January 11, 2013 by Gerald Hiestand
Dr. Michael LeFebvre (a Pastor in the SAET Second Fellowship) has recently published an article addressing current translation controversies in Muslim missions in the International Journal on Frontier Missions. From the intro of the article…
“A controversy has emerged in recent years over the best way to translate certain New Testament terms for Muslim cultures, terms like “Son of God” for Jesus and “Father” for God. Many Muslims believe that when Christians call Jesus the “Son of God” it means that God physically (sexually) sired Jesus by Mary. Such an idea is so repugnant to Muslims that when they encounter it in the Bible, some refuse to read further! Christians of course vigorously deny this idea. Nevertheless, this misunderstanding is widespread in Muslim societies. Because of this and other concerns, some translators concluded that using a word-for-word translation for “Son of God” and “Father” in muslim languages communicates a wrong meaning.
In a series of articles from 2000 to 2007, Rick Brown documented alternate ways in which some translators have avoided the connotations sometimes evoked by traditional approaches.1 At that time, he suggested meaning-based (rather than formbased) translations would provide accurate meaning and avoid offensive connotations. In particular, at that time Brown proposed the use of synonyms like “Christ of God” or “Christ sent from God” along with an explanation in the translation’s introduction about the meaning of divine familial terms. As translations using non-traditional terms or phrases for “Son of God” began to appear, many missionaries, national church leaders and other Christians reacted with alarm. Subsequent writings refined the approach and addressed criticisms,4 but the controversy continued and intensified.”
This is an interesting article, and one worth reading for those wrestling with translation philosophy. The article is also a great example of ecclesial theology by an ecclesial theologian.0 Comments
July 15, 2012 by Jason Hood
One of the many great features in Zondervan’s Biblical Theology for Life series are the wonderful sidebars sprinkled throughout the texts. Here’s one gem from Chris Wright’s volume on mission:
I was leading a Langham Preaching seminar in Argentina. Over breakfast I was chatting with teh main organizer of the event–the leader of the national movement. I commended three men in particular who were helping to lead and teach during the seminar–all of them Argentinian Christians in secular professions, but committed to Bible teaching. My friend immediately said, “yes, they are good preachers, but that’s not all. They are good husbands, good fathers, and good citizens.” I asked her why she included the last item. “Because,” she said, “they are committed to staying here in Argentina, not trying to get to the United States. They are honest, they work hard and they pay their taxes. They are a blessing to our country.” That’s authentic, biblical, Abrahamic, Pauline, integral mission in the public square.
The Mission of God’s People, 2340 Comments
April 19, 2012 by Jason Hood
I mentioned that I had one criticism of Anderson’s excellent book, To the Golden Shore, which I read this spring to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Adoniram Judson and friends leaving my country as our first overseas missionaries.
Anderson, being Baptist, naturally loves to focus on Judson’s Baptist belief. Judson and his friends were raised, trained, and sent to the mission field as Congregationalists who baptized infants. But he became convinced on the voyage over that this view was wrong. The Judsons were immersed a short time after landing in India, and they became Baptist missionaries.
Baptism is not unimportant. But the degree of interest in baptism stands in stark contrast to the absence of other theological emphases in Carey’s life. We hear almost nothing at all about their Calvinist leanings or of Calvinism, period, apart from an austere description (surely accurate!) of Judson’s father. But the Judson’s own words shed a great deal of light on the “missional” motivation provided by their Calvinism.
- The postmillennial confidence in the victory of Jesus led them to go to an unreached people group in hope that God would powerfully move for his glory
- The belief in God’s power and his ability to answer prayer and make human effort fruitful fed their prayer and their striving. They made courageous, heart-rending decisions about children, entrusting them to God’s care. They accepted circumstances, including defeat and death, as God’s will.
- They looked at challenging—even horrific—circumstances and searched for God’s love and purpose. When these couldn’t be perceived, they kept believing that God was still loving, and his purposes still certain.
- They learned to see the sin in one’s craving for greatness, and God’s sovereign hand in bringing us to humility through trials.
Granted these themes can be found outside Calvinism, one misses quite a bit of Judson’s theological motivation through Anderson’s reluctance to make the point. Indirectly, this feeds the false “anti-mission” charge often levied against Calvinism.0 Comments
April 11, 2012 by Jason Hood
Adoniram Judson had three wives, all incredible women. The first (Ann, also called Nancy) was strong-willed and fiery yet compassionate and godly; the second (Sarah) beautiful and strong enough to engage in frontier mission work on her own after her first husband died; the third (Emily) was homely but good-humored and blessed with strong literary talents. Nancy and Sarah died on mission; all three aided his mission work greatly; and all were loved and celebrated by their husband.
When Adoniram proposed to Emily, he sent her a letter along with a watch. The watch was first given to Nancy when she left Asia for a furlough in the US, and after her death he had given the watch to Sarah (at that time married to another missionary in Burma) as he divested himself of Nancy’s worldly possessions. The letter reads as follows:
January 20, 1846
I hand you, dearest one, a charmed watch. It always comes back to me, and brings its bearer with it. I gave it to Ann when a hemisphere divided us, and it brought her safely and surely to my arms. I gave it to Sarah during her husband’s lifetime (not then aware of the secret), and the charm, though slow in its operation, was true at last.
Were it not for the sweet sympathies you have kindly extended to me, and the blessed understanding that “love has taught me to guess at,” I should not venture to pray you to accept my present with such a note. Should you cease to “guess” and toss back the article, saying, “Your watch has lots its charm; it comes back to you, but brings not its wearer with it“– O first dash it to pieces, that it may be an emblem of what will remain of the heart of
April 11, 2012 by Jason Hood
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the first overseas missionaries from the United States. To mark the occasion I’m reading Courtney Anderson’s To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson, a missionary classic that tells the story of the men and women who set sail for Asia in 1812. It’s a remarkable story, Anderson writes very well and doesn’t really veer into hagiography, and I’ve read few books with as much insight on missionary thought and practice.
It would be impossible to do the work or Judson’s life justice in a post (although a good start is John Piper’s telling of the story). But here are a few notes:
The Judsons’ rigor and passion are impressive; they are brilliant, hard-working, and more than a little headstrong. They go to the mission field despite massive opposition from friends and families. Their task requires an abundance of both stubbornness and patience.
As for preparation:
A liberal arts education turns out to be a decent preparation for radical missionary service. The usefulness of smoking pipes and cigars: they cover up the stench of prison. There’s the necessity of slaughtering self-conceit (being a missionary doesn’t exempt one from this most basic of Christian tasks). And there’s the need for a sense of humor, in particular Judson’s “keen sense of the ridiculous” served him and others well (292). At times Judson comes across as an early 19th century hipster who could have written for The Simpson’s.
Finally I note this: we need to place brilliant theological minds on the frontier mission field, and not just in teaching posts at seminaries and colleges and wealthy American congregations (the professions many preferred for Judson).
I’ll follow up soon with a minor complaint about Anderson’s book, but I highly recommend it.2 Comments
February 19, 2012 by Jason Hood
It’s a fantastic anniversary: 200 years ago today, on Feb 19, 2012, the first overseas American missionaries set sail for Asia. Today’s indirect fruit from the Spirit-fuelled labor of Adoniram and Anne Judson and their American, European, and Asian coworkers is remarkable. Asia teems with hundreds of millions of believers–an unimaginable reward for great but temporary suffering.
Korea provides more missionaries per capita, and our leading theological export over the past decades is the prosperity gospel. But there is so much for which we should be grateful. God has done and will do great things through his people as he continues to put all things under the feet of Jesus.
Parenthetically, although they are famous as Baptist missionaries, the paedobaptist in me has to note that when they heard and obeyed the call of mission they were in fact paedobaptists, and were sent out as such. They were dunked by William Carey’s people in India, after changing their minds about baptism along the way.4 Comments
September 2, 2011 by Jason Hood
Chris Wright, in his very useful commentary on Deuteronomy (NIBC), comments on the “missiological significance” of Deuteronomy (page 8):
Deuteronomy is a book for people on the move, literally at first, spiritually and morally thereafter. It sets Israel on the boundary of the land and looks beyond that boundary to what lies in store for Israel as it moves into the future with God.
Furthermore, it is a book addressed in the name of a God on the move–Yahweh, the God who has been dramatically involved in Israel’s past movements, and indeed also in the movements of other nations on the great chessboard of history.
It presents, therefore, a God of sovereign worldwide purpose and a people with a sharp spiritual mandate and moral agenda.
Earlier Wright fleshes out some of the dynamics between God’s mission and our mission:
[T]he detailed requirements of God on Israel are all founded upon the grace of God manifested in their history. This is not only a structural matter but is also reflected in the way the very vocabulary of Israel’s response to Yahweh in chapters 12-26 mirrors that of Yahweh’s actions toward Israel in chapters 1-11. This [is the] priority of grace and divine action within the covenant framework…
August 31, 2011 by Jason Hood
The Bible regularly explores the interaction of God’s people with the various facets of the cultures around them. This interaction–whether manifested in critique or contextualization, embrace or exclusion–provides an important resource for contemporary apologetics, mission and evangelism.
In a recent review essay in Themelios, OT scholar Stephen Dempster helpfully summarizes the connection between Israel and her ancient Near Eastern context, and in so doing sheds light on Scripture and the missional role of the people of God in the world:
. . . the choice is not between Israel as a member of the ancient near eastern family versus Israel as total stranger. Both are true. When Abram embarked down that dusty Mesopotamian road toward that destination whose location only God knew, he was leaving the family. But by leaving the family he was going to show the rest of the family how to go truly home.