Wheaton College professor: Christians and Muslims worship the same God

A Wheaton College professor has been suspended over a rigorous theological debate of whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/AP
Larycia Hawkins, an associate professor of political science at Wheaton College, a private evangelical school, wears a hijab at a church service in Chicago. The school said Tuesday it has Hawkins placed on administrative leave because of theological statements she made.

If you want to surprise a congregation, tell them to share their understanding of God with each other.

That is how Charles Kimball, an ordained Southern Baptist minister and director of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma, told The Christian Science Monitor he likes to highlight the differences in people's understanding of God, even within the same congregation.

Between adherents of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, beliefs differ much more widely. But some have argued that different faiths may be closely related.

An Evangelical Christian professor has been been placed on leave because, in explaining why she wanted to show solidarity with Muslims by wearing an Islamic headscarf, she wrote that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Her comments have sparked fierce theological debate.

“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book," professor Larycia Hawkins wrote in a Facebook post. "And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God."

Her employer, Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Ill., where faculty commit to a Statement of Faith, disagreed.

"Her recently expressed views, including that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, appear to be in conflict with the College’s Statement of Faith,” administrators wrote in a statement, explaining that her administrative leave would continue while the school explored the matter.

Dr. Hawkins' post may have referred to statements by Pope Francis such as those he gave in an interview with Eugenio Scalfari from La Repubblica, in 2013.

“I believe in God, not in a Catholic God,” the pope told La Repubblica. “There is no Catholic God, there is God."

Such statements are not new to Catholicism. When Pope John Paul II addressed 80,000 Muslims in a soccer stadium in Casablanca in 1985, he said much the same thing, according to Vatican records.

"We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection," he said.

Former President George W. Bush regularly expressed the same sentiment during his presidency to the irritation of Christian leaders such as Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson, who would otherwise agree with him, Rev. Kimball says. 

“I believe the God that the Muslim prays to is the same God that I pray to,” then-President Bush told Al-Arabiya in 2007. “After all, we all came from Abraham.”

The idea goes back centuries. Sixteenth-century theologian Jacob Paleologus argued that as part of the same Semitic family tree, Christians, Jews, and Muslims all shared a basic idea of salvation and ought to share fellowship as well.

"There is in my view no ambiguity at all that Muslims, Christians, and Jews are talking about the same God," Kimball says. "What I have found is that this is more of a device that Christian religious leaders use to drive a wedge between Christians and Jews on the one side and Muslims on the other."

Such debate does not exist within Islam, Kimball says. Muslims have no doubt they worship the same God as Christians because according to Islamic self-understanding, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were all given from God as the same original truth.

The Islamic word for God is Allah, Kimball says, and it is the Arabic word for God used by Arab Christians of all sects as well.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Wheaton College professor: Christians and Muslims worship the same God
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today