Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pray for Wycliffe - and All of Us

Have you ever felt as though the rug was getting pulled out from underneath you?

And every time you grabbed a piece of furniture to steady yourself, you find that the furniture is on the rug, too, and is as unstable as you've become?

That's how it's felt for me after trying to process all this new information about the Wycliffe Trinity controversy.  It's not just about words, it seems, but about the personhood of God.  It's about whether Allah and God are the same Biblical deity.  It's about trying to avoid persecution by hiding one's new faith.

Or is it?

Trying to get straight answers out of Wycliffe is proving to be almost as exasperating as the controversy itself.  I've been e-mailing with a couple of Wycliffe friends and searching up and down the Internet for information.  Plenty of solid evangelicals, including John Piper, oppose the "insider movement," the umbrella term for all of these festering dilemmas.  Yet I know personally some solid evangelicals - at least, I've thought they were solid! - who support it.  And Wycliffe's few press releases on the subject, although vaguely patronizing to us mere linguistic laymen, indicate that what they want to do has been thoroughly, professionally vetted.

Fortunately, Wycliffe has decided to have one more vetting process, consisting of an independent third party review of its policies on this subject.  In the meantime, it will be prudent for people like me to simply wait and pray.

Two things I don't do well, so this opportunity to practice them should help.

Maybe Wycliffe translators who are pushing hard for insider movement ideals do so partly because many of us who oppose them have never been cross-cultural missionaries.  Even fewer of us have tried to evangelize Muslims.  I can't imagine people who spend their life's work on ministry to one people group not getting frustrated at the rest of post-modern evangelicalism, where apathy towards anything outside of our cul-de-sacs and air-conditioned SUVs runs deep.

Maybe some Wycliffe translators have developed such a strong love for the people group whose language they've been struggling with for so long, it has become easier for them to advocate on their behalf - however erroneously - for these translations, than maintain a holy perspective on the God of the Bible.  Maybe instead of people like me being so far removed from the situation that our viewpoints are inaccurate, people too close to the translations are the ones with inaccurate viewpoints.

Maybe we Westerners truly don't have a clue about how inferior our English translations are, compared with the original texts.  Of course, it's funny that the inferiority of the English translations of original texts are only now being faulted so vehemently, and it's odd that the faults are being publicized in relation to Muslim languages.  But would God allow His Word to exist in such a misguided version for centuries?

We'll have to wait and pray.

Maybe Wycliffe will decide that the division, animosity, consternation, and even fear that their translations have cultivated aren't worth imperiling a broader harmony in the body of Christ.  Maybe they'll be magnanimous and defer to the rest of us non-linguists with apparently inferior educations in an attempt to salvage peace within our faith communities.  Maybe they'll decide that too many of their missionaries will jeopardize their financial support by pursuing what appears to be academic principles rather than helpful editorializing.

Maybe God will perform a miracle and this will all have been a bad dream.

Or maybe, God will allow the Devil this next disruption in the Western church to further winnow the wheat from the chaff.  Only... which side is the wheat, and which is the chaff?

Maybe there is some legitimate explanation yet to surface that Wycliffe will be able to explain to us.  Maybe I'll be the one confessing my suspicions and displeasure to our brothers and sisters in Christ who've gotten entangled in what turns out to have been a linguistic miscommunication of their own.  If that indeed proves to be the case, I will gladly - gladly - do so.

Meanwhile, if we can all at least agree that God deserves to be honored in everything we do, I pray His honor - not ours - will be the motivating factor as we enter this wait-and-see period.  My denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, is conducting its own in-depth review of the situation.  Maybe some truth can be gleaned from their report due this summer.

At the very least, I wouldn't think it prudent for a church or individual giver to cut off any funding to Wycliffe missionaries until after a decision has been made, and even after that, careful interviews with each sponsored missionary are conducted.  Not everybody at Wycliffe agrees with what's going on, and the translations for many people groups around the world do not appear to be affected at all.

Not yet, anyway.

May God's grace be abundant and His will for us clear.

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