“And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Messiah; with you I am well pleased.'” This declaration is the familiar pronouncement of God’s favor upon Jesus, at the time of his baptism.

Well, not quite. That verse is actually from the Injil Sharif, a 2005 Bengali translation of the gospel of Mark. A missions agency based in Atlanta worked with translators in Bangladesh to produce a version of the gospels with a twist: the word “Son” in reference to Jesus is consistently replaced with “Messiah,” and “Father” with “Guardian.”

The group in Bangladesh represents what is known in missions circles as an “Insider Movement.” Advocates of these initiatives say their followers believe Jesus as Savior, yet “remain inside their families, networks and communities, retaining the socio-religious identity of that group.”[1] The idea of encouraging believers to “remain” within Islam and “retain” their identity as a Muslim is one of the most controversial issues in missions today. Arguably the most contentious practice of some of these groups is to produce Bible translations that remove familial language for God, due to the offense Muslims have towards the idea that God is Father and Son. Thus, “Son” is removed from Mark 1:11 to read in the Bangladeshi translation, “You are my beloved Messiah.”

Most Christians, however, have never heard of Insider Movements nor of these translations–though they may have been unwittingly supporting them. To address this issue, and to give guidance to their churches, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in June 2011 approved “A Call to Faithful Witness.” The key resolution of this overture declared “as unfaithful to God’s revealed Word, Insider Movement or any other 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.”

Because advocates of these translations can describe their work in ways that appear acceptable on the surface, the overture was intentionally specific and objective. Using terms other than “Father” or “Son” in the text was expressly deemed unfaithful. In other words, relegating those terms to the footnotes, or using “non-familial alternatives” would be compromising the very essence of the Christian faith.

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