Monday, January 30, 2012

Removing "Son of God" and "Father" from the Bible

Lost In Translation: Keep "Father" & "Son" in the Bible

The blogosphere has caught up with a long-running debate between missionaries and Bible translators over removing "Son of God" and "Father" from the Bible. As a missionary to Muslims, this issue hits very close to home for me. I have been researching and praying about this issue for months, and it is very possible that Muslims who I have been proclaiming the gospel to have received "Muslim Compliant" translations from others which remove or replace the terms "Son of God", "Father" and other familial language from the Bible in favor of less offensive terms such as "Beloved one", "companion" and "Guardian." Anyone with a sense of loyalty to the Bible is going to immediately feel outraged and sickened about these changes, but they come with a complex set of arguments that need to be weighed in order to respond fairly. I have spent months reading thousands of pages in order to weigh the arguments, and I absolutely feel that their reasoning, exegesis and theology is wrong and that removing "Son of God" from the Bible removes the doctrine of adoption and alters the word of God in a dishonest and destructive way; however, most will condemn the authors of these changes far too easily. The proponents of this approach have high motives, they want to reach Muslims with the gospel; however, they have poor theology and have been deceived by postmodern ideas.

Let me add as well that this is not the same debate as the use of Allah for God in the Bible. That issue has its own debate. Allah is the only word for God in the Arabic language and it predates Islam. While some Arab Christians have invented another word for God in their language, most Arab Christians use the term Allah. The Islamic Allah and the Christian God are vastly different in their character and nature, but I believe it is acceptable to use the word Allah in translations as long as it is used consistently to refer to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and not to the Father only as some Muslim Compliant translations choose.

The most published scholar behind the movement to remove "Father" and "Son of God" from the Bible is Rick Brown. I recommend reading his articles The "Son of God" and Explaing the Biblical Term 'Son(s) of God' in a Muslim Contexts (Part I and II) in order to understand the arguments put forth in favor of the removal of familial language. For an overview of the entire debate I would reccommend the Biblical Missiology website and their article debating Wycliffe and others, as well as Chrislam: How Western Missionaries are Promoting an Islamicized Gospel. Brown's arguments generally fall into three categories, though there is a broad range of argumentation:

1.) Linguistic: Brown argues that the arabic word for son: Ibn always refers to a biological son and infers a carnal act between God and Mary. A number of Arabic linguists debate this fact and Jesus is referred to as "son of Mary" (ibn of Mary) in the Qur'an in spite of the fact that the Qur'an reinforces the virgin birth and absolutely does not infer a carnal relationship between God and Mary.

2.) Exegetical: Brown argues that the term "Son of God" and "Christ or Messiah" are identical and interchangeable, therefore nothing is lost when "Son of God" is removed. I believe this is poor exegesis and completely ignores the most basic meaning of the term and the importance of our adoption.

3.) Cultural: Brown argues that Muslims have been taught repeatedly that Christians believe in a carnal relationship between God and Mary, therefore the term "Son of God" is anathema to them. He argues that our understanding of the term son of a b____ is so offensive we would never apply it to Jesus no matter how it was redefined. This is a convincing argument, but all the Muslims I've interacted with take your word for it when you explain that the term does not refer to that and move on to object to the deity of Christ, which is the real issue with the term.

Brown makes a number of other arguments in similar lines, but in another article he makes it clear that he believes the deity of Christ is not necessary for salvation, "These doctrines about the deity of Jesus and his substitutionary punishment are wonderful parts of the Good News, and it is worthwhile discussing them with seekers, as Paul demonstrated in Romans. But the overwhelming Biblical witness is that although these doctrines are important for the disciple to understand, an understanding of them is not required for salvation." (from What Must One Believe about Jesus to be Saved?) This belief has crafted an entire missiology. It is dead wrong and endorses cheap grace, false salvation and syncretism and immunizes people to the true gospel.

I will be posting more on this in the future, but please read the links and the following articles in order to inform yourself on the subject:

Sign the petition to keep "Son of God" and "Father" in the Bible:

sign the petition here:

Christianity Today: The Son and the Crescent

Critique of Christianity Today's Article Entitled: The Son and the Crescent by Jay Smith

1 comment:

  1. REVELATIONS 22:19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.