongside, studying with, weeping with, rejoicing with, worshipping with more than two dozen Wheaton College professors, administrators, football and soccer and basketball coaches and their families for the last 15+ years. I have been challenged, with integrity, to think about & understand the views and passions from the left/Liberal perspective from more of them than those holding tightly to the right/Conservative perspective. My church is deeply evangelical, and thoroughly not-fundamemtalist. My neighbors are beautifully diverse in political and Faith communities, even if not so diverse in background or color. (yet we chose to live in this Elementary School neighborhood more than 15 years ago because, thanks to World Relief and other ministries of compassion, our kids never had less than a dozen disperate nationalities represented in their elementary school classroom) You do not know Wheaton.

  • phil

    Hmm, the God of Abraham, wouldnt that be the same God as the Father Jesus referenced? if so, then how you view God would be from an old testament viewpoint. that being the case, it is the God. your premise is mistaken. And, if all are created in Gods image, all who worship God are worshipping the same God. A Calvanist believes in a God who has pre chosen all who go to heaven. they are known by their works… translation you works make you worthy or show your worthiness. Voila, the Protestant Work Ethic.

  • phil

    you are incorrect. the laws of this country are not based on Judeo Christian principles. you ,like many current politicians, see to think this is a Christian country. you are simply incorrect. The laws of this country are based on human rights which are universal. “We hold these truths to be self evident…..” Most of our founding fathers were Deists, not Christians.

  • DNP

    Your father and my father are two different persons though they are both fathers. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to THE Father except through ME “(John 14:6). The ‘Allahu’ of Prophet Muhammad and the ‘Father’ of Jesus Christ ultimately may not refer to the same entity.and the Christian path to the Father is definitely not the same as that of Moslem to Allahu.

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  • Mike

    Modern-day Pharisees.

  • Tyron Danby

    “We worship the same God.” I guess that depends on your point of view.

    From God’s point of view, there is only one God so anyone worshipping God must be worshipping that entity.

    From our perspective (human), there are many God’s because we worship who we wish to worship, when we wish to worship, how we wish to worship because it is we, not God, that matters to us. Argue with me if you wish, but your arguments are sophistry.

    No one has seen the Father except the Son. No one knows how the Father wishes to be worshipped except the Son. Abraham did not know it, although he found favor with God. Moses did not know it, even though he was humble.

    So all of this debate about worshipping God is sophistry. None of us know who Abraham worshipped. No one. We speculate, but we have to interpret Abraham through some lens to make his God palatable. But in these last days, God has choses to reveal himself (perfectly) in his Son. Reject the Son? You have no claim to worship God. Zero…

  • Tyron Danby

    Shirley, you jest!

    The point isn’t how a follower of Islam describes the Christian God, but how the Scriptures define the Christian God. That God, that phenomenological representation of God is repugnant to a follower of Islam. Just as the rather tedious, colonialistic position adopted by the good professor is repugnant. In essence, to claim that our God is the God you are worshipping when you say you are worshipping your God is violent; it marginalizes both your beliefs and our beliefs at the same time, leaving us with a rather silly “universal” perspective of God that ignores every particularization of God. It is so arrogant to suggest that everyone in the room is an idiot who doesn’t even know the God they say they are worshipping and then turn around and have the unmitigated audacity to assert this is an inclusive position. Turns out, it isn’t the Gods that are crazy.

  • Diogenes

    Depends on how you define the term “Deists.” Many of the founders held to a form of deism that is closer to orthodox Christianity than deism as it is understood today. Even Benjamin Franklin believed in an afterlife divided into those who would receive rewards, and those who would receive punishment.

  • Phil

    She is correct. See John Howard Yoder, the Politics of Jesus.

  • ralph

    He would lose. 60% voted for Obama. Such inaccuracies be folks who think they are familiar with the school as it is today. Judging.

  • Jay

    Anyone who would consider Wheaton a “fine college” is lamentably ignorant about the very purpose of education. Hint: it is not indoctrination. There is absolutely nothing either surprising or more than usually troubling about ideologues enforcing conformity.

  • David

    One other comment about Dr. Gushee’s allegation that Wheaton has turned what “could have been a local personnel problem into a national or international spectacle”: Wheaton has done nothing of the sort. I suspect they’d be a good deal happier had this remained a “local personnel problem”; they haven’t been the ones leading the public statements.

    To the extent this is now a national/international spectacle, that is the work of Wheaton’s critics — most of whom are ex-evangelicals or theological liberals. It would be plausible to say these are speaking out not because they particularly care about Dr. Hawkins or academic freedom, but from malice: that they are enoying making a distinguished evangelical college squirm in the public spotlight. Since I have no specific evidence of such a motive, though, it would be irresponsible actually to make such an accusation. Attributing plausible motives to opponents is an easy but dangerous game.

  • Doc Anthony

    I remember the first time I heard a religious leader deny that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

    We were all sitting around a table at a local interfaith event. All friendly, no drama.

    We were discussing some general topic, and a couple of Christian ladies just happened to mention right out of the blue, “We all worship the same God.”

    And that’s when the Muslim clergy interjected, equally out of the blue, *** “No, we don’t.” ***

    I just stared at the table for a second. Where did my fellow Christians get hooked up with such a false teaching? Didn’t they know what the Koran says about God? Why did they need an **Islamic spiritual leader** to get them the correct information?

    Koran, Sura 5:72 —–
    “Pagans indeed are those who say that God is the Messiah, son of Mary.”

    Koran, Sura 5:75 —–
    “The Messiah is no more than a messenger, like the messengers before him.”

    So Prof. Hawkins is flat-out wrong, on BOTH sides of the fence. Let’s…

  • Ray Schellinger

    So, you basically got to the first sentence and didn’t read anything after that? Honestly?

  • Doc Anthony

    ….Let’s end this! It’s time for Hawkins to leave, and find a more liberal or more secular school.

  • Ralph

    Heard Nabeel speak last week. He is brilliant and fair minded. Anyone who thinks they have the final opinion on this would be wise to shut their mouth and listen to him. Wheaton is not needed a fine school with free thinking students and faculty who wear hijab a (even if it’s not a smart or welcomed act) and visit the local mosque to bring flowers or chat. No one says they can’t. They bring in controversial speakers all the time! They have done more to end slavery and poverty than most schools, leaders in this area! The way they are being painted over this situation is not an accurate representation. Politically, they are a complex and interesting place. People ASSUME they are all right wingers while in fact 60% voted democrat in last election. And so what? I I bet 95% voted democrat at say
    Macalaster. Stop this ghettoizing. If you want mixed gender dorm rooms, go to those schools. They do not all have to be the same. Wheaton has a right to their standards.And read…

  • Doc Anthony

    The color of the Christian professor doesn’t matter.

    We just need these professors to BELIEVE THE BIBLE for a change!!

  • Ralph

    Are you making a judgment based on little information? It’s a nationally ranked school and always has been. It is unique in that it hasn’t lost its religious identity such as Harvard and Princeton while maintaining rigor. My son transferred there. Had her as a prof. Loved her. Loves Wheaton and says it is an amazingly complex place politically (polo sci minor). Work load 3x that is a respected Catholic University from where he came. It’s a fine line to walk especially when there are so many watching and wanting it to fall in this world hostile to religion. All this talk is unbalanced and unfair mostly from people who haven’t stepped foot on campus. What is happening in the admin is not representation of entire school. Generalize much? Think critically please.

  • Adam Blosser

    This statement contradicts Gushee’s thesis: “Sources at Wheaton tell me it was not the first time that she had irritated the Wheaton administration by taking public, politically uncomfortable positions. But in this political climate, I am sure that protests from key people in the Wheaton constituency went through the roof. So then, all of a sudden, there was a problem with the professor’s adherence to the doctrinal statement.”

    If taking uncomfortable political positions has not gotten her fired in the past, why would it now? Maybe the problem really is doctrinal and Gushee is using the story as an opportunity to bash conservatives.

  • tim coleman

    “Larycia Hawkins read and signed that [doctrinal] statement, and to this moment says that she remains in compliance with it.” However, the author has no knowledge of what Dr. Hawkins actually said to school officials because they haven’t released the details. He only knows that she claims she is compliant.

    So, without any knowledge of what she has said (only that she says she is compliant), the author comes to this dramatic conclusion. “So Wheaton is essentially saying this: Tenure will not protect you if you too visibly offend the conservative political views of our constituency.”

    To go from “She’s upholding her agreement to honor the doctrinal statement” (because she says she is) to “Wheaton is caving to the conservative political views of their constituency” – that’s a huge jump. I don’t think you can make that accusation until you hear from the school what beliefs of hers are now violating the doctrinal statement. We need patience before we throw her or Wheaton…

  • JonXavier

    I disagree. For one, what the profesor did made no sense at any level. Doing such to show solidarity at Advent? More logical would be a Muslim doing something similar at Advent, or a Christian at Ramadan. In effect, what she did was urinate on Christmas by showing solidarity with a group who denied her faith even as she supposedly celebrated it. Secondly, read the bible, read the early Fathers, read about the saints through history, read the writings of history’s greatest theologians. And then tell me, where do you find clear support for such an act? You don’t. Sure, you can say this is an evangelical thing, but it’s not nearly so narrow or contextual. Yes, most liberals may be OK with it. But then, they, like secular culture as a whole, devalue all that historic Christianity holds dear anyway. What I am sorry to see is so does a self-professing believer. And BTW, where are all your examples of people of other faiths doing the same thing? Or professors spitting on acceptable…

  • David

    Dr. Gushee didn’t support his thesis about Wheaton’s motives with actual evidence, and without such evidentiary support I think it’s irresponsible and inflammatory for him to speculate about Wheaton’s motives.

    That said, what you proffer as a contradictory fact isn’t exactly contradictory either. I may endure the drip of a leaky faucet for a while, but then get sick of it and fix the faucet. That’s pretty much how Wheaton, in Gushee’s story, viewed Dr. Hawkins. They were willing to endure so much, but not everything and not forever.

  • Ben in oakland

    It seems to me that the people most hostile to religion are other religionists. We have a raft load of people on this very site who routinely explain to others why they are the Only Christians Good and True (TM), and all the rest are shams.

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  • Ian Thompson

    Wheaton’s statement of faith begins “WE BELIEVE in one sovereign God, eternally existing in three persons: the everlasting Father, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, the giver of life;” – No Muslim will agree to that statement. Dr Hawkins signed that she is in agreement with this statement when plainly her words said something else.

  • Arynne

    Most Jews wouldn’t either. Trinitarian Christians would disagree with their views on God, but they wouldn’t deny that Jews and Christians are speaking of the same Person when they say “God”.

    Again, I ask–*is* the God of Christianity the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?

  • JW Tadlock

    Graham is also a very poor example of his father’s storied inclusiveness. The ONLY resemblance is physical likeness.

  • Tom Baynham

    April,
    Sadly, Dr. Gushee had no choice but to introduce his article with the racial overtone. Why? Because once again another Evangelical, predominately white academic institution has thrown an African American scholar “under the bus” because she chose to speak the truth. This doesn’t happen with a white academician.

  • So,here’s my question,Ms.Prichard…if what you say is true,i.e.,that…”Our understandings of the nature of God are very different”…,who is responsible for these differences,man or God? Why would He present Himself one way in the 1st century,and in another way 600+ years later? Did Jesus get it right, or did Muhammad? I await your reply.

  • DL

    Wheaton let good white academicians go in similar situations before when I was there. Recall it happening with both a philosophy professor who became Roman Catholic and an anthropology professor who taught theistic evolution for human origins.

  • Shawnie5

    It doesn’t? Do you ever read the news?

  • Shawnie5

    ” All this talk is unbalanced and unfair mostly from people who haven’t stepped foot on campus.” Or, too often, any other campus — unfortunately.

  • Jay

    No one who knows anything about higher education would think that Wheaton College in Illinois (not to be confused with Wheaton College in Massachusetts, which is a real college) is a real institution of higher education. Your son may have loved it there. Lots of people love cults of various kinds, such as LIberty University, Oral Roberts University, etc., but that does not make them real universities. They do nothing to encourage the free exercise of intellectual inquiry. They hire and fire faculty and admit students on the basis of very narrow and often ugly doctrinal belief. I hope you didn’t have to pay too much for the inferior education your child has received regardless of how much he enjoyed it.

  • Phil

    Then your professor was a fool. An uncle Tom, how dare he say such. And before you lose your patience, I know because I am a white professor at a historically black college. That is utter s rubbish. But I guarantee that professor Hawkins’ race is part of this.

  • Ralph

    What you fail to understand is that the majority of students, alumni, and faculty disagree with at least one of the administrators and dude with her. Put your broad brush down. It’s incredibly unhelpful, uninformed, hurtful and divisive.

  • Ralph

    Plus, you’ve never attended class there. They are all about Social justice and quite sure your assumptions about what they teach about evolution and climate change would be incorrect.

  • Phil

    Well. I do know higher education, I work in it every day. Wheaton is a religious school accredited by a regional body. That being said, Wheaton cannot have it both ways. If you agree to abide by accreditation standards, then you have little choice but to honor academic freedom. Wheaton is like so many others who want it their way but want accreditation too.

    A tenured professor can disagree. Dr Hawkins did not even come close to that. So, like a whole bunch of religious schools, Wheaton has its righteous indignation based on the whims of its supporters. I know that many others, including Dr Gushee, have been victimized by such foolishness.

    I know because I went to Baylor and saw wonderful men of God accused of this crap by ignorant people who demanded their way. I would love to offer her a job at my college, yes a Christian college, where thi would never occur. We have Muslim students.

    By the way, I really don’t think Wheaton can compare to Baylor or TCU academically.

  • Ralph

    I agree with much of what you say. But Wheaton is a fine school ad very deep deep thinkers. I don’t want to get into a comparison of Christian schools – my other son is going to Baylor… Just that they aren’t nationally ranked for nothing…Ivy League profs, ACT scores etc. so please don’t bash. It’s not helpful. This is a painful situation and if you’re a Christian you’ll lay off while they figure it out.

  • Julia Duin

    That’s not true, Tom. White academicians at evangelical colleges get thrown under the bus plenty when they question the status quo. The big difference is that they don’t get to make national headlines like Larycia did.

  • Brent Kooi

    “I bet….” “I think….” This is nothing but unsupported assumptions influenced by his own biases. Wheaton’s doctrinal statement doesn’t need to specify that the Muslim god and Christian God are not the same being. That’s obvious to any discerning Christian (and Muslim). But when a predominately white and conservative university fires a black liberal, suddenly it must be racist and the result of political fear?! Tired assumption.

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  • Arynne

    Clearly, it’s *not* obvious to many discerning Christians (including the Pope!) or this whole kerfuffle wouldn’t be taking place.

  • Wil

    DL,
    Would those “let go” professors say that they had remained in compliance with the school’s doctrinal statement?
    “Larycia Hawkins read and signed that statement, and to this moment says that she remains in compliance with it.”

  • Bill

    From Wheaton’s doctrinal statement: “WE BELIEVE in one sovereign God, eternally existing in three persons.”

    Okay, ask ten Muslims if that is Allah, “the Muslim God” and see that they say.

    The situation may have been handled differently. However, those who are making this about race and politics have their own agenda. It’s about doctrine (the truth.)

  • Brent Kooi

    I’ll stand by my words. I think the pope has demonstrated on multiple occasions his lack of discernment.

  • Phil

    The truth? And your truth I assume by your statement? Perhaps hubris is truth to you but I am leery of one who is absolutely sure his or her truth is the only truth, or God’s truth. Are you Billy Graham ‘s son? This absolutism sounds familiar.

  • Phil

    But I have read the early fathers and mothers, called the Desert Fathers and Mothers. They clearly were inclusive and accepting. And I am part of an order that is over 900 years old. And not many years ago our Cistercian monks stayed where there were only Muslims, ministered to them and worshipped with them, until rebel militia murdered them. That I’d not liberal, that is Love! So where’s the love of a beloved professor? Oh wait, she’s black and female and obviously liberal. You prejudice is in contrast to Christ’s love for all.

  • Phil

    Really? You would judgement the Pope for a lack of discernment? Unbelievable. This kind caring man of God has begun a change in the Catholic church that is based on love and acceptance and you think he lacks discernment? That sounds like a tired old Evangelical belief system that believes Catholic s aren’t Christian. Hmm if that’s what Wheaton teaches it sure explains a lot.

  • Brent Kooi

    Phil, First, don’t attribute what I say to Wheaton College. I am not affiliated with them, just as the vast majority of those commenting here are not. Second, I do NOT say that Catholics are not Christians. Some are; some are not. Some Baptists are Christians; some are not. Membership does not always reflect whether a person is trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. (Yes, I believe He is the only way, as stated in the Bible.) Third, the pope has made a number of declarations that fall outside of scripture, and as such, yes, I stand by my statement that he lacks (spiritual) discernment.

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  • Scott Elliott

    No, “he.” Dr Gushee is a man.

  • Proviso56r

    Way back in the 1950’s. Wheaton College was a highly respected College even by me until — a young man chose to marry prior to attending (it was against their policy to allow students to marry during the semester). He was immediately uninvited to attend even though he planned to attend the college in preparation for Seminary training. It was the best thing that ever happened to him! He served in the ministry for over 42 years, some as a parish minister and some as a chaplain.
    At the price of tuition at Wheaton, even back then (prior to PELL grants and their descendents). he could never have finished his college much less attended a seminary of any quality, “God works in mysterious ways, God’s wonder to perform.”

  • Naksuthin

    Interesting question: how many angels can dance on the head of a pin
    But the real question is:

    Why… in the 21st century, in the United States of America where our Constitution guarantees everyone the right to freedom of expression and freedom of religion, a religious college like Wheaton is allowed to punish a professor for expressing her personal religious views…especially on her own time, at home, after work on her own private facebook page

    Could any other institution: Yale, Harvard, Cornell, Stanford, Illinois State U, expel a student or professor for stating “Muslims and Christians worship the same God”??

    Could Apple computers, General Motors, Intel, McDonalds, Tyson Foods, Kraft or Wells Fargo get away with requiring employees and managers to sign a “statement of faith”?

    There is nothing more “un-American” than punishing anyone for expressing their own religious ideas…especially on their own time, at home and on their private Facebook page

  • Naksuthin

    Wheaton should have saved themselves the embarrassment and just let the woman have her say.

    Her “innocuous” comments (not my description but Wheaton’s)…and her wearing of the hajib set off a public relations disaster for Wheaton that probably put a lot of college donations in jeopardy but worse…set the College up for ridicule and scorn. It became truly a PR nightmare.

    It’s not the first time the “Muslims and Christians worship the same God” has been uttered at Wheaton.
    In one case the Collage actually invited a visiting professor to tell faculty and students why he thought “Muslims and Christians worship the same God”…and then posted his hour long response on the Wheaton Youtube Channel for all the world to see.

    It wasn’t a big deal and if they had just ignored it…we wouldn’t be here discussing it today

    Wheaton screwed up big time

  • Naksuthin

    I’m not going to say what motivated Dr. Hawkins.

    But clearly Wheaton College administrators get the prize for “dumbest response of the year”
    This entire issue got blown way out of proportion when the college decided to penalize her for making …what the College now says were “innocuous” statements.

    Now the College faces a divided campus and faculty, the public scorn of theologians and academics, the condemnation of First Amendment supporters and the sullying of the academic reputation of Wheaton College’s name.

    Wheaton College acted more like Bob Jones University…and now the you can’t tell them apart

  • Dean

    You understand that every bible college and seminary has a Statement of Faith that professors are required to sign? Sure, America is about “freedom of religion”, but Apple, General Motors, etc. aren’t in the business of teaching and training people in religion. They make computers and cars; that’s their purpose. Wheaton is training students from an evangelical perspective. This isn’t about freedom of religion, it’s about maintaining the school’s purpose. I feel quite certain that Yale and the other schools you mention have theological standards of some sort to which their professors are held. I would guess there aren’t any Jehovah’s Witnesses or Church of Satan adherents among the faculty.

  • Garym

    “Nowhere in that doctrinal statement does it say explicitly that to believe Muslims and Christians “worship the same God” is out of bounds.”

    I’ll wage that nowhere in the doctrinal statement does it explicitly say that to believe pigs can fly is out of bounds either. Quit pretending to take a theological high road, when in fact you are using this situation as a political statement.
    Believe what you will, but making wild accusations to fit your narrative is dishonest.

  • Just more proof that evangelical Christians are attempting to establish a Christian Theocracy in the US!

  • LQ

    I’m a mama of a Wheaton freshman. We love the school and so does our kiddo. This is all so weird! She is happy and it is just business as usual for her and I’m so relieved by that. For her it is classes, tons of reading, good times with friends, clubs, etc. The vast majority of students are living the life of a college kid and doing so quietly and peacefully. Meanwhile outsiders motivated by anger in their hearts for whatever reason, maybe even for the same reason as the author’s, are stirred to criticise, complain, harass, start petitions for alumni to not donate money, etc. I believe this is about dr. Hawkins and her employer. It will be resolved as it is meant. Let’s pray for the Lord’s will to be done. Pray also for a hedge of protection around the school. Satan hates Wheaton! That’s what it is really about. Read Ephesians 6. This is spiritual warfare. What side are you on? Get your heart right!

  • Phil

    Do you really think Satan is out to get Wheaton? Dr Gushee is not motivated by hate but by ethics. He is a professor of Ethics and one of the best in the world. What’s more, he is a minister of the Gospel.

    He called attention to a serious violation of ethics. Why would or should he not deal with a Christian ethics issue? That’s not Satan that’s the real world. I went to a Christian college and I teach at a Christian college. Wheaton is engaging in unethical behavior.

    Respectfully, the powers you reference are the spiritual wars that are within us all. Only Flip Wilson ever said the devil made me do it.

  • Brent Kooi

    I’m sorry, but from what planet are yo observing earth? That’s the craziest comment I’ve seen online in quite some time. That’s no exaggeration.

  • Foppe VanderZwaag

    “WE BELIEVE in one sovereign God, eternally existing in three persons: the everlasting Father, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, the giver of life…”

    Here’s the point! Jahweh is professed to be a tri-une God. Allah is not. Muslims do not believe that Jesus is God. They are not the same.

  • Arynne

    How many times have I seen this meme repeated smugly here as if it meant anything at all?

    Look: Jews do not believe God is a trinity. They do not believe Jesus was God. Neither do Unitarian Christians. Are you saying that both groups worship a completely different God from Trinitarian Christians? Are you a Marcionite, who believes God begins with the New Testament?

    Saying that someone has different, or even erroneous, beliefs about God doesn’t mean they worship a different God entirely.

  • Thank you!

  • Bill

    We’re not talking about what other groups believe. That’s irrelevant to the issue. The fact that the Lord Jesus is God is explicit in Wheaton’s doctrinal statement, so let’s talk about that.

    And since orthodox Christians believe that Jesus is God (no matter how you explain it, whether “trinitarian” or otherwise) then Jews and Unitarians and Muslims who do not accept Jesus as Lord and God do in fact worship “another god.” In the words of Jesus, “that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him.”

    How many Muslims, Unitarians or Jews do you see applying to Wheaton because they appreciate the doctrines upheld there?

  • Phil

    Sadly, almost all of the folks here are missing the point. It is not about Christian doctrine. It is about abuse of power by the college. They are violating a standard for all professors of academic freedom. As a former personnel officer, they have created a hostile work environment and are wide open for an EEOC suit.

    And before you ask, I am a professor at a Christian college, a licensed minister and I teach ethics. So to profess inerrancy and try to defend a belief that all others are going to hell is ludicrous at best, theological determinism at worst.

  • Arynne

    The belief of Jews and Muslims that they worship the One God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, are central to what we’re discussing, so they’re hardly irrelevant.

    (By-the-bye, it looks like this whole flap may have been because the professor made a statement that seemed to support human evolution in the same post, but since Wheaton didn’t want to be seen as “anti-science” and lose credibility as a serious college, they chose to target her for something else.)

    For the rest…are you seriously alleging that the God of the Jews and the God of Christians are two different entities? That’s Marcionism, a heresy that was decisively rejected by the church early on, until it resurfaced during the 1920s and ’30s as “Positive Christianity” in…guess what country.

    That the God of Abraham is the God worshiped by Jews, Christians and Muslims has been accepted doctrine for a long time. I wonder what might have caused that to change so recently? *ironic eyebrow*

  • Bill

    No, it’s called faithfulness to the gospel.

  • Arynne

    Pshaw. Centuries of accepting the shared identity of the God of Abraham with God the Father are being discarded due to the current political climate, which encourages hatred and rejection of Muslims. The desire to say “We have nothing in common with *those* people!” is so strong that it’s causing some Christians to embrace an anti-Semitic interpretation of the Gospels in order to make this rejection easier. This is not faithfulness. This is wandering onto dangerous ground. The fact that it violates a core principle of academic freedom is only a further indication of how far astray Wheaton has gone (assuming this isn’t all a feint to disguise the fact they’re mad about the professor mentioning *gasp!* fossils…).

  • Bill

    No one said anything about a lack of “shared identity.” But Jews (and gentiles alike) who rejected Christ were warned that being descendants of Abraham or clinging to the first covenant while rejecting the savior who fulfilled it and inaugurated the second meant doom.

    The Gospel is clear enough. Salvation only through Christ. Take up your argument with God who inspired the New Testament.

    What does “academic freedom” have to do with proclaiming the truth of Scripture.

    The real “danger” is stepping away from that to flow along with modern cultural inclusivism.

  • Arynne

    Actually, you did. You stated quite clearly that any God worshiped by the “monad” traditions is “another god” (I noted the lower-case) from the triune God worshiped by Christians such as yourself. As said previously, this is not an argument about who worships God *correctly*, but whether the same God is a common reference point between all three Abrahamic religions. So yes, you did deny a shared identity.

    This is not a modern “inclusivist” interpretation of Scripture; this has been, as I said, accepted doctrine for centuries.

    Wheaton is an accredited academic institution. Standards of academic freedom most certainly apply. If they no longer wish to be taken seriously as a college, they should stop calling themselves one.

  • Phil

    Bill, thanks for proving my point. Really, Christ wasn’t inclusive? Silly me, the bible I read has this funny story about a Samaritan woman, despised by all, (kinda like a Muslim would be to a Christian) daring to speak to a Jew and him offering her “living water”. The very definition of cultural inclusiveness. I’m sorry, the Christ I love,on a Cross, spread his arms wide and died for ALL. If you are going to live by inerrancy of scripture, you have to accept every jot and tittle. Tetalestai is a Greek word, meaning an event ths happened but all that was is and will be. Christ said it, not net, It is finished. For ALL.

  • Brent Kooi

    Phil, Christ is inclusive in some ways, and extremely exclusive in other ways. He loves all. He offers the gift of grace to all. But He also says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). That’s exclusive. Worshipping a god that does not include Jesus Christ means that is a different god. Wheaton College is an excellent Christian college with a doctrinal statement that requires adherence to worshipping the one triune God. When a faculty member, tenured or not, no longer confesses to believe in that one triune God, or states that others who do not believe in the triune God are worshipping the same God, then they are not in compliance with a core value of the institution.

  • Phil

    Really? The professor did not do anything so awful as say she did not agree with the doctrinal statement. She only supported another person’s faith. I will say it again, this is not about doctrine, it is about power and control.

    As to the excellence of Wheaton, I would suggest to you that if Wheaton is so terrified of the beliefs of others, excellence is not a word you want to use with the name. Try fundamentalist, it fits better.

    I went to an excellent Christian school and teach at another so I do know excellence. Maybe you’ve heard of Baylor University? I watched people like you try to destroy good men like my religion professors and then it happened again at Southern Baptist seminaries. Good men and women, hurt by this same type of behavior.

    So no, if Wheaton acts this way there is no academic excellence. There is only doctrinal inerrancy. Oh, and a good read if the Qur’an wouldn’t hurt you a bit. I know the road of people who think like you, if you will discriminate…

  • Brent Kooi

    Phil, I do know of Baylor. Very solid reputation as well. I’ve worked in Christian higher ed most of my adult life — at mostly great schools, and one not so great (a sister institution of Baylor — SBC affiliated). I think a couple of cautions are needed in our discussion. First, we are not privy to all the facts, and only hear/read what is reported by others. So making a rash judgment of the #1 respected Christian college in the country may be presumptuous. Second, you do not know me. Stating that you’ve watched “people like [me] try to destroy good men . . .” is again presumptuous. Let’s not allow the anonymity of the internet allow us to fall into the trap of rash words. You may comment again if you like, but I don’t believe this is a constructive conversation at this point, so I will likely not reply again.

  • Arynne

    I cannot help but be skeptical about all this sudden ardent devotion to the Trinity (a doctrine which, realistically, is not a day-to-day topic of consideration in most Christians’ lives), to the point where proclaiming a triune God and anathematizing imagined heretics is more important than brotherhood with other followers of the God of Abraham (not to mention fellow human beings enduring persecution).

    Maybe I am a cynic, but I feel that some of the people loudly shouting about God’s triune nature outweighing all other considerations wouldn’t know the Athanasian Creed from Athana International…and they certainly didn’t know or care before the current fuss began.

  • Brent Kooi

    You may be right, Arynne. But that is to the detriment of the Christian church. Matthew 28:19 instructs Christians to “baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” The trinity should be a focus of Christians. Perhaps this discussion will make it more so.

  • Arynne

    Not if arguments about whether there are three Omnipotents or one Omnipotent become more important than God’s promise to Abraham or Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

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