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.

June 5th, 2012

Wycliffe/SIL Stacking the Deck of Independent WEA Review?

World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) has established an “independent” review to audit Wycliffe Bible Translators and Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) Bible translations geared toward Muslims that have been in dispute. The Orlando Sentinel reports “about 200 translations” will be audited.

WEA appointed Dr. Robert E. Cooley on May 9 to lead this global review. I had suspected Dr. Cooley would be on the review board because a Wycliffe/SIL internal document posted in March that I obtained on March 28 shows, “Several Assemblies of God academics have been recommended for the global review panel and are seeking to participate from a position supportive of SIL’s Best Practices.” A source within Wycliffe had identified Dr. Cooley among other AG academics. (I have a list of the rest of the names.)

I emailed WEA on April 11—copied the email to Wycliffe—asking if it was true that Wycliffe/SIL had recommended AG academics supportive of their position to the panel. I was concerned Wycliffe/SIL would be “stacking the deck”—contrary to what their leaderships had claimed—by recruiting experts in agreement with their position. WEA declined to respond to my questions.

My email to WEA clearly showed Dr. Cooley’s relationship—without naming him—to SIL Executive Director, Freddy Boswell, Jr. I mentioned how they had both served on the board at Oral Roberts University. Also, sources within Wycliffe/SIL say SIL had approached Dr. Cooley to help with the AG situation, especially because AG had given Wycliffe/SIL a May 15 deadline.

As respected as Dr. Cooley is, it is suspect how neutral this review board would be, considering he has been helping Wycliffe and SIL all along with the AG situation, and according to Wycliffe/SIL internal document, he is “supportive” of Wycliffe/SIL position.

In the meantime, we need to pray for the whole truth to come out. I have other information that shows Wycliffe/SIL would be using what appears to be a lopsided review as a stamp of approval for their Bible translations that have caused grave concern by the national churches of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey.

AG has already made its position very clear. Apparently, even Wycliffe and SIL enlisting Dr. Cooley did not help with the AG situation. AG has delayed its decision to break off partnership with Wycliffe until at the end of the year, all out of respect for the WEA global review. It seems, however, that the break off is bound to happen because Wycliffe still officially insists “Son of God” cannot be translated accurately in “certain Muslim” contexts because it carries a sexual connotation. Also, WEA review has no bearing on AG if WEA’s “independent” review contradicts AG position. You can read AG’s official position HERE.

This translation controversy is not going away soon, especially when there are serious ethical questions about how it is being conducted. Why would a cash-strapped WEA spend its limited resources on a global review when all critics asked for is for Wycliffe and SIL to commit in writing that “Father,” “Son” and “Son of God” should always be translated accurately?

WEA deliberately agreeing to do this lopsided review has opened up a lot of questions about the process. It is clear from Wycliffe/SIL internal document Wycliffe and SIL have worked behind the scenes to get people supportive of their approach on the panel and that WEA is not being transparent in responding to questions.

WEA claims to speak for 600 million evangelical Christians worldwide. (There are about 800 million evangelicals in total.) There is evidence that suggests that WEA has hitched itself to one particular source of funding that calls into question its claim to represent the global church.

May 10th, 2012

Frustration in Outreach and Bible Translation Controversy

Saudi Christian Al Fadi appeared on In the Market with Janet Parshall, discussing among other issues, Wycliffe Bible Translators controversy. Wycliffe leadership claims “individuals in the American Church” are opposed to its translation practices while actually the opposition comes from the global church, which includes native speakers, Muslim background believers (MBBs), pastors, missiologists, linguists, Bible translators, and current and former Wycliffe employees. They are not just questioning Wycliffe’s commitment to faithfulness in Bible translation but have evidence in the form of corrupted Bible translations.

A few Arabic translations are featured in this controversy. Al Fadi is a native Arabic speaker and also has studied Greek. When asked about the controversy, he says:

Muslims are always raised up to believe that the bible is corrupted and that Christians corrupted the bible. Besides why are we ashamed of what the Gospel message is, it is clearly going to be troublesome for the world? Why are we ashamed of it? Why are we ashamed of declaring who Jesus is? He himself acknowledged Himself to be the Son of God. They (Wycliffe) claim that Muslims would take it as if it is a sexual relationship. I am sorry. That is not the intent I took from the Bible. So, we need to do a better job of reaching out and trusting the Holy Spirit.

Wycliffe’s translations are marred with gargantuan errors. First, they replace “Son” with “messiah” in at least one Arabic translation. The Qur’an clearly states “messiah” is a created being. Wycliffe’s experts apparently did not realize that. How else would someone who believes and “is committed to preserving the eternal deity of Jesus Christ” render the term to mean a created being?

Second, the Arabic language has two words—“ab” and “waalid”—for “father.” “Ab” does not carry a sexual connotation. For example, Abu Dhabi, the capital of United Arab Emirates, means “father of deer” yet no Arab or Muslim can argue there was sex involved in order for the city to bear that name. There are many more examples: Abu Bakr, Abu Hurairah, Abu Graib, etc. “Ab,” even though it does not carry a sexual connotation, is a term Wycliffe has refused to use in these mistranslations.

Wycliffe had used “Allah”—“God” in Arabic—in place of “Father” and now has settled on using “Wali”—which means “helper,” “protector,” “friend” or “guardian.” The latter has become Wycliffe’s preferred term to render “Father” in the revised edition of The True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ translation even though “Wali” does not mean “Father.” “Wali” is not equivalent to “father” in Arabic. In fact in the Qur’an “Wali” also refers to Satan.

It is becoming clearer we Christians get easily discouraged when trying to share the Gospel with Muslims. We know the terms “Father” and “Son” put Muslims off. Have we forgotten they were also a hindrance to Jews and Jesus Christ did not concede during his discourse? I agree with Al Fadi “we need to do a better job of reaching out and trusting the Holy Spirit.”

Some of us Christians have a heart for Muslims but are frustrated. Our frustration has manifested itself even in our efforts trying to have the Word of God translated in a language Muslims can understand. We need to go back to the basics (Bible) in our outreach to Muslims.

Let us continue praying for Wycliffe, SIL and Frontiers leaderships.

April 30th, 2012

Wycliffe Can’t Answer Questions, Wastes Time & Resources on Irrelevance in Translation Controversy

Wycliffe Bible Translators has created an “Allah Fact Sheet” web page specifically devoted to addressing “Facts concerning the use of the term “Allah” in Scripture.” This page shows how Allah is not the moon god, his use in scripture predates Islam and millions of Christians currently use him as a term for God.  However this topic is really a non-issue in the Bible translation controversy.

Wycliffe has squandered time and resources coming up with this “Fact Sheet.” Instead it could have used the time to answer questions pertaining to the estimated “200 of the 1,500 Bible translations completed by Wycliffe since it started in 1917,” currently disputed for not translating “Father,” “Son” or “Son of God” accurately. The “Fact Sheet” seems to be a diversionary tactic, and largely irrelevant to the current controversy. The use of “Allah” for “God” was not a part of Biblical Missiology’s online petition, because the issue is about substituting “Allah” for “Father” to satisfy Muslims who object to using “Father.” Another issue is substituting “Messiah” for “Son” while clearly “Messiah” in the Qur’an is a created being.

Wycliffe also has a “Divine Familial Terms Answers to Commonly Asked Questions” page which, even when it is meant to be about “Father,” “Son” and “Son of God,” still brings up the use of “Allah” for “God.” Wycliffe asks and answers:

ARE YOU REMOVING THE NAME OF GOD AND REPLACING IT WITH Allah [sic]?

In the Arabic language, “Allah” is the primary term used for “God.” It should be considered the same as translating the Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic terms for God into English.

It may also be helpful to note that the term “Allah” pre-dates Islam. It appears as far back as the 5th century B.C. and many, if not all, Christian Arabic translations of Scripture since at least the 8th century have used this term.

One of my friends who has been a missionary to the Muslim world finds an irony in Wycliffe’s statement:

This is right and wrong at the same time. Yes, Arabic usage is correct. However, the connotation of the Deity of Islam and Allah has very close linkage. If one translates the text of Matt 28 as “wash them in the manner of Islamic ablutions in the name of Allah” the reader will have the clue of the context to interpret this as the Deity of Islam and how he has been revealed in the Qur’an. If after you remove “Son” and insert Messiah again this is an indication of an Islamizing of the text.

What Wycliffe is doing is stressing the denotation—i.e. the dictionary definition of Allah—and it is forgetting the connotation—i.e. the meanings associated with Allah of Islam. This is as has been pointed out a diversionary tactic. Funny that an org [sic] that is moving to talking a lot about the meaning of the text, is now moving to the more literal renderings of Allah and is forgetting the meanings associated with the name.

These heretical translations—200 languages involving Arabic, Malay, Urdu, Turkish, ectetera—affect close to a billion people. The time is now for Wycliffe to set aside irrelevance and answer pertinent questions. Anything short of a full disclosure and repentance is epic failure.

April 27th, 2012

Bad Choices, Wycliffe

Bad choices, Wycliffe. All the Biblical Missiology’s petition had asked was for you to commit in writing that you would translate ‘Father’, ‘Son’ and ‘Son of God’ accurately in Bible translations. I talked with your leadership in early February and even made it very clear this controversy is far reaching hence needed immediate action but you did not heed my advice. Not even when your leadership acknowledged your expert missiologists, linguistics and bible translators must have misled you to defend these heretical Bible translations.

Now here we are. Because of your choices, this issue will not be resolved soon. Not even at your quadrennial—every four years—meeting in Thailand next week because the global panel review would not conclude its findings by then.

Speaking of the panel, why did you submit to World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) review, an organization that cannot respond to inquiries? Not even the Associated Press could get a response about the review panel. I asked WEA—5 weeks ago—these questions and to date I have not received a response:

1) Whose idea was it to initiate the global review panel? Was it Wycliffe/SIL or WEA?

2) When will the review start?

3) Will the names of panelists be public?

4) Will the review panel address questions Wycliffe/SIL has not answered to date or is it up to Wycliffe and SIL to answer these questions?

5) When asked questions, Wycliffe officials have appealed publicly for people to wait for the outcome of the review, which will not conclude until at the end of 2012. Who came up with this arbitrary timeline?

6) There are missiologists and linguists within Wycliffe and SIL, some of them who have PhDs, who are opposed to the current Wycliffe/SIL translation practices. Will they get a chance to present their case? (When Wycliffe/SIL presents its case to the review panel, it will be coming from a minority who support current translation practices.) Thank you.

I am praying for you.

April 26th, 2012

“Son” in Arabic Dialects, Prophet Muhammad, Wycliffe and Translation Controversy

I have a friend, a former Wycliffe Bible Translators missionary kid from Cameroon, who says he has been told this translation controversy resulted due to different Arabic dialects. It is not true. There is no difference in translating “Father” and “Son” in various Arabic dialects. “Father” is “ab” or “waalid” and “son” is “ibn” or “waalad” in every Arabic dialect. “Waalad” has sexual connotation because in Arabic it means [masculine] “begotten.”

Ibn” is used in the Qur’an and it does not imply “sexual connotation” that Wycliffe, SIL and Frontiers contend in this controversy. For example, “ibn sabeel” which in Arabic literally means “son of the road” to refer to a traveler appears in two verses. There is no Muslim in his or her right mind who thinks the road has begotten a son.

Muslims also are aware Prophet Muhammad used to have an adopted son and his name was Zayd bin (a variant of “ibn”) Muhammad. Zayd was “son of” Muhammad for the first 16 years of Islam because Muhammad had adopted him. It was only after Muhammad had a heart for Zayd’s wife Zainab when Zayd’s sonship became an issue. Muhammad received a revelation to have it terminated. You can read it all in chapter 33 of the Qur’an. Verses 4 and 6 of the chapter state:

Allah has not made for any man two hearts in his (one) body: nor has He made your wives whom ye divorce by Zihar your mothers: nor has He made your adopted sons your sons. Such is (only) your (manner of) speech by your mouths. But Allah tells (you) the Truth, and He shows the (right) Way. Call them by (the names of) their fathers: that is juster in the sight of Allah. But if ye know not their father’s (names, call them) your Brothers in faith, or your maulas. But there is no blame on you if ye make a mistake therein: (what counts is) the intention of your hearts: and Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.

The most renowned Muslim commentary on the Qur’an, Tafsir Ibn Kathir, states:

This was revealed concerning Zayd bin Harithah, may Allah be pleased with him, the freed servant of the Prophet. The Prophet had adopted him before prophethood, and he was known as Zayd bin Muhammad. Allah wanted to put an end to this naming and attribution.

So, “ibn” does not carry a sexual connotation in Arabic. Not even in the Qur’an. Wycliffe, SIL and Frontiers’ arguments against the use of “ibnu’llah” (Son of God) in Arabic Bible translations are unfounded. Wycliffe still maintains:

In particular regard to Bible translations done for Muslim contexts we affirm that in the majority of cases a literal translation of “Son of God” will be the preferred translation. 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 alternative form must maintain the concept of “sonship”. All translations for Muslim audiences should include an explanation of the meaning of the phrase “ho huios tou theou” (the Son of God) when it refers to Jesus Christ. This may be in a preface, in one or more footnotes, or as a glossary entry, as seems appropriate to the situation.

Had Prophet Muhammad not married his adopted son’s wife, Wycliffe, SIL and Frontiers would not have been making these claims today. I cannot believe three reputable Christian organizations have changed God’s Word over an issue that could easily be explained to Muslims who object to “Son” is being translated accurately in Arabic. It could be explained a) ibn does not carry sexual connotation and (b) Zayd was “son of” Muhammad who Muhammad did not father. The title of choice these organizations have used in the Arabic translation in place of “Son” is “Messiah,” which is a created being in the Qur’an.

April 24th, 2012

Has World Reformed Fellowship Endorsed Wycliffe in Translation Controversy?

Wycliffe Global Alliance (WGA) is promoting an article on World Reformed Fellowship (WRF) website as if it is a WRF’s position on Wycliffe’s translation controversy. It claims, “Steve Taylor of the World Reformed Fellowship (WRF) has expounded thoughtfully on the allegation that, somehow, Wycliffe and SIL have compromised the truth of the Gospel through their translation of key biblical terms in such communities.” WGA is promoting Mr. Taylor’s article even contrary to WRF official statement preceding the article clearly stating:

One point of clarification – the WRF has taken no official position regarding the issues raised by Steve Taylor and Phil. The matter of appropriate translation practices has never been formally addressed by the WRF. It may be addressed at some future point but, as of this date (April 5, 2012), the issue has not been officially addressed by any decision-making authority within the WRF. In fact, the only body within the WRF that can, according to our By-Laws, make formal doctrinal statements is the General Assembly of the WRF. The last such General Assembly met in 2010 and the next General Assembly is scheduled for 2014.

A Wycliffe USA member who goes by pseudonym “Al Smith” has been promoting Mr. Taylor’s article on social media as if it were World Reformed Fellowship’s position. A Facebook user who read the article challenged Mr. Smith:

Thanks so much, Al — but are you highlighting Steve Taylor’s statement or Sam Logan’s statement? It’s only “another point of view” if you are referring to Steve Taylor’s statement. Sam Logan, international director of the World Reformed Fellowship, indicates that WRF “has taken no official position” on these issues. By the way, would you by chance be with Wycliffe/SIL? Your Facebook profile looks a awful lot like the one created by Janet Reeves, who is also responding to these issues. If you are with WBT/SIL, please indicate this. Are you? This would be important information for accountability/transparency. If by *any chance* you are a WBT member using an invented identity to promote information that is perceived as favorable to Wycliffe, this could raise some interesting questions. Hey, if I’m wrong, just say so. Thanks.

I contacted the International Director of WRF Dr. Sam Logan and he stated, “As noted on our website, the WRF takes no position on the matter that is being discussed regarding translation practices.”

Mr. Taylor is a member of WRF and is not speaking for World Reformed Fellowship. Another WRF member responded to him:

The reader may view the reference to the Mission Frontiers article at the end of Steve Taylor’s article as an endorsement of this article by the WRF.  This is not the case, I am told.  According to the editor of the website these are simply the words that Steve Taylor provided as a part of his submission.  The interested reader will note that the comments posted to this Mission Frontiers article on their website indicate how controversial the article is.  A more serious reader will wonder, and would begin to research where this ideology comes from and why the Muslim background church is so angry about it.

‘Does the WRF endorse removing “Son of God” from the text of Scripture?’  As a member organization of the WRF that keenly feels the impact of such translations of the Scriptures on our church planting work this is an important question for us.

This article by WRF member David Garner is an important one to interact with:http://www.reformation21.org/articles/a-world-of-riches.php

The work of WRF member Bill Nikides is equally important and can be found in hot-off-the-press Chrislam – How Missionaries are Promoting an Islamized Gospel, available from i2ministries.org His work includes many articles in St. Francis Magazine such as “The Year of the Lab Rat”http://www.stfrancismagazine.info/ja/content/view/575/38/

Lest the reader imagine that Steve Taylor’s view of what is happening in Wycliffe is uncontested from within the organization, Matthew Carlton’s treatment of the issue is a vital read: “Jesus the Son of God: Biblical Meaning, Muslim Understanding, and Implications for Translation and Bible Literacy”http://www.stfrancismagazine.info/ja/content/view/569/38/

Wycliffe has been avoiding questions, resorting to diversionary tactics. All  Biblical Missiology petition has asked is for Wycliffe to put in writing that it would always translate “Father,” “Son of God” and “Son” accurately. Apparently, this is too much to ask of Wycliffe.