There is now a massive body of literature analyzing the Larycia Hawkins debacle from various angles. In this article I want to say just a brief and modest word of defense for Wheaton College. In particular, I want to focus on her most controversial statement from her December 10th post: “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we [Christians and Muslims] worship the same God.”
Thus far I’ve read several Christian philosophers pointing out that Hawkins’ statement is a relatively straightforward, even trivial observation regarding linguistic reference. And that certainly is one way to interpret it. For example, Smith and Jones can both refer to the same object (e.g. a car) even whilst making incorrect statements and holding incorrect beliefs about it. Smith says it is a red Ford while Jones says it is a brown Chevy. At most, one is correct, but they both nonetheless refer to the same car. Similarly, at most either the Christian or the Muslim is correct as they refer to God in their beliefs and practices, but they both nonetheless refer to the same God. And in that sense, it can be said that they both worship the same God.
All this is fair enough. But is that all Hawkins means? I don’t know, but it is far from obvious that it is. One might very well read a rich range of implicature in her statement. For example, her statement could be taken to imply or assume that Muslims successfully worship God; that Muslims don’t need to become Christians to have a salvific relationship with God; perhaps even that God has offered many roads to the top of the mountain including the way of Jesus and the way of the Five Pillars of Islam.
If Hawkins does hold any of those views, then surely a conservative evangelical institution like Wheaton College and their constituency deserve to know. And from that perspective, the enquiry that Wheaton has undertaken into Hawkins’ views is perfectly reasonable.