This is America, not The United States of Monotheists

I am still trying to wrap my mind around the Christians who are rallying to Dr. Larcyia Hawkins from Wheaton College for her decision to wear a hijab during Advent to show solidarity with Muslims. During Advent? Whatever happened to the integrity of the church calendar!!!! What about the feelings of high church Anglicans? We’re not even supposed to sing Christmas carols before Christmas day, but an Islamic head covering in anticipation of celebrating Christ’s birth? Someone’s feelings are always going to be hurt.

The trouble I’m having is that such shows of solidarity with Muslims come most recently after the shootings in southern California, the shootings in Paris last month, and the Charlie Hebdo killings of over a year ago. And then there is ISIS and ISIL — hello. Are all Muslims guilty of all these circumstances? Of course, not. But why do some evangelicals have such trouble understanding why Americans (not to mention Frenchmen and women) are a tad worried about Islamism and don’t know for the life of them exactly how to tell the difference between a Muslim and an Islamist (especially when some of the Muslims most likely to turn radical are the least observant)? Why also is it so easy for evangelicals to know that Jerry Falwell, Jr. is unworthy of solidarity if he recommends carrying guns when some Muslims actually do carry guns and use them?

The best I can do is come up with two American traits. The first is the American habit of identifying with the underdog. We like to root for the team with a remote chance of winning (except for Roman Catholic converts). Muslims are a small percentage of the American population. That makes them an underdog (though resorting to acts of terrorism does not).

The second trait is tolerance. All Americans, both on the left and right, affirm freedom of religion and speech in some fashion. We have a Bill of Rights and everyone loves liberty. Christians don’t celebrate freedom for gay rights activists and gay rights activists don’t go out of their way to protect the freedoms of cake decorators. Consistency is not the point. America should not exhibit bigotry. We should welcome anyone and not profile on the basis of race, religion, economic status, or place. Profiling on the basis of political party (Hilary identifies Republicans as her enemy) is fine. But no one teaching at an institution of higher learning wants to be confused with Donald Trump.

Still, Dr. Hawkins’ decision about how to observe Advent and the Christian support for her seems to go beyond these basic American ideals. It suggests an identification with the exotic, opposition to bigotry, and displaying one’s own progressive credentials. After all, it’s the Fox News watchers who are worried about Islam. It’s Jerry Falwell, Jr., a fundamentalist, who is seeming guilty of Islamophobia. So the logic seems to go — I’ll run the other way to show that I am not like them. Why showing solidarity with Christians who are afraid of political Islam doesn’t also display love and empathy is not at all obvious.

For Pete Enns, it’s a classic case of inerrancy vs. xenophia:

People are watching, and they haven’t read Wheaton’s statement of faith or the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

They’re just interested in seeing how Christians respond to a global crisis right here at home.

They want to see whether the rumors are true and their suspicions accurate, that Christians are as bigoted and xenophobic as they accuse others of being.

They want to see whether our actions are different from those of any other ideology.

As if not identifying with killers in southern California is bigoted.

Miroslav Volf tries for an analogy between Islam and Judaism, as if to suggest Christians should grant the same breadth to Muslims that they do to Jews:

Why is the Christian response to Muslim denial of the Trinity and the incarnation not the same as the response to similar Jewish denial? Why are many Christians today unable to say that Christians and Muslims worship the same God but understand God in partly different ways?

Well, some Christians don’t think Jewish people and Christians are people of the same faith; they’ve read Paul (for starters).

John Fea, who quotes Volf, wonders if Hawkins is simply trying to say something generic by resorting to theology:

I think Hawkins is trying to say that we all belong to the same family–the human family. And there are times, even in the life of an exclusively Christian college, when those human connections should be acknowledged. And they should be acknowledged, and even celebrated, for Christian reasons–namely the Imago Dei. So I am not sure that someone saying that Muslims and Christians worship the same God is a statement that is necessarily out of bounds at a Christian college, but it must be carefully nuanced and explained.

Fea is on to something, more below, but should theology really function like this precisely when doctrine has historically divided people(even Christians)?

But here’s the thing. While many Christians are trying to distance themselves from xenophobia and bigotry, are they really prepared for the illiberality of Islam? After all, it’s not as if Islam is on the side of liberty, democracy, equal rights, and progress — all the things that those identifying with Muslims would likely affirm in the most whiggish of terms.

Consider, for instance, the current political footprint of Islam in nations where its followers have power. Again, I am not trying to engage in outrage porn. But consider the people who monitor liberal causes and then see if the Christians identifying with Islam are ready for everything involved with that identification.

For example, have these folks considered the significance of wearing a head scarf in Iran?

Women’s rights are severely restricted in Iran, to the point where women are even forbidden from watching men’s sports in stadiums. That ban includes Iran’s national obsession – volleyball.

Human Rights Watch is launching a new campaign, #Watch4Women, to support Iranian women fighting this ugly discrimination. What we’re asking is simple: that the International Volleyball Federation, known as the FIVB, uphold its own rules and agree not to allow Iran to host future tournaments – unless it allows Iranian women to attend. . . .

You see this played out across women’s lives. Women in Iran are forced to wear the hijab, the headscarf worn by some Muslim women, in public. This even applies to young schoolgirls, who are required to wear the head covering to attend elementary school.

Moreover, married women can’t even leave the country without their husband’s permission. In fact, in September the captain of Iran’s female football (soccer) team, Niloufar Ardalan, couldn’t play in an international tournament in Malaysia because her husband forbade her from traveling.

Iran does allow women to play sports, like football and volleyball. But none of these women are allowed to do something as simple as watch men play volleyball, even if their brothers, sons, or husbands are playing. In fact, Ghoncheh Ghavami, 25, a dual Iranian-British national, was arrested when she tried to attend a volleyball game in Tehran. Police are often posted around stadiums, in part to keep women out.

Or what about what’s going on in Saudi Arabia under the rule of an Islamic monarchy?

At last, Saudi Arabia’s dismal human rights record is getting media scrutiny, thanks in part to news that Saudi authorities plan to lash 74-year-old Karl Andree, a British cancer survivor, 350 times for possessing homemade alcohol. Flogging in the kingdom entails a series of strikes with a wooden cane, with blows distributed across the back and legs, normally not breaking the skin but leaving bruises.

This ruling comes after a year of bizarre and cruel punishments meted out by the Saudi judiciary, including the public flogging of liberal blogger Raif Badawi in January and a death sentence for Ali al-Nimr, a Saudi man accused of protest-related activities allegedly committed before he was 18 years old.

Or does identifying with Islam include the anti-blasphemy laws in Islamic Pakistan?

Earlier today, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal of the death penalty conviction of Aasia Bibi, the first woman in Pakistan’s history to be sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Bibi fell afoul of the law in June 2009 following an altercation with fellow farm workers who refused to drink water she had touched, contending it was “unclean” because she was Christian. On November 8, 2009, the Sheikhupura District Court convicted her under Pakistan’s blasphemy law, and ruled that there were “no mitigating circumstances.” In January 2010, a security officer assassinated the governor of Punjab province, Salmaan Taseer, for visiting Bibi in prison and denouncing her conviction.

Do evangelical academics really want to show solidarity with Muslims now? Some journalists even question whether the progressive New York Times should sponsor tours to Iran because of the authoritarian character of the nation’s Islamic government. Do folks like Hawkins, Enns and Wolf read the news? Showing solidarity with Islam now seems as confused as identifying Woodrow Wilson as the most profoundly Christian statesman of the twentieth century at precisely the same time that people at Wilson’s university don’t share that opinion.

Once again, as is so often the case when Christians opine about matters of common interest, the real problem is a confusion of categories. So two-kingdoms theology again to the rescue. What’s wrong with showing solidarity with Muslims a little more narrowly than John Fea proposed? Why can’t we identify with Muslims living in the United States as Americans (or people who want to be citizens)? As such, Christians and Muslims would be people who support freedom of religion, speech, association, as well as laws against murder. The way to do this might be to wear the hijab or (for men) shemagh on Presidents’ Day, July Fourth, the three weeks of March Madness. What does Advent have to do with it? And such an identification allows us to affirm something that we really do have in common — the greatest nation on God’s green earth as opposed to the places of worship that actually keep Muslims and Christians separate.

But if you think that Christian identity goes all the way down, if you fear the dualism of the sacred and secular, if you want religion in the public square, if you think faith must inform your judgments even as you carry out duties as a citizen, then you will have to resort to something like theology to identify with Muslims.

This is all the more reason why recognizing the difference between the secular and sacred realms frees Christians to be Christians rather than having to smuggle it in to do something it was never designed to do — turn Islam into Christianity.

45 thoughts on “This is America, not The United States of Monotheists

  1. Daniel Kirk says Wheaton lost the story:

    Muslims look back to Ishmael as an ancestor of the prophet Mohammed. They worship the God of Abraham .

    Starting with the conclusion, the Trinitarian conclusion of the church, Wheaton gets its knickers in a wad because a tenured professor says “Father, Son, and Spirit is the same God as Allah [which just means “God,” by the way].”

    The administration at Wheaton has forgotten the story. They’ve forgotten that this is a story-bound God we are talking about. They have forgotten that it is the story of Abraham that finds its climactic revelation in the crucified and risen Christ.

    But does Kirk remember the story of San Bernardino?


  2. I agree with Tooley that “Had the suspended Wheaton professor, instead of speaking modern Evangelical talk by insisting Christians and Muslims share the same deity, cited all persons as equal image-bearers of God, she might have avoided considerable controversy.”

    But there seems to be not that much debate when many evangelicals presume that Christians and Jews share the same deity. The common idea is that we do not worship our descriptions of the deity but the deity instead. And thus evangelical rationalism explains that those who deny justification by faith alone are nevertheless justified by faith alone.

    Better yet would be for Christians to remember their exile status as citizens of heaven (waiting for the King to come) and therefore not attempt to claim a double divided citizenship as Americans or even as “humans created in the same image and living on the same planet”. Two kingdom ethics is a compromise for those who thinking “living in the real world with other sinners” means rejecting the political example of the Lord Jesus.

    It is sometimes true that people have a right understanding of something, and nevertheless still disagree with it. People are stubborn that way. (and 2k theory is not gospel)

    Todd Wilkin ( Issues) —“The problem with the Jews was NOT that they rejected Jesus while retaining the worship of the true God (which is impossible). The problem is that they rejected Jesus precisely BECAUSE they reject the true faith of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jesus says to them, If you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me (John 5:46). There is no worship of the true God apart from faith in Jesus. Jews and Christians do not worship the same God. With respect to Jesus, modern day Jews are little different than their New Testament counterparts. They reject him. However, as was also the case in the New Testament, when a Jew is brought to faith in Jesus, he is returned to the faith of the Old (and New) Testament and to worship of the true God.”


  3. I just have to ask what something like this wearing of the hijab is supposed to accomplish. It’s like when conservatives call for a boycott of Disney. Is anyone changing their mind?


  4. And from the Christian side, why do we have to “identify” with Muslims by asserting we worship the same God? Is Christian love not enough to show that we should treat all people with dignity and respect?

    I don’t see Jesus loving his Jewish & Roman executors because they “worship the same God”. This is the liberal manner of tolerance. Tolerance no longer means “we actually believe different things but must learn to live together despite our differences.” It now means that “we must erase all differences (and damn everyone who disagrees) in order to learn to live together.” Dr. Hawkins relegates true Christian love as the error.

    “Love you enemies” doesn’t have to mean they are your enemies, but that those who consider you their enemies are to be objects of love. And loving them doesn’t mean we learn to “identify” with them, it’s clear they don’t like us, and that’s what makes Christian love all the more powerful – that despite the hatred and animosity we continue to show them love. We don’t have to minimize or wipe away our differences to make that possible. Where Dr. Hawkins had an opportunity to show the power of the Christian faith, she showed the utter weakness of the Liberal agenda. Sweeping Christ and Christian love under the rug and exalting relativism.


  5. @Nate
    My thoughts exactly. What about our Hindu, Buddhist, or Atheist colleagues? Are they chopped liver because we don’t worship the same God? And isn’t donning the hijab cultural appropriation and thus a micro-aggression?


  6. Nate, like how bravery morphs into fearlessness instead of pushing through in the midst of fear. Tolerance so manifested is what the old timers called accommodation. And what would we think if Muslims donned crosses to demonstrate tolerance? Like Inigo Montoya, you keep wearing that thing but I do not think it means what you think it means.


  7. Stan Hauerwas—“We recognize that our lives are intelligible only to the extent that we discover we are characters in a narrative we did not create. The recognition of our created status produces not tolerance, but humility. Humility derives not from the presumption that no one knows the truth, but rather is a virtue dependent on our confidence that God’s word is truthful and good. Modern theology has been one ceaseless effort to conform to the canons of intelligibility produced by the economic and intellectual formations characteristic of liberal democracies”.

    SH–I find it puzzling to watch theologians, both conservative and liberal, come to the defense of the human, the rational, objectivity, the “text,” “moral values,” science, and all the other conceits the modern university cherishes in the name of “humanism.” It is as though Christians have forgotten that we also have a stake in atheism…. We do not oppose nuclear weapons because they threaten to destroy “mother earth,” but because the God we serve would not have one life unjustly taken even if such a killing would insure the survival of the human species


  8. Maybe the Professor, being placed on administrative leave, might be encouraged with a travel grant to tour Middle East countries such as Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran to report on the lives of Muslim women living under sharia and then to extend that study to include non Muslim women in these countries – if she can still find any – just to round out her perspective.

    Tough for administrators when such theologically inept persons get through the recruitment process.


  9. “Still, Dr. Hawkins’ decision about how to observe Advent and the Christian support for her seems to go beyond these basic American ideals. It suggests an identification with the exotic, opposition to bigotry, and displaying one’s own progressive credentials.”

    Well, she is of that race who consistently overwhelmingly vote Democrat.

    Nuff said.


  10. Maybe this is what Prof. Hawkins had in mind:

    Which is where, to return to my starting point, evangelicalism and Mormonism seem to make a certain (albeit, again, limited) sense as models for the Islamic future — especially for the many religious Muslims in the West who, while devout and conservative-leaning in their faith, are less austere and absolutist than the Salafists that Wood interviews above.

    An Islam that gradually integrated along something somewhat like evangelical or L.D.S. lines would remain exotic in many ways, it would retain illiberal customs and hierarchies and demands, and it certainly wouldn’t eliminate all hostility and suspicion in the wider culture. But then evangelicals, too, are regarded with a great deal of suspicion by a vocal and influential segment of (mostly secular and liberal) Americans, and Mormons of course reap mockery from secular America and theologically-rooted aspersions from more orthodox Christians. And there’s a clear sense in which any Westernized but still Islamic Islam wouldn’t want to fully eliminate hostility and suspicion, because those would be signs of its vigor, its distinctiveness, its fidelity to something older than America and more demanding than modern spirituality.


  11. It’s easy to point out the sins of others, but more difficult to face our own. After all, we invaded a nation based on false accusations. We use drones to assassinate people whom our leader has convicted as being guilty and where there is no appeals. We support oppressive gov’ts like Saudi Arabia’s or Egypt’s while singling out Iran’s, Lybia, and Syria’s for regime change regardless of the terrorists we will ally ourselves with in changing those governments. And we support Israel’s brutal occupation against the Palestinians. And the problem here is that the above serve as examples of MO. Then when Muslims are targeted for beating or their refugees are told they have no place to stay, we are told that it is wrong to show solidarity with them.


  12. Curt,

    I didn’t invade Iraq; did you? I didn’t support dictators in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, did you? I contributed financially to those things in the same way that I contribute to a druggie’s addition after he robs my house. If anything, I avoided paying taxes as much as possible (not evasion, avoidance), and then I’ve tried to tell everyone that I can that those things that the government is doing are really bad. Of course, the people in government and their military did those things. That you should implicate anyone around here for that crap is disgusting.


  13. I’ma be real interested how lifting the oil export ban impacts the geo-political scenarios in the coming years. We have a chance to cripple Russia, take a big bite out of OPEC get China on the customer list, be the largest exporter of natural gas and otherwise increase our presence in the world apart from military might.


  14. Joel,
    But if you live in the United states, you live in a democracy and that democracy elected people who did invade Iraq. And so as citizens in a democracy, we share a degree of responsibility for what our gov’t does. And to the extent that we don’t use our abilities and opportunities to oppose that invasion, then we are partially responsible for that invasion.

    The same goes with supporting dictators. The gov’t elect supports dictators. So the questions becomes this: What are you doing about that?

    See, if we lived in an oppressive dictatorship, we would be less responsible for the actions of our gov’t. But those of us who live in the US live in a society where we can voice our opposition to our gov’t’s policies through voting, contacting our representatives, protesting, public writing about those policies, and so on. To the degree we bypass those opportunities, we are like what Jonah didn’t want to be, that is a prophet who warned the people of Nineveh about God’s message and coming judgment.


  15. Curt,

    Voters elected people who elected those that invaded Iraq. For the most part, the voters didn’t go to Iraq. I don’t vote, so I don’t even get blame for elections, let alone what the elected authorities do.

    Also, according to your theory, the Jews committed mass suicide in the Holocaust because they lived in a democracy. Do you blame the victims of a government if there was an election beforehand?

    Where does it say in the Bible that people in democracies share the blame for what their elected leaders do because they vote, but those that live under dictatorships don’t? You are just making this stuff up.


  16. dgh- “if jerry falwell junior recommends carrying guns when some Muslims actually do carry guns and use them…”

    John Piper—“Any claim that in a democracy the citizens are the government, and therefore may assume the role of the sword-bearing ruler in Romans 13, is elevating political extrapolation over biblical revelation. When Paul says, “The ruler does not bear the sword in vain” (Romans 13:4), he does not mean that Christians citizens should all carry swords so the enemy doesn’t get any bright ideas…The identification of Christian security with concealed weapons will cause no one to ask a reason for the hope that is in us. They will know perfectly well where our hope is. It’s in our pocket.”

    John Piper—“When Jesus told the apostles to buy a sword, he was not telling them to use it to escape the very thing he promised they should endure to the death. Jesus said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:35–38) I do not think that Jesus meant in verse 36 that his disciples were to henceforth be an armed band of preachers ready to use violence to defend themselves from persecution.

    Jerry Falwell, Jr., said in his clarifying remarks on December 9, It just boggles my mind that anybody would be against what Jesus told his disciples in Luke 22:36. He told them if they had to sell their coat to buy a sword to do it because he knew danger was coming, and he wanted them to defend themselves.

    John Piper—“If that is the correct interpretation of this text, my question is, “Why did none of his disciples in the New Testament ever do that — or commend that?” … Jesus’ abrupt words, at the end of the paragraph, when the disciples produced two swords, were not, “Well, you need to get nine more.” He said, “It is enough!” or “That’s plenty!” This may well signify that the disciples have given a mistaken literal meaning to a figurative intention. Darrell Bock concludes, Two events are commentary on this verse Jesus’ rebuke of the use of a sword against the high priest’s servant (22:49–51) and the church’s nonviolent response to persecution in the Book of Acts (4:25–31; 8:1–3; 9:1–2; 12:1–5).

    But Bock and Piper and Falwell are not the Confession, and not even Reformed. Since they have not signed on to the Confession, they could be paying members of a Reformed church but not presume to teach us anything…


  17. “If someone rapes your wife, offer him your daughter as well.”–The Gospel According to St. Bastard

    There may be something to be said for not defending yourself, but nothing to be said for not defending others.


  18. Almost nobody kills to save themselves. They kill for some cause, for others. The more others, the bigger collective, the greater the violence involved, and the less attention to individual conscience.

    Pacifism would be dangerous to “society”, the status quo. And this includes even “individual pacifism”, in which you don’t kill to defend the church or the gospel (or yourself) but kill only those who threaten to kill others who go to church or others who preach the gospel.

    So it’s better to have a gun than to be “weak in Christ”, because being weak is tempting God. Not having a gun is like jumping off the mountain and Jesus did not do that, and Jesus made sure that those around Him had “enough guns. There’s no antithesis between trusting God and trusting God to help you kill…

    I Peter 1: 21 For you were called to this,
    because Christ also suffered for you,
    leaving you an example,
    so that you should follow in His steps.
    22 He did not commit sin,
    and no deceit was found in His mouth;
    23 when He was reviled,
    He did not revile in return;
    when He was suffering,
    He did not threaten
    but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.

    Since you live in the real world with other sinners like yourself, you cannot and should leave “the government” to God alone, because you also have a duty and obligation to “get involved” because God would rather not use bad nation-states to achieve His purposes. God would rather use good people like yourselves who ‘”form a monotheistic republic of self-governing agents”

    Things have now changed, not the covenant of course, but now two swords are no longer enough, and if you can turn the nation into a Christian empire that would be best.

    What we need is a 2k worldview which balances the very best of “theonomy” but also with individual pluralism so that killing to keep the economy going is not mistaken for the Christian gospel.

    Piper—“being so satisfied with the hope of glory that we are able to love our enemies and not return evil for evil, even as we expect to be wronged in this world.”

    Piper—When Paul says, “The ruler does not bear the sword in vain” (Romans 13:4), he does not mean that Christians citizens should all carry swords so the enemy doesn’t get any bright ideas

    Is Piper saying that the sacred second amendment is only about state militias and not about individuals?


  19. Joel,
    So does not voting excuse you? You could have voted. Furthermore, you could publicly voiced opposition to the invasion. You had these opportunities.

    Do you remember what Eisenhower had his troops do to German citizens who lived near Hitler’s death camps?

    BTW, that Jews committed mass suicide is according to your logic, not mine. But those Germans who either offered no resistance to Hitler or who supported his policies were the ones who were guilty. See, democracy is about more than just voting.


  20. Yes, not voting excuses me. Not voting is not participating in the election of the government people that do these terrible things. You probably voted in the election that Bush won, so if anything, you bear a degree of guilt for whatever a vote is worth in helping to elect Bush. A vote is worth essentially nothing, of course.

    The German Jews were Germans and they probably voted. By your logic, they bear guilt for what their government did. They took part in the Holocaust.

    I don’t try to determine morality from anecdotes about Eisenhower. I hope that you aren’t seriously offering a wartime decision from Eisenhower as a good way to determine Christian morality.

    BTW, you missed my question:
    “Where does it say in the Bible that people in democracies share the blame for what their elected leaders do because they vote, but those that live under dictatorships don’t?”



    Mark Driscoll —“Some emergent types want to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a
    dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a pride fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship a guy I can beat up. Without a big Jesus who has authority and hates sin as revealed in the Bible, we will have less and less Christians,”

    “Take any notion you have of a Big Lebowski-looking Christ who rides the clouds on Falcor the Luck Dragon, handing out puppies and skittles out of Santa’s bottomless gift bag and put that image into the dustbin of your mind. Gird up your loins like a man. Instead, focus on Christ, who is the second person of the Trinity and who transcends in divinity the temporality of his earthly walk, and let us develop a theology of self-defense. Focus on the Christ who suggested his disciples go out and buy a sword on the night of his crucifixion, knowing they would soon be outlaws.”


  22. John Fea responds:

    But if we really believe in the theological commitment to Imago Dei we need to think about the various ways we exercise this belief in public life. Again, it must be done carefully and with an appropriate amount of explanation. In a Christian college this kind of connection with our common humanity should never trump the real and fundamental differences between Christians and Muslims. These differences should be paramount. They mean that a Christian college must draw theological boundaries.

    I appreciate Hart’s secularism. I really do. But a Christian college, as I understand it, occupies a middle ground between the church and public life. It seems like there are times when theology–in this case a belief in Imago Dei– might come to bear on the way the students and staff of a Christian college make sense of public life.

    I respond here because John closed comments:

    I am not sure what worship and theology have to do with public life. Dr. Hawkins claimed that Christians and Muslims worship the same god. Worship services are private and thankfully so because we don’t want magistrates — ahem Church of England — telling the church how to operate or read Scripture. Islam and Christianity having the same god is a theological claim that cannot be resolved in the public square, and for good reason, because — ahem Church of England — we don’t want magistrates telling churches how to theologize or read Scripture.

    So the public aspect of Dr. Hawkins’ claims are entirely beyond me. If she had wanted to affirm Muslims as neighbors or as fellow Americans, great. And she might have been able to do that from her perch in the politics department. But the public realm in the United States has nothing to gain from either liberal or conservative Christians taking their theology of God public. We know how to incorporate believers and non-believers of all kinds.

    We don’t know how to be comfortable with all kinds of people — but who is. Dr. Hawkins wants to say she is comfortable with Muslims. But — get this — she made other people uncomfortable about her theological claims. Wouldn’t it be great if we all loved everybody? Maybe. If that’s what Dr. Hawkins wanted to promote, I suggest getting a children’s television show on PBS. I live in the real world.


  23. D. G. Hart
    Posted December 24, 2015 at 7:10 am | Permalink
    vd, t, saw this and thought of you.

    What a coincidence. Was reading this and thought of you.


  24. Is Jesus Christ both Jewish and Christian (but not Muslim)?

    “To say that Jesus is in more continuity with Christianity than with Second Temple Period Judaism can make many uncomfortable or even angry. Rather than wanting to raise the divide between Judaism and Christianity, Paul Zahl contends that heightened Christology not only places Christianity in the position to be good news to all people, recognizing that Jesus identified the universal human problem (sin) which trumps “gender, race and power”, but also is the honest thing to say about Christianity to the Jewish person.

    If Jesus were only a “good rabbi” then does this not denigrate the 2,000 years of Jewish resistance to him? Zahl asks. In another newly published book, Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine, Yale’s anti-Christian literary critic, Harold Bloom, concludes that “Jesus, with his deep connection to the uncanny Yahweh, can seem like the last real Jew, rather than the first Christian.” Paul Zahl’s book, The First Christian, take the opposite tact.

    Zahl says that the fact that Jesus is Jewish is a given. But Zahl presents questions, such as, is Jesus so much a man of his time that he is indistinguishable from a Second Temple Period rabbi? Especially if that era of Judaism was marked by what Zahl characterizes as “semi-Pelagian” in its soteriology? Paul Zahl contends that Jesus broke radically from the definition of man needing God’s grace plus his own efforts to be saved – that Jesus’ was a more pessimistic view of man who was in fact completely helpless to save himself without God’s grace

    Is Christianity just Judaism for gentiles? Zahl asks. While standing against two-covenant theologies that say Jesus is good for gentiles but unnecessary for Jews, Zahl explores the question of where the continuities and the discontinuities of Jesus and Judaism lie. Zahl stands against the mainstream “liberal” Christian scholarship that writes in the post-Holocaust style which often “is involved in suppressing difference for the sake of unity.”


  25. Make War No More? by D.G. Hart (Always Reformed: Essays in Honor of W. Robert Godfrey)-

    When Machen wrote that liberalism was un-Christian he did so within the context of a church, the PCUSA, which functioned very much like a old boys’ club where accusations of infidelity were not only in bad taste but also constituted a breach of the ninth commandment…

    Machen defended intolerance again but this time linked it directly to the gospel. He declared, To pray for tolerance without careful definition of that of which you are to be tolerant, is just to pray for the breakdown of the Christian religion; for the Christian religion is intolerant to the core. There lies the whole offense of the Cross–and also the whole power of it. Always the gospel would have been received with favor by the world if it had been presented merely as one way of salvation; the offense came because it was presented as the only way, and because it made relentless war upon all other ways.

    … The offense of the cross and the claims of Christ upon the believer made it impossible for the church and the Christian individual to avoid controversy, “Show me a professing Christian of whom all men speak well, and I will show you a man who is probably unfaithful to His Lord”… A Christian who avoids argument,” he argued, “is not the Christianity of the New Testament…”

    “Controversy,” Stonehouse wrote, “lays bare sins and weaknesses which must be deplored and overcome. But controversy is also a necessary feature of the life of the Church of Christ as it wages its battle for the truth.” In fact, “only a dead church” would be without controversy in “days of unbelief and ungodliness, of doctrinal indifferentism and lukewarmness and compromise.” Consequently, disputes within the church, according to Stonehouse, would actually be the basis for encouragement. Folks who do not see the error of their position would, of course, think that controversy with them, at least, was wrong and unnecessary.

    But Machen knew that militancy was not simply part of his heritage at Old Princeton. It was part and parcel of being a follower of Jesus Christ. As he told Westimentster students in 1931,
    I we face the real situation in the church and in the world, and decide, despite that situation, to stand firmly for the gospel of Christ, we shall be very likely indeed to find ourselves engaged in controversy. But if we are going to avoid controversy, we might as well close our Bibles, for the New Testament is a controversial book practically from beginning to end. The New Testament writers and our Lord himself presented truth in sharp contrast with error, and indeed that is the only way in which truth can be presented in any clear and ringing way.


  26. Olson thinks evangelical faculty are up against it?

    The lesson one could, and perhaps should, learn from all this is this: Even if you are a tenured professor at an evangelical Christian institution (and perhaps at any institution) it is in your best interest to rein in your opinions about controversial subjects even if they are really no more worthy of being controversial than your opinions about non-controversial subjects. The bottom line then is, academic freedom is a moving target that depends largely on what subjects are controversial at the moment among the “constituents.”

    Hasn’t he heard of Yale or Princeton or Missouri? (I know, the first two were “founded” as Christian colleges.)


  27. vd, t leaves out Mormons and Muslims:

    But Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all those here gathered anyway, and may we smile today, give thanks, and be inspired in the coming year to perpetuate their silliness…


  28. D. G. Hart
    Posted December 25, 2015 at 2:49 pm | Permalink
    vd, t leaves out Mormons and Muslims:

    But Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all those here gathered anyway, and may we smile today, give thanks, and be inspired in the coming year to perpetuate their silliness…

    It’s all grist for your little mill, eh, Mr. Potter? You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you. 😉

    And Mormons do celebrate Christmas, Dr. History. I didn’t leave them out. As for Muslims, they too are welcome to celebrate the birthday of Jesus, whom they regard as a prophet.

    Have a Merry Christmas, sir. And next time, do your homework.



    Roger Olson— “C S. Lewis more than implied that God will sometimes accept as worship of Him the worship of other gods. The logical import of such a statement is that, in effect, the person was worshiping “the same God” whether they knew it or not. Billy Graham, of course, stated very publicly in a video recorded interview with Robert Schuller, that he did not think only Christians could be saved. (The later back pedaling especially by close relatives of Graham’s is irrelevant to my point. He said what he said and I have heard it.) You can find that interview on Youtube.”


  30. Calvin—But we must also seek to obstruct those who are leading others to perdition, and who seek to distort the truth. Indeed, we must rebuke such people; may all those who are zealous for God declare themselves their mortal enemies. Anything that might hold us back must be cast aside, even if it involves family or friends, or those joined by the closest possible ties in this world. – See more at:


  31. This whole toff confounds me. The statement that allegedly offended the Wheaton administration is a fairly vanilla statement that’s not substantively different from beliefs held by Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, and Billy Graham. In fact, former Wheaton President, Sam Litfin, and current Provost, Stan Jones signed a Christian-Muslim interfaith statement a few years ago that essentially said the same thing (although they elected to remove their signatures after John Piper and Al Mohler complained). So, I find it difficult to sustain the argument that Hawkins’ statement necessarily runs afoul of Wheaton’s Statement of Faith. The stated reasons for dismissal look to be fairly pretextual to me. I’d guess that this tiff arose because it ran afoul of the right-wing populism of certain donors.


  32. Bobby
    Posted December 27, 2015 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    In fact, former Wheaton President, Sam Litfin, and current Provost, Stan Jones signed a Christian-Muslim interfaith statement a few years ago that essentially said the same thing (although they elected to remove their signatures after John Piper and Al Mohler complained). So, I find it difficult to sustain the argument that Hawkins’ statement necessarily runs afoul of Wheaton’s Statement of Faith.

    I think your own evidence sustains the argument. [FTR, I think this comes in under Acts 17:22-31. But…]

    The stated reasons for dismissal look to be fairly pretextual to me. I’d guess that this tiff arose because it ran afoul of the right-wing populism of certain donors.

    Oh, I reckon you’re right it’s about the left-wing faculty sticking a thumb in the eye of the right-wing administration, all right. They did the same thing over the Obamacare/contraception flap.

    Hillsdale and Wheaton are a few of the last ones left.

    O’Sullivan’s Law states that any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time. The law is named after British journalist John O’Sullivan.

    Television shows are the best examples of this. 24, House. Charitable foundations are worse but harder to see.

    One of the reasons for this is leftist intolerance versus right-wing tolerance. Right wingers are willing to hire openly left-wing employees in the interest of fairness. Left-wingers, utterly intolerant, will not allow a non-Liberal near them, and will harass them at every opportunity. The result over time is that conservative enterprises are infiltrated by leftists but leftist enterprises remain the same or get worse.

    Also, leftism is in and of itself a form of decay. It’s what happens not just to television shows but to nations, churches and universities as the energy given off by the big bang of their inception slowly ebbs away. Rather than expend vitality in originality and creation they become obsessed with introspection, popularity and lethargy. Leftism is entropy of the spirit and intellect.

    Another reason is that the parasitic nature of Liberals/Leftists attracts them to existing money.

    An enterprise can stave off O’Sullivan’s Law if their creators keep it in mind and remain vigilant and truthful.
    O’Sullivan’s Law hit 24 when they finally had a Muslim villain then started running disclaimers that Muslims aren’t all terrorists.

    The Annenberg Foundation was started by a Republican but it didn’t take long before O’Sullivan’s Law had them handing a domestic terrorist money for educating kids.

    The ACLU, the Ford Foundation and the Episcopal Church all fell to O’Sullivan’s Law.


  33. Bobby, think more moisturize less. Peter Leithart is not a right-wing Wheaton donor:

    Muslims and Christians indeed share certain beliefs, and it is, of course, possible to believe different things about the same person. “I believe in the Miroslav Volf who teaches at Yale,” says one. “Oh no, I admire the Miroslav Volf who wrote Exclusion and Embrace,” says another. “Idiots,” says a third. “They’re the same man.”

    Yet the common beliefs of Muslims and Christians don’t go very deep. At every point, the two diverge. Both say, God is one; but Christians will say that the one God’s oneness is a triunity. Both say, God created the world; but Christians will say that God created through His eternal Word and Spirit.

    Volf says that Trinity and incarnation are “fundamental Christian convictions,” but, however fundamental, they don’t identify the living God in distinction from other beings who claim to be God. Volf’s position virtually excludes the possibility of idolatry. The same logic can hold everywhere: “Baal is an idol, and so is Molech,” says an ancient Israelite prophet. “No, no. Baal worshipers worship Yahweh; we just understand Him differently.” Can Volf say of anyone what Paul says of the pagans of his day: “The things the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons, and not to God” (1 Corinthians 10:20)?

    For Volf, one can understand God as not-Trinity and not-incarnate and yet be talking about the same God that Christians are talking about. Volf is not saying that denials of the Trinity are true; he’s not agnostic about his Christian convictions. But he does say that Muslim denials of Christian beliefs have the same referent as Christian affirmations. We’re talking about the same being, only differently: About the living God, Muslims say, He has no Son; about the same living God, Christians say, Oh, yes He does.

    It’s, of course, possible to have false beliefs about a person and still believe in and encounter and even worship that person. This is the sort of analogy presented by Francis Beckwith: “Imagine that Fred believes that the evidence is convincing that Thomas Jefferson (TJ) sired several children with his slave Sally Hemings (SH), and thus Fred believes that TJ has the property of ‘being a father to several of SHs children.’ On the other hand, suppose Bob does not find the evidence convincing and thus believes that TJ does not have the property of ‘being a father to several of SHs children.’ Would it follow from this that Fred and Bob do not believe that the Third President of the United States was the same man? Of course not.” He concludes, “one may have incomplete knowledge or hold a false belief about another person – whether human or divine – does not mean that someone who has better or truer knowledge about that person is not thinking about the same person.”

    Correct, but this isn’t the sort of difference that exists between Muslim and Christian theologies. Christians say that God has an eternal Son; the Qur’an denies it, vehemently. Christians confess that God sent His Son to become incarnate and live a full human life; Muslims deny it. Christians confess that the God-man died on a Roman cross for the sins of the world; Muslims deny it.

    The precise analogy is this: Bob believes in a Thomas Jefferson who was not from Virginia, had no hand in writing the Declaration of Independence, never heard if Monticello, was not the Third President; Fred believes in a Thomas Jefferson who was did all these things. As the false beliefs and misrepresentations pile up, we have to wonder if Bob hasn’t confused Thomas Jefferson with a pretender.

    Beckwith makes an explicit appeal to classical theism as a core set of convictions shared by Muslims and Christians. But he implicitly treats God as a member of a class of beings, since his argument assumes there is a difference between God’s being God and God’s being this particular God. That is, the argument assumes a difference between God’s essence and His existence. That is a denial, not an affirmation, of classical theism.

    The justification for Wheaton’s position is finally an evangelical one: The gospel events are the events by which Christians identify the God we worship, the God who is the God of the gospel. In the New Testament, “God” just means “Father, Son, and Spirit” or “the Father of Jesus who raised Him from the dead.” Those who disbelieve the gospel are talking about some other being than this. As Paul puts it in a Christological revision of the Shema, “For us, there is one God, and one Lord Jesus Christ.”


  34. The creepy Israeli magistrate (who rules over the lesser magistrates in the us congress) does not permit Christians to evangelize Jews. But I don’t think it’s because he thinks Christians are in the same covenant with the same God.

    II Corinthians 3: 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read A VEIL LIES OVER THEIR HEARTS


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