Wheaton College, an evangelical seminary and liberal arts college in Wheaton, Illinois, has just put political science associate professor Dr. Larycia Hawkins on administrative leave pending a review of her statements on Facebook.
Earlier this week, Hawkins generated media attention when she asked her social media followers to join her in wearing a hijab during advent in support of Muslims. According to Charisma News, Hawkins requested others:
“‘[join her in] Advent worship’ by wearing a hijab to stand in solidarity with Muslim brothers and sisters.”
She added that she had even contacted the Council for American-Islamic Relations to receive permission to wear a Hijab.
Hawkins’s statement immediately caused a flurry of concern mostly from Christians.
The controversy is in some ways similar to an incident that happened in the early church. In Acts 16:3, we read how the Apostle Paul was taking Timothy with him on a mission trip and actually had him get circumcised.
Timothy’s father was a Greek and a reference to his mother teaching him the sacred writings (Old Testament) in 2 Timothy 3:15, suggests Timothy’s mother was Jewish.
It is generally conceded that Timothy was circumcised so he could effectively minister to the Jews living in the area. Paul explains this when writing to the Corinthians:
20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. (1 Corinthians 9:20 NASV)
However, when Judaizers pressured Titus to get circumcised Paul voiced his opposition (Galatians 2:3-5). While Timothy was circumcised to further the Gospel, the Judaizers believed to become a Christian you had to first become a Jew. And Paul vehemently opposed circumcision on those grounds.
In her first post, Hawkins seemed to have crossed this line by referring to Muslims as brothers and sisters who Christians needed to stand with.
But when Christians began to respond negatively to Hawkins’s post, she then referred them to a an article on Huffington Post that stated Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
It was Hawkins’s second post that caused Wheaton to suspend Hawkins pending a review, as the college requires teachers and workers to follow its statement of faith.
Commenting on Dr. Hawkins’s statement, Franklin Graham, son of American evangelist Billy Graham, said:
“She [Hawkins] said that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Well she is absolutely wrong–she obviously doesn’t know her Bible and doesn’t know Islam.”
Franklin’s parents, Billy and Ruth Graham, both graduated from Wheaton in 1943.
Wheaton College is consistently acknowledged as one of the top colleges in the US. Forbes Magazine included Wheaton in its list of the top 100 American colleges and universities and US News and World Report ranked Wheaton as 57th in its list of top post secondary schools.
Wheaton was started in 1860 by evangelical Christians opposed to slavery. During the 19th century, the college was one of the safe house stops in the underground railway helping slaved African-Americans flee the south to Northern states and Canada.