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.

  • Benelchi

    Erin,

    Now I would like to deal with the real issues. Yes, Erin I have spoken with many bible translators. One of the first concerns I had with claims about the need to replace familial language in bible translations in Muslim contexts was the claim (made by Rick Brown) that the Arabic word ibn ‘son’ only described a “sexual/biological dependency.” Rick Brown never footnotes any references to support this claim and has, so far, refused to answer questions about how he has come to this conclusion. I have yet to meet a single native Arabic speaker that accepts the claim about the limited semantic range of meaning Rick Brown says is inherent in this word itself. Over the last five years since I first became aware of these translations, I have had many conversations with Arabic speakers (and speakers of other languages where these idiomatic translations have been introduced) and cannot find any support for this claim from those who are native speakers of these languages; this claim appears to me to be simply made up (like many other things claimed by Brown in his papers). What I have found is that I can come close to getting the answers Rick Brown claims are inherent in the language itself by asking Muslims (regardless of the language they speak) about what they believe Christians teach about Jesus being the “Son of God?” However, this does not reflect a linguistic misunderstanding, it reflects a misunderstanding about the teachings of Christianity itself and the idiomatic translations that are being produced only aggravate this misunderstanding. Additionally many of the terms being used in these translations as alternate expressions for “Son of God” are expressions that are identical to terms used in Islamic literature in reference to Mohammad. The only published surveys of IM believers (the ones using these translations) show that most fail to understand Christ’s divine nature (Islamic contexts) or the uniqueness of his divine nature (Hindu contexts). If you would like to read a good book about the issues related to the replacement of familial language, I would suggest D.A Carson’s book “Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title often overlooked, sometimes misunderstood, and currently disputed.” Carson has served as a translator with the CBT for many decades and is a well-respected biblical and linguistic scholar; and, for the record, he is not part of the PCA or AG.

  • Benelchi

    Erin,

    First, let’s knock down the “straw man” you keep trying to erect. Your comments about the PCA are simply not material to this discussion and they are also inaccurate. For example, I happen to know some PCA members who accept the framework theory, so I looked to see if the PCA had really taken a position against the Framework theory as you had indicated. Here is what I found in the PCA Report of the Creation Study Committee, “The Framework view is the most easily misunderstood of the options. Proponents should recognize that it is complex, it has sometimes been poorly expressed, and it does not answer every exegetical question. It should be handled with great pastoral tact and sensitivity in today’s charged atmosphere.” That is hardly a dismissal of the Framework theory. More importantly, even if they had dismissed that theory as acceptable within their body (something they did not do), it would be again an issue of doctrines accepted WITHIN THEIR OWN CHURCHES. Most churches establish doctrines for their own members that they do not believe are essential to the Christian faith but do believe they are the best practices to aid their members in spiritual growth, holiness, and understanding of their faith. These issues of heterodoxy are not used as a test for genuine Christian faith but only as a guideline for what teaching is acceptable within their churches. Again, the reason that so many Christians from denominations are concerned with choices made by Wycliffe/SIL (and others) is that they believe that these organizations of crossed the line regarding the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. The issues being raised are not about acceptable teaching within a specific church body (like the issues you keep raising in regards to the PCA) but are about teachings that are acceptable in any Christian body. If you have an example of a PCA overture that advocates breaking fellowship with other Christian denominations or organizations over minor issues, then bring that to the table and we can see how it relates to this issue but taking in house debates and comparing them to this issue adds nothing to the discussion; it is just a method of trying to kick up the dirt so that it is difficult to see the real issues (especially when that “dirt” is laden with factual inaccuracies).

  • Erin

    your website cut me off. My previous comment continued to the categories Kapila, Vascapati, Newton, Kant, Einstein, Bohm and others. Surely you, the PCA, and the AG don’t believe any of these categories to be necessarily universal, but most (if not all) to be provisional, dependent upon our current awareness of the world around us. Why would this not be the case as much for other cultural caregories describing the “world” even if some of them are more “primative” as is the case routinely for any indigenous groups. Surely, the same was true, yet, at the same time, “faithful,” for the 4th and 5th century “ecumenical” churches. Do you really believe the confessions, catechisms, statements of faith, and creeds of the PCA and AG to be universally true, including the metaphyical frameworks (inclusive of catagorial analysis) within which they are/weere located?

  • Erin

    I’m not sure how it is a compromise of the gospel itself, or how my post was a “straw man?” My comment on intinction did not in any way suggest a “straw man.”. The reference to the intinction issue was merely illustrative – as would any number of strange obsesssions in PCA denominational dialogue; from the “transendental method” used in establishing their theological castle (that is quite isolated from either AG or scientific experiences BTW) to their dismissal of an appropriate regognition of a 1-4,2-5, 3-6, then 7 approach to the Genesis 1 story, to their obsession with “baptizing” platonic terminology within aristotelian categories to locate the gospel in a metaphysical framework.

    Besides, your response in no way makes any argument as to where these translators have “failed” in their attempt to communicate the meaning of Scripture. Where do any of these translators (or trasnlations, given that you probably don’t know any of the translators as I do) deny the divinity of Christ, the divinity of the holy spirit, or their distinct personhood? Do you understand the general misundestanding of the sonship of Jesus within the Quran (misled by an overly obsessed literalism of “Son” similar to later arian thinking)? Do you believe that the Philonic categories (The Jewish appropriator of Plato in Alexandria, Philo) were divinely inspired outside of “Scripture” for the Cappodocian champions of the Trinity to use. Those categories being ousia, hypostasis ad energia (a substitution for dunamis)? I find it strange how many believe these metaphysical assumptions to be univerally TRUE as opposed to contextual locations (given the pagan origins of the categories). Was Plato, Aristotle, or Philo more naturally Christian than Pantajali,

  • Benelchi

    Erin,

    The AG, PCA, and others like me from other denominations all want translations that give appropriate consideration to the language and culture of the reader; however, we also want translations that give appropriate consideration to the message God intended to communicate in his word. It is the latter issue to which Wycliffe/SIL (and others) have failed to give appropriate consideration when engaging in many of their translation projects. This is a failure that the universal church should condemn.

    Speaking as someone who is not, and has never been, part of the PCA and has not taken a side on the issue of intinction, I would still say that this discussion is entirely appropriate within the PCA. The PCA is not making this a test of faith but are only debating what practices should be acceptable WITHIN THEIR OWN CHURCHES. It is no different than churches that have doctrines regarding baptism by immersion verses baptism by sprinkling. The overture regarding intiction was intended only to direct the PCA church on its own practices (which is appropriate). The overture regarding bible translation practices affects the PCA’s relationships with organizations outside of the PCA because that issue is seen (properly) as a compromise of the Gospel itself. Let’s not raise the intiction “straw man” and deal honestly with the translation issue which is a far more serious issue (and properly recognized as so by both the PCA and AG denominations).

  • Erin

    I, for one, wish that Wycliff and SIL would simply ignore the AG and PCA, and continue to move forward with translations that give appropriate consideration to the language and culture of the reader(s) context. Isn’t this the same PCA that sent a resolution to its presbyteries last summer proposing a ban on all communion by intinction?