The evangelical higher education institution Wheaton College has suspended tenured political science professor Larycia Hawkins after she asserted in a Facebook post last week that Muslims and Christians "worship the same God."
The post in question came last Thursday when Hawkins, who has taught at the Wheaton, Illinois institution since 2007, announced on her Facebook page that she was going to wear a hijab throughout the Advent to show solidarity with Muslims.
"I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God," Hawkins wrote.
Hawkins has received much backlash for her "same God" comment from other Christians on social media and on Tuesday, the school released a statement saying that Hawkins was being placed on administrative leave pending a review of the "theological implications" behind her comments.
"In response to significant questions regarding the theological implications of statements that Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Larycia Hawkins has made about the relationship of Christianity to Islam, Wheaton College has placed her on administrative leave, pending the full review to which she is entitled as a tenured faculty member," the statement from the Illinois institution reads.
"Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution's faith foundations with integrity, compassion and theological clarity," the statement adds. "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."
After receiving much criticism for her comment, Hawkins issued a follow up statement on her Facebook page on Sunday defending her remark. In her post, she linked to a Huffington Post op-ed by Yale theologian Miroslav Volf that states that many Arab Christians have worshipped a God named Allah for centuries and adds that many Christians have long believed that "Muslims worship the same God that they do."
"Whether or not you find this position, one held for centuries by countless Christians (church fathers, saints, and regular Christian folk like), 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," Hawkins wrote. "Let there be unity in our diversity of views about all of the above."
She also linked to a Christianity Today interview with Volf on the subject of Christians and Muslims worshiping the same God.
"[A]ll 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," Volf said. "The referent is the same. The description of God is partly different."
Also on Sunday, Hawkins tweeted: "A holy kiss to you who disavow the idea that Muslims & Christians worship the same God: I love you. Peace & respect."
In a Monday interview with CP, Hawkins clarified that she didn't intend to liken Jesus Christ with the Prophet Muhammad.
"There is pushback on the idea that we worship the same god but taking that a step farther to assume that I am conflating Jesus and Muhammad, the prophet. That is where the pushback has come primarily," Hawkins told CP. "I am not making any kind of equivalency between two religions and the prophet Muhammad and the prophet Jesus, that is not what I said but that, people have taken."
Hawkins could not be reached for additional comment by press time Wednesday morning.
Wheaton president Philip Ryken reiterated that Hawkins was not being suspended over her decision to wear a hijab to work and class but rather the theological assertions of her statement.
"The College has no stated position on the wearing of headscarves as a gesture of care and concern for those in Muslim or other religious communities that may face discrimination or persecution," Ryken said. "We support the protection of all Americans including the right to the free exercise of religion, as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States."