January 28, 2016

Tor and the Trinity

by Jesse Johnson

Wheaton College Professor Larycia Hawkins, in yellow, stands next to the Rev. Jesse Jackson as she prepares to speak during a Chicago news conference earlier this month.

It started with a hijab during Advent, and ends with a foundational lesson in the Trinity.

Larycia Hawkins, a professor of Politics and International Relations at Wheaton, decided to wear a hijab to her classes. She explained on Facebook that she did this as part of her “advent worship” in order to demonstrate that she:

“Stand[s] 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.”

In addition to her strange identification of Christians as “people of the book” (which is an Islamic category), her expression of solidarity with Muslims was poorly timed, to say the least.

For many Middle Eastern Christians, the hijab represents the brutal oppression of women by Muslims. Moreover, in much of Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and Libya, this was the first Christmas season in 2000 years without Christians to celebrate it. Islamic terrorists (who require women to wear a hijab by law) have essentially eliminated churches through much of the Middle East. So from the comfort and safety of Illinois, an American Professor publically showed “solidarity” with those who are slaughtering Christians by wearing a symbol of Islamic female suppression.  


Sarah Pulliam Bailey has a helpful summary of what happened next, but the gist is this:

Wheaton was unpersuaded by Hawkins’ appeal to Papal authority—the good news is that apparently there are some evangelicals that remain Protestant—and the administration responded by asking her what, exactly, she meant by saying that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

Hawkins essentially declined to elaborate, saying “I don’t want to be subjected to a theological inquisition.” Instead she held a press conference where—and somethings you can’t make up—she was flanked by Jesse Jackson as well as a handful of liberal, female, clergy.

Wheaton then moved to terminate her employment, which required notification to the Illinois Department of Education. But a few weeks later, Wheaton’s faculty revolted and their faculty council unanimously (!) voted to oppose her termination.

Where does that leave Wheaton? Well, Wheaton’s president is Phil Ryken, former pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church. In fact, Ryken came to Tenth Pres when James Montgomery Boice was the pastor, and before him was Donald Grey Barnhouse. In other words, Ryken understands that Christians worship a triune God—a concept that Muslims find blasphemous.

Ryken now has to figure out how Wheaton managed to get to the point where the Trinity has to be re-litigated, and where his faculty council unanimously objects to him terminating someone who does not find it essential to understanding God.

For those of us without a connection to Wheaton, what are we to make of this? Here are three theological take-aways from the Stertorious showdown:

  1. Catholics do indeed say that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

The Second Vatican Council declared that Muslims profess “to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God.” Later: “Muslims worship God, who is one, the Creator of heaven and earth,” and said that the “Muslim religion” is “deserving of our admiration for all that is good and true in the worship of God.”

So when Hawkins said that Catholics teach that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, she is correct. When they declare that Muslims share the same faith as Abraham, it is helpful for Protestants to remember that our divide with Catholics is over this exact issue. Their understanding of Abraham’s faith is skewed, and so of course they would see a connection to the faith of Muslims.

  1. If you don’t worship Jesus, you don’t worship Yahweh

Jesus himself said that to know the Father is to know Jesus, and that if you don’t worship Jesus, you are in fact guilty of rejecting the Father as well (John 8:19, 28, 10:15, 38, 12:50, 14:7-10, 20, 31, 17:25).

In other words, before the coming of Christ, there were those who worshiped Yahweh who did not yet know about the Messiah. But ever since Jesus came to earth, that group of people has ceased to exist. Now, anyone who says that they know the creator God, but does not know Jesus, is deceived. Or, to say it positively, anyone who knows the God of Abraham also knows the God-man, Jesus.

This is precisely why Jesus told the Jewish religious leaders that they did not, in fact, know God:

“You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (John 8:19).

And if Jesus said that the Jews don’t worship the same God as Christians, then certainly Muslims do not either.

  1. The Trinity is a big deal

Christians are obviously mono-theistic. But our God is, by his very nature, different than the God of Islam. Yahweh is a savior by nature (Isaiah 45:21; Hos 13:4). Our God became a man. Our God is knowable (Exodus 6:7), and he is knowable in the person of Jesus, as revealed by the Holy Scriptures (not “the book”).

Both the revelation of Jesus, and the revelation about Jesus in Scripture speak of the triune nature of God. He reveals himself in his son, and he testifies of himself by his Spirit. Wheaton’s own statement of faith puts it this way:

“WE BELIEVE in one sovereign God, eternally existing in three persons: the everlasting Father, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, the giver of life; and we believe that God created the Heavens and the earth out of nothing by His spoken word, and for His own glory.”

In other words, we know the Father because of the Son, and we know the Son because of the Spirit. The three are One God, and thus if you reject one of the trinity, you reject them all.

This is foundational to Christianity, and it remains to be seen what will happen at Wheaton if this becomes negotiable.

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • Janet Webb

    Yes, it will be interesting to see how Wheaton “gets around this.” It sounds as if the entire faculty needs a serious reintroduction to Christian foundational truth. Thank you for the information/clarification about how Catholics view the Muslim god (i.e., the same as the Christian God). I’m not sure I was aware of that. In fact, when I first read about Pope Francis saying what he did about Muslims & Christians worshiping the same God (in Hawkins’ quote), my first thought was that the Pope was just being big-hearted about the issue and she’d read it wrong.

    • Thanks for the comment Janet. What she attributed to Francis is pretty much standard RCC teaching since the Second Vatican Council. In terms of catholcisim though, thats obviously still pretty new!

    • Amy

      As an alum of Wheaton, Janet, I strongly agree with you, but only in terms of, perhaps, a handful of professors. (I am referring to your comment about a reintroduction to Christian foundational truth.) I had excellent professors in the 1980s. Dr. Hawkins must have said the “right words” in order to be hired.

      At Wheaton, the administration not only requires that professors teach; they require them to be mentors to the students. Professors lives are looked at much more closely than at other schools. It is a shame that this professor is a poor mentor in terms of helping students to respect the authority of her bosses, and more importantly, model and teach the students that the Triune God of the Bible is the one and only God.

      2 Peter 2:1 “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also
      be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive
      heresies, even denying the Master who bought them….,”

  • Mike B

    Thanks for the article, well said. What do you think Wheaton did wrong to get themselves in this situation? What can they do now to rectify it? What do you think the steps are that a Christian school/university should be taking to ensure these types of things don’t happen to them as well?

    • I don’t know, but this combined with the fall out over the SSA issue/Matthew Vines/Rosaria Butterfield and all that, it sort of gives the impression that the students are running the school. I’m not sure how Dr. Ryken reigns that back in.
      I can say that at Master’s College, the professors are all involved in like-minded churches, and students seem to share a passion for the mission of the school. There is a sense of fellowship around the truth there, rather than controversy.

    • Linda Rice

      Richard Mayhue at The Master’s Seminary wrote several years ago about the importance of hiring only those professors who are in total agreement with the central doctrines of the seminary. (He said it more precisely.) If one is off even a little, it sets a trajectory that down the road will be way off the standard. As fans of the seminary, we were very glad to read that. Watching The Master’s College, we’ve been encouraged at the efforts they take to maintain the same principle. When a prof left awhile back, hiring a new one took a long time. The rest were willing to shoulder the extra load rather than compromise just to get restaffed. So thankful for these institutions!

  • Renat Ilyasov

    “In other words, before the coming of Christ, there were those who worshiped Yahweh who did not yet know about the Messiah”. – God’s elect people have been always saved through faith in the Messiah, Seed of the Woman, Seed of Abraham, Son of David, Son of Man, the Branch, etc. Jesus says: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad”. (Jn.8:56). Abraham looked to the day of Christ. Moses “esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward” (He.11:26). Moses wrote about Christ: Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: *for he wrote of me*. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words ? (Jn.5:45-47). Obviously, Moses knew something about the Messiah of whom he wrote in his Pentateuch. Isaiah, the evangelical prophet saw Christ’s glory: “These things said Esaias, when he saw HIS GLORY, and spake of him. (Jn.12:41). All prophets as many as have spoken spoke and wrote about Christ and how he should suffer: And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: (Lk.24:43-45) And since there is only ONE FAITH (Eph. 4:5), that one faith in substance was common to all of God’s elect throughout His redemptive history. Hence, those who truly worshiped the LORD under the OT, did it in faith in the coming Seed / Lamb of God Who taketh away the sins of the world. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (He.13:8)

    • 4Commencefiring4

      Those are some very good and interesting observations. They wouldn’t have known the personal name of Jesus, but they knew more than just “God.”

    • Great comment Renat. Its true that ever since the fall, to have faith in Yahweh is to have faith in the seed who would be the redeemer.

  • 4Commencefiring4

    A clever word-parsing lawyer might claim, upon close examination of Catholic teaching on Islam (that is it is “deserving of our admiration for all that is good and true in the worship of God”) that evangelicals should agree because those words do not technically endorse anything except what they teach that is “good and true” about the worship of God. In other words, essentially nothing. (So I move for dismissal of all charges, your honor.)

    Similarly, what is “good and true” in the practices of African spiritualists and cults about the worship of God–whether it’s very little or quite a lot–is “deserving of admiration”, for what that’s worth. We could also say the Nazis were “deserving of admiration” for their efficiency and commitment to a goal. But that would hardly constitute approval of Nazism.

    As for their rebellious professors, Wheaton should to take after Eli Wallach’s character, Tuco, in “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” who dispatched his rival while soaking in the bathtub: “When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.”

    • True. Check out the link though (in blue in that paragraph). It takes you to a collection of the statements in 2nd Vatican Council on Islam. Not all of those are so easily parsed.

      • 4Commencefiring4

        Here’s one statement they should have dropped:

        “The sacred Council now pleads with all to forget the past [i.e., disputes with Muslims]…”

        Tell that to the Muslims. They hold grudges a long time.

  • Dan Phillips
    • More like the mascot at Wheaton.

        • Nancy Tyler

          Thank you! I was wondering that too. I was reading through all the Tor references in Wikipedia trying to make a connection and my brain at 6:30am was not making sense of any of them. 🙂

      • Dan Phillips

        Tor Johnson is the mascot at Wheaton?

        Well… cool!


        • Jeff Schlottmann

          Two of my favorite mst3000 movies involved ol tor

      • Amy

        I am a 1989 Wheaton alum. When I was a student, the school mascot was the Crusader. (Not very creative for a Christian school.) They changed the mascot to “Thunder” several years ago (“Wheaton Thunder”). The symbol of “Thunder” is a bolt of lighting; that bolt of lightning is the mascot. “Tor” means “Thunder”. https://www.google.com/search?q=wheaton+college+mascot&client=ubuntu&hs=3Br&channel=fs&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjq7IakmM_KAhVKQSYKHbZtD4oQsAQIRQ&biw=1221&bih=929#imgrc=K6BHiyr7a7osaM%3A

        The picture with the fake Mastadon comes from an actual Mastadon that is one campus (dead corpse). It is on display in one of the science buildings. Perry Mastdon is a endearing being/object to the College. http://www.wheaton.edu/community/perry

        I have not been involved with Wheaton College for 10 years, when I was a coach there. I am not sure of how they are combining Perry Mastadon with Thunder. A picture of Thunder seems like it would be difficult to carry around. It is also not very personal.

        For the record, I stand with the administration and the leadership of Wheaton College. Unless Dr. Hawkins clearly states that Allah is not the same God as the Triune God of the Bible, she needs to leave Wheaton College.

        I find it interesting that, when something like this happens at Wheaton College, it makes national news. It has happened at secular colleges (being fired over FB posts), but those stories of professor’s dismissals never make the news.

        • 4Commencefiring4

          Perhaps what needs to happen is the students themselves should rise up and demand her ouster, just as they are doing at secular schools lately when they hear something from professors they don’t like. It might be taking a page from the wrong crowd, but I’ll bet the press would sit up and take more notice.

          The PC thing to say in this instance is that the administration is being discriminatory, judgmental, and bigoted to demand her resignation simply for expressing her view or exercising her free speech rights. Yet if a professor at UCLA said, for instance, that they believed black lives didn’t matter any more than anyone else’s, they’d be tossed out on their ear in a New York minute.

  • Jason

    Peter and John’s question in Acts 4:19 cuts to the heart of the problem in my mind. The faculty likely don’t all agree with the statements Hawkins made, but they knew the world would be watching and, when push comes to shove, they weren’t going to let the administration “make them look bad” when word got out.

  • John Azar

    “”Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat;”
    ‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:31‬ ‭NASB‬‬, How true this statement made by our Lord Himself still applies today!
    I wonder if this professor at Wheaton & her colleagues are just dangerously ignorant in both Islam & Christianity, which is definitely not an excuse, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, ” ‭‭Hosea‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NASB‬‬, or simply like all the Jesse Jackson’s of the world, unashamedly, “A people who continually provoke Me to My face, Offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on bricks;” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭65:3‬ ‭NASB‬‬

  • Still Waters

    It was a bit disturbing to read that link and see how far the Catholic Church seems willing to compromise when speaking to a Muslim audience. The Pope had some wonderful opportunities to testify to the salvation of Jesus Christ and dropped nearly every opportunity. As much as I question the Pope’s position, he nevertheless wields considerable political influence and could have spoke much more decisively to encourage Christians within Muslim countries.

    There is some necessity of clearing up a confusion which I perceive does exist within the Christian community. That is, that although Muslims cannot worship the same God, due to their rejection of Jesus Christ, that does not mean their name for God is the problem. After all, when Jesus told the Jews they did not worship God, it wasn’t their name for Yahweh which was the problem. When I worked in a Muslim country, the local language’s name for God was clearly derived from the Arabic word; nevertheless, it was the language’s only word for a supreme creator, and thus we used it. It was a starting point for the explanation of the Gospel. After all, we in the English-speaking West use a word, God, which is derived from Germanic pagan origins, and before anyone says that only proves that we should use just Yahweh, recall that the New Testament was written in Greek, and it uses theos, which was also used by the Grecian pagans to refer to their gods. It isn’t the word Allah which is the problem – in fact, there is evidence that Arab Christians (since there were Arabic Christians long before Muhammad was even born) used the word before Muhammad expropriated it, in much the same way the Mormons took the English Christian word, God.

  • Larry Moneypenny

    Get rid of the facility council it seems to be corrupt.

  • Liz Thatcher

    I am so thankful to have graduated from The Master’s College, as more and more turmoil from large Christian schools continues to come out.

  • Scott Christensen

    You have to wonder what Ryken is thinking in all of this. Imagine if he tried to take on the role that Mohler did at Southern Seminary. Given our present volatile cultural climate I doubt he’d get very far before being hung on the highest gallows on campus.

    • Barbara

      I’m pretty sure Dr. Mohler at times thought he might meet the same fate. But the Word does not return void, it will accomplish what our Lord sends it out to accomplish, and it seems this may be a sort of a “dare not shrink back” sort of moment for those such as Dr. Ryken. Certainly prayer support seems to be in order.

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  • tovlogos

    Good timing and relevant.
    “In other words, we know the Father because of the Son, and we know the Son because of the Spirit. The three are One God, and thus if you reject one of the trinity, you reject them all.” And John 14:9.
    It should be as simple as that.

    “This is foundational to Christianity, and it remains to be seen what will happen at Wheaton if this becomes negotiable.”
    With all the wisdom the Lord gives us we can safely extrapolate, especially in view of the abyss into which this country is sinking.

  • Jack

    Professor Hawkins attitude and actions with regard to her privileged position at Wheaton College make it difficult to envision her continued contributions at the school. She has separated herself by opposing the mission of the school and undermined her fellow faculty and her students. Instead of engaging the school community, she has sought public recognition and created a media campaign.

  • Michael

    Good words, Jesse…thanks!

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  • Jane

    Wheaton’s website says this about their statement of faith:

    “The doctrinal statement of Wheaton College, reaffirmed annually by its
    Board of Trustees, faculty, and staff, provides a summary of biblical
    doctrine that is consonant with evangelical Christianity. The statement
    accordingly reaffirms salient features of the historic Christian creeds,
    thereby identifying the College not only with the Scriptures but also
    with the reformers and the evangelical movement of recent years. The
    statement also defines the biblical perspective which informs a Wheaton
    education. These doctrines of the church cast light on the study of
    nature and man, as well as on man’s culture.”

    am quite sure that when you are hired at Wheaton you are made quite
    aware of the statement and since it is reaffirmed ANNUALLY by the
    faculty I should think that any faculty that support not firing the good
    professor do not adhere to, nor likely BELIEVE, the statement and
    should themselves be dismissed since they have clearly LIED when
    affirming the statement. I would not doubt the faculty is asked to sign a
    statement when hired affirming their agreement with said statement and
    since their current actions place their beliefs in contradiction to
    their affirmation that breach should be sufficient grounds for dismissal
    of all of them.

    If Ryken does not follow the path blazed by Al
    Mohler Wheaton as well as Dr. Ryken can be written off as nothing more
    than those who prefer pleasing men to pleasing God.

  • Dan Trabue

    That is, that although Muslims cannot worship the same God, due to their rejection of Jesus Christ, that does not mean their name for God is the problem.

    1. There is either God or not god, fair enough?

    That is, there are no gods that are not God, right? (I’m not talking here about idols or false ‘gods’ like money, power, wood statues, etc, but actual gods – my point is that there is only one, which is traditional Christian teaching).

    2. Muslims believe in a creator God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Moses, as described in the Bible. Thus, they are speaking of The God when they speak of God, fair enough?

    3. Now, it is possible (actual, I would say as a Christian believer in God) that they misunderstand God, that they don’t understand the nature of Jesus’ relationship as God’s Son, that they don’t agree with evangelicals about theories of atonement, etc, but they are still speaking of a Creator, all-powerful God, THE God… they just do so from a place of error on many points, many of us would believe.

    Is that fair?

    4. But being mistaken about some part of Christian beliefs or about God’s nature is not the same as believing in “another god,” it’s just being mistaken about The God’s nature.

    5. Thus, there is no mistake that I can see in the professor’s claim. We do worship GOD, all who worship God, but that isn’t to say that we all have a right or even the same understanding of God. But being mistaken about God’s nature does not equate, linguistically, at least, to worshiping a different god.

    Where am I mistaken?
    Dan Trabue

    • Dan Trabue

      Consider, for instance, Paul’s sermon in Athens to the religious worshipers there…

      Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.

      The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God…

      Paul did not say they were worshiping false gods or wrong gods, he just pointed to their “uknown God” and proceeded to give what we might call a more complete understanding of this God they worshiped.

      Or consider Paul’s meeting with John’s disciples in Acts 19…

      It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

      Again, Paul did not say or need to say they were worshiping a different god simply because they had an incomplete knowledge or understanding. Clearly, they were striving to follow The One God, they just had incomplete knowledge. But imperfect or incomplete or even mistaken knowledge of God is not to say it’s a different god.

      Perhaps I’m just looking at it from a strictly rational, linguistic point of view, but I think the point stands: It isn’t irrational or even unbiblical to say they are worshiping the same God… just that they have an incomplete/imperfect understanding of God, at least in our opinions.

      I think the problem of saying “If your understanding of God is not perfect or in keeping with my undesrtanding of God, then you are worshiping a false god, a different god…” is the problem of conflating our human understandings and traditions with God’s Self. We are human and fallible. Our human traditions and religions are human and fallible, thus, in themselves, incomplete and imperfect. Thank God for grace and that we’re not saved by our perfect understanding, eh?

      Does this seem reasonable to anyone else besides me?

    • The God is Triune. That’s not something that’s incidental to His nature, but absolutely essential and fundamental to who He is. The only God that exists is the Triune God. Muslims reject the Triune God, and thus they reject the only God that exists. They worship a god that does not exist, no more than Baal, Dagon, or Chemosh exists.

      • Dan Trabue

        What is in disagreement is that God (for example) cannot save someone who does not want to be saved.
        One can’t be saved without agreeing that God’s nature is triune? is that what you’re saying? Where did Jesus teach that as an “essential…” part of his message? One can’t be honestly mistaken on that point and be saved? Where is the rational or biblical support for that?


        • There’s quite a bit of difference between being “honestly mistaken” or ignorant of an essential yet nuanced biblical doctrine, and vehemently denying it as Muslims do.

          Again, one cannot be saved without believing in the God who is. The God who is is Triune. Jesus Himself is God (John 1:1-18).

          Jesus said that if you don’t honor the Son as you honor the Father, you don’t honor the Father (John 5:23). One honors the Father as God. If you don’t honor the Son as God, you don’t honor God.

          Eternal life is in the Son (1 John 5:11). If you have the Son you have eternal life; if you don’t have the Son, you don’t have eternal life (1 John 5:12). Those who do not believe that Jesus is who He says He is (namely, God, John 1:1, 18; 8:58), do not have the Son, and thus do not have eternal life.

          • Dan Trabue

            one cannot be saved without believing in the God who is. The God who is is Triune. Jesus Himself is God

            Thanks for your thoughts, Mike…

            My concern in this line of thinking is that it comes dangerously close to a Salvation by Works problem – that is, one must understand God right on all/some points in order to be saved. In that scenario, it is not grace that is saving us but our perfect knowledge. I don’t find that to be biblical or rational.

            Can one be mistaken on some points and still be saved, do you think? If not, whence grace?

            Or, is it the case that you think there is a list of topics on which one can’t be mistaken and on THOSE points, one can’t be honestly mistaken? If so, what is the Biblical source for that list of topics, as I’m not familiar with it?

            one cannot be saved without believing in the God who is. The God who is is Triune.
            Where did Jesus teach this? Or is this merely a human theory (and, as you can probably tell, that’s what I’m suggesting)? And if it’s a human theory, on what basis is it perfectly right/reliable, given that humans are not infallible?

          • …it comes dangerously close to a Salvation by Works problem, that is, one must understand God right on all/some points in order to be saved…

            1. To even suggest that this is salvation by works is not only ridiculous, it’s a sad attempt at poisoning the well.

            2. Sinners are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. When I say that we must believe in the God who is, and not in a god we’ve conjured in our imagination, I’m simply defining the content of our faith. We are saved by faith, but faith in what? In whom? It’s ludicrous to suggest that defining the content of what we are to believe in for salvation is somehow salvation by works.

            3. “One must understand God right on…some points in order to be saved?” You would disagree with that? One could be saved without understanding at least some true things about who God is?

            Can one be mistaken on some points and still be saved, do you think?

            Of course. True believers disagree about the proper mode and recipients of baptism and can yet still be saved.

            Or, is it the case that you think there is a list of topics on which one can’t be mistaken and on THOSE points, one can’t be honestly mistaken?

            Yes. That is to say, there are first-order and second- and third-order doctrines. There are certain things that go so much to the heart of the Christian faith that to deny them is to depart from the Christian faith.

            If so, what is the Biblical source for that list of topics, as I’m not familiar with it?

            Just because Scripture doesn’t give us a list of topics in list form doesn’t mean they’re not there. One has to wrestle with all of Scripture and its implications, and make a case. Here’s one, non-exhaustive attempt at that, with biblical justification: http://thecripplegate.com/bad-doctrine-vs-heresy-an-exercise-in-theological-triage/

            one cannot be saved without believing in the God who is. The God who is is Triune.

            Where did Jesus teach this?

            I already explained this. Would you deny that Jesus taught that sinners have to believe in the true God (and not a false god) to be saved? If yes, I think you’re demonstrably wrong. If you wouldn’t deny that, any time Jesus referred to God (i.e., the One who actually exists) as the sole proper object of faith and worship (which also included Himself, John 5:23; 8:24), He was teaching this.

            Or is this merely a human theory (and, as you can probably tell, that’s what I’m suggesting)?

            So you deny the Trinity? Do confirm or deny this, because if you do deny the Trinity, it pretty much destroys your credibility in this discussion.

            But no, the Trinity is not a human theory. The Bible teaches a number of things simultaneously:

            1. There is One true God (Deut. 4:35; 6:4).

            2. The Father is God (John 17:1-3).

            3. The Son is God (John 1:1, 18; 8:58; Titus 2:13; 2 Pet 1:1), and yet is not the Father (John 1:1-2).

            4. The Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4), and yet is not the Father or the Son (Matt 28:19; Luke 3:21-22).

            5. Scripture does not contradict itself (John 10:35; 2 Tim 3:16-17).

            All of those references are examples and can be multiplied. See here for more: http://thecripplegate.com/200-words-why-we-believe-in-the-trinity/

            Because Scripture does not contradict itself, the biblical teaching that there is One God and yet three distinct persons who are all God is summarized by the historic Christian doctrine of the Trinity: that the only God exists as three co-eternal, co-equal, and consubstantial Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That’s not human theory. That’s grappling with the implications of the whole of Scripture and submitting ourselves to what we find there.

          • Ok. We’re not going to go around in circles. Dan is comfortable with the idea of the Trinity, but doesn’t think the NT teaches it, and, contrary to historic Christian orthodoxy, doesn’t believe it is a fundamental Christian doctrine. Thus, his disagreement on the Wheaton controversy makes sense.

            However, if one is at least historically honest, one will acknowledge that the Trinity is a historic Christian doctrine, and thus should not be surprised at Christians who take issue with those who claim that a unitarian god and the Trinitarian God of Scripture are the same God.

            Interestingly, Dan makes our point for us. No, Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God, unless you don’t believe the Trinity is fundamental to what it means to be God. If the Wheaton professor and board come out and say that, that belief in the Trinity is not essential to the Christian faith, then we’ve got a whole other problem.

  • Dan Trabue

    One quick note: The author raised eyebrows at the idea of the professor referring to “the people of the book,” as that is a Muslim phrase, he said. I’d just note that it’s a term also often used with Baptists, Methodists and others… (you can see this validated in a quick google search.) Just fyi.

    • Sarah

      However, that phrase is much more central to the roots of the Islamic identity. It was a distinguishing mark between those who might be killed during Muslim conquest or those who received more lenient treatment. As ‘people of the book’, who also shared in monotheism, Christians were among the latter.

      • Dan Trabue

        No problem, Sarah. You may be right about the phrase being “more central…” to Muslims…I don’t know. I just know I grew up with it in Southern Baptist circles and have always taken great pride (hopefully not a bad sort) in being a Person of the Book. At least in some evangelical circles, it’s a pretty common and core identification. I had only recently heard it used in reference to Muslims.

        As to your comments about “out of place” and “divided worldview,” I would just offer that there is a spectrum of Christians in the family of God and we hold a wide range of views, for better and for worse. I don’t believe respectful, loving disagreements on these topics is anything but a wonderful chance to demonstrate that Love by which we are to be known and the amazing Grace by which we are saved. In other words, I don’t think “disagreeing” need necessarily be “dividing…” although unfortunately, too often it is.

        Respectfully offered, in Christ,


  • Brian Howell

    You’ve really got the timeline wrong in this piece. Dr. Hawkins was not asked by the administration to clarify her theology prior to being placed on leave. When she was asked for that clarification, she provided a theological statement in which she whole-heartedly (re)affirms the trinity, the divinity of Christ, the centrality of the Eucharist, and the Statement of Faith in general. Besides Pope Francis (who is, of course, trinitarian) she also cites Timothy George, Lifetime Advisory Trustee of Wheaton College. She was then, in response to her written statement, offered several option by which she could be taken off leave and return to the classroom and the BEST option was to return without tenure for two years while “conversations would continue.” At the end of those conversations she would be re-evaluated. At that point she said she would stand by her written response. THEN the college moved to termination proceedings. Only THEN did she hold the press conference where Jackson appeared.

    The Faculty Council resolution which calls for the college to rescind the leave and termination isn’t even ABOUT theology. It is about the process whereby she was not approached directly by the provost, placed on leave with no formal process, and given improvised options for staying at Wheaton with no process outside the Provost’s office.

    As for the Trinity being a big deal, yes. It is a big deal. The biggest of deals. But you should read Timothy George’s book (did I mention he’s a Lifetime Advisory Trustee of Wheaton College?) to understand how the Vatican’s position on Muslim, Jewish and Christian worship does not deny the trinity nor the exclusivity of salvation through Christ.

    • Amy

      Brian, has she clearly stated that she does not believe Allah to be a true God? Has she clarified that Christians and Muslims do not worship the same god? Per the Koran, the Triune God of the Bible and the God,Allah, of the Koran, are incompatible. I believe that she needs to make this clarification to Dr. Ryken and the leadership at Wheaton, especially after stating that they are the the same god on FB.

      Readers, please note that Brian is a professor at Wheaton College. I believe he is a tenured prof. If you would like to direct your questions directly to him about professors at Wheaton College, he is one of the profs who supports Dr. Hawkin’s.

      Many of us who support the administration, are still praying for reconciliation between Hawkins and the College. IMHO, Hawkins is not behaving in a professional manner, which is demonstrated in her press conference and her public FB page.. In this sense, she is a poor model and mentor to her students.

      • Brian Howell

        I am a member of faculty council and heard the timeline from Stan himself. The timeline is a matter of public record that was on Wheaton’s own webpage before they took down their press releases on January 16.

        If you want to know what Larycia Hawkins has said to the administration, you can read her statement. It is online at drlaryciahawkins.org The answer to both of your questions is Yes.

        I am a tenured professor at Wheaton College. I have taught here for 15 years. I support Wheaton College. I support its mission, purpose, and leadership. Faculty council has acted entirely within its purview in the Faculty Handbook to make a recommendation to the administration to rescind the notice of termination and leave based on process grounds. I would be very happy to answer questions from anyone who is wondering about the events of the past months.

        Amy, you are perfectly welcome to dislike how Dr. Hawkins has behaved. But she has explained clearly that her statements on her FB page were not in violation of the Statement of Faith and Provost Jones himself has said so. Publicly. But whether or not she is behaving as you would like, that is not a firable offense. Working as a faculty member at a university is not like working at a for-profit company. Faculty do not have to clear their public statements with a “boss.” They do not have to check with “superiors” prior to writing an article, or teaching a class, or posting on Facebook, or having a press conference.

        Wheaton College had seven years to vet Dr. Hawkins. Faculty are intensely reviewed in years 2, 4, 5 and 7. At each point, the administration, and her peers, judged her as a good fit for Wheaton College. At year seven, they judged her worth of tenure. All we, and she, are asking now is that this process be honored.

        • Amy

          Brian, there is another university which fired 2-3 profs a few years ago for FB posts. I do not know if they had tenure. The person whom I know who is a tenured prof at the school, has stated to me that he has to be extremely careful with what he posts on FB.

          It has been written that there was a verbal questioning of Dr. Hawkins about her FB posts. She answered part of the questions, then refused any further questioning. We’re you present when this questioning took place.

          Where, in the Koran, do you see that Muslims and “born again” Christians worship the same god? Which verses demonstrate that Allah and the triune God of the Bible are the same god?

          • Brian Howell

            Larycia Hawkins was asked to provide a written explanation to her statements on FB about the “same God” comments, along with a few other things the administration had questions about. They were perfectly within their rights to request those, and she provided them. Then she met with Stan Jones (Dec 19) where he said there would need to be “ongoing dialog.” There have never been specifics to this ongoing dialog, although at the meeting the best option included her relinquishing tenure for two years. Hawkins made it clear that she was not going to sign on to an open-ended, undefined process that included her relinquishing tenure, so she said her written statement would be her final word on the theology. At the end of the meeting, Dr. Jones himself encouraged Dr. Hawkins to get a lawyer and that’s where it ended.

            Of course you’re not going to find a statement where Dr. Hawkins states that “Allah is a false god,” because, like Wheaton Trustee Timothy George, she has shown how saying that Christians and Muslims worship the same God does not violate the Wheaton College statement of faith. Indeed, there are many evangelical leaders, including Bill Hybels, Leith Anderson, Rich Mouw, and many more, who said very much the same thing when they signed the document. You can see it here. http://faith.yale.edu/common-word/common-word-christian-response

            And Amy, if you have a friend who is tenured, but can be so easily fired for Facebook posts, then his tenure means nothing.

            I didn’t start commenting here to engage you, and I’m truly sad that it seems that whatever friendship we once had is gone. I have been in prayer for you and your family. I wish you much peace.

          • Fibber MaGee

            It seems the only thing that matters to you and your peers are your jobs. Biblical truth takes a back seat or gets twisted to fit your needs. This is not surprising to me since I know little about Wheaton but, most people seem to regard this as an unexpected event. If you reject the Trinity then you worship a different god. Jesse’s well made point…correct? You and your peers obviously disagree with that and therefore hold to a position that not only damages the gospel but, opens the doors so that false teachings may abound. The Yale Accord, Bill Hybels, Jesse Jackson, female Pastors, the Pope. Why would anyone think they could get a real biblical education at Wheaton?

        • Amy

          I wrote a reply, Brian, but it did not post for some reason.

          I have not seen any statement from Dr. Hawkins, stating that she was incorrect when she stated on FB that Christians and Muslims worship the same god.

          If you believe that Christians worship the same god as Muslims, will you please point me to the text in the Koran that states this? I have found many statements in the Koran that are very much at odds with the god of Islam and the Triune God of the Bible being the same god.

    • Thanks for interacting here Brian.
      As far as the timeline goes, two things: 1. I got my timeline from the Daily Herald post (linked in blue above). 2. I didn’t mention her suspension here at all, so I don’t see how I could have got it in the wrong order of events.

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