The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) has officially rebuked Wycliffe Bible Translators' approach to translating the phrase "Son of God" for Muslims, and recommended that the small denomination's churches withdraw financial support from such Bible translations if they remain uncorrected.
Wycliffe, already at risk of losing support from the 3-million-member Assemblies of God over its guidelines for Muslim translations, has agreed to a review of its practices by the World Evangelical Alliance. The Assemblies of God has delayed its decision until the review is completed, likely by year's end.
But yesterday the 40th General Assembly of the 347,000-member PCA overwhelmingly approved an investigative committee's recommendation that "Bibles should always translate divine familial terms using common biological terms" because "social familial terms fail to capture the biblical meaning of 'Son' (huios) and 'Son of God' (huios tou theou) applied to Jesus and 'Father' (pater) applied to God."
The resolution is similar to last year's PCA condemnation of "translations of the Bible that remove from the text references to God as 'Father' (pater) or Jesus as 'Son' (huios), because such removals compromise doctrines of the Trinity, the person and work of Jesus Christ, and Scripture." However, this year's report also recommends that "PCA churches and committees should redirect missions resources away from projects which deviate from the translation principles articulated in this report," should "loving attempts" at correcting such translators fail.
The report also expresses skepticism of past explanations by Wycliffe regarding its approach to Muslim translations. "Current evidence from agencies points at best to a lack of unanimity, and in some cases to frank resistance, concerning a strong commitment to biological divine sonship terminology," notes the report. "Given the inadequate attention they have given heretofore to the theological implications of Jesus' begotten-ness, we lack confidence at the present time to accept blanket statements made by translation agencies or their representatives that there exist languages in which the use of non-biological kinship terms constitutes best practices."
The committee will spend one more year assessing what specific actions the PCA should take on "insider movements" more broadly.
Missionaries to Muslims recently agreed to soften criticisms of each other over contextualization practices.