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Larycia Hawkins' Theological Statement Following 'Same God' Controversy

Larycia Hawkins' Theological Statement Following 'Same God' Controversy

On the "yes" side, both Christians and Muslims (as well as Jews) confess that God is One (Deut. 6:4). So, yes, Christians and Muslims (and Jews) affirm fully that "that God is the Father of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" but –borrowing from Stackhouse--"if we insist, as many are insisting in this furore, that God must be understood in terms of the Trinity, with a focus especially on Jesus, or else one really doesn't know God, I respectfully want to ask such Bible believers what they make of Abraham (who is held up as a paradigm of faith in the New Testament) and the list of Old Testament saints (who are held up as paradigms of faith to Christians in Hebrews 11), precisely none of whom can be seriously understood as holding trinitarian views and some proleptic vision of the identity and career of Jesus Christ."

But I also fully understand that on the simultaneous "no" side, as George notes, while "Christians, like Muslims, affirm the oneness of God ... [Christians] understand that oneness not in mathematical terms (as a unit)" but as a tri-Personal, perichoretic unity. I understand that Islam (and Judaism) denies the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit, and leaves no room for the Cross and the Resurrection, but my statement is not a statement on soteriology or trinitarian theology, but one of embodied piety. When I say that "we worship the same God," I am saying what Stackhouse points out, namely that "when pious Muslims pray, they are addressing the One True God, and that God is, simply, God."

Furthermore, it is on the basis of our very statement of faith that "We believe that God directly created Adam and Eve, the historical parents of the entire human race; and that they were created in His own image, distinct from all other living creatures, and in a state of original righteousness," that I am compelled to address all human beings as my "brothers and sisters." For nine years I have signed a statement of faith which avers that all human beings originate from the same parents and bear the unalterable imago Dei – though no specific reference is made in the statement as to the process of that historic, original creation. Yes, when we Christians speak of our unity in and as the body of Christ, of course our unity stems from our identification with Christ. But my statement is not a statement of ecclesiology or baptismal regeneration or identification with Christ. It is simply and clearly a statement on the imago Dei, and a reflection of my African-American cultural heritage. It should not be misconstrued as anything different.

So, yes, when I call "fellow humans who happen to be Muslims [or Jews or atheists] my brothers and sisters" I am standing in full agreement with the Wheaton College statement of faith, identifying each person as an image-bearer of God.

You also ask me to speak of my understanding of the Eucharist. You and I are not in disagreement in our understanding of the Lord's Table. Of course we are both well aware of the multiple understandings of the Eucharist in the Christian tradition. To speak of a singular understanding of the Eucharist (also among Evangelical Protestants) would be overly simplistic and potentially insulting to the variegated traditions represented even at Wheaton College, let alone the breadth of the Christian Tradition. Whether simply memorial, symbolic, or metabolic, the Eucharist is first and foremost "the Lord's Table"—Christ invites us to His table. Yet, it is not singularly an incurvated reflection of one's piety but also an invitation to challenge societal status quo, an overturning of world order (e.g. 1 Cor. 11). As the very invitation to the Lord's Table reminds us: "Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another." The Lord's Table is the very locus and source of reconciliation within the ecclesial community and a persistent invitation to those outside of the ecclesia. This is my understanding, and the lived Eucharistic tradition into which I am fed.

As for the "the terminology of 'the virgin birth (or Immaculate Conception depending on your persuasion),'" perhaps the reduction of the sentence results in the confusion. The complete sentence is: "Whether or not you find this position, one held for centuries by countless Christians (church fathers, saints, and regular Christian folk like me), to be valid, I trust that we can peacefully disagree on theological points and affirm others like the Triune God (albeit there are differences here as well--Athanasian Creed, anyone?), the virgin birth (or Immaculate Conception depending on your persuasion), and the Resurrection." Clearly, what I am attempting is an enumeration of doctrines on which Christians have had long discussions and disagreements over the ages. Yes, I do know and appreciate the (generational) difference between the virgin birth and the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

As I have always maintained in our numerous conversations, in the nine years I have been at Wheaton College I have articulated and also embodied my love and support for the vision and mission of the College and its statement of faith. I want to continue living into reconciliation, manifesting how God's kingdom may be enacted at and through Wheaton College.

I have addressed the core of your concerns and I anticipate your response.

Sincerely,
 Larycia A. Hawkins

Cc: Leah Anderson, Chair, PIR
 Dorothy Chappell, Dean
 Karen Tucker, Director, Human Resources
 Philip Ryken, President

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