A Wheaton College professor who was suspended last week for asserting that Muslims and Christians worship the same God argued Monday that her claim has been affirmed by the church for centuries and also affirmed by other Evangelical scholars.
After Wheaton political science professor Larycia Hawkins posted on her Facebook Dec. 10 that she was going to wear a hijab throughout the Advent to show solidarity with Muslims, adding, "we worship the same God," the school placed the tenured professor on paid administrative leave on Dec. 15 as her comments appear to have violated the Evangelical institution's statement of faith.
Hawkins addressed her Facebook post in an interview with Chicago's public television WTTW on Monday in which she proclaimed that her post was in not a "theological treatise" and was really meant to be just a call for solidarity.
"[T]he notion of the religious aspects of my statement being controversial, it wasn't a theological treatise, it was simply a Facebook post inviting people into a bigger narrative about embodied solidarity with Muslims, who are currently being maligned and mistreated for their religious devotion," Hawkins stated.
As she explained that her post was not meant to be a theological statement, Hawkins was asked to clarify whether or not she believes Muslims and Christians worship the same God.
"Yes, albeit differently," Hawkins replied. "In no way did I make a moral equivalency between Jesus and Muhammad and Islam and Christianity. That would be offensive to my Muslim friends and it would be offensive to my Christian friends to pretend that the religions are the same or they are not different, either in practice or theology."
Hawkins was also asked to clarify whether or not she feels that her same-God remark violates Wheaton's statement of faith.
"Absolutely not," Hawkins responded. "What I said in my post has been affirmed by the Christian church for centuries and is affirmed by many Evangelicals, prominent Evangelicals, that have even spoken on Wheaton's campus [and] Yale theologian Miroslav Volf."
Hawkins continued by explaining that even Wheaton College trustee, Timothy George, who is also the dean of the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, wrote on the subject of whether "the God of Muhammad" is the "father of Jesus" and concluded that the answer could be yes and no.
"One sits on Wheaton's board, Timothy George," Hawkins said. "[He] has written a book talking about the differences but also the similarities between Islam and Christianity, especially in terms of the historical roots."
The institution has asked Hawkins to issue a theological reconciliation statement to the claims she made in her initial facebook post on Dec. 10 and her rejoinder Facebook post from Dec. 13, where she defended her "same-God" comment.
"The kind of relationship that I have with the administration is one of wanting to be reconciled to the institution, back in the classroom with my students," Hawkins stated. "Both sides have really sought, through this process, to demonstrate the kind of love and respect that you expect from Christians."
Even though Hawkins did not indicate whether she would issue the reconciliation statement that the school has requested, she added that she believes she has the authority to interpret religion for herself, rather than follow a strict set of institutional beliefs.
"I'm a political scientist who believes firmly in the First Amendment. The first freedom of the Bill of Rights is freedom of religion — freedom to practice or not practice religion, freedom for and from, and also freedom against people interpreting things that I say," Hawkins said. "Evangelicals believe in something called the priesthood of the believer, as do most all Protestants. This was an essential tenet of Martin Luther — the idea that it is not only the Church who interprets Scripture but God gives us the Holy Spirit to interpret the Scripture. Nothing that Wheaton cited in the statement that you read do I deny."