Wheaton, Larycia Hawkins agree to part ways

Higher Education | Surprise announcement comes just days before the professor was set to go before a faculty council
by Leigh Jones
Posted 2/06/16, 10:35 pm

Wheaton College and Larycia Hawkins, the political science professor who started a furor over theology and academic freedom after declaring on social media that Christians and Muslims serve the same God, announced tonight they are amicably parting ways.

The surprise announcement came just days before Hawkins was to go before a faculty panel at the evangelical university in Wheaton, Ill., to defend her comments. Several groups of faculty members had voiced support for Hawkins, who maintained throughout the conflict that Wheaton was treating her unfairly and had no reason to question her adherence to the evangelical college’s statement of faith.

Hawkins made her controversial comments in mid-December as part of a campaign to show solidarity with Muslims. She announced she also would wear a hijab, the traditional head covering for Muslim women, during Advent. Wheaton administrators quickly put her on paid leave pending an official review.

Hawkins was a tenured professor who had worked at the school for about nine years.

“I appreciate and have great respect for the Christian liberal arts and the ways that Wheaton College exudes that in its mission, programs, and in the caliber of its employees and students,” Hawkins said in the joint statement issued with her now-former employer.

According to the press release, neither Wheaton nor Hawkins will be providing details of the settlement agreement. But “in pursuit of further public reconciliation,” Hawkins and Wheaton administrators will hold a joint press conference on Wednesday.

“Wheaton College sincerely appreciates Dr. Hawkins’ contributions to this institution over the last nine years,” Wheaton College president Philip Graham Ryken said in the joint statement. “We are grateful for her passionate teaching, scholarship, community service, and mentorship of our students.”

As part of the public reconciliation attempt, Provost Stanton Jones told faculty members he had apologized to Hawkins for the way he handled the situation. Jones recommended in January that the college fire Hawkins, which triggered the formal review process that would eventually have ended with a Board of Trustees vote.

“I asked Dr. Hawkins for her forgiveness for the ways I contributed to the fracture of our relationship, and to the fracture of Dr. Hawkins’ relationship with the College,” Jones wrote in an email to the faculty that was obtained by The Washington Post. He said he had shown a “lack of wisdom and collegiality” in dealing with Hawkins through another colleague, rather than directly.

The situation caused such an uproar on campus that Ryken said he has asked the board to weigh in on the process and the way it was handled.

“Because concerns have been raised about many aspects of this complex situation—including concerns related to academic freedom, due process, the leaking of confidential information, possible violations of faculty governance, and gender and racial discrimination—I have asked the Board of Trustees to conduct a thorough review,” Ryken wrote, according to the Post.

On Friday, slightly more than one-third of the school’s faculty signed a letter asking for Hawkins’ reinstatement. She has previously accused administrators of being on a witch hunt to pander to “platinum donors.”

Leigh Jones

Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the news editor for The World and Everything in It and reports on education for WORLD Digital.

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  • bike rider
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:59 pm

    I understand that Islam denies the deity of Jesus Christ.   As a Christian, I believe in the Trinity.  A careful reading of John 14 and 15 gives this position clarity.   Since God is One and He exists in three persons; Father, Son , and Holy Spirit, how can anyone say that Christians and Muslims worship the same God?    To take God the Son out of the Trinity is to ignore who God truly is.   Bike rider  

  • PaulC
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:59 pm

    Although I personally agree with the comments above about the God of Islam not being the same as the God revealed in the Bible, yet I must admit I am puzzled by what I heard several years ago after 911 at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne.  A missions professor with experience in dealing with outreach to Muslims stated:  He did not know of any converts from Islam to the Christian faith who thought that they were worshiping a different God.  I understood him to mean that they all thought their view of God was deficient, but not that he was a different God.  That is hard for me to swallow, but I am reporting what I heard.  Any one out there with experience that can further explain this?  

  • Stan Shelley
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:59 pm

    The really distressing thing is that one third of Wheaton's faculty do not recognized that Islam strongly denies that Jesus is the Son of God.  Their god clearly is not the God of Christianity.  It looks like they need Al Mohler at Wheaton.

  • Hans's picture
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:59 pm

    Stan and bike rider, you both note correctly that Muslims deny that Jesus was the divine Son of God. Interestingly, so do Jews. Do Jews and Christians worship the same God?

  • RMF
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:59 pm

    It's good that Wheaton wants to preserve its Christian identity and ensure that matters of faith and theology are discussed and advanced consistent with its statements and purpose. Doesn't anybody think that moving to fire someone for writing something on Facebook is taking things too far? The professor didn't make her statements on campus, in class, during a lecture, etc. From what I've seen she said it as a private citizen.

  • Fuzzyface
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:59 pm

    Didn't she go before the board and discuss here theology?  That would make the parting based on her explanations to Wheaton not directly on Facebook post.

  • Lizzy's picture
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:59 pm

    Hans and Pgadfly,The point you're trying to make is valid if you look at a just the Trinity.  But a point could also be made that Jews and Christians worship a God with totally different attributes that the god of Islam.  If you look at what believers in the God of Judaism and Christianity are called to be in relation to God versus what the believers in Allah are called to be it makes it less plausible that it is the same God that is being worshipped.  It isn't just that Muslims don't believe in the Trinity - the god they worship calls them to a totally different relationship with himself and with other people in the world than the one true God does. 

  • JohnCW
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:59 pm

    @Hans - to answer your question - No, they don't worship the same God.

  • Elaine
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:59 pm

    It appears that one third of Wheaton's faculty needs to go when she goes.  Muslims and Jews do NOT worship the God of the Bible because both reject the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the trinitarian nature of the true God.  Jesus made it clear that those who reject Him are from their father, the devil. 

  • Hans's picture
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:59 pm

    So then you folks who hold that Jews do not worship the same God as the Christians would also be in favor of firing anyone who disagreed with that assessment as unfit to teach in an evangelical institution? This entire hubbub only helps further to convince me that academic freedom is dying or dead at most of these conservative Christian colleges. I am not saying one way or the other whether I agree with Ms Hawkins. To me the whole issue here is academic freedom, and it is troubling to say the least that the current posture of many evangelical schools is not one where we embrace the discomfort of engaging intellectually positions we disagree with. Instead, it's ensuring the streamlining of everyone's point of view to match the board in order to ensure that the entire institution becomes a "safe space" for coddled Christian kids who need to be protected from scary ideas that are a little outside their comfort zone. Sound familiar?

  • Nat Manzanita
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:59 pm

    The question is an odd one, I think. As Christians, we believe there is one true and living God. We believe He is incarnate in Jesus Christ and exists eternally in three persons. If we ask whether the Greek Aphrodite and the Roman Venus are the same goddess, we are asking how similar are two imaginary figures. But if we ask whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God, the question is fundamentally different. One of the two figures being considered is the true and living God. If the other is not, he must be an imaginary figure. Is Allah an imaginary figure? Or a distorted view of the living God? I think the answer might vary from one Muslim to another. If God calls a former Muslim to himself in Christ, might that person believe (accurately) that some aspects of his old Islamic practice had elements of true worship, and that God had graciously claimed those elements (like the good deeds of Cornelius in book of Acts) while also leading him on from them to Jesus and to fully acceptable worship?

  • Hans's picture
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:59 pm

    I agree, Nat. One of the things that I find extremely interesting (that is often missed in evangelical readings of Acts) is that when Paul speaks about the "unknown god" in Athens, he is speaking about an actual existing theology and cult. I can't say how many times I have heard evangelical pastors say something along the lines of, "the Greeks had thousands of gods, and they built another altar and ascribed it to the unknown god in case they missed one." That is incorrect. Instead, the unknown god was a kind of theological claim about a higher divine power that would be able to provide an overarching sense of coherence to the polytheistic system. The point is, though, it's an actual theological belief of the pagan worshippers in Athens, not merely a concession to a theological possibility. When Paul says that what was worshipped in secret he now makes known, he is at the very least appropriating an entire theology and terminology and identifying it with the Christian God as revealed in Christ. He is actually making a remarkably syncretistic move, at least on the surface. There are similar stories in Genesis 14 and 21, where the particular members of pagan Canaanite pantheon are identified with YHWH. At the very least, these instances raise some serious questions about how we are to differentiate between "different gods" and "false theology." Of course, there are other passages in Scripture that make a point out of distinguishing between the one true God and the false gods (Elijah and the prophets of Baal come to mind), but this is not the only perspective on this very complex issue represented in Scripture. At the very least, the judgment against Ms Hawkins seems awfully hasty.

  • TexasMcCoyFam
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:59 pm

    I would like to point to a famous library/museum on Wheaton Campus the Marion E. Wade Center of Wheaton College which houses a research collection of 7 British authors including C.S. Lewis. By this standard many are espousing here, C.S. Lewis could not be a professor here and likely not George McDonald, who had similar themes in his stories stating that God knows the heart of the believer and that essentially many who think they may be worshiping God the creator may in fact not be and many who are sincerely seeking him from other world views and perspectives actually are seeking God Almighty and are known by Him. My prayer through this whole situation has been that it be resolved in a winsome way and that in humility all involved acknowledge what they've learned. Doing so will not make God any less God nor Jesus any less Jesus.

  • Pgadfly
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:59 pm

    Here is a simple challenge for evangelicals who are struggling to understand how they and Muslims could possibly worship the same God." Come up with a definition of God that includes G_d in whom non-evangelical orthodox Jews believe but which does not fit the Allah in which Muslims believe." Most evangelicals have no trouble believing that although orthodox jews do not accept such notions as the Trinity or the incarnation of Jesus they do in fact believe in the God that evangelicals worship.

  •  William Peck 1958's picture
    William Peck 1958
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:59 pm

    tenure is ridiculous. Who in the world gets a permanent job (other then tenured professors and Orrin Hatch, John McCain, Elijah Cummings, Barbara Mikulski, etc.).This lady professor is loved by the non-Christians.

  • Laneygirl
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:59 pm

    A professor at a well known Christian college does not know her Bible nor the history of Allah the moon god, but is supported by 1/3 of the faculty who then label the true Christ Followers intolerant.It's time, Bride, to decide whether to please God or please man. (GA 1.10)If you don't stand for something (God's Word), you'll fall for anything (false theology). Instances of this are increasing across the spectrum, with not even our pulpits immune. 

  • JerryM
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:59 pm

    She will no doubt be quickly snatched up by another institution, one which will likely profess to be rescuing her from the "intolerance" of Wheaton.

  • William H
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:59 pm

    She needs to go if for no other reason than her sorry theology.