For those who are not aware, there is a petition on the Biblical Missiology website requesting that Wycliffe, SIL, and Frontier make changes to the way they have been translating the bible within Islamic contexts. My own involvement with this issue began almost four years ago when I became aware that a long time friend of mine was one of the leading advocates of C5 contextualization (under a pen name) and that these new Muslim Idiomatic translations were being produced and used by those advocating C5 contextualization.
For those who are not aware of the C1-C6 contextualization scale within Islamic contexts, here is a brief description.
C1 - English speaking congregations who worship in a very western style.
C2 - Native langauge speaking congregations who worship in a very western style.
C3 - Native langauge speaking congregations who have adopted their cultures style of worship.
C4 - Native langauge speaking congregations who have adopted their cultures style of worship including some Islamic forms that do not contradict scriptural truth i.e. They may pray prostrate on a prayer rug, conform to a Halal diet, etc..
C5 - Native langauge speaking congregations that accept a belief in Jesus as their savior, while remaining within their original Islamic context. This group continues to affirm the Qua'an as God's inspired Scripture, Mohammad as God's prophet, they continue to worship within the Islamic Mosque, and they continue to identify themselves as Muslims.
C6 - This is C5, except that their is no outward profession of Christ as their savior (They are often referred to as the "secret believers")
For over a decade now their has been a sharp divide (as their should be) between those who advocate C1-C4 (most of those target C3) and those who advocate C5-C6. This has become to be known as the C4/C5 controversy.
Those advocating C5 contextualization believe that each person should come into the kingdom of God through their own religious contexts; they should not convert to Christianity i.e. a Muslim should remain a Muslim, a Hindu should remain a Hindu, a Buddhist should remain a Buddhist, etc...
The translation controversy:
Those advocating C5 contextualization have been producing translations of the Bible within Islamic contexts that make accommodations that allow them to be more easily harmonized with the teachings of the Qua'an. For example, because the Qua'an states that "God has no sons," these new translations remove familial langauge when it refers to God as "Father", or Jesus as "Son"
Those making these changes have claimed that these changes were necessary because the word "son" and "father" has a much more narrow semantic range of definition in these cultures i.e. that the word "son" can ONLY mean "the offspring produced by a physical sexual union." Rick Brown (Wycliffe/SIL translation consultant) is the primary source of this claim, and while he continually makes this claim he provides no evidence to support this claim nor does he ever address the arguments that have been raised against this claim. Most other C5 missiologists reference Rick Brown's work to support this claim.
Some of the issues with this claim:
1) Arabic literature refers to "sons" that are not "the offspring produced by a physical sexual union" and these relationships are not misunderstood by Muslims. One graphic example is seen in Islamic references to "Zayd ibn Mohammand" i.e. the Prophet Mohammad's own adopted son.
2) Native langauge speakers wholly reject Rick Brown's claim regarding the understanding of familial language.
3) When we deal with the very specific phrase "son of God," there is a little merit to Rick Brown's claim; Muslims do believe that Christians believe that Jesus is the biological offspring of God. However, this is not a linguistic misunderstanding of the term "son" as Rick Brown claims, but a theological misunderstanding that comes directly from the teaching of Islam i.e. Muslims are taught that Christians believe that Jesus is the biological son of God. This false teaching is something that should be addressed when evangelizing within Muslim contexts; our bibles shouldn't be changed to accommodate that belief.
Please take the time to look at the petition on the biblical missiology website and sign it.
It can be found on www.biblicalmissiology.com