Sunday, January 29, 2012

Taking Muslim Sensitivity Way Too Far

In this post-Christian world there have been numerous attempts to ensure that Muslims or any other non-Christian faith, but particularly Muslims, are shown an excessive amount of deference and sensitivity. We all have seen and know what happens whenever cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad are printed or Korans are burned (or just threatened to be burned). Of course, rather than condemn the Muslims who get offended over just about anything with regards to their religion (FYI: anti-Christian depictions in art, literature and in media far exceed any negativity that is shown to Muslims), the solution is to prevent such acts which trigger the violent responses from Muslims usually be judicial fiat or making such acts criminal.

This is not a piece about liberties in the modern world, though I strongly believe that people should have the right to speak about and think about and write about anything whether in positive or negative terms, no matter how offended people may be. My belief: if you're expecting to go through life and not be offended, you're going to be miserable. And if you're offended because someone believes differently than you, you're going to be in even worse shape.

Now, to the point. The Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and Frontiers are all publishing Bibles which excise the terms "Father", "Son" and "Son of God" because those terms would offend Muslims and how they conceive of God.

So, Bibles now have to be sensitive to Muslim theology and their concepts of God? What's the point? If the Scriptures are the witness to the Revelation of God in the Person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and that is all excised, the Trinity, the bedrock of Christian orthodoxy is thrown out. God still retains His essence but not the Hypostases. This opens up the way up to modal-ism or Sabellianism, which has been rightly condemned. But what it really does is try to communicate to Muslims that there is no difference between the God they worship and the God Christians worship. Then, if that's the case, then Christians should be Muslims and Muslims Christian--there's nothing that divides us. Patently ridiculous.

We must be mindful that the struggle to consistently teach God as One Essence in Three Hypostases was vigorously fought for nearly three hundred years. Even the adoption of the Nicaeo-Constantinopolian Creed by the whole church did not bring everyone back into the fold. The Arians who believed that Jesus was a created being continued to thrive, the Nestorians who believe that there are two persons of Jesus Christ are still around and various sects of Monophysites and Miaphysites still can claim adherents. These struggles were bitter, violent and reprehensible in that it caused many to depart from Christian orthodoxy. What is even more ironic is that the passages in Scriptures referring to Jesus as Son of God and any other Trinitarian references, used by all sides to defend their respective positions, are the ones being thrown out. We should be mindful of the painful history in which these passages were argued over again and again, but they should not be replaced. They should be understood in proper context.

The persons behind this effort, I'm sure, have good intentions. But such good intentions will only further divide the divided Christian confessions. And it will do absolutely no good to seek understanding with Muslims. Muslims aren't going to see these efforts as attempts to develop new relations. In fact, I'd wager that the Muslims would probably laugh and say "we've won. The Christians don't even believe in their own theology anymore." Also, if there is some lofty expectation on the side of the translators that the Muslims would reciprocate in some way, don't bet on it.I doubt they will take out the passages about the Muslims' responsibility for killing Christians or Jews or saying that Christ was the product of a rape.

Though Muslim sensitivity may be the "official" reason behind these new translation, I suggest that there are other more clandestine motives. Many Christians, especially post-modern ones, have finally come to the conclusion that their scholarship and research and "insight" into the Scriptures which justify things like ordination of women to the priesthood, making abortion a sacrament, fornication (whether heterosexual or homosexual) cannot be justified by the Scriptures. So, when that fails, the only recourse is to change what the words say. They're not creating a new translation or even interpretation, they're creating a new text. Right now words like Son of God, Father and Son are excised. How soon until whole chapters or even books, especially those of St.Paul, are excised from the canon altogether by such groups. Keep in mind that this is hardly a novel idea: Marcion tried this in the second century and his ideas didn't catch on.

Defending the Truth is a hard thing, but to throw up one's hands for the sake of unity and harmony and everyone getting along leaves one adrift with no anchor. Christ is no longer an anchor, He's not even a plank of wood to grab on to when you're overboard. He only becomes the hope for one of those things.

1 comment:

  1. One world, one state, one government, one religion (for those who still insist upon having a religion).