Following up on my post from yesterday, agree or disagree with Prof. Hawkins, we grossly misjudge the present issue at Wheaton if we make it purely one of maintaining theological orthodoxy.
It can certainly be debated on theological grounds whether or not, or to what extent, Christians and Muslims (not to mention Jews) worship the same God.
But, as fundamental as that issue may seem to insiders, the nuances are utterly lost on the post-Christian West.
People are watching, and they haven’t read Wheaton’s statement of faith or the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.
They’re just interested in seeing how Christians respond to a global crisis right here at home.
They want to see whether the rumors are true and their suspicions accurate, that Christians are as bigoted and xenophobic as they accuse others of being.
They want to see whether our actions are different from those of any other ideology.
We are no longer in Christendom.
Christians in the West are living in a moment, faced with an real and present opportunity. Sometimes these opportunities require us to table zeal for patrolling theological boundaries.
Addressing changing circumstances may require theological innovation. My prooftexts are the prophets, Jesus, and Paul.
Perhaps the Wheaton leadership could have handled this differently.
Perhaps they could have released a resounding statement of love and concern for brothers and sisters in our human family.
Perhaps they could have led with that and then if necessary offer some gentle clarification about where Wheaton is as a school, its evangelical heritage, and how a Christian response to evangelical/Muslim relations will be a matter of serious and ongoing internal reflection.
Wheaton, as a leading evangelical place of higher learning, could have seized the moment and risked speaking prophetically, boldly, and reassuringly into a real live pressing issue. But it missed the opportunity and retreated instead to an internal dialogue.
That is a missed opportunity, and who knows if it will come again.