Why I Agree with Timothy Larsen

9475f-wheatonA few hours ago I wrote a post on Timothy Larsen’s insider remarks about the Larycia Hawkins affair at Wheaton College.   Here are some more thoughts on that piece:

I think we need to remember that there are different levels of critique about what is going on Wheaton. For the mainstream media and the academic world, the criticism of the Hawkins affair should not surprise anyone.  This critique has been around for a long time, but it gains traction whenever something like this happens at a Christian college.  It goes something like this:  Wheaton is fundamentalist, intolerant, maybe racist or sexist, does not permit academic freedom, does not allow Catholics, etc.

When I read this critique I find myself in agreement with Larson.  After all, I teach at Messiah College, one of Wheaton’s younger sisters in the world of Christian college higher education.  Let Wheaton College be Wheaton College. If we believe in religious liberty, then it has every right to define its boundaries as the administration sees fit.

On the other hand, there is an intramural conversation going on that is worth noting. This is a conversation taking place among Christians–mostly bloggers and social media folks–about Wheaton’s theological definition of evangelical Christian faith and the  interpretation of its Statement of Faith.  On this point I disagree with the way the Wheaton administration is handling this case.  If you are a reader of The Way of Improvement Leads Home, you know that I have argued for a vision of a Christian college that is slightly more inclusive in its approach to solidarity with Muslims.

In a world of social media, online publishing, and the speedy news cycle that they foster, it is often hard to distinguish the difference between these two critiques. Larsen’s piece, which appears at CNN, addresses the secular/academic critique of Wheaton.