by EMQ Readers
Our readers respond to previous EMQ articles.
Why Muslims Are Repelled by the Term “Son of God”
A recent article by Rick Brown entitled “Why Muslims are Repelled by the Term ‘Son of God’” (October 2007) gives voice to a disturbing and misguided trend in Bible “translation.” Brown argues against translating the term “Son of God” literally to languages with a Muslim population. To avoid offending Muslims, he proposes substitutes such as “viceroy of God” or worse, “Caliph of God.” Having directed Bible translation projects in Arabic, Kurdish, Turkish, Farsi and Kabyl, I am not unaware of the difficulties in this field. Every effort should be made to facilitate the understanding of scripture for the reader. However, this must never be done at the expense of truth and better judgment. If the reader objects to the actual content, it is beyond the scope of the translator to alter it.
While I applaud Brown’s intentions to mitigate the problems of translation in Muslim contexts, anything other than a literal translation of the term “Son of God” would be a gross error. No alternatives come anywhere close to expressing the richness of imagery and the accuracy of meaning expressed in “Son of God.” There can be no debate that the literal meaning of “son” is well understood in every language. Therefore, this is not an issue of translation. Rather, it is an attempt to engineer a positive response in Muslim readers by eliminating or disguising challenging Christian concepts. As such it is an insult to both the intelligence of the readers and the integrity of scripture.
The disturbing trend of translator-turned-propagandist is accelerating as arguments such as Brown’s gain traction. Rather than allowing the reader to grapple with challenging concepts, or trusting the Holy Spirit to transform minds, this movement seeks to “broaden the way” by glossing over the images and concepts Muslims are likely to find difficult. This approach is not only intellectually dishonest, it is based on theological errors, weak exegesis and false assumptions. It is also divisive as it has the potential of introducing confusion to the global Church reminiscent of the linguistic confusion at Babel in Genesis 11.
Brown claims to have landed a great exegetical discovery. He observes that in Peter’s confession, Mark and Luke, unlike Matthew, used the word “Christ” and omitted the phrase “Son of God.” Further, he compares various references to Jesus as “Messiah” and “Son of God,” inferring that these two most prominent titles of Jesus are equivalent and interchangeable. Brown then makes the astonishing conclusion that the term “Son of God” is somehow disposable. This is a gruesome fallacy. Each title is deliberately inspired by the Holy Spirit and each has clearly distinct meanings and functions. The fact that both titles refer to the same person does not make either extraneous.
The Sonship of Jesus is intrinsically tied to many related titles, concepts, images and metaphors that permeate the entire Bible. Parables such as the wedding banquet of the king’s son, the workers in the vineyard who killed the master’s son and the dissident prodigal son are directly linked to the “Son of God.” Furthermore, you cannot take away the Sonship of Christ without affecting the Fatherhood of God. The Bible is so intertwined that removing one strand runs the risk of unraveling the entire fabric. “Son of God” in particular is a foundational concept in God’s cosmic drama of redemption.
Countless martyrs have died refusing to deny Jesus as the Son of the Living God. Effacing the phrase is an affront to the character of God and to the Church that for centuries has upheld the doctrine of the Sonship of Christ. I invite Brown to heed these strong words of the Apostle John: “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:5).
—Georges Houssney, Horizons International
July 2007 Issue of EMQ
The July 2007 issue of EMQ was a bonus edition for anyone who has been looking for relevant, effective and significant information to do mission in the twenty-first century! Growing up as a Missionary Kid (MK) in Cuba and now serving as a missionary for twenty-one years in Brazil, I believe present, effective models of church planting could be improved on significantly by putting into practice most of the information presented in the July 2007 EMQ. The twenty-first century world citizen is faced with at least seven undeniable factors that can be instruments to complete Matthew 24:14 sooner than later.
Factor 1: We live in a global village that is constantly lowering the cultural walls, independent of religion, nationalism, tradition and government.
Factor 2: The www (world wide web) knows very few barriers and is becoming more and more essential in communication and commerce.
Factor 3: Today’s emerging generation is significantly more concerned about deeper values (relationships, character) than the temporal values of gen-xers and baby-boomers.
Factor 4: Parachurch groups are much more willing to explore new, relevant, missiological paradigms, while church planting denominations talk about, study and evaluate new methods but tend to stick to old or moderately ineffective models.
Factor 5: Technology, wealth and higher education are things the West has that the Majority World is screaming for. Why are Western Christians not using these things to present Christ to those who do not know that God is the part of the formula for long-lasting success? Is not Christ the one who desires to reconcile all broken relationships, especially the one with his Father?
Factor 6: English, not Esperanto, Spanish, French or Mandarin, is currently the language of the Internet and commerce and will be for the next decades. Where are the significant strategies to take advantage of this?
Factor 7: Evangelical/biblical Christianity lived in its purest form is extremely attractive to those who observe and experience it. We can express this kind of Christianity in very tangible creative ways using the Internet, English and business.
Thank you, EMQ, for encouraging me with relevant, simple language articles on: “New Believers to Church Leaders,” “The College Generation and Missions” and “Business as Mission.” These are helpful as we plant another church, bring short-termers down for our English Encounters and work to establish an English Oasis (English, business education and international church) in Sao Paulo.
—Len Warden, church planting missionary, The Christian & Missionary Alliance, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Ministry of Presence
I appreciated Edward Simiyu’s “The Ministry of Presence: Just Show Up” (October 2007). Our Western brethren need to know a bit more of face-to-face relationships that enrich our lives in Africa. Westerners often think they have a relationship if they have made some sort of remote contact. I am a transplanted westerner.
I worked with a rural church planter in Zimbabwe in the 1980s and then pioneered YWAM in Zambia from 1986 to 1998. We now work from South Africa by “just showing up.” We go to teams around Africa—visiting, encouraging and sometimes training. When a missionary works in a village or city church, it is easy to visit and be visited. However, the African missionaries who go to the unreached in the difficult locations—especially cross-culturally—are my heroes. One of the first teams I visited told me they had not received a visitor in four years. My heart broke. And there are many such stories. It is worth whatever I can do to see them encouraged in their work.
Some years ago, I was sitting at lunch in Lagos (Nigeria), and across the table I heard one Western brother say to his friend, “The Africans don’t value life.” What he meant was there were some unmaintained safety concerns with the building we were in. The same evening I was sitting at dinner with some African brothers. After the usual formalities of getting to know each other, one said, “Our Western brethren don’t value life.” He was referring to relationships—time spent together, talking together, being together. I am thankful Edward spoke up on this issue. I sometimes find it difficult to share with my home church and some Western missionaries why it is so important that my wife and I visit people where they are. You have said it best, Edward. It is “the ministry of presence.”
—Randy Rhoades, staff development facilitator, YWAM Africa