Christianity Today reports on a problem that missionaries have faced many times: How to speak about the God of the Bible in a meaningful way to people with a different language and culture. In this case, it's something to consider even when the other person speaks English but has a different religion. The question is whether or not the term "Allah" can be an accurate translation of "God," when the God being spoken of is Jehovah of the Bible, the one true God. As we witness to Muslims, even in English, it's something we need to carefully consider.
The point is made in the article that the dictionary meaning of "Allah" is God; they're synonyms. So a strict translation would be using the terms interchangeably. That's a valid point, but it's not the only consideration because the goal is to communicate not just to translate. The terms are not only words with common definition, they are proper nouns referring to specific deities in each religion. The names, not just the terms, are laden with specific identity and theological content that refer to a specific being, and these beings are quite different according to each religion.
The point is to communicate not just translate, and I seriously doubt whether the term "Allah" can be disengaged from the specific name "Allah," the god of Islam. The dictionary terms might be interchangeable, but the names aren't interchangeable. And when we're discussing Christianity and Islam, it's the names we're using. Our evangelistic goal is to call Muslims from false worship of Allah to the God of the Bible, and it seems to me a strict translation of the terms doesn't adequately communicate the differences between the persons Allah and God.
“God is like a three-headed dragon,” offered one high school student. “I think God is like a Transformer,” blurted out a junior higher in the front row. I had just asked students at this summer camp to give a brief definition of the Trinity. They reached for all sorts of analogies to explain God’s nature. Heresy soon followed (Disclaimer: no heretical students were burned at the stake).
Next, I asked for biblical justification. “What Scripture tells us that God is a trinity? Where in the Bible do we find the word?” Students began thumbing through their Bibles, searching for the elusive verses. A few went straight to their concordances. Several minutes passed. No verses were offered. Finally, a female underclassman ventured a guess. “There is no Bible verse that uses the word Trinity, right?”
After watching students struggle, their youth leaders were frustrated. But the failure of these young Christians to explain an essential belief like the Trinity was to be expected. After in-depth research, sociologist Christian Smith found “the vast majority of [American teenagers] to be incredibly inarticulate about their faith, their religious beliefs and practices, and its meaning or place in their lives.” When students aren’t systematically trained, heresy becomes habit. So these young believers needed some thorough theological instruction. And after seeing their own inability to explain an essential of the faith, they were eager and ready.
I started with James White’s concise, yet precise, definition of the Trinity: “Within the one Being that is God, there simultaneously exists three coequal, coeternal, and distinct persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” There are three divine persons—Father, Son, Holy Spirit—in one being—God. Simply put, there is one “what” and three “who’s.” I explained to students how all analogies end up being heretical, even though they may be helpful at first.
Next I offered a biblical case. There is no single passage to cite. Instead, I showed students how to build their case for the Trinity on three foundations (see White's book, The Forgotten Trinity). First, the Scripture clearly teaches there is only one God. I took them to Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 43:10 and 44:6-8, and John 17:3. Second, I showed them how each person is divine in nature. John 1:1 says “the word [Jesus] was God.” In John 10:30, Jesus says, “I and the Father are one,” clearly a claim to deity when you examine the context. And the Apostle Paul echoes this in Philippians 2:5-8. In Acts 5:3-4, lying to the Holy Spirit is equated with lying to God. Thirdly, I showed them how the three divine persons are coequal and coeternal, citing Genesis 1:26, Matthew 28:19, and a host of other verses.
It was a bit of a theological workout but students consumed it. And enjoyed it. This was the kind of in-depth training we offered students during each session at camp. Feedback from the counselors was unanimous—students told them it was the most challenging church camp ever. Again and again they expressed their thankfulness for being challenged. I guess they were glad to move from little heretics to budding theologians.
But I didn’t leave the Trinity in the realm of mere academic theological exercise. We discussed its implications for worship. I showed students how worshipping God is no longer the worship of a distant ambiguous being. The word “God” now had very specific content for them. They were worshipping the Trinitarian God of the Bible—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—who has existed from all eternity. A God unlike any other god. The one true God. And that theological truth is transformational.
Greg is speaking at the "No Doubt" conference in Indianapolis next month, and in honor of "I Love You Day" (Annabeth Koukl's declaration on the radio show Sunday 7/26) the sponsor of the conference is offering a discount. Mitch wrote:
"I thought I would offer STR radio fans a discount on tickets to the No Doubt conference in honor of I love you day. I set up a special offer code for you guys. If someone types "str" into the promo code box when buying tickets they will receive a 25% discount off of their purchase regardless of ticket price. Share the love!!"
Doug Groothuis offers an intriguing thought about how the forms we use in church do influence the message, in this case the authority of the Word of God being proclaimed. It's a conversation we've had around the STR office quite a bit and the basic idea I've become convinced of is that there isn't a strict separation between forms and message as I used to think. Forms of worship, practices and methods, may not be directed in Scripture, but they are wrapped up on the overall message that is communicated and deserve careful thought.
Human rights groups in South Korea say North Korea has stepped up executions of Christians, some of them in public.
The communist country, the world's most closed society, views religion as a major threat....
A report by a number of South Korean groups highlights one particular case of a woman allegedly executed in public last month, in a northern town close to the Chinese border. She was accused of distributing Bibles, spying for South Korea and the United States and helping to organise dissidents.
Her parents, husband, and children were sent to a prison camp.
…[J]ust owning a Bible in North Korea may be a cause for torture and disappearance.
A new scanning techniqueallows life-size models to be made of unborn babies allowing the mothers to see their child in a realistic way. This is an amazing way to illustrate the humanity of the unborn and put to rest the false idea that the unborn is an amorphous blob of tissue.