The evangelical flagship, Wheaton College, has issued a statement affirming that "salvation is through Christ alone," following the assertion by some of its faculty that Muslims and Christians "worship the same God." The college also promised to initiate discussions on campus about appropriate ways to reach out to the Muslim community.
"Some recent faculty statements have generated confusion about complex theological matters, and could be interpreted as failing to reflect the distinctively Christian theological identity of Wheaton College," the college statement read. "We will be in dialogue with our faculty, staff and students in the days ahead to explore how best to articulate our love for our Muslim neighbors in ways that are consistent with our distinctive theological convictions."
I am grateful that the college will address this issue with faculty, staff and students. However, I fear that Wheaton's solution is not commensurate with the seriousness of faculty publicly advocating grave theological error. The college's statement comes after political science professor Larycia Hawkins announced on Facebook Thursday that she will be wearing a hijab for Advent to show solidarity with her Muslim neighbors.
"I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims," Hawkins wrote, "because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God."
At least two Wheaton College professors commented on Hawkins' post, expressing support for her statement and gesture.
New Testament Professor Gene Green wrote, "Whom did Jesus identify with and stand with? Those whom the rest rejected. Thanks, L."
Similarly, communications Professor Michael Stauffer wrote, "Absolutely! You go girl!"
Also on Thursday, a group of Wheaton College staff and students visited the Islamic Center of Wheaton to deliver flowers and a letter of apology for statements made by Jerry Falwell, Jr., chancellor of Liberty University. In the wake of the San Bernardino shooting, Falwell encouraged the student body to arm themselves saying, "I've always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed them."
The letter of apology that the group delivered to the Islamic Center was written on official Wheaton College stationary, and was posted to the Islamic Center of Wheaton's Facebook page. In the letter, Tiffany Eberle Kriner, associate professor of English, wrote, "Please accept these flowers as a token of our grief at Jerry Falwell's actions, our repentance for the ways in which evangelicals have abused Muslims, and our desire to be better friends, whose shared love of the one God may make them able BETTER to converse than to oppose one another."
I would agree that these statements certainly have "generated confusion." But, beyond that, they have expressed profound theological error.
Muslims deny the Trinity and do not believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Anyone confused about these basic facts should listen to a debate I moderated between Nabeel Qureshi of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and Muslim Imam Shabir Ally. The debate addressed "What is God Really Like: Tawhid or Trinity?" and left zero doubt that Muslims and Christians worship two distinctly different gods.
I appreciate Wheaton's efforts to address the error its faculty expressed, but I wonder if the college needs to do more? Scripture is clear that those who teach should be held to a higher standard.
James 3:1 says, "Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly."
Christian college professors carry an especially weighty responsibility. They are molding the minds of future church leaders and impacting young Christians during some of their most formative years. The erroneous views expressed by these Wheaton professors are simply inexcusable. Rather than merely prompting a discussion, perhaps the college should be considering dismissals — or at the very least, public retractions?
Christians must reach out in love to those who don't know Christ. But, if we forsake the distinctiveness of the gospel, we are merely expressing sentimentality, not love — and doing more harm than good. Muslims don't merely need to know that we love them. They need to know that the God of heaven loves them — in fact, he loves them so much that he became a man and died for their sins. Also, Christian students need to be inspired to share the gospel, not to pervert it to satisfy the politically-correct consciences of misguided professors.
In addition, political science professors like Professor Hawkins need to be careful about the organizations they promote. In her Facebook post, Professor Hawkins said she sought the "advice and blessing" of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, to ensure that donning a hijab wouldn't be perceived as "patronizing, or otherwise offensive to Muslims."
Certainly, Professor Hawkins realizes that CAIR is considered by many, including the United Arab Emirates, to be a terrorist group with ties to Hamas, another a terrorist group. Over the years, CAIR has declared its support for Hamas, donated money to Hamas front groups and received money from Hamas front groups, as well. Also, several CAIR board and staff members have been found guilty of terrorism.
Is this really the group Professor Hawkins should be consulting?
Perhaps instead, she should have consulted some Jewish families, who have suffered at the hands of Hamas. Or, perhaps Professors Hawkins and Kriner, and the rest of the group that visited the Islamic Center of Wheaton, should have consulted the families of the victims of the San Bernardino massacre.
Incidentally, conspicuously absent from the Islamic Center of Wheaton's Facebook page and website is any expression of regret or condemnation for that latest act of terror. Certainly, Jerry Falwell Jr.'s statements were offensive and unhelpful. But, they pale in comparison to the slaughter of innocents both domestically and around the world at the hands of Islamic militants.
So, as believers, let's commit to communicating both truth and love — especially those who act as gatekeepers for communities of young, impressionable believers. And, let's remember that the great commission is a command to disciple all the nations not in the name of Allah, but in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.