Monday, December 21, 2015

The Hijab-wearing Wheaton College Professor: Why It Matters

Last week Wheaton College Associate Professor of Political Science, Larycia Hawkins, announced that she would wear a hijab — a Muslim headscarf — during the season of Advent.  Controversy ensued in the evangelical world and the professor has since been suspended.

While I am a strong supporter of both the freedom of speech and academic freedom, I applaud Wheaton College's decision.  An academic institution such as Wheaton, if it is to continue to be considered an evangelical Christian school, must be clear about the uniqueness of the Christian faith.  Prof. Hawkins' decision about wearing the hijab and her comments in defense of it raise a number of very serious theological issues

Hawkins made her announcement on her Facebook page, saying her outward gesture — she’ll don the hijab everywhere she goes during Advent — is a demonstration of “human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor.”

Larycia Hawkins (Image source: Facebook)

"I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book.  And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God," Hawkins stated.  "But as I tell my students, theoretical solidarity is not solidarity at all.  Thus, beginning tonight, my solidarity has become embodied solidarity."

“As part of my Advent Worship, I will wear the hijab to work at Wheaton College, to play in Chi-town, in the airport, and on the airplane to my home state that initiated one of the first anti-Sharia laws, and at church,” Hawkins said, adding that she hopes others will join her cause.

Hawkins said she also sought the “advice and blessing” of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to make sure her gesture wouldn’t be “haram (forbidden), patronizing, or otherwise offensive to Muslims.” Well, it was all good with CAIR, she said.

One would hope that even political science professors at Wheaton College, long considered a bastion of evangelical Christian higher education, would have a better understanding of the religious and theological issues involved in such a statement.

The God of the Christian New Testament is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ--the First Person of an eternal Trinity, which consists of one God in three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The eternal Second Person of that Trinity, the Son, became incarnate as Jesus, the Christ, through being conceived in the Virgin Mary by the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.  This same Jesus died as an atonement for sin, rose bodily on the third day and ascended to the right hand of God the Father, from whence he shall come again to judge the living and the dead.

This is the teaching of the New Testament and the witness of the Apostles and Nicene Creeds.  And herein lies the problem: Islam completely and absolutely denies and rejects everything about this description of God.  Consequently, the Allah of Islam and the God of biblical Christianity cannot possibly be the same.

We all too often hear it said that Christians Jews and Muslims are all "people of the book."  People of what book?  Just as the Allah of Islam is not the God confessed by orthodox Christians and Jews, the Koran is totally incompatible with the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.  The Koran mentions Jesus but denies that he is God's Son and that he died and rose again.  Indeed, the Koran denies the cardinal teachings of the New Testament concerning Jesus and corrupts the teaching of the Old Testament concerning Abraham to the extent that the teaching of Islam can only be accurately described as apostasy from the teaching of Judaism and Christianity.

So, no, despite the attempt of some religious leaders to equate "the three Abrahamic faiths" and to say that they are compatible, they are not.  Christian - Muslim relations will not be helped by blurring the distinction between the two religious but rather by being very candid and truthful about the differences.  Wheaton College is taking a very clear and necessary step in that direction.

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