Why This Won't End Well For Wheaton

If Bill Smith thinks Michelle Higgins’ endorsement of Black Lives Matter at Urbana won’t end well for the PCA, imagine what will happen when the BLM folks figure out that a black professor may be about to lose her job at a white-dominated college. An African-American tenured professor!!!! HELLO! And students at Princeton think they need to be worried about “safe” spaces.

And if that happens, it is really too bad. I was almost persuaded by Dr. Hawkins’ theological explanation of her remarks. I am convinced that she is trying in thoughtful ways to maintain the College’s standards. When she said, “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,” I was encouraged. She seemed to be ready to recognize the particularity of Christianity and the uniqueness of Christ.

But then she added, “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.'”

Well, what about a piety that embodies soteriology or the Trinity? How can you have a Christian devotion that only embodies the first article of the Nicene Creed?

Hawkins continued by trying to justify her remarks on the basis of the doctrine of creation: “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.

Why can’t the distinction between creation and redemption (think 2k) supply the way out here? Why can’t Hawkins recognize the unity of the human race in the ex nihilo creation of the world by the only living and true God? Why isn’t that enough to affirm the worth of Muslims? Why not even appeal to the status of Muslims as citizens of the United States?

But as is so often the case with those who don’t distinguish between the temporal and eternal, the affirmations of unity based on creational norms lose momentum for accomplishing something truly noteworthy. Hawkins wants to seem to say this unity with Muslims goes somewhere special, so the sphere of redemption comes to the rescue. But that is precisely the area — in Christ — where Christian unity excludes Muslims. The former worship on Sunday in a church. The latter on Friday in a mosque.

Why can’t they simply get along on all the other days? Hawkins is right to resist letting redemption separate Muslims and Christians in creation. What she doesn’t seem to recognize is that the unity of creation can’t make up for the antithesis that Christ introduced:

34“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matt 10)

No matter what Black Lives Matter finds out about Hawkins, Christ’s words don’t encourage me to think this will end well.


14 thoughts on “Why This Won't End Well For Wheaton

  1. I hate the phrase ‘teachable moment”, but in this case it applies. Wheaton didn’t have to react so quickly, or immediately escalate this to a firing. I hope this whole situation doesn’t become more racially tinged than it already is. But Wheaton has such a high profile that it is a tempting target and lots of folks will pile on, including the race hustlers.


  2. “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! Christianity 101 again fails to be understood by so-called Christians (and it’s occurring more and more). This is what happens when you believe in God but don’t believe God.


  3. dgh—-“right to resist letting redemption separate Muslims and Christians in creation. ”

    Why assume the creation is the basis for human ethics? Why suggest that the law given to Adam (don’t eat of that one tree) is the same as the Ten commandments? Why suggest that the exodus and redemption from Egypt are the basis for ethics in this present new covenant age? Perhaps the answer comes in seeing how even Christians flee to the Ten Commandments and away from the commands of Christ or the imitation of Christ. Yes, Jesus Christ, but why should we “hear ye Him” about the law or ethics except for the two times on Sunday?


    David Van Drunen–“The Sermon is not an individual code of conduct but the way of life of a kingdom, of a community. The Mosaic law was not an individual code of conduct but could be practiced only in the context of the community of theocratic Israel, and thus too the commands of Jesus can be carried out only in the context of participation in this new and unique heavenly kingdom.”

    David Van Drunen—Crucial for understanding 5:38–42 is Jesus’ programmatic statement in 5:17 that introduces his subsequent commands: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” A common reading of this verse in my own Reformed tradition is that Jesus is about to clarify the Mosaic law in response to Pharisaical corruption of Moses. While this reading has the virtue of guarding against denigration of the Mosaic law, it is not an adequate interpretation of Jesus’ words.

    DVD–A general difficulty with this reading is that it fails to reckon with the radical, eschatological newness of the coming of Jesus and his kingdom so emphasized in the preceding texts in Matthew considered above. Matthew 5:17 itself reinforces this sense of eschatological newness. The first use of the key Synoptic phrase, “I have come,” for example, hints at Jesus’ heavenly origin (and hence his authority to say what he is saying) and indicates that Jesus is about to reveal a central purpose of his ministry.

    DVD– In addition, Jesus’ denial that he has come to abolish the law or the prophets indirectly offers further evidence of the spectacular newness of the kingdom of heaven: apparently what has transpired thus far in Matthew’s story has given some people the impression that Jesus has come to abolish something in the OT. The way in which Jesus’ commands unfold in 5:21–48 is ultimately incompatible with reading them as clarification of the Mosaic law over against corrupt Jewish interpretation. For one thing, all six of Jesus’ “You have heard” statements either quote or paraphrase the actual teaching of the Mosaic law, not contemporary Jewish interpretation of it.

    DVD: ” Jesus presents his exhortations in comparison with those of the Mosaic law itself. Second, however much the first two antitheses are amenable to the view that Jesus is purifying the interpretation of the law, the last four antitheses cannot reasonably bear such a reading. Jesus does show the inward demands of the prohibition of murder and adultery in the first two antitheses, but whereas the Mosaic law prescribed procedures for divorce, oath-taking, just retaliation, and destruction of enemies, Jesus proscribes these very actions. To say, for example, that what Moses really intended by writing “keep your oaths” was that the Israelites should not swear at all strains the imagination. Jesus’ statement about divorce in 5:31–32, furthermore, cannot be an elaboration of the OT law since it presumes that the death penalty is not applied against adulterers.”


  4. Since a college is not a church, why would “eucharistic diversity” matter? Nobody from the Salvation Army can be on the faculty?

    Matt T—-“I worry, however, that we are often all too willing to assume that the hard parts of the New Testament’s ethic – the parts about being willing to suffer, to share our possessions, and to serve – must necessarily be translated so as to be amenable to contexts in which we are comfortable resisting evil, growing our wealth, advancing our ambitions, and preserving our rights. I also think that Christians have consistently underestimated the moral and spiritual compromises entailed in USING POWER JUST LIKE THE WORLD DOES..

    Matt T—“There is much in the history of Christendom of which we should be critical. To give just one example, why were the early Reformed, including Calvin, so willing to defend the use of the sword to punish heretics? Did they not find it too easy to abandon the example of Jesus and the early church in favor of Israel, at least on this issue? ” http://www.reformation21.org/articles/conformity-to-jesus-as-the-paradigm-for-christian-ethics-3.php


  5. BLM, at least it’s an ethos:

    There are undoubtedly aspects of the Black Lives Matter movement with which Urbana disagrees. Indeed, the phrase itself was coined in 2013 by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, two of whom are queer women of color, though Urbana and its hosting organizations have traditionally taken a more conservative stance on gender and LGBTQ issues. Urbana has also found itself reiterating its pro-life position on abortion in the wake of Higgins’s address. Nevertheless, there are a range of perspectives within the Black Lives Matter movement itself, and Urbana15’s example demonstrates how Christians, like Jesus, sometimes have to take risks to be in community with one another.

    Urbana15 reminded its participants that we worship a Christ born into a working-class, brown, Middle Eastern family that fled state-sanctioned violence to become refugees in another country. Throughout the conference, they pressed forward in this sentiment as they affirmed the many cultures represented in the Body of Christ. Worship director Erna Hackett repeatedly encouraged participants to recognize the history of oppression and marginalization that some of these cultures have faced, and to listen deeply to their stories to build understanding and solidarity.

    As Christians we cannot call for reconciliation without unapologetically declaring that the lives we seek to be unified with matter deeply, both to us and to Christ. Therefore, declaring Black lives matter, loudly and publicly, represents an important and deeply meaningful moment at Urbana15.

    Black lives matter. Let the Church say Amen.


  6. Evangelicals and Romanists together, Arminians and evangelical Universalists together.

    Mark Galli—Is there a better way? We think so, especially when the college’s statement of faith does not specifically address the issue at hand.



  7. January 18, 2011

    Duane Litfin, president of Wheaton College, in Illinois, and two other school officials have removed their names from a letter that called for cooperation with Muslims.
    The open letter, drafted by Yale Divinity School’s Center for Faith and Culture, was originally published with 130 signatories in The New York Times in November 2007 in response to a letter from more than 100 Muslim leaders

    Litfin said that after prompting from some evangelical critics, he restudied the document and decided that he did not agree with its language seeking forgiveness for Christian sins against Muslims. He also thought discussions of “our common love for God” might be misunderstood.
    “The statement was not carefully enough crafted to avoid encouraging that basic premise of civil religion; that is, that we are all worshipping the same God,” he said. “As a matter of principle over the years, I have made it a point to avoid becoming complicit in this cultural premise, denying as it does the unique claims of Christ.”



  8. Nobody has been burned at the stake yet. And the wind is blowing in the right direction now.

    Marilynne Robinson –Hus was forbidden to preach, so he left Prague and traveled around the countryside, preaching in Czech. He was summoned to the Council of Constance to defend himself against the charge of heresy. He told his judges there that he could not recant any teaching of his that could not be proved wrong on the basis of Scripture. Though he had come to the council on a safe conduct, he was imprisoned, then burned, together with his books, in 1415., a century before Luther posted his theses



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