The ongoing saga of the hijab-wearing Wheaton College professor is not likely to go away anytime soon. Indeed, it seems to be escalating, with various sides becoming polarised on all this. The prof has now been suspended by the Christian liberal arts college for her remarks that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. For background on this, see my original write-up about this story: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2015/12/14/20417/
Wheaton obviously felt the pressure from many concerned Christians and decided this could not go on, so a suspension was announced – not of course for wearing the hijab but for her theologically worrying remarks. That she could equate the god of the Koran with the God of the Bible has many people quite shocked.
Simply put, Islam absolutely rejects the notion that Jesus is the Son of God whereas this is the very heart of biblical Christianity. If the claims of the New Testament are true, then the Koran cannot be. But I have looked at this issue in more detail in earlier articles. See these two especially:
And it is not just the denial of who Jesus is that is so problematic; the very character of God as found in the Bible bears little resemblance to the Koranic deity. As I concluded my first article mentioned above:
In sum, the Muslim must cower in fear before an inscrutable, harsh and remote deity. In Christianity, the believer is invited to run into the outstretched arms, and nail-pierced hands, of a loving saviour. The two could not be more different. So no, Allah is not the God of the Bible, and yes, it does matter how we describe and understand God.
Professor Hawkins appealed to Pope Francis in her original remarks, saying he was quite happy with the claim that we all worship the same God. Well I am certainly not happy with that claim. Sadly others have defended the Pope – not unexpectedly, other Catholics.
One Protestant prolifer who I have long admired for his stance for life converted to Catholicism some years ago, and he too is now supporting the Pope on this. I refer to Francis Beckwith, who I often quote on the life issues. But as a Catholic, he is now bound to agree with the Pope, at least on things spoken ex cathedra.
As a Protestant I of course am not bound to any man, but to the Word of God. And in this case, the Bible – and the Koran – should both be more than sufficient to dispel this unhelpful and even dangerous idea that we worship the same God.
I could take some time here critiquing Beckwith, but others have already jumped into the debate, so let me simply utilise their remarks. Al Mohler had a very good piece on all this, so let me cite some of his recent remarks:
In making her claim that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, the professor claimed the authority of Pope Francis, and since Vatican II the Roman Catholic Church has become ever more explicit in its teaching that salvation can come without a conscious and explicit faith in Christ. This is simply not an option for evangelical Christians committed to the authority of Scripture alone and to the Gospel as defined in the New Testament.
Francis J. Beckwith, a leading Catholic apologist and philosopher, defended the claim that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. At one point, Beckwith argued that two people could have differing knowledge of Thomas Jefferson while knowing the same Thomas Jefferson as the third President of the United States. He continued: “In the same way, Abraham and Moses did not believe that God is a Trinity, but St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Billy Graham do. Does that mean that Augustine, Aquinas, and Graham do not worship the same God as Abraham and Moses? Again, of course not.”
But this line of argument evades the entire structure of promise and fulfillment that links the Old Testament and the New Testament. Abraham and Moses could not have defined the doctrine of the Trinity while they were on earth, but they believed that God would be faithful to all of his promises, and those promises were fulfilled only and fulfilled perfectly in Christ. And, going back to John 8:56-58, Jesus said: “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad … Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
Evangelical Christians understand that, theologically, there is a genetic link between Judaism and Christianity. That is why Christians must always be humbled by the fact that we have been grafted onto the promises first made to Israel. In terms of both history and theology, there is no genetic link between Christianity and Islam. The Qur’an claims that to confess Jesus Christ as the divine Son and the second person of the Trinity is to commit blasphemy against Allah.
Hard times come with hard questions, and our cultural context exerts enormous pressure on Christians to affirm common ground at the expense of theological differences. But the cost of getting this question wrong is the loss of the Gospel. Christians affirm the image of God in every single human being and we must obey Christ as we love all people everywhere as our neighbor. Love of neighbor also demands that we tell our neighbor the truth concerning Christ as the only way to truly know the Father.
We must also understand that the most basic issue is the one Jesus answered with absolute clarity. One cannot deny the Son and truly worship the Father. There is no question that the Muslim is our neighbor, but there is no way to remain faithful to Scripture and the gospel and then claim that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
Yes quite right. The authority of Scripture is at stake here, but more importantly, the very heart of the Christian Gospel. Truth matters, and in the interests of just getting along with people of other faith traditions, we dare not abandon truth for a mushy and harmful ecumenicism.
And if the Wheaton professor is well off track here, sadly too are some rather clueless students at this institution. A photo of some Wheaton students protesting her suspension tells us all we need to know about how dumbed down some Christian students can be.
One held a banner demanding “academic freedom”. Um, earth calling student: yes, academic freedom, properly understood, is important. And the truth claims of Islam or any other non-Christian religion or philosophy would of course be carefully covered at a place like Wheaton.
But that is not the point here of course. The point is a prof who teaches at Wheaton saying things which are simply not true biblically speaking, and which go against the very core beliefs of the institution itself. Indeed, Wheaton had to put out a press release saying this very thing: www.wheaton.edu/Media-Center/Media-Relations/Statements/Wheaton-College-Statement-Regarding-Christian-Engagement-with-Muslim-Neighbors
Another poster really took the cake however: “Articulate love not hate”. Oh puh-leeese! This is the sort of mindless moonbattery we expect angry atheists to produce at a wild demo at say UCLA-Berkeley, or some such hotspot of radicalism. But at a Christian college?
No it is not hate to stand for biblical orthodoxy. No it is not unloving to affirm, even at great cost, the central tenets of Christian faith. No it is not unchristian to stand up for the very centre of New Testament truth. But it is unloving to allow falsehoods to go unchallenged, to allow cluelessness about Islam to go unchecked.
Ignorance of what Islam is really all about harms us all, just as ignorance of what Christianity is all about harms all believers. We must know what our faith teaches, and we must know what Islam teaches. And the two certainly are not compatible.
Indeed, on a related front, this was just sent to me: “The former Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday (17 November) criticised sections of the media for ‘dehumanising’ Islamic State. Instead, journalists should ‘attempt to understand our enemies’, Dr Rowan Williams, now Master of Magdalene College Cambridge, said, giving the 2015 Orwell Lecture at University College London last night.”
Um, here we go again, another clueless Christian leader displaying an appalling ignorance of what Islam is about. He might as well have said last century that we should be more understanding of Hitler, and should stop ‘dehumanising’ the Nazis. This sort of cluelessness only helps those who want to kill us.
The Wheaton prof may have good intentions to ‘show solidarity’ with Muslims. But doing this by mangling Christian truth and undermining basic biblical teaching is not the way to proceed. That in fact makes everything much worse. I hope that Wheaton will stand strong and resist the rather thoughtless critics.
Truth matters, and the gospel matters. We dare not short-change either one.