Archive for March 12th, 2012

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.