According to Wikipedia: “Wheaton College is a private American four-year Evangelical Protestant Christian liberal arts college in Wheaton, Illinois, a suburb 25 miles (40 km) west of Chicago. The college was founded by abolitionists in 1860. Drawing 2,500 undergraduates from all 50 United States, 50 countries, and over 55 church denominations, Wheaton offers 40 majors in the arts, humanities, literature, foreign languages, social sciences, and natural sciences”. I suspect few in the UK will have been all that aware of Wheaton College in the USA until now maybe, given the recent “Wheaton College Suspends Hijab-Wearing Professor After ‘Same God’ Comment” story whereby the teacher in question was suspended for stating Muslims and Christians believed in the same God and (albeit not a reason for the suspension) wearing a hijab out of solidarity with Muslims being under attack in the light of recent atrocities perpetrated by radical Muslims. There is certainly a lot written on the story, available online, with all sorts of people offering a wide range of opinions (check out here, here, here, here).
I have to confess, I have long been aware of Wheaton College, mindful of its reputation for excellence and also its steadfastness in standing up for orthodox Christian teaching when many similar such institutions have succumbed to pressures to adapt their stance according to a culture that is becoming less sympathetic to traditional evangelical norms. When as a teenager, I did some missionary work in France, with Operation Moblisation, rubbing shoulders with fellow missionaries from all round the world, a few of these had trained at Wheaton College, and I was to discover in the years that followed that many prominent Christian leaders had trained at that college. I sometimes despair when conservative (some may say fundamentalist) leaning institutions pick the wrong battles to fight and fail to fight other battles that are maybe more important, such as that against social injustice wherever it is seen, yet I often find myself standing with them against more liberally minded folk, including many who will no doubt disapprove of what the College has done in suspending one of its professors.
It is not my intention here to come up with a view as to whether Wheaton College acted as they should have in this case. The reason is firstly I am not required to and secondly, and as is my want, I am loathe to come to a view, especially on contentious matters such as this, without being cognizant of all the facts. I also understand that contrary to the equal opportunities pre-occupation of the current culture that institutions like Wheaton (and in reality many that are not Christian) thrive based on having a clear ethos and it is not unreasonable to expect those who teach to subscribe to that ethos, although I would add the caveat that it would be on a slippery slope if it did not allow reasonable dissent and may lose out if it did not seek out truth from those who see things differently to the way they see it. My understanding is that the college requires its professors to subscribe to its “Statement of Faith and Educational Purpose”. I have to add, it pretty well encapsulates much of what I believe.
So to summarise what I believe to be the correct view on matters to do with the question of whether or not Muslims and Christians believe in the same God and what to do about it, my thoughts are:
- The college is right to expect its paid staff to uphold its ethos, including its Statement of Faith, although regarding its recent disciplinary action I would need to know more to decide.
- While not going along with those tenets of Islam that are incompatible with Christian belief, Christians are right to reach out to Muslims with the hand of friendship and common cause.
- Muslims and Christians (along with Jews) believe in the same God insofar they are the three great monotheistic Abrahamic religions that each acknowledge the God Abraham worshiped.
- Muslims and Christians (along with Jews) do NOT believe in the same God e.g. given their rejection of such key doctrines as the Trinity and Christ’s substitutionary, atoning sacrifice.
- Wrongly adding to the faith of the scriptures (which is what has happened in the Koran) is no worse than taking away from it (as has happened in Judaism in its rejection of its Messiah).