Friday, April 27, 2012


WHY WE CAN’T LET WYCLIFFE LOSE ‘FATHER’ AND ‘SON’ IN TRANSLATION Last year we reported on the disturbing trend in missions strategy, the ‘insider movement’ where postmodern missionaries are encouraging converts to stay in their old religion as for example a ‘Muslim follower of Jesus’, continuing to attend Mosque, read the Quran and pray Muslim prayers. Is this just amongst a group of wacky extremists? No. The strategy is being promoted by postmodern leaders in some of the worlds largest evangelical missions institutions including: professors at Fuller, the worlds largest evangelical Seminary; missionaries from ‘The Navigators’ in Asia; the World Evangelical Alliance Mission Commission, and in the 2010 ‘Call to Action’ of the Lausanne III Convention ('Call to Action' (Part 2C,section4)). These postmodernists have penetrated the heart of evangelicalism and are in the process of trying to redefine what it means to be a Christian. In 2008, I warned the Lausanne Convention organizing committee against postmodern infiltration Postmodernists in Lausanne 2010 spoke in coded language most delegates did not understand in order to push their agenda, which they managed to influence in much the same way that homosexuals pushed ‘sexual orientation’ subtly into our law and only explained the meaning later. Now we hear that the world’s largest Bible translation organizations including ‘Wycliffe Bible Translators’ and SIL International have already produced 32 new translations of the Bible which mistranslate the scriptures to make them less offensive to Moslems and are aiming to have produced 91 such translations by 2025! Of greatest concern is their editing out of references to God as ‘Father’ and Jesus Christ as the ‘Son of God’. Their excuse? They say that some Muslims will otherwise misunderstand these biological relationship terms to think that it means that God had a sexual relationship with Mary. Alternative words they are using instead of ‘son’ they are using include terms like ‘one and only’ and ‘God’s cherished one’ and ‘Messiah’. Needless to say, this has provoked a storm of protest. The group ‘Biblical Missiology’ has written a number of rebuttal articles and a petition against it at: In response to this challenge Wycliffe claim that some of these other words in the native languages imply a ‘son’ relationship. But if that is the case, why do not just use the common word ‘son’. According to them, the issue is so subtle and complicated that only trained linguists and theologians can understand it – and so the rest of us should back out of the debate and leave it to the experts. Wycliffe have suspended these translations pending an review by a panel of theologians from the World Evangelical Alliance HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND? Firstly, even if the alternative words preserve a fraction of the meaning of the word ‘father’ and ‘son’, this is not good enough. Every language has a word for ‘father’ and ‘son’. If some Muslims misunderstand this to imply a sexual relationship, one does not need to change the text of the Bible – you can explain the issue in a footnote, an introduction, a statement of faith, a pamphlet, an article or a radio program – but it is dangerous and blasphemous to distort the Word of God just because some people misunderstand it. Secondly, through history there have been thousands of misunderstandings of scripture by different cultures and will be more in future. We cannot avoid this and the Bible itself even predicts it. Peter says of Paul’s letters “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:16 But misunderstandings of one scripture can be cleared up by studying other scriptures. Thirdly, to answer the argument of ‘dynamic equivalency’: where for example since the Sudanese have no word for ‘snow’ and don’t know what it is – so their Bible says ‘white as cotton’ which conveys the term white. There is no need to do this with the term ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ since every language knows and understand what these mean. Fourthly, these translations if released into the Muslim world will undermine and confuse the church in those countries and give ammunition to Moslems who argue that translations of the Bible are unreliable. Muslim readers who discover the translation they have bought is unreliable are going to get really angry – as they should, but sadly they may also as a result lose confidence in Christianity. Fifthly, in the Bible the word ‘snow’ does not have critical importance to understanding the message of the Bible. The words ‘father’ and ‘son’ do. The gospel of John, Jesus especially focuses on the glorious revelation that God is our ‘father’. While there are many names for God in the Old Testament, Jesus most commonly uses the name ‘Father’ and encourages us to do the same, for example in teaching us how to pray ‘Our father in heaven…’ (Matthew 6:9). The name ‘Father’ is loaded with meaning, which is critical our correct understanding of God: God the father gives us spiritual life as a natural father give us biological life; A natural father gives us our family name and usually our first names also, is the ruler of the family, is responsible for the protection and provision of the family, as God is for us. We are adopted into the family of God the father as children of God. The word ‘Son’ implies an heir and a permanent relationship, rights which ‘servants’ do not have. Fathers have compassion on their children (2 Corinthians 1:3), which an impersonal God like ‘Allah’ cannot give. To drive the point home, Jesus repeats the word ‘Father’ again and again in the Gospel of John and six times in the climax of his great high priestly prayer in John 17. More than any other single word, ‘Father’ is the name that reveals glory of God. Only the Son of God can reveal the Fatherhood of God. It is because of our adoption into this privileged position of ‘sons’ of God that we can have confidence that God will hear our prayers, answer us, provide for us, protect us. It is a loaded term, packed with meaning – chosen by God himself to reveal who he is to us. Sixthly, against the pragmatic argument that these translations will bring more Muslims to Christ – that is unlikely. The fatherhood of God is attractive. Most of the claimed converts by the ‘insider movement’ are not true converts, but simply Muslims interested in Jesus but have not repented of their sins and received him as Lord. But even if it was more successful than traditional missions and faithful translations – even if they did get more converts – should we then follow this strategy. No. Why? Because our aim in missions is not just to maximize the number of converts but to glorify God (Romans 15:9). The Bible most powerfully and uniquely reveals the Glory of God through his name of ‘Father’. Now we have a group of people trying to mask that glory with substitute words for God. Rather we should re-double our efforts to communicate to anyone and everyone the Fatherhood of God and the opportunity to be adopted as his sons. CONCLUSION And it is utterly ridiculous for a group of academics and linguists to try to rip this truth out of the scriptures and confuse the mission field of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia with a distorted and half-baked Bible. God chose to reveal himself as ‘Father’ through his ‘Son’ Jesus and translators who don’t want to translate that plain, simple and with its full meaning should go translate something other than the Bible. Given that the ideology of postmodernism grew out of the work of the linguistic philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein it is not surprising that linguists are being influenced by this ideology. Brian McLaren, the greatest proponent of postmodern ideology in the church is in fact trained in linguistics and not theology. Postmodernism emphasizes the subjective meaning of words to the hearer, rather than the intended objective meaning of the author. While it is encouraging that Wycliffe has suspended these translations and is awaiting review from the World Evangelical Fellowship, this by no means guarantees the problem will be properly resolved here. Given that so many leading evangelical institutions already mentioned are infiltrated with postmodernists including the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) itself, one does not know who will be on the panel. Postmodern missions activists infiltrated and hijacked the Lausanne III convention, introducing ‘coded language’ not understood by most of the missions delegation that gives credibility to the ‘insider movement’. There could be a similar infiltration of the WEA and its review panel . See for example an article promoting the ‘Insider Movement’ on the World Evangelical Alliance web site: The postmodern missions contextualization movement threatens to destroy Evangelical Missions in the same way that modernism destroyed Protestant Mainline Missions in the 1930s. If we do not win this fight, we are going to have to say goodbye to all these postmodern infected institutions and organization and start again with a re-grouping of true Biblical Christianity: new mission organizations, new bible translations, new church alliances. That will take decades of work. It will be easier to fight to protect them against this attack now. This ‘insider movement’ debate is not just a conflict of opinions within evangelical Christianity. These postmodern ‘insider movement’ promoters are not evangelicals, they are undermining the basic definition of Christianity, distorting the Word of God not just in teaching but in translation itself. See my previous article at for why this is so. Such scripture twisters should not be allowed to be members of evangelical organizations, churches or institutions. Evangelicals need to get beyond friendly debate and take disciplinary action against these people and defund institutions which print unfaithful translations of the scriptures and missions that encourage converts to stay in their old religion. People who encourage converts to stay in their old religion are not evangelicals and shouldn’t be allowed to masquerade as such. WHAT CAN WE DO: * Pray for Bible translation organizations to be faithful to the Word of God and remove postmodernists. * Only give money to Bible translation groups that are faithful to the Word of God. * Pray for the World Evangelical Alliance to be protected from postmodern infiltration. * Encourage your church and any mission sending organization not to support any ‘insider movement’ promoting missionaries (also often called by the code term ‘C5’). * Sign the petition against mistranslation of ‘father’ and ‘son’ in the Bible * Study the articles on * If you want to train to be a missionary, chose where you train carefully and which organization you go with. * If you are a pastor, consider doing a sermon on the Fatherhood of God, Jesus as Son and what this Father-Son relationship means for us also. If so many evangelical leaders can’t see the importance of this issue – maybe there are some in your congregation who need this clarified.