Friday, December 18, 2015

You Cannot Have One Without The Other

The religious news world is all abuzz over the suspension of a professor at Wheaton College, a professed Christian college that features the words "For Christ and His Kingdom" at the top of their webpage, due to some comments she has recently made. A lot of people say the professor, Larycia Alaine Hawkins, was suspended for announcing that she would wear a hijab to show "solidarity" with Muslims. Many reports had something like "Wheaton Professor Suspended For Wearing A Hijab" even though that wasn't true. Wheaton published a statement denying that and giving the real reason she was suspended:
Contrary to some media reports, social media activity and subsequent public perception, Dr. Hawkins’ administrative leave resulted from theological statements that seemed inconsistent with Wheaton College’s doctrinal convictions, and is in no way related to her race, gender or commitment to wear a hijab during Advent.
What was the statement that got her in trouble? This is it as reported by Christianity Today...
“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she wrote in a Facebook post on December 10. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”
Set aside the idea of a professor at an evangelical college turning the pope as back-up for her position.That entire statement sounds just lovely but it is categorically false. The dividing line between Christianity and all other religions is Jesus Christ and our confession that He is the Son of God, the only Begotten of the Father and is one of the members of the Triune God, making Jesus Himself God incarnate. There are plenty of statements in the Bible that someone who is a professor at a Christian college should be familiar with that confirm this but one stands out in particular for its simplicity and forcefulness:
No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 1 John 2:23
It is pretty hard to worm your way around that statement. If you have Jesus as the Son, you have the Father. If you don't confess Jesus as the Son, you cannot have the Father. In other words you can't have part of God, just the Father part minus the Jesus part. God the Father and God the Son are indivisible. No one can claim to be a Christian that denies Christ and no one who is a Christian can recognize as legitimate a view of God that doesn't include Christ.

Muslims deny that Jesus is God, relegating Him to a prophetic role. Jews deny that He is God. Mormons deny Him via polytheism. Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, on and on. Every other religious system in the world denies Jesus, denies His godhood, denies His cross and resurrection. This is basic theology 101.

Of course many people who claim to be Christians are charging to her defense, the better to show how committed they are to pluralism and tolerance and religious liberty. I am all in favor of religious liberty. Ms. Hawkins is free to believe what she wants, say what she wants about her beliefs, wear a hijab or even a burkha if that makes her feel better. The problem is that she is an employee of Wheaton College and what she said is heretical or ignorant or both. Regardless it is not the sort of teaching one would expect from an authority on campus at a school dedicated to Christ and by someone who is required by her employment agreement to conform to Wheaton's statement of faith. I presume most parents who send their kid to Wheaton and shell out the approximately $32,950 in tuition a year are not looking to have a teacher tell their children that the God of the Bible is Allah and that you can deny the Son and still worship the Father.

Unfortunately a lot of people don't seem to understand the problem. One well known writer who is put forth as a Christian authority is Rod Dreher who writes at The American Conservative among other places. Rod is known most recently for his proposal, the "Benedict Option", calling for a somewhat vague idea of Christians concerning themselves mostly with preserving knowledge and culture for some future time. Rod writes concerning this controversy in an article titled: Muslim God, Christian God. In it he says he has never even considered whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God:
To be honest, I’ve never thought at all about whether Muslims pray to the same God as Christians. The Catholic Church teaches that they do, and that was my belief when I was a Catholic, though I never gave it a minute’s thought. I don’t know what I believe now, to be honest.
That still floors me every time I read it. I can understand a new Christian not really getting down in the weeds about this issue but for someone who is a public thinker and is considered to be something of an authority and intellectual I can't believe he has never even thought about this. Of course by way of explanation he points out that the Catholic church says we worship the same god as Muslims so that is good enuff for him. That statements tells us a lot more about Catholicism than it does about Rod Dreher. Thankfully Albert Mohler has written a response that makes a remarkable contrast to Dreher's confused commentary.
Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God. Christians worship the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and no other god. We know the Father through the Son, and it is solely through Christ’s atonement for sin that salvation has come. Salvation comes to those who confess with their lips that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in their hearts that God has raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9). The New Testament leaves no margin for misunderstanding. To deny the Son is to deny the Father.
To deny the Son is to deny the Father. If you deny Jesus Christ you automatically deny God the Father. You cannot have the one without the other. Mohler continues with a broader statement that is critical to hear in this day and age:
Hard times come with hard questions, and our cultural context exerts enormous pressure on Christians to affirm common ground at the expense of theological differences. But the cost of getting this question wrong is the loss of the Gospel. Christians affirm the image of God in every single human being and we must obey Christ as we love all people everywhere as our neighbor. Love of neighbor also demands that we tell our neighbor the truth concerning Christ as the only way to truly know the Father.
Amen to that. An awful lot of people can't even deal with the easy questions, much less the hard ones. Be clear about who Jesus Christ is and speak clearly about Him to others. Don't give in to the temptation to file down the sharp edges of the faith for the sake of getting along.

Parents of current and prospective future Wheaton students need to watch very carefully to see what the school does. Will they stand fast on the historic faith or will they try to sneak this one through for the sake of academic respectability? This is a question that the church needs to know the answer to. Who do you say that I am is still the question that distinguishes us from the rest of the world.


Aussie John said...


Makes one wonder where her credentials came from.

Excellent article!

Aussie John said...

You might find this interesting: