Archive for March, 2012

March 27th, 2012

Wycliffe, SIL & the Current Bible Translation Controversy

Three people have asked me in the past week what I would like Wycliffe and SIL to do in order to resolve the current Bible translation controversy. I told them had these organizations heeded Biblical Missiology Society’s petition, which you can find HERE, this controversy would have been resolved in January. It is Wycliffe and SIL’s own fault this matter is on the verge of bringing them down. All the petition has asked them is for “a written commitment… not to remove Father, Son or Son of God from the text of Scripture.” Apparently, that is still too much to ask of these organizations.

There are a lot of unanswered questions. Wycliffe and SIL leaderships know the answers to questions. In October 2011, Wycliffe USA Senior Vice President Russ Hersman openly admitted to the World Magazine, “200 translation projects Wycliffe/SIL linguists have undertaken in Muslim contexts, about 30 or 40 “employ some alternate renderings” for the divine familial terms.”

What are these translations? I contacted Wycliffe and SIL on January 11 via email after their disastrous initial response to the petition and did not get an answer. (Please read Wycliffe/SIL response and Biblical Missiology’s Fact Check HERE.) I called them on January 18 (Wycliffe Orlando and SIL Dallas). Wycliffe Orlando Office promised someone would call me back by the next day. I never heard from anyone. Then again on January 24 I called, and did not get an answer. Mark you; this was before I wrote my first Yahoo! News article. After the article, finally someone returned my calls but did not answer any questions. I am committed to writing on this issue until I get the answers.

So far, all the translations in the current controversy, which Wycliffe has admitted involvement—thanks to the petition—removes ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ from the Trinity.

Wycliffe officials also need to apologize for calling our efforts to hold Wycliffe and SIL accountable as “satanic.”

March 27th, 2012

Wycliffe Still in Denial about Involvement in the Turkish Translation

Wycliffe Bible Translators is still in denial. Perhaps the leadership doesn’t want a major fallout with its financial supporters if it goes forth with telling the truth. The leadership has not publicly admitted Wycliffe was involved in the Turkish translation from the beginning of the project. Instead of answering questions, it has been misleading the public.

Here is an article I wrote for Yahoo! News which clearly shows Wycliffe has and is still evading the truth in this controversy. Wycliffe leadership cannot answer questions candidly and wants Christians to wait for an international review panel to conclude its investigation at the year’s end.

Wycliffe leadership knows the answers to the questions and it should give them NOW.

March 27th, 2012

Wycliffe/SIL Delay Tactics Continue-WEA Review

Wycliffe/SIL evasion of questions regarding the current translation controversy continues. A press release has been sent out. Wycliffe and SIL are submitting to a World Evangelical Alliance’s (WEA) independent review panel which will conclude its report by the end of this year. Yep. You read that right!

While majority of Wycliffe and SIL’s financial support comes from the United States, apparently, there is no sense of urgency for Wycliffe and SIL to resolve this issue for the US Christian public which wants answers to questions now. This long review period does not preclude Wycliffe and SIL officials from answering questions.

Wycliffe has called our efforts to hold it accountable “satanic.” I wonder if Wycliffe officials will apologize to us now that it is realizing we have been right all along. We will see.

WEA press release:

WEA to Form Independent Review Panel on Wycliffe and SIL Bible Translation

New York, NY – March 27, 2012

In the light of certain controversies about Bible translation, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), as a respected and trusted global evangelical association, has been asked to form a panel to independently review Wycliffe and SIL International’s translation of “God the Father” and the “Son of God.”

“Rejoicing that many Christians globally do not have to learn Hebrew or Greek to read God’s Word and wishing to strengthen Evangelical unity on the basis of God’s Word, the WEA has agreed to facilitate an independent external audit of Wycliffe and SIL International’s practice of the translation of “God the Father” and the “Son of God”,” said Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, Secretary General of the WEA.

Wycliffe Global Alliance and SIL International as organizations dedicated to the accurate translation of God’s Word are committed to applying this review’s recommendations. The panel’s mandate includes reviewing SIL’s translation practices; setting boundaries for theologically acceptable translation methodology particularly in Muslim contexts; and suggesting how to practically implement these recommendations.

Facilitated by the WEA, this transparent and independent review will be conducted by a global panel of respected Evangelical theologians, biblical scholars, translators, linguists and missiologists, and will include representation of national believers from countries with majority Muslim populations and mature followers of Christ from Muslim backgrounds.

Reports throughout the process, as well as the final report, will be sent to Wycliffe and SIL International. The intention is that the panel’s final report will be delivered by the end of the year 2012.

PRESS CONTACT: newsservice@worldea.org

March 22nd, 2012

Wycliffe, the Insider Movement and Bible Translation Controversy

Wycliffe Bible Translators has a firm position when it comes to removing terms in the Bible that  hinder Muslims from ‘understanding’ the meaning. Its ‘translation standard’ states, to “In certain circumstances” where a literal translation for ‘Son’ or ‘Father’ “would communicate wrong meaning, an alternative form with equivalent meaning may be used.” (So far, “alternative form with equivalent meaning” in certain Muslim contexts has been disastrous because it doesn’t portray the same meaning but robs the divinity of the ‘Father’ and ‘Son.’)

However, when it comes Insider Movement, an ideology that is responsible for procuring and producing heretical translations of Scripture, Wycliffe has no position. As a former Muslim, it is okay with Wycliffe if I continue to go to the mosque to observe the Five Daily prayers, make a pilgrimage to Mecca, observe the fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadhan and even acknowledge Muhammad as a prophet of God. As incompatible these beliefs and practices are to the Word of God—Muhammad came to preach another gospel—Wycliffe has no position.

Even when some of its missiologists and linguists have written articles, which are considered heretical by the Word of God’s standard, Wycliffe has not taken a position. In fact, it has endorsed some of these articles, which advocate for the Insider Movement. Wycliffe has gone as far as linking to some of these articles to defend its practices in the current translation controversy.

Here is what former Muslims say about the Insider Movement. I hope in the end Wycliffe realizes just what a heretical practice, which has been a menace in reaching Muslims with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it has tacitly endorsed and reverse course. Or else, it might as well start bidding farewell to its 80-year history of faithfully translating the Word of God.

Former Muslims in Bangladesh talking about Insider Movement:

A trailer of a documentary to be released later in 2012 about former Muslims in Bangladesh dealing with Insider Movement:

March 15th, 2012

Wycliffe USA President Leads CBN into Filing Incorrect News Report

Wycliffe President Bob Creson appeared on CBN recently and did not answer questions that would put to rest the current Bible translation controversy. Instead he misled a CBN reporter into filing an incorrect news report.

The newscast portion on Wycliffe where Mr. Creson is interviewed starts with a voiceover quoting a February 6, 2012 statement SIL issued which announced it was suspending Arabic “audio translation.”

In this video starting at 2:48 mark, CBN News Senior International Reporter Gary Lane asks Mr. Creson, “Why did Wycliffe change the language in the Arabic version?” The reporter is referring to the translation that was suspended. Mr. Creson says, “I am assuming that we are referring to The True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ that was done by another organization Al Kalima.”

He fails to mention Wycliffe’s involvement with The True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ even when the reporter asks him twice.

The reporter later asks, “And now that you have put it on hold, what would you clarify now in order to go forward?” And Mr. Creson goes to the February 15 statement when Wycliffe still denied any involvement in The True Meaning.

Wycliffe issued a statement on February 15, 2012 stating, “The formal review will be led by respected theologians, biblical scholars, translators, linguists, and missiologists from the global Church. We expect this review to produce a report that will guide future Wycliffe USA and SIL translation efforts.”

When Wycliffe issued this statement, they were still denying any involvement in all—except for the ‘audio translation’—translations Biblical Missiology had brought to light in the online petition.

I am still in shock Wycliffe USA President Bob Creson misled CBN reporter into filing an incorrect report. I hope he retracts his erroneous statements and CBN issues a correction. Here are some of the facts:

  • The True Meaning of the Gospel and Acts in Arabic is still on sale on Amazon UK. Get yourself a “gift-wrapped” copy HERE.

This is not a Wycliffe/SIL project but they consulted on it. Biblical Missiology petition never said it was a Wycliffe/SIL project. This translation removes, among other terms, ‘Father’ and ‘Son.’ Prime example: Matthew 28:19.

  • Wycliffe USA Senior VP Russ Hersman did an interview with the Christian Post on February 7 after SIL issued the February 6 statement about the “audio translation” being pulled. He told CP, “[Lives of the Prophets] was an audio drama that originally substituted inadequate familial terms in the mid-1990s. Since that time, the translation has been removed from circulation and will not be re-released until it has been corrected and revised.”

He went on to deny Wycliffe was involved in any translation that removed ‘Father’ and ‘Son.’

  • Mr. Hersman also took to Facebook after the publication of the CP article. He was answering a question about what translations “have already been pulled from circulation.” He wrote, “Thanks for this question. As you are no doubt aware, Wycliffe USA affirmed its commitment to clear and accurate representation of the familial triune God with an official policy announcement in August 2011, roughly at the same time that SIL issued its Best Practices document. The “Lives of the Prophets” audio translation was found to be out of line with those documents and was pulled around the same time. As Wycliffe USA stated earlier today, we are in the process of re-evaluating our methodology, including the August 2011 standards, to ensure that they meet our goal of providing clear and accurate translations. We expect to issue a more complete statement on these matters soon.”

The statement on CBN video about “the pause” has nothing to do with The True Meaning. I hope Mr. Creson issues a retraction and CBN corrects its error in reporting. The Christian public has been misled to believe a lie. I have talked with Mr. Lane and he all along thought “the pause” was in reference to The True Meaning. I also called Wycliffe yesterday and have not received any clarification yet.

Please, continue to pray for Wycliffe, SIL and Frontiers leaderships. They need to come clean. And do so fast. Anything short of a full disclosure and repentance is a failure. And issuing statements full of half-truths will not resolve this issue and bring the much-needed healing to the fractured body of Christ.

March 13th, 2012

Wycliffe’s Director of Communications’ Take on Bible Mistranslations

Wycliffe Bible Translators USA leadership has taken to the airwaves trying to mitigate the damage its linguists and missiologists have brought upon this reputable organization. So far, none of the lingering questions Biblical Missiology has raised has been answered. I will share more tomorrow.

I would like to share with you what a colleague brought to my attention a few weeks ago. It is a blog entry by Dawn Kruger, who is the Director of Communications for Wycliffe International Asia Pacific and SIL International Asia area. Here is what Dawn writes about the current controversy. Since she is in charge of communications, I am surprised she wrote this entry four days after Wycliffe USA admitted it was involved in an Arabic translation, which removes ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ from the Trinity. Wycliffe had denied for seven straight weeks it was involved in this translation. Dawn writes:

So I showed you the fun parts of traveling to England. But why were the meetings significant?

The topic discussed was critical to our organization. You may have seen online that Wycliffe and SIL have been the targets of unscrupulous attacks against the principles and practices used in translating certain key terms in the New Testament. Because our goal is meaning-based translations rather than transliterations (which would be utterly meaningless if taken directly from the original language sources), translators often need to carefully search for meaningful ways of expressing difficult concepts in other languages. For example grace, mercy, atonement, sanctification [sic], etc., are often difficult to express in other languages. Even in our own Bibles, Greek terms have been adjusted to carry meaning to English-speaking readers.

But the current attacks are being levied against translations that found culturally appropriate ways of expressing the relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son without using familial terms. In some contexts, using the terms father and son can ONLY[sic] imply a family relationship based on the father having sired the son through a physical relationship with the son’s mother. There can be no other understanding of the term. So in deference to the holiness of God and in reverence to the relationship between the first and the second persons of the Trinity, in some translations, terms were used to denote the sacredness of the father and son relationship without using those exact words.

In response, some people who do not understand the principles of accurate and meaningful translation, and are working strictly from English source texts rather than the original Greek, are levying unprincipled, untrue attacks against our organization and our closest partner — attacks that are stirring up a great deal of concern among well-meaning people looking for answers.

I contacted Dawn two weeks ago and she has not responded yet to my comment. I hope she realizes Christians who are opposed to these mistranslations are missiologists, native speakers of languages  where mistranslations have happened, pastors, linguists—some have resigned from Wycliffe and SIL, Bible translators and others who are still with these organizations. (Bold emphasis is mine.)

March 12th, 2012

The Assemblies of God Gives Wycliffe a Deadline

The Assemblies of God (AoG) and Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) are the only Christian denominations that have taken a stand against Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL’s involvement in Bible translations that removed ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ from the Trinity. PCA acted last year.

The AoG’s statement, “Essential Scriptural Integrity,” was on page 28 and 29 of the March 4 issue of the denomination’s magazine, Pentecostal Evangel. The statement, in part, reads:

For many years Assemblies of God World Missions has partnered in ministry with Wycliffe Bible Translators. While some missionaries are appointed by AGWM to do Bible translation for specific and unique reasons, most of those with a specific calling to Scripture translation are assigned to Wycliffe. The AG World Missions Executive Committee made this determination because of the highly specialized nature of Bible translation into other languages. Presently 35 AG missionaries work with Wycliffe.

In the last year the propriety of this long-held partnership has come into question for the first time. A major factor in this issue is how the Scriptures are translated for Muslim readers. Nearly every Muslim has heard the name of Jesus. Most even revere Him as a sinless prophet. But they think of Him only as a human being—not as God the Son.

Communicating God’s Word for Muslims presents challenges regarding their beliefs concerning the Trinity and Jesus as the Son of God. Consequently, some translations designed for Muslim readers remove familial terms, such as Father, Son, Son of God, Son of the Living God and Son of Man, from the text. In their place, alternative terms are used, such as “Beloved of God,” a familiar Arabic Muslim characterization often used when referring to Muhammad.

Wycliffe addresses its translation standards on its ministry website: “In certain circumstances, specifically where it has been demonstrated that a literal translation of ‘Son of God’ would communicate wrong meaning, an alternative form with equivalent meaning may be used.” The problem arises in what is meant by communicating “wrong meaning” and “equivalent meaning.”

AGWM missionary leaders, missiologists and scholars have met twice with leaders of Wycliffe and its partner ministry, Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), to deal with the increasing disagreement concerning Bible translation practices.

Dr. Mark Hausfeld, director of Global initiative—Reaching Muslim Peoples, a ministry of AGWM, states, “Initially, familial language in the Bible is offensive to Muslims because the Qur’an and their religious instruction teach them not to apply such words as ‘Son’ and ‘Father’ to God. Our responsibility as followers of Jesus is to build relationships from which we can instruct Muslims in the truth of such familial terms from the biblical text as translated from the original languages. There is no need to change biblical language to try to help the Holy Spirit bring the Muslim to the understanding of the inspired text.”

Dr. Greg Mundis, AGWM executive director, says, “Our Fellowship is deeply committed to the integrity of Scripture. I believe we have done due diligence in researching, reflecting and searching both the Scriptures and our hearts. This places us in a position in which we cannot agree with Wycliffe/SIL’s stated and publicized position.”

AGWM has established a four-month review period until May 15, at which time a final decision will be made concerning its ongoing relationship with Wycliffe/SIL. The consequences could include asking AG personnel to leave Wycliffe/SIL, recommending that AG churches withdraw financial support for Wycliffe/SIL personnel, and engaging in translation ministry with other organizations holding a position on Bible interpretation comparable with AGWM convictions.

Dr. George Wood, general superintendent of the U.S. Assemblies of God, says, “Our Fellowship is unrelentingly committed to the authority and infallibility of Scripture. While we appreciate the challenges missionaries and translators face in intercultural communication, we will neither compromise nor dilute God’s eternal truth, nor change its intended plain meaning.”

In this challenging issue concerning Bible translation, AG World Missions leadership approaches this four-month time of review with fervent prayer and determination that our mission will neither compromise concerning the truth of God’s Word nor communicate inaccurately the nature of God the Father and His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

Emphasis mine. Wycliffe USA still has as its doctrinal statement on its website HERE, the statement at the center of AoG’s concern. I wonder how long it takes until Wycliffe leadership realizes this is not a minor issue.

March 4th, 2012

Rumors of Pastor Youcef’s Execution are False

In this day and age of Twitter, rumors galore, even rumors of prominent people’s death. Saturday night was no exception. It was particularly shocking for some of us when tweets went out declaring the execution of Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been on death row for apostasy from Islam. Some believed the rumor and started sending out condolences. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before the America Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) put an end to the rumor with a tweet when its sources in Iran confirmed Pastor Youcef is alive. Here is a part of a post from Jordan Sekulow of ACLJ:

Reports that his execution occurred earlier today are false, and images being circulated purporting to be from his execution are outdated and demonstratively false.

The ACLJ still believes that the execution order has been issued, but we can confirm that as of today Pastor Youcef is still alive. International pressure continues to build on Iran.

I am writing a Yahoo! News article on the plight of Pastor Youcef, which might be published later this week. I have interviewed an official at the International Christian Concern (ICC) and Jerry Dykstra, the spokesperson of Open Doors USA. Please continue to pray for Pastor Youcef and all other believers who are in prison on account of their faith in Jesus Christ. Pray also for their loved ones. Thank you.

March 4th, 2012

Vern Poythress Distances Himself from Bible Mistranslations

Wycliffe Bible Translators had invoked New Testament scholar Dr. Vern Sheridan Poythress to justify some of its mistranslations of “Father” and “Son” in some Bibles geared toward Muslims. I spoke with Dr. Poythress and he wants these terms to be translated literally. I review his article on Bible translation for Muslim readers HERE.  He has since clarified his position publicly in a post on his website:

In view of the continuation of controversies, I am having doubts as to whether my articles–which were intended to be a help–are in fact helping. So let me clarify my intentions.

In 2005, I criticized translations that remove language for sonship in translating “Son” (Greek huios) in the New Testament. Language that explicitly indicates a sonship relation between Jesus and God the Father needs to be present in translations, both for accuracy and for the spiritual health of the church. The same goes for translating the word “Father” (Greek pater). The Father-Son relation is an important aspect of Trinitarian teaching, which needs to be communicated clearly in translation. As a framework for translation, we need to recognize that human relationships between human fathers and sons are analogous to the original Trinitarian relationship. The Trinitarian relationship between the Father and the Son is foundational, rather than being, as some people allege, merely a culture-bound projection from human relationships.

Please read more HERE.