I have intentionally not commented on the uproar currently swirling around Wheaton College.  Probably most of you are at least vaguely aware of the heart-wrenching controversy that has been unfolding since Wheaton faculty member Dr. Larycia Hawkins made statements interpreted by some as effectively equating Christianity and Islam.

My purpose now is not to defend either Dr. Hawkins or the Wheaton College administration.  Frankly, I don’t think I know nearly enough to speak confidently about the matter (and I am mystified by the cacophony of voices from across the country who claim to know exactly what’s going on and why).

What I do know is that I love Wheaton College, and I grieve for both Dr. Hawkins and for our president and provost, all of whom have been subjected to vicious abuse online and in print.  The faculty met this morning to pray that God would bring a glorious resolution to this crisis, and I would love for you to join with us.  We are fallen individuals laboring in a fallen institution and acutely aware of our need for God’s wisdom and grace.

In closing, let me recommend a recent piece by Bethel University’s Chris Gehrz who tries to think about the controversy in a broad historical context.  Even more than Professor Gehrz’s thoughtful assessment, I was impressed by his even-handedness and touched by his closing exhortation.  “Please try to show grace and empathy towards fellow evangelicals,” Gehrz urges.

. . . While I continue to think that Hawkins is being treated unfairly and unwisely by at least some of Wheaton’s administrators, I want to trust that what they’ve done is motivated not by anti-Muslim bigotry but by their commitment to take theology seriously, understanding that what we believe has implications for what we do.

Conversely, I hope that those who fervently support Wheaton in this matter are willing to entertain the possibility that Hawkins is being entirely truthful when she describes herself as an evangelical and professes her continuing affection for Wheaton and her commitment to the project of Christian higher ed. (As are those of us who support her.)

Grace and peace to you all.


6 responses to “A REQUEST FOR PRAYER

  1. Pingback: 2016: That Was The Year That Was – The Pietist Schoolman

  2. Gary Lubenow '80

    I want to address the ’cause’ that the Wheaton admins are considering, not the wisdom or diplomacy they may have excersized in the process. If Dr Hawkins had expressed solidarity with Muslims because “we are all made in the image of God”, there would have been no offense. But I cannot help believing that she intentionally chose her words to flatten the severe theological divide between Christianity and Islam. Saying we worship the same God suggests our differences are merely intramural, and saying that we are both “people of the book” suggests we read the same book.

    A helpful but an imperfect analogy is to ask, were Ptolemy and Copernicus studying and describing the same solar system? In important respects, we say ‘Yes’, because there is only one relevant solar system, and the objects they both ‘saw’ were in the most rudimentary sense identical—both could chart their perceptions on a parchment identically. But how they understood the three dimensional models the chart implied was thoroughly different, and were incompatible. Any astronaut planning a trip to Mars would say it made a difference which model they adopted. It is not unreasonable to suppose that a spiritual traveler might also consider the theological model just as critical to the success of their trip.

    Islam can be largely interpreted as a Christian heresy, a reversion to Arab traditions melded with Arian christology. It’s main theological distinctives are it’s radical denials of Calcedonian christology and theology and revisions of Christian scripture. As such, it is hard to see how Dr Hawkins could explicitly base her solidarity with fellow humans on those very features that have caused the historical division without concluding that the purpose was to minimize the importance of those differences. Unless Dr Hawkins rethinks her position, not of solidarity, but of the basis for that solidarity, she is not in the spirit of Wheaton’s mission.

  3. Stand with Hawkins, Tracy. She deserves your support.

  4. Pingback: Why Wheaton Matters – and Why I Need to Move On – The Pietist Schoolman

  5. Thank you Dr. McKenzie, I admit, I do not know all details concerning the matter between Dr. Hawkins and Wheaton’s Admin.. I have never attended Wheaton College, however, I do know that Wheaton College has taken theology seriously since its birth. And, Wheaton has had excellent theologians teaching there throughout the years. It seems that Wheaton hopes to keep that reputation. I join you all in prayer, that God makes something good of this for Dr. Hawkins and Wheaton College.

  6. Maria Tatham, a gentle iconoclast

    Dr. McKenzie, I will try to remember.
    Fight the good fight!

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