Archive for April, 2013

April 29th, 2013

The WEA Cover-up for Wycliffe/SIL is Complete-Report Mirrors Current Translation Policy

The World Evangelical Alliance (the WEA) panel of experts report on Wycliffe Bible Translators and Summer Institute of Linguistics is out. The report only covers Wycliffe/SIL Bible translation policy and does not touch on Bible translations in the current controversy as Wycliffe/SIL had initially promised. You can read the report HERE.

First, Wycliffe USA President Bob Creson told Tom Breen of the Associated Press last spring the WEA global review was “to determine whether Wycliffe and affiliated groups are improperly replacing the terms “Son of God” and “God the Father.” Unfortunately, the WEA report did not address this. There are questions Wycliffe/SIL must answer. Mere denials when Wycliffe/SIL have defended these translations to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and the Assemblies of God don’t address the issue. It is time for Wycliffe/SIL to come clean.

Second, the report claims:

These candidates represented the diversity of needed scholars and included persons from diverse global contexts, with a mix of men and women, and with none who had any working relationship with Wycliffe and SIL International at present or in the past. The Panel formation was completed by September 30, 2012 with 12 outstanding members prepared to undertake the review process.

It fails to mention Dr. Robert E. Cooley and SIL Executive Director, Freddy Boswell, Jr., served on the board of Oral Roberts University together. Also, Wycliffe/SIL had approached Dr. Cooley to help Wycliffe/SIL with the standoff with the Assemblies of God prior to Wycliffe/SIL recommending him to the WEA. Wycliffe/SIL internal memo shows Wycliffe/SIL recommended him to participate in the review process “from a position supportive of SIL’s Best Practices,” the document the panel just reviewed. I notified the WEA of this serious integrity issues several weeks before the WEA appointed Dr. Cooley. The WEA thanked me for my concerns and did nothing.

Third, the report also claims:

Panel had free access to Wycliffe and SIL International resources needed to complete its mandate, and the Panel wishes to express its appreciation to Wycliffe and SIL International for supplying all requested data and resources.

On the contrary, the panel did not have “free access” to Wycliffe/SIL members who were opposed Wycliffe/SIL translation practices. The panel only heard from those supporting Wycliffe/SIL translation practices.

Fourth, the WEA panel report pretty affirms Wycliffe/SIL translation policy, SIL Best Practices, which Dr. Cooley was “supportive” of prior to the WEA review panel being established. The SIL Best Practices allowed wiggle room and the WEA panel recommendation just followed suit. On page 6:

For example, as the biblical context allows, the word for “father” might be rendered with the equivalent of “heavenly Father” when referring to God, and the word for “son” might be rendered with the equivalent of “divine Son,” “eternal Son,” or “heavenly Son” when referring to Jesus.

Wycliffe/SIL betrayed the church universal by translating, consulting and producing Bible translations that were heretical when they had a wiggle room. This report is no different.

Fifth, the WEA global panel mad a glaring error in arriving at the above conclusion. Here is a major oops which even native Arabic speakers on the panel could not catch. The panel report, on page 18 and 19, quotes a verse from the Qur’an to show how “translating” “Son” accurately in Muslim content might be problematic. The Qur’an verse that they think “illustrate the depth of the Muslim abhorrence to the idea of God possessing a son” does not refer to what they had in mind. The Arabic word used in this verse “waladan” for “son” has sexual connotation but “ibn,” another Arabic word for “son” does not. I have addressed this issue in two posts HERE and HERE. Wycliffe experts had confused “ibn” with “waladan” [derived from “walad”],  and now the WEA panel of experts has followed suit as if Wycliffe/SIL experts supporting Wycliffe/SIL translation policy were advising the panel. Here is the Qur’an quote:

19:88-92 argues, “They say: ‘(God) Most Gracious has begotten a son!’ Indeed ye have put forth a thing most monstrous! At it the skies are ready to burst, the earth to split asunder, and the mountains to fall down in utter ruin, That they should invoke a son for (God) Most Gracious. For it is not consonant with the majesty of (God) Most Gracious that He should beget a son.”

In conclusion, Creson told Jeff Kunerth of the Orlando Sentinel last summer, “In dispute are about 200 of the 1,500 Bible translations completed by Wycliffe since it started in 1917.” Wycliffe USA Chief Operating Officer, Russ Hersman, talked with Emily Belz of the World Magazine. She wrote an article stating:

Such terms, Hersman said, are “outside the borders.” Hersman estimated that of 200 translation projects Wycliffe/SIL linguists have undertaken in Muslim contexts, about 30 or 40 “employ some alternate renderings” for the divine familial terms. One example Hersman gave of an alternate rendering would be translated in English as “beloved son of God” or “beloved one from God.”

Wycliffe/SIL can’t fool Christians with the WEA panel report which essentially endorses their current translation policy. These organizations need to come clean. Relying on the corrupt WEA—not necessarily panel members—to come up with a document that essentially mirrors their current translation policy is not a solution, but the beginning of their downfall.

April 18th, 2013

Wycliffe/SIL Bible Translation Scandal Resulted from its Experts’ Confusion of Natives’ Languages and Cultures

One reason Wycliffe/SIL experts give to justify pursuing alternative terms for “Father” and “Son” is because, they claim, Arabic and Turkish do not have “social familial terms” for “father” which “convey a non-procreated familial relationship.” (Before you read any further, please bear in mind this article appears on Wycliffe Global Alliance website, an umbrella organization that represents all Wycliffe Bible Translators organizations worldwide.) Wycliffe/SIL’s experts Larry Ciccarelli** and Darrell Richard (Rick) Brown explain their reason why Arabic and Turkish languages do not have a term equivalent to “father” in English that does not carry a biological relationship. They claim in the article adoption and step-relations are not even recognized in these cultures.

As for Turkish, I do not read or speak the language. I consulted one of my friends who is a native Turkish speaker, an MBB and a pastor who holds a Master of Divinity degree from a seminary in the United States. He says Turkish only has one word for “father” and it is “baba,” which is pronounced “buh-buh.” He told me Muslim parents in Turkey can adopt children and the term for stepfather is “üvey baba.” (By the way, Islamic teachings do prohibit adoption. However, adoption was legal in Islam until about 626 A.D. after Prophet Muhammad married his then adopted son Zayd bin Haritha’s wife Zaynab. For more information, please read Sam Shamoun of Answering Islam’s detailed post HERE.)

I was satisfied with my friend’s answer but I still wanted concrete proof that adoption is indeed recognized in Turkey. That was when I turned to the US Embassy in Ankara for more information. The embassy states on its website:

According to current rules and regulations, Turkish families are given preference in adoption of children between the ages of 0-6.  According to the 21st/b section of the “Children’s Right Agreement” every child has right to be raised in his or her own environment, culture and religion.

So, adoption is legal in Turkey, which means Wycliffe/SIL experts claim about the term “stepfather” not in existence in Turkish is false.

As for the Arabic language—a language I can read and write and speak partly—there are two terms for “father.” Ab and waalid. Ab can apply both as a biological or social term for “father.” For example, one of the most known Muslims during the times of Prophet Muhammad was nicknamed Abu Hurairah. Almost every Muslim knows his name because he collected several thousand of aHadith—sayings of Prophet Muhammad—that Muslims use today. Abu Hurairah means, “father of the kitten,” because he owned a kitten as a child. No Muslim in his or her right mind would claim Abu Hurairah “beget” a kitten.

On the other hand, waalid is strictly biological. When the Qur’an in Suratul Al-Ikhlas (chapter 112 of the Qur’an) says, Allah cannot “beget,” the Arabic word used is “yaalid,” a variant of waalid. Yaalid, which means “beget” in Arabic, obviously is biological and has nothing to do with ab. Wycliffe/SIL experts appear to confuse these two terms. (Ciccarelli has quoted and argued against using “Ab” for “Father” in Bible translations into Arabic HERE.)

Arab Muslims would have minimal struggle reading a Bible version in Arabic that translate “Father” as “Ab.” A little explanation in a footnote might clear their confusion. Translators should do their part and leave the Holy Spirit do His Work.

As for translating the “Son of God,” it is even easier. Terms Wycliffe experts have suggested as equivalent for translating mean created being to a Muslim. The Qur’an says “Messiah” is a created being. “Beloved of God” is a term Muslims exclusively use for Prophet Muhammad. I assume this was not the intention of Wycliffe/SIL to bring Jesus Christ to the same level with Muhammad.

New Testament scholar Dr. Vern S. Poythress once argued for these two terms as equivalent to “Son of God.” Wycliffe/SIL invoked him to justify some of its mistranslations. It still does HERE in the footnote. I talked with him about Muslim views and he has since issued a statement calling for “Son of God” “to be communicated clearly in translation.”

Wycliffe/SIL translations in the current controversy came to fruition because of Ciccarelli and Brown’s faulty reasoning. How Wycliffe/SIL can justify expending its financial resources which Christians have sacrificially given on these translations, which even facts do not support, is beyond me. Turkish and Arabic both have multiple modern translations of the Bible already available and Wycliffe claims “209 million people [still] do not have any Scripture in their language.” Shouldn’t the latter be Wycliffe’s priority?

If you are unfamiliar with this scandal, please read the petition that was started to hold accountable Wycliffe, SIL and Frontiers USA HERE.

** Larry Ciccarelli also goes by Larry Chico, Leith Gray, Mansour Ciccarelli.

April 17th, 2013

Wycliffe/SIL and the WEA’s Missteps Raise integrity Questions

Here are a few but significant missteps of Wycliffe Bible Translators/Summer Institute of Linguistics and its auditor, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA):

  1. Wycliffe/SIL went to the WEA, “as a respected and trusted global evangelical association,” to review its translation practices yet it is perfectly fine with Wycliffe/SIL that Dr. Robert E. Cooley, who it had recommended to participate from a position favorable to Wycliffe/SIL, is participating, let alone, leading the review process. Don’t get me wrong. I am not questioning the integrity of Dr. Cooley. I contacted the WEA on April 11, 2012—four weeks prior to Dr. Cooley’s appointment to chair the global panel—about my concerns and even shared the evidence. I received a one line response thanking me for the information. Little did I know my concerns would be ignored. Wycliffe/SIL and the WEA have essentially taken shortcuts to transparency and integrity. It is a fact, Wycliffe/SIL were involved in Bible translations that removed “Father” and “Son” from the context of Scripture. The WEA leaders might just be ignorant of Wycliffe/SIL’s culpability. Dr. Cooley’s point man at the WEA admitted to me in early August he did not know why Wycliffe/SIL were being audited.
  2. Wycliffe/SIL initially defended the Bible translations in the current controversy. Wycliffe’s initial statement was in the form of an email, with a PDF attachment (HERE), which was sent out to all Wycliffe organization personnel worldwide from then Senior VP of Wycliffe USA Russ Hersman’s email account. (Mr. Hersman has since been promoted to the Chief Operating Officer of Wycliffe USA.) The statement defended Bible translations in the current controversy. Passionate Wycliffe supporters who had all along thought Wycliffe/SIL was being falsely accused forwarded the email to Biblical Missiology, the organization that started the online petition. Biblical Missiology responded with a FACT CHECK which you can access HERE. A Wycliffe member who has since resigned confirmed Wycliffe’s initial statement defending the translations was sent from Mr. Hersman’s email account. Wycliffe hasn’t retracted the initial statement to date.
  3. I have italicized “respected” and “trusted” in the WEA’s initial sentence about itself because the WEA has had significant ethical problems. There are several examples, but let me just point out two. The WEA defines its Associate Members—Wycliffe is one of its Global Partners—as “independently incorporated organizations with their own specific ministries and accountability, an international scope of ministry, and the capacity and authority to serve in and beyond the WEA community.” That is far from true. More HERE. First, let me show you something about a WEA associate member Holy Bible Society (HBS). I chose to go with this ‘organization’ because it touts Zondervan, the Lockman Foundation and LifeWay as its “significant partners.” I contacted all these three organizations and none of them knows what HBS is, let alone as a “partner.” Zondervan was looking into the possibility HBS was using its “name without permission.” President and CEO of LifeWay, Thom Rainer, had no idea what it was. He responded via Twitter he was “not familiar with the organization” and LifeWay was “looking into it.” A friend who unknowingly supported and promoted Bible translations in the current controversy—who has since resigned—says, “This alone is reason to call the WEA into question as an independent arbitrator of the translation issue.  If they promote as viable partners and member organizations that are really nothing more than shells, or fronts for the same organization, then how can they be expected to be truthful when it comes to the translation issue?” The WEA’s North American Council member David Jang is the president of HBS. Another WEA associate member is Young Disciples of Jesus, which is considered a cult in China. I was at Wheaton College in July 2012 participating in a program for the Chinese church. I asked one of the leaders if he had heard of Young Disciples of Christ. I said the name wrong. He quickly corrected me. He asked, “You mean Young Disciples of Jesus?” When I answered in the affirmative, he said “it is a cult.” Young Disciples of Jesus is associated with the WEA’s David Jang.
  4. Christianity Today published an extensive article about Mr. Jang who is considered in his denomination as “Second Coming Christ.” You can read the first article HERE and a follow up HERE. The WEA is aware of these troubling concerns but instead of distancing itself, it has defended Mr. Jang and organizations associated with him. He is still a leader of the WEA. I contacted Wycliffe, and even talked with one of the leaders at great length about the WEA last summer before the WEA assembled the panel, the review process still continued.
  5. Though the review bears the WEA name, Wycliffe/SIL is the sponsor. Wycliffe/SIL is not just paying the bills; a Wycliffe/SIL source with knowledge of the deliberations says Muslim Idiom Translations (MIT) proponents have had access to deliberations of the WEA panel members, urging them to support Wycliffe/SIL position on Muslim Idiom Translations (MIT), while Wycliffe/SIL personnel who oppose MIT have not had a chance to speak with the WEA panel. It is troubling, especially when Wycliffe/SIL had claimed the review would be “independent.” Wycliffe and SIL had recommended Dr. Robert E. Cooley to the panel, and per Wycliffe/SIL document, he would “participate from a position supportive of” Wycliffe/SIL current translation policy, but I didn’t know non-panel members who are also proponents of MITs would be the only voice in these deliberations.
  6. Finally, the WEA has broken a promise. A big one. The initial WEA press statement about the global review panel stated “followers of Christ from Muslim backgrounds” would be included in the panel. That hasn’t been the case. There are hundreds of thousands of Christians from Muslim background. The WEA claims to represent “650 million Christians” worldwide and surprisingly it could not come up with one believer from Muslim background to sit on its panel. Did Wycliffe/SIL nix this promise because it was too risky for its integrity? I would like to know. None of Muslim background believers I have met agrees the title, “Messiah,”which in Islam is a created being, and “Beloved of God,” a term Muslims exclusively use for Prophet Muhammad, are terms suitable for translating “Son of God.”
April 11th, 2013

Pray for the WEA Wycliffe Global Panel and…

It has been ten months since I wrote a blog entry about Wycliffe Bible Translators, Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and Frontiers’ Bible translation controversy. I have taken this break partly to give these organizations time to sort out their mess. Only time will tell if they admit to their mistakes, repent and apologize to the global church.

(Frontiers hasn’t wavered. Its leadership has taken ownership for its organization’s part in the translations, though it couldn’t defend them.)

The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) assembled a panel of thirteen global experts, which is currently meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, reviewing Wycliffe and SIL’s translation practices. The review will not audit Bible translations Wycliffe/SIL produced, funded or approved through consultation, even though this is the main issue in the current controversy.

The first meeting was in Canada in November 2012, which three panel members did not attend. Please pray for the panel to arrive at a God-honoring decision on Wycliffe/SIL translation policy.

The review panel’s decision, if not followed by Wycliffe/SIL repentance and apology for its involvement in Bible translations in the current controversy, marks the beginning of a new phase. I have Wycliffe/SIL internal emails and documents which show its culpability. At this stage, Wycliffe/SIL leaders cannot claim ignorance. After all, they had 16 months to come up with a plausible explanation on what role their organizations’ played.

Wycliffe appears to be moving “past” this controversy. Not so fast, unless, of course, integrity means nothing to this once reputable organization.

Please pray. Thank you.