Larycia Hawkins and Wheaton College

The bridge too far

 

 

December 17, 2015
Dear Dr. Jones,
I address the concerns you identified in your Memo of December 15, 2015.Let me begin by stating that my intent has always been to stand with my Muslim neighbors outof my love for Jesus and the love I believe He has for the rest of the world. It is because of my love for Jesus that I have affirmed wholeheartedly the Wheaton College statement of faith all nine years I have been at the College, and I continue to do so.
With Wheaton College I affirm that:
[I] believe in one sovereign God, eternally existing in three persons: the everlasting Father, Hisonly begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, the giver of life; and [I] believe that God created the Heavens and the earth out of nothing by His spoken word, and for His own glory. [I] believe that Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,was true God and true man, existing in one person and without sin; and [I] believe in the resurrection of the crucified body of our Lord, in His ascension into heaven, and in His present life there for us as Lord of all, High Priest, and Advocate.
Furthermore, in continuity with the historic Creeds of the Church, I also affirm that[I] believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father,Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by the Prophets;And I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.I look for the Resurrection of the dead,And the Life of the age to come,
In your letter you ask me to “clarify how it is that we worship the same God if Muslims cannot affirm that God is the Father of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; or that God the Father is indeed the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; or that the Father did not spare his only begotten Son; or that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit coexist as a Trinity in eternal and self-giving love?”
Of course, to respond in depth to each of these points would requite the production of, at least, a large volume on systematic and comparative theology, which I am certain I cannot deliver by in the span of a few weeks. However, let me address what I take to be the core of your concern, and affirm that it is on the basis of this creedal understanding, and out of my deep conviction and formative affection for historic Christianity that I made my statement(s). This is not, to borrow Timothy George’s expression, “an easygoing ecumenism that would amalgamate all faiths into a homogenized whole,” for that would be both a distortion and a sign of disrespect.
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On the contrary, because I am a deeply committed Christian who stands firm in the historic faith of the Church that I speak with more nuanced confidence of the God whom we all seek in worship.
I am guided by evangelical theologians like Timothy George, John Stackhouse, Scot McKinght,and Miroslav Volf, as well as the post-Vatican II Roman Catholic tradition, as expressed in both encyclical form (e.g. Nostra Aetate 3.1) and Pontifical writings (e.g. John Paul II, “Crossing the Threshold of Hope”).
Wrong:
I think in these two statements alone shows Hawkins is seeking to be some form of
 ‘change agent’, by denying the truth that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is the eternal God, and saying God is somehow the God of Islam, or really anybody who seeks to worship God is worshipping the same God.
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Like them I acknowledge that the statement “we worship the same God” is a simultaneous “yes” and “no” to the question of whether Christians and Muslims (as well as Jews) turn to the same object of worship, namely, the “God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:6).
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 noting 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.”
Wrong:
Simply put, if they deny the Son, then automatically Muslim’s deny the Father, and worship another God. 
 
The Lord Jesus actually said that ‘Abraham saw my day and rejoiced’, so Abraham may have understood that Jesus was from the Father.
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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
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
Wrong: 
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. – 1 Cor 1:10
 
How can the image of God (now tainted ) be referenced in familial terms, as brother and sisters? Only those in Christ can be considered family, and part of this union.
 
The following is from MacLaren Expositions Of Holy Scripture – Ephesians 3.

Consider the Lord’s Supper as a sign that the Church on earth is a family;

The Passover was essentially a family feast, and the Lord’s Supper, which was grafted on it, was plainly meant to be the same. The domestic character of the rite shines clearly out in the precious simplicity of the arrangements in the upper room. When Christ and the twelve sat down there, it was a family meal at which they sat. He was the head of the household; they were members of His family. The early examples of the rite, when the disciples ‘gathered together to break bread,’ obviously preserved the same familiar character, and stand in extraordinary contrast to the splendours of high mass in a Roman Catholic Cathedral. The Church, as a whole, is a household, and the very form of the rite proclaims that ‘we, being many, are one bread.’ The conception of a family brings clearly into view the deepest ground of Christian unity. It is the possession of a common life, just as men are born into an earthly family, not of their own will, nor of their own working, and come without any action of their own into bonds of blood relationship with brothers and sisters. When we become sons of God and are born again, we become brethren of all His children. That which gives us life in Him makes us kindred with all through whose veins flows that same life. It is the common partaking in the one bread which makes us one. The same blood flows in the veins of all the children.

Hence, the only ground on which the Church rests is this common possession of the life of Christ, and that ground makes, and ought to be felt to make, Christian union a far deeper, more blessed, and more imperative bond than can be found in any shallow similarities of aim-or identities of opinion or feeling. The deepest fact of Christian consciousness is the foundation fact of Christian brotherhood; each is nearer to every Christian than to any besides. A very solemn view of Christian duty arises from these thoughts, familiar as they are:

 
Thus to state that all are her brother and sister is quite wrong,
 

Even our Lord said; 35 For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.

 – Mark 3:35 (KJV)

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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 themultiple 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. 
Wrong:
Quote.  “Whether simply memorial, symbolic, or metabolic,the Eucharist is first and foremost “the Lord’s Table”—Christ invites us to His table” Christ does not invite all to the table of the Lord. Hawkins cannot even affirm a biblical view that the communion wine and bread are symbolic and as a memorial. And why is she calling it the eucharist? 
 
Metabolic is  reference to the process your body uses to get or make energy from the food you eat, in other words food for the body? This would be Roman Catholic doctrine! 
She is seeking to sit on the ecumenical fence….
—————————-
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,
Prof. Larycia A Hawkins
Cc: Leah Anderson, Chair, PIRDorothy Chappell, DeanKaren Tucker, Director, Human ResourcesPhilip Ryken, President

Conclusion:

 Hawkins
In closing the old saying ‘A picture says a thousand words’ is pertinent here.
There a number of things here which I am uncomfortable with.
1) — Her name made into a logo with pyramid A and Y and W.
2) –  The campaign is #Same God?
3) – The applause of a woman leader on a point of theology
4) – She was undoubtedly popular with the staff and students which made it more difficult, and was a significant point of contention.
5) – She was no plain jayne, and had a good deal of Charisma to boot. Very dangerous…
6) – In the above photo, the seeming united front of unknown faces around who look more like representatives from the United Nations of religious faiths
7) – Why has she used social media to boost her campaign?
8) – This to me looks like a targeted attack to bring a subtle attack on Wheaton and challenge what they stand for.
9) – This woman may have been sincere in her solidarity with Muslim’s, but as a Christian you cannot stand with them. It was one thing to wear the hajib, it was another to say they worship the same God as Christians.
10) – Her views are not strictly Evangelical, but rather have a tinge of liberal theology.
11) – The Virgin Birth – the terminology of ‘the virgin birth (or Immaculate Conception) –I trust that we can peacefully disagree on theological points – What was that all about?
12) – No Christian should make reference to post-Vatican II Roman Catholic tradition as helpful.
13)  – Hawkins may be termed a New Evangelical, with Ecumenical tendencies.
Unfortunately, it is best she leave the College.
She may been seeking to create a bridge between Muslims and Christians, but it was a bridge too far.