From time to time, friends and churches have asked me about Wycliffe Bible Translators. This organization wields a very powerful influence through its sheer size, through the many translations it is producing, and through its training programs. I feel it is crucial that we put into print a concise answer to this matter.
First, we must emphasize that within Wycliffe is considerable diversity of thought and practice. When you are dealing with a group as massive as this--roughly 5,000 workers from 70 denominations--it is impossible that every individual within that group fit an exact mold. Let us make it clear, therefore, that we are not speaking of so much of individuals within Wycliffe; we are speaking of the organization as a whole. Not every Wycliffe person is a charismatic, for example. But many are. Not every Wycliffe person supports ecumenical relations with Rome. But a great many do.
Another example. Though Wycliffe, as a rule, uses the Westcott-Hort or United Bible Societies textual tradition, there are Wycliffe people who are opposed to this and who take a stand for a form of the Received Text underlying the KJV. A key example is Wilbur N. Pickering, author of the widely-read volume The Identity of the New Testament Text. Pickering contends that a modified form of the Received Text is the preserved Word of God. Let us be clear, though, that this is NOT the thinking which rules within Wycliffe. I am using Pickering and his writings as an example of the diversity within Wycliffe, not of Wycliffe's prevailing philosophy.
One more example should suffice. While Wycliffe as a rule follows the common language method of translation, there is considerable difference among Wycliffe people regarding how far removed such translation can be from the original text.
The point here is that within such a large, inclusive group there will be exceptions to much that can be said about the group. But they are just that--exceptions. There IS the rule, and that is what we are going to focus on. The following characteristics are true of Wycliffe as a whole.
WYCLIFFE AND THE ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT
One of the greatest causes for alarm is Wycliffe's increasing ecumenism. From its inception, Wycliffe has been ecumenical. It's founder, Cameron Townsend, established Wycliffe on a doctrinally compromised foundation. In the November 1971 issue of Eternity magazine, Townsend was quoted as saying, "I am a loving fundamentalist. I believe in working with anyone who will help get the Bible to the Indians. ... one of the heroes whom I admire the most is the celebrated Father Bartolome de las Casas. This worthy Dominican, as all well remember, made use of the Sacred History in the Indian languages of Guatemala in order to draw the Indians to the faith and to peace. We too, so insignificant in comparison with that great hero of the cross, can indeed follow his example as regards the use of linguistics."
This is typical new-evangelical doublespeak. By claiming to be a "loving fundamentalist," Townsend promoted the deceitful dichotomy between separation and love. A fundamentalist, by any historical definition, is one who is militant for the truth, a separatist. New- evangelicals would have us believe that it is impossible for a loving person to practice biblical separation. Supposedly, fundamentalists are bitter, angry, hateful people. This simply is not true. Jesus Christ said, "If you love me, keep my commandments" (Jn. 14:15). John, "the apostle of love," said love is obedience to God: "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments..." (1 Jn. 5:3).
New-evangelicals hide behind an unscriptural definition of love to cover their rebellion to the clear commands of Holy Scripture. Such duplicity will not stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ. It is not enough to do the work of God; the work must be done in God's way: "And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully" (2 Tim. 2:5).
Note that one of Townsend's heroes was a Catholic priest. He called this priest a "worthy Dominican," and a "great hero of the cross." Supposedly it does not matter that this priest led many Indians to Hell through his cursed sacramental gospel (Gal. 1:6-8).
In Uncle Cam, a biography of Townsend, he is quoted as saying: "Since we are non-sectarian and non-ecclesiastical, we get help from Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Moslems, Buddhists and even atheists" (James Hefley, Uncle Cam, 1974, p. 204).
Such language sounds lovely to a generation busy heaping to itself ear-scratching ministers (2 Ti. 4:3-4), but it is impossible to be non- sectarian and non-ecclesiastical and obey the Bible's injunction to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3).
Charles Turner, Executive Director of the Baptist Bible Translators Institute, was formerly with New Tribes Mission. In his 1975 report entitled The Biblical Doctrine of Separation Applied to New Evangelicals: Wycliffe Bible Translators, Turner exposes the ecumenical practices he witnessed while on the mission field:
"In 1957 when I first took some linguistic training at the Summer Institute of Linguistics (a branch of Wycliffe), I noticed two Roman Catholic priests were also taking the course. At the time I paid little attention because I was told the Summer Institute of Linguistics was under the auspices of the University of Oklahoma, and it was open to anyone who wanted to take this training. This sounded reasonable enough to me then, but now I can no longer agree with this reasoning.
"Many of the teachers of the linguistic courses were people who were being supported financially by fundamental churches. These churches were in effect supporting the Roman Catholic Church because the missionaries they supported were giving their time and energy to train Roman Catholic priests who would use this training to further the cause of Roman Catholicism.
"The thing that is so wrong about this is the fact that these fundamental churches were not aware that they were supporting missionaries who were training Roman Catholic priests to be better linguists so that they could carry out more effectively the aims of the Roman Catholic Church.
"I find this quite ironic because one of the priests trained that summer of 1957 later worked in the same Sinasina tribe in which I worked for eighteen years. He helped to establish the Roman Catholic Church's hold over the Sinasina people--thousands of whom will doubtless spend eternity in Hell because of the false hope they put in their baptism into the Roman Catholic Church.
"Wycliffe Bible Translators must assume some responsibility for this, because they helped train this priest. He was consequently able to do a better job of causing people to believe another gospel which is not the Gospel. Evidently Paul's concern about a false gospel is of little concern to Wycliffe. Galatians 1:8, `But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.'
"It seems of little concern to Wycliffe that the Roman Catholics teach a false gospel and delude people into believing they can be saved by believing in Christ plus trusting in their good works of baptism, church attendance, taking communion, and all the rest of the Catholic system of salvation by a perverted gospel which is not the Gospel. `Ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another, but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ' (Gal. 1:6-7).
"Evidently the perverted gospel of Roman Catholicism is of little concern to Wycliffe because they have cooperated fully with Roman Catholics. An article which appeared in a Lima, Peru, newspaper quotes Cameron Townsend, the founder and director of Wycliffe, as saying about the Catholic missionaries: `We are happy to be of service to these heroic missionaires of the jungle--one of our airplanes spent three days carrying various persons to the dedication of the new church of the Dominican Mission El Rosario [of the Rosary]. Among the distinguished passengers were two Catholic priests and a bishop. No charge was made for the transportation of these missionaries. It is an honor to serve them.' Townsend justifies this by calling it "doing good to your neighbor" and "loving your enemies." It is clearly unfaithfulness to God's Word in Galatians chapter one. It is a compromise of the truth, and it is fully in accord with the ecumenical principles of the World Council of Churches. It is also in accord with the avowed decision of new-evangelical philosophy which says Christians should not separate from false teachers, but infiltrate them. This is exactly what Wycliffe misguidedly tries to do.
"Again in the Peruvian Times on August 22, 1958, there is a picture of a Wycliffe plane with its pilots and seven Catholic priests and missionaries. The picture caption reads: Photographs of the goodwill plane `Moises Saeny' with the Dominican Padres and Catholic educational missionaries who were transported to Puerto Esperanyo on the Purus river by a crew of the Summer Institute of Linguistics.'
"Anyone would fly emergency medical flights for sick priests or nuns. But there is no excuse for a continuing effort on Wycliffe's part to support the perversion of the gospel by providing flight service to Catholic missionaries. The Director of Wycliffe's flight services told the board of my home church that Wycliffe only spent 25% of its time flying for Catholic missionaries in South America. This is an admission that reveals the extent to which Wycliffe has gone to serve the perversion of the gospel of the grace of Christ by Catholicism. Not only must Wycliffe bear some responsibility in the loss of much of God's work to Catholicism, all those who support Wycliffe must also bear some responsibility in the leading of people into a false hope of salvation by good works. 2 John 11 says, `For he that biddeth him [a false teacher] God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.' Not only has Wycliffe bid these false teachers God speed, but it has indeed sped them along on their journeys to pervert the gospel. Similarly those who have supported Wycliffe in this work are also partakers of the false teachers' evil deeds.
"In spite of Scriptures like the above, Mr. Townsend advocated that `we must change our attitude toward Roman Catholics.' So successful has Mr. Townsend been in the mission which he founded and directed that a Wycliffe associate, James C. Hefley, has written a book called A Prejudiced Protestant Takes A New Look at the Catholic Church (Revell, 1971). Hefley goes into great detail to show Mr. Townsend's friendship and cooperation with Roman Catholics, particularly on pages 61-63. Chapter 7 relates what an inspiration Mr. Townsend was to Hefley in losing his prejudice and gaining an open acceptance of Roman Catholics. Chapter 11 tells how the Summer Institute of Linguistics has trained so many Roman Catholic priests. Page 118 tells of Wycliffe's policy not to proselyte from the Catholic church.
"The Roman Catholic magazine Our Sunday Visitor for July 5, 1965, shows a picture of a priest standing beside a plane in Bolivia. The caption reads: `At one time it took Father William M. Allen, Maryknoll Missioner, forty hours to reach [the] persons greeting him in this Bolivian jungle outpost. Now, thanks to an airplane which he rents from the Wycliffe Bible Translators, he can fly over the jungle and reach his parishoners in only forty minutes.'
"Again in the Highland News published in Goroka, Papua New Guinea, 1975, this article occurs:
"`A dedication of the Gahuku New Testament will be held in Goroka on Sunday, March 19, at 2 p.m. ... The new book, called "Monog Gotola Gososhag" (The New Fountain-head of Religious-truth) was published by the Bible Society in Papua New Guinea and printed in Hong Kong. ... Participating in the dedication will be Mr. F.B. Borok, the Acting District Commissioner, Mr. Atau "Waukave" the Council President, and speakers and musical groups from the Lutheran, Seventh Day Adventists, and Catholic churches. ... The translation of the New Testament into Gahuku was done by Dr. Ellis Deibler of the Summer Institute of Linguistics with the help of several local men. Dr. Deibler has been working in the village of Wanima just north of town since 1959.'
"During November 1967, it was announced to S.I.L. members [in New Guinea] by a director that invitations had been sent to several Roman Catholic bishops to attend a literacy conference during April 1968. Apparently, to train Roman Catholic priests in a science that will help them to delude and destroy souls more effectively means nothing to S.I.L. Some members were disturbed over the news and a few of us got together a protest. We wrote a paper at the invitation of a director to explain our case and provide an alternative policy. We did this, and the paper, along with many words explaining and debating our case over the course of three months, was rejected.
"The result of the rejection was the resignation of several families" (Charles Turner, The Biblical Doctrine of Separation Applied to New Evangelicals: Wycliffe Bible Translators, 1975; Turner, Executive Director of the Baptist Bible Translators Institute, was formerly with New Tribes Mission; his address is P.O. Box 1450, Bowie, TX 76230).
Our files contain many other examples of Wycliffe's affiliation with Romanism. For example, founder Cam Townsend helped establish LOGOS Translators, a Roman Catholic association. Consider the following testimony:
"W. Cameron Townsend, Founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, had a vision. He saw many translation organizations sending Bible translation teams all over the world. He encouraged [Roman Catholics] Paul and Ginny Witte to organize LOGOS translators. After linguistics study and orientation, Paul and Ginny, with their children, began work among the Andoke Indians in Colombia. In 1977, they transferred to Venezuela at the invitation of Archbishop Mata Cova of Ciudad Bolivar. ... Thus, in November 1982, a group of Christians, representing several denominations, gathered to seek God's guidance concerning LOGOS translators” (Undated LOGOS Translators brochure, distributed at the North American Congress on the Holy Spirit & World Evangelization, July 22-26, 1987, New Orleans, Louisiana).
Another example of Townsend's extreme ecumenism is found in the following testimony of the late David du Plessis, the charismatic leader who was instrumental in bringing Pentecostals together with Rome:
"Cam Townsend (founder of Wycliffe) came to me and indicated that he was going to send me to the [Roman Catholic] Vatican II Council in 1962 as Wycliffe's representative. When I arrived in Rome, a particular cardinal called and said he was going to pick me up at my hotel. ... The cardinal arrived at my hotel, and when he came in the room, we both hugged one another and cried.
"I believe that God is going to unify the church. When you study the history of the church, you will notice that when Christianity became less and less ecumenical and more and more national, she also became less and less charismatic and more formal and divided by theological dissensions. The unity that God will bring about will be both charismatic and ecumenical" (David du Plessis, "David du Plessis Speaks On," Paraclete Journal, Fellowship Christian Church, Cincinati, Ohio, Oct. 1986, pp. 11,14).
The fact that it was Wycliffe's founder who sent du Plessis to Rome to attend the Vatican II Council illustrates the extreme ecumenical thinking of the group. Not surprising, therefore, Wycliffe has grown increasingly ecumenical through the years. Admittedly, not all Wycliffe people are as radically ecumenical as their founder. But the group as a whole IS radically ecumenical. Consider some examples:
"The Catholic Bible Association and the Lutheran Bible Translation Society sponsored the Wycliffe mission's celebration of their annual Bible Translation Day in Washington, D.C" (James Hefley, "How I Lost My Protestant Prejudice," Eternity, Nov. 1971, p. 16; quoted in A Change of Face by ABWE’s Frank Hartwig, p. 22).
"Ecumenical Scripture translation projects sponsored by the Australian Bible Society have included Old Testament portions in the Kitja language, and Bible stories in Murrinh-Patha. The latter were published in 1982, the work of an interconfessional team including Roman Catholic translators. Scripture selections in Tiwi were published in 1985 by Wycliffe Bible Translators in collaboration with Roman Catholics. It is not irrelevant to mention here that the Australian Bible Society received an official visit from a prominent Roman Catholic bishop during 1985: `The Most Reverend George Phimphisan, the Catholic Bishop of Udon Thani, Thailand, and member of the UBS [United Bible Societies] executive committee, addressed the society's Australian Council on the subject "The Roman Catholic church and the Bible Society movement--developing relationships"'" (UBS Report 1985.101, reprinted in The Australian Beacon, July 1987, p. 4).
In working with the United Bible Societies throughout the world, Wycliffe has become a party to the most radical stream of unbiblical ecumenism. They are working hand in hand with Romanists, liberals, and others disobedient to the Word of God. This is a serious matter.
"According to Christianity Today for March 5, 1982, Allan Shannon, a coordinator for the Summer Institute of Linguistics of the Wycliffe Bible Translators, is a `prime mover' in the Catholic-Charismatic movement in Peru" (Plains Baptist Challenger, June 1982).
"Rev. Jamie Buckingham is currently editor-at-large for Strang Communications, which includes Charisma & Christian Life magazine. A consultant for Wycliffe Bible Translators, he is also president of the National Leadership Conference and a recognized television personality" (New Orleans '87 General Congress Handbook, p. 17).
It would be hard to find a man more ecumenically-minded than the late Jamie Buckingham of Charisma, a key mouthpiece for the charismatic-Catholic ecumenical movement. It is appalling that Wycliffe would retain Buckingham's services as a consultant, but it is indicative of their ecumenical spirit. Buckingham called for ecumenical relations with Jews and Catholics.
Another evidence of Wycliffe's ecumenism is its close relationship with the United Bible Societies:
"The United Bible Societies has also been approached by the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) [a branch of Wycliffe Bible Translators] to help with Scripture translation in Yupik, a language spoken by more than 17,000 people in Alaska. ... In Montana, two members of SIL are working on the first draft of materials in Crow, along with mother-tongue speakers of that language. This is an interdenominational project. When the translation is complete, SIL will seek the American Bible Society's permission to print diglot versions with the Today's English Version" (American Bible Society Record, February 1986, p. 9).
"Serious attempts are made to make all the translations [done by the United Bible Societies in Kenya] interconfessional and the Catholic church has continued to show much concern to get fully involved in both ongoing and new projects. An increasing feature of translation activities is the work of the Wycliffe Bible Translators who have shown a considerable desire to cooperate" (United Bible Society report, quoted in Australian Beacon, Aug. 1987, p. 7).
"Such was the worldwide need for Wycliffe's services that it now operates all over the globe, and works closely with the United Bible Societies" (Word in Action, British and Foreign Bible Society, No. 53. 1987, p. 3).
The above quotes illustrate how closely Wycliffe works with the United Bible Societies (UBS). This body is very liberal in theology and extremely ecumenical. The above quotes, together with an earlier quote about the Australian Bible Society, illustrate how the UBS works closely with Rome. This is the practice of the UBS throughout the world. In 1984, of the 590 translation projects of the United Bible Societies, as many as 390 were of the interconfessional type, meaning those translated in cooperation with Rome (Word-Event, No. 56, 1984). A Catholic cardinal, Francis Arinze, is a vice-president of the UBS, and Catholic bishop Alberto Ablondi is a member of the General Committee of the UBS.
Further, a great many of the United Bible Societies' leaders are theological modernists. Robert Bratcher, the translator of the TEV and a translations consultant for the UBS, denies the deity and virgin birth of Jesus Christ, and does not believe the blood of Christ was necessary for the atonement of man's sin. A great many UBS leaders are in the same apostate condition as Bratcher. The American Bible Society, which supplies half of the funding for the UBS, owns the copyright to the corrupted Today's English Version (TEV).
Proof of the apostasy of the UBS is found in three of the author's books: Unholy Hands on God's Holy Word: A report on the United Bible Societies, A Most Frightful Deception: Robert Bratcher and the TEV, and Dynamic Equivalency: Death Knell of Pure Scripture.
The very fact that Wycliffe has a close relationship with the United Bible Societies is proof of their ecumenism and careless doctrinal position.
WYCLIFFE AND THE CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT
We have already noted that charismatic Jamie Buckingham of Charisma magazine was a consultant for Wycliffe. This is just the tip of the iceberg. In recent years Wycliffe has developed increasingly close relations with this movement. This was testified by the Logos Journal in a 1973 report:
"Although evangelical in theology ... An amazing number of charismatics have joined the organization [Wycliffe Bible Translators] in recent years, spurred on by the new move of the Holy Spirit. In fact, in recent months there is a move underway which could possibly lead to a joining of ranks among Wycliffe folks and many of the charismatics across the world. Constant reports are coming back that many of the missionaries, and the Indians with whom they work, have received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit at various mission stations" (Logos Journal, May-June, 1973).
The November 1970 issue of the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International Voice featured Wycliffe Bible Translators. A series of photographs depicted Wycliffe personnel involved in healings and other charismatic phenomenon.
Wycliffe's ecumenical and charismatic commitment is further evidenced in their total involvement with the massive charismatic-ecumenical North American Congress on the Holy Spirit and World Evangelization, in New Orleans, July 1987, and in Indianapolis, August 1990. Wycliffe had display booths at these conventions, together with more than 200 other exhibitors. It should be noted that Wycliffe, as an exhibitor, was required to agree to the statement of ecumenical unity produced by this Congress. This statement maintained that those participating would sympathize with the theological position of all others involved and would not speak against other doctrinal positions nor cause disunity. Wycliffe agreed to this unscriptural policy.
It is impossible to obey the Bible, yet to agree not to speak against Roman Catholic heresies, but this is exactly what Wycliffe agreed to in New Orleans and in Indianapolis. The largest group represented were the Roman Catholics! The very fact that Wycliffe was at home in this apostate atmosphere is frightful.
Joann Shetler, well-known Wycliffe translator working in the Philippines, flew to the States to speak at the New Orleans Congress. Consider that The Congress on the Holy Spirit and World Evangelization was the largest ecumenical charismatic conference of the last decade. Of the 40,000 people in attendance, 51% were practicing Roman Catholics. There was a Roman Catholic mass each morning in the main arena of the New Orleans Superdome, and the pentecostal chairman of the Congress invited all 40,000 to attend the mass and "receive a great blessing." The final speaker of the meeting was Roman Catholic priest Tom Forrest, whose headquarters is in Rome and who works closely with Pope John Paul II. Approximately 40 different denominations and groups were represented at this ecumenical hodge-podge.
In spite of the ecumenical confusion of this meeting, Shetler spoke in smaller meetings during the days of the Congress, and also was allowed to give a presentation to the general body of the Congress. During this speech, Shetler, speaking to approximately 20,000 Roman Catholics, as well as to the thousands belonging to dozens of other denominations, challenged this mixed multitude to join Wycliffe and give light to a dark world. What a confused "light"!
A firsthand report of the North American Congress on the Holy Spirit & World Evangelization can be obtained from Way of Life Literature. It is entitled Charismatic Confusion at Indianapolis.
The clear command of the Word of God is to mark and avoid those who are involved in error. Wycliffe ignores these commands. While their people have made commendable and challenging sacrifices to bring light to people who sit in darkness, their activities in Bible translation or even in evangelism are not acceptable if not done according to the Word of God. Does not the Scripture warn, "And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully" (2 Tim. 2:5)?
It matters not how commendable one's work might appear before man, or how many sacrifices are made, or how just one's cause might seem, if the work is not done according to pattern and precepts of Scripture, it is not acceptable before God.
Wycliffe's radical ecumenism and close affiliation with the charismatic movement are cause for deep alarm.
WYCLIFFE AND NEW-EVANGELICALISM
The following illustrates the new evangelical philosophy which dominates Wycliffe:
"[Wycliffe] translators come from many denominations and church groups. `But out here labels don't mean a lot,' says Nancy Burmeister who works with her husband, Jonathan, in Ivory Coast.
"`Lutheran' or `Pentecostal' or `Evangelical' aren't as important as `Christians.' We have the same goals. And though we disagree doctrinally on some things, we agree on the basics and we learn to put the rest aside. The task of evangelizing is too important to allow differences to interfere" (Pamela Honan Peterson, A.D. 2000 Together, May-June 1988, p. 14).
This might sound great to those who do not understand Bible truth, but it is a false thinking. The Bible warns that apostasy will increase as this age progresses. God warns that the last hours will be characterized by rebellion toward absolute doctrine. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (2 Tim. 4:3-4). To preach and contend for Bible doctrine is even more crucial today than in the first century. Error has increased dramatically since then.
It might sound great to say that the most important thing is whether or not a person is a "Christian," but in light of Bible prophesy about last-days apostasy, that is not sufficient. The term "Christian" means almost anything in this apostate hour. Only by comparing a person's beliefs with Bible doctrine can we know if he is a true Bible Christian. Sound Bible doctrine is the key to proper fellowship and ministry.
Wycliffe worker Nancy Burmeister is spouting typical new-evangelical thinking. It downplays doctrine. Yet the Bible never allows the Christian to take such a light attitude toward doctrine. The Bible is given for doctrine (2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible is to be preached with doctrine (2 Tim. 4:2). Doctrine is to be obeyed and believed, not cast aside as insignificant. The Bible is a doctrine book, and the Christian life is a life based on doctrine.
According to new-evangelical thought, it is enough to agree on the "basics." What, though, are the basics? Is the doctrine of salvation basic? If so, how can those who proclaim salvation as a free gift of grace work with those who teach baptismal regeneration? Is baptism a basic? If so, how can those who teach believer's baptism work with those who teach the error of infant baptism? Is the Lord's Supper a basic? If so, how can those who teach that Communion is a symbolic, memorial meal work with those who teach Communion is some sort of real presence of Christ?
New-evangelicism SAYS it honors Bible basics, but in reality it does not. In reality, most new-evangelicals work and fellowship with those who deny doctrines they admit are basic.
Further, new-evangelicism contends that it is crucial for the Great Commission that less important doctrine be put aside. This was stated by Wycliffe worker, Burmeister. "And though we disagree doctrinally on some things, we agree on the basics and we learn to put the rest aside. The task of evangelizing is too important to allow differences to interfere."
Who is to say what is important and what is not? How are we to know what the "basics" are? Where does the Bible say that evangelism is more important than doctrine? When did God take such an attitude toward the teachings of His Word? In giving the Great Commission, Christ commanded His people to teach "all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Christ never separated doctrine from evangelism and missions!
New-evangelical thinking is wrong, dear friends. And we would urge you not to follow it. It is contrary to the Word of God. It is the first flowerings of apostasy.
Wycliffe is new-evangelical, and this is a serious problem.
For more about the history and philosophy of New Evangelicalism, see the book Evangelicals and Rome from Way of Life Literature.
WYCLIFFE AND DYNAMIC EQUIVALENCY
Another most serious problem with Wycliffe is their use of the common language or "dynamic equivalency" method of translation. Dynamic equivalency has been popularized in versions such as the Living Bible and the Good News for Modern Man (the Today's English Version).
Wycliffe's commitment to dynamic equivalency is affirmed by their writings, by their training materials, and by statements from their leaders. Consider the following significant quote from John Beekman, Translation Coordinator for the worldwide ministry of Wycliffe Bible Translators:
"Many Bible translations currently available in the world's major languages were done many years ago and do not communicate the gospel message clearly to the average person. The Living Bible is the most readable and the most natural English translation available. The fast-growing ministry of Living Bibles International is worthy of the prayer support of all of us" (John Beekman, Translation Coordinator for the worldwide ministry of Wycliffe Bible Translators, quoted in The Living Bible--Not Just Another Version, by William F. Kerr).
John Beekman is very influential within Wycliffe. He has authored books which are used by Wycliffe translators, and which are, in fact, used in their training programs as well as by other Bible societies and translation groups, including the United Bible Societies. How, you might ask, could Beekman say the Living Bible is the most natural English translation available? It is because the Living Bible was produced by the same method of translation which Beekman and Wycliffe promote--dynamic equivalency.
Note that Beekman gives unqualified commendation to the work of Living Bible International, an organization which has the goal of producing the equivalent of the corrupted Living Bible into all of the major languages of the world.
The use of dynamic equivalency is a very serious error. This method of translation attempts to make the Scriptures fit the reading level and cultural understanding of the people for whom the translation is being prepared, and amazing liberties are taken in translation work to reach this goal.
If, for example, a Bible is being translated for a people whose average reading level is grade four, the translation will be made for the fourth grade level. Since the people for whom Wycliffe is making translations are not highly literate, as a rule, their versions are often aimed at linguistic levels no higher than the fourth grade.
The problem with this is that the Bible was not written on the fourth grade level! While parts of the Bible are quite simple and can be understood by a young child or new reader, it is equally true that much of it is quite difficult. If the Bible is forced into the mold of a fourth grade level of language, it must of necessity become perverted and weakened. It ceases to be that which God gave by the Holy Spirit through holy men of old. It ceases to be the pure Word of God. If you succeed in making the Bible read like a children's Bible story book, you have succeeded in corrupting the Living Word of God, and this is exactly what those who use common language translational methods have done.
This is wrong. The translator's foremost responsibility is to the God whose Book he is translating, and that responsibility is to reproduce the Book into the receptor language as exactly as possible as it was given in the original Text--without addition, without subtraction, without weakening, without simplifying that which God did not simplify, without paraphrasing--without change!
Let me emphasize that I am not talking about an unnaturally wooden literalness, such as an interlinear translation. I am talking about an unwavering commitment to the actual wording of the Bible text. The King James Bible is a literal translation, but it is not woodenly so. It is not stilted. Proponents of dynamic equivalency often try to contrast their method of translation with that of a stiltified literalness. This is not a fair comparison. We reject both methods as improper. Give us neither an interlinear nor a common language version. GIVE US AN ACCURATE TRANSLATION WHICH GIVES DUE HONOR TO EVERY WORD OF THE ORIGINAL TEXT.
Dynamic equivalency translations are filled with unacceptable changes from the original text. If the people for whom the translation is being produced do not know what snow is, Isaiah 1:18 will not say their sins "will be as white as snow," but "white as a coconut," or "white as the sand."
If the people for whom the translation is being made do not know what a dove is, the passages of Scripture which mention the dove will be changed, and an indigenous type of bird will be used instead. This was done in a translation in which Wycliffe was involved on a South Pacific island. The Wycliffe translator was assigned to the project to advise on language construction and orthography. Consider this report of one of the changes made, based on the common language or dynamic equivalency philosophy:
"There are some interesting translational problems... [the Ulithians have] no word for dove--the symbol of the Spirit of God during Jesus' baptism in Mark 1.10--so we decided to use the name of a local bird called the gigi. It is acceptable because it is white--a sing of purity, and it is non-aggressive--a characteristic of humility” (Word in Action, British and Foreign Bible Society (No. 53, 1987, p. 3).
Who gave these men the right to replace dove with gigi? God made both birds and obviously God knows all of the characteristics of the birds. With so many fowl to chose from, why did God use the dove in Scripture to picture the Holy Spirit? We don't know all of the reasons. The dove's color and non-aggressive character are probably two reasons, but not necessarily the only ones. Is the gigi bird a suitable substitute for dove in Mark 1:10? Only God knows, and what has God said? He has said dove so who are we to change it! John did not see the Holy Spirit descending upon Christ in the form of a gigi, but in the form of a dove, so those who are translating the Bible into this South Pacific language have translated a lie.
Further, there might be things about the gigi bird which, unknown to the translators involved, would make it an improper, conceivably even an abominable picture of the Holy Spirit. How are we to know?
This is the kind of problem which arises when men use the dynamic equivalency method and change the Bible to fit various cultures and literacy levels. I am convinced that men do not have the authority to make such changes in the Word of God. It is not wrong for translators to add footnotes and comments to their translations, explaining the meaning of certain terms. Dictionaries and commentaries have always followed Bible translation work. But it is not the job of the translator to become a Bible teacher. The Bible translator is to translate accurately; the Bible teacher then can take the accurate text and teach from it. It is the Bible teacher's job to explain the terms. But when dynamic equivalency has done its hatchet job, there is not pure text from which to teach.
BIBLE TRANSLATION IS SERIOUS BUSINESS
My friends, I contend that if the Bible cannot be translated the way God gave it, it would be better to leave it alone. Why? The Word of God contains warnings about such tampering:
"Every word of God is pure. ... Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar" (Prov. 30:5,6).
God's Word is holy. It is not something which can be experimented with. I would not touch the common language method of Bible translation with a ten foot pole, and I would warn those who find themselves involved in such projects to do the same. The people of the world need Bibles, but they need pure Bibles! God's warnings about those who tamper with His Word are serious.
"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." (Rev. 22:18,19)
Some would say, Well, we are only talking about the difference between one bird and another, or the difference between snow and coconut. No, it is not that. It is the difference between the pure, preserved Word of God and a corruption thereof. Consider some other examples of how Wycliffe has changed the Word of God to conform with culture. These examples were given by Ross Hodsdon of Bibles International, formerly with Wycliffe:
In a translation for Eskimos in Alaska, "lamb" was replaced with "seal pup."
In a translation in the Makusi language of Brazil, "son of man" was replaced with "older brother."
In another Wycliffe translation "fig tree" was replaced with "banana tree."
We believe this thing is wrong. When one departs from the principle of a literal translation, the mind of the translator and the culture and understanding of the people become the authority rather than the actual words of Scriptures.
Again, I am not talking about a wooden literalness, but about an unwavering commitment to the actual wording of the Bible text.
Consider a few more examples of how the dynamic equivalency method of translation results in corruption of Scripture. These examples are given in Translating the Word of God by John Beekman and John Callow, of Wycliffe Bible Translators:
Matt. 8:20--"foxes" was translated "coyotes" in the Mazahua language of Mexico.
Mark 4:21--"on a candlestick" was translated "on a grain bin" in the Korku language of India.
Lk. 9:62--"plough" was translated "hoe" in the Carib language of Central America.
Lk. 12:24--"storehouse" was translated "basket" in the Villa Alta Zapotec language of Mexico.
Matt. 20:22--"the cup" was translated "pain" in the Copainala Zoque of Mexico.
Matt. 10:34--"a sword" was translated "there will be dissension among the people" in the Mazahua language of Mexico.
Acts 22:22--"away with such a fellow from the earth" was translated "kill him" in the Otomi language of Mexico.
From these examples, you see how far-removed the "dynamic equivalency" rendering is from the original Text. Dynamic equivalency allows translators this strange liberty to change, delete from, and add to the Word of God to such an extent that it no longer even can be called the Word of God. And dynamic equivalency, in various degrees, is the method of translation incorporated in all of the work being done by Wycliffe Bible Translators.
I will not go into further detail about the errors of dynamic equivalency. Those familiar with the Today's English Version should understand that this method of translation cannot produce an accurate Bible. For those not familiar with this versions, or for those who desire more information on this subject, we invite you to order a catalog from Way of Life Literature. We would particularly draw your attention to our book, Dynamic Equivalency: Death Knell of Pure Scripture. This is a study on the method and influence of Common Language translation work.
The fact remains that Wycliffe has adopted dynamic equivalency. John Beekman and John Callow, both with Wycliffe, have authored materials which present classical dynamic equivalency methods and which are used widely across denominational and doctrinal lines by professional translators. The guru of dynamic equivalency, Eugene Nida, started his ministry with Wycliffe. Today he works with the United Bible Societies, with whom Wycliffe works closely. Wycliffe promotes dynamic equivalency through its Summer Institute of Linguistics training school in Texas and through the various programs associated with it. Even through their computer programs, Wycliffe promotes dynamic equivalency. A few years ago I ordered one of their computerized publishing programs, and it came with the Today's English Version as the sample text.
Consider the following testimony about Wycliffe's involvement with dynamic equivalency:
"By their study of linguistic principles the Wycliffe Bible Translators have added a fresh dimension to Bible translation. Formerly an academic knowledge of the Bible--preferably in Greek and Hebrew--and a firm grasp of the language into which it was to be translated were regarded as all that was necessary for a Bible translator. But it is generally accepted today that it is also necessary to understand the basic principles which apply to all languages, if the meaning is to be communicated effectively.
"Two American scholars, who began their work in the 1930s with the Wycliffe Bible Translators, have reached a high rank in international linguistic scholarship. Kenneth Pike has continued to work with the Wycliffe Bible Translators; Eugene Nida, who shaped the translation policies of the American Bible Society in the post-war years, is today the leader in the translation field for the United Bible Societies.
"This new approach to Bible translation has resulted in much greater freedom for the translator. The Good News Bible (American Bible Society, 1976) is typical of the new style. ... The meaning of the original is carefully analyzed, then the result is reconstructed in the receptor language, according to the principles of that language" (W.F. Wootton, "Translating the Bible," The History of Christianity, Lions Publishing: Herts, England, 1977, pp. 630,631).
It should be clear that Wycliffe promotes and uses dynamic equivalency. This is not to say that all of Wycliffe's translations are as inaccurate as the TEV, but many are even worse. It simply is not possible to produce a pure Bible using the method of dynamic equivalency. Too many liberties are taken with the text.
The fact that Wycliffe has adopted an erroneous principle of translation is even more frightful when we consider how vast their work is. One report gives the statistics and their goals:
"It took Wycliffe Bible Translators only 50 years to enter 1,000 languages for translation work, but entering the next 1,000 languages is expected to take less than half that long. According to Executive Vice-President John Bendor-Samuel, the current growth rate for Wycliffe is 44 languages per year; at this rate the next 1,000 languages will take 23 years. Bendor-Samuel is urging a further increase of Wycliffe's outreach. He wants to allocate 66 new languages each year; this would allow the second 1,000 languages to be reached by the year 2000" (EP News Service, Feb. 15, 1985).
When reading statistics about Wycliffe's translation work, it must be remembered that a majority of these are dynamic equivalency versions. It would be wonderful if the more than 1,000 translations were pure, accurate versions. This, though, is not the case.
Thus, another cause for deep concern about Wycliffe Bible Translators is the corrupted form of Bible translation techniques they are using coupled with the tremendously vast influence of their work.
WYCLIFFE AND THE WESTCOTT-HORT TEXT
Let us move to another cause for alarm about Wycliffe Bible Translators. They are making the same serious mistake as many other Bible translators today in using the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament or a similar Westcott-Hort based text. A Wycliffe man from the Philippines I spoke with in Thailand considered the entire issue of texts to be insignificant. He was very prejudiced against the Textus Receptus, and in my understanding and experience this is the common viewpoint within Wycliffe. By using a corrupted text, Wycliffe is producing translations in which literally thousands of words of the original text are omitted and changed--no light matter.
The Greek text underlying the English Authorized Version and other great translations of the Reformation era was the Text preserved through the centuries. This is why it is called the Received Text (Textus Receptus). This Text went throughout the world from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. It was translated into the major languages, and was carried by godly missionaries to the uttermost regions. At the end of the 19th century, the Received Text was the undisputed Bible of the world. Was it possible that God had allowed a corrupted Text to rise to such a position? We don't believe that is possible. God has made too many promises that He would preserve His Word. But there were men in the late 1800s who did believe the Received Text was corrupt and who believed they had located a better text.
In the late 1800s, old manuscripts of the Greek text were found which some felt were better and more authoritative than the Received Text. These were incorporated into a new Greek text produced by two Anglican scholars, Westcott and Hort, of the English Revised Version committee of 1881. Westcott/Hort were of the Romanizing branch of the Anglican Church and were theological liberals. The changes they made in the Greek text were profound. Dozens of entire verses and thousands of words were removed from the New Testament. Yet their work was accepted by a many scholars and their text eventually was incorporated into the Greek text produced and popularized by the United Bible Societies (UBS) of our day. This Text differs profoundly from the Received Text, and it is this textual difference that has resulted in most of the serious changes in the new English translations. To phrase this in another way: The reason the new English versions differ so greatly from the KJV is not their use of contemporary English, but their reliance upon a different Greek text.
To show just how significantly different the UBS Text is from the Received Text we offer the following facts. These are derived from the excellent studies of Everett W. Fowler, who spent many years comparing the different texts and versions of the Bible. You can see from the following that this is no small matter.
* There are more than 40 entire verses omitted or questioned by the use of footnotes and brackets in the Bible Society text as compared to the Received Text.
* There are 185 significant portions of verses omitted in the Bible Society text.
* There are 212 omissions of the names of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Bible Society text.
* There are 289 other omissions and differences in the Bible Society text which have a substantial effect on the meaning.
* Total word differences between the Bible Society Text and the Received Text are 8674.
It should be obvious that the United Bible Societies text is a different one from the God-honored Received Text. If the Bible societies text is assumed to be the nearest to the verbally inspired original text, then the Received Text includes over 8,000 Greek words not inspired of God.
The significance of these changes becomes even more apparent when we consider their nature. The UBS New Testament deletes or questions more than 40 entire verses which were contained in the KJV and the other ancient and God-honored Protestant versions--Matt. 12:47; 17:21; 18:11; 21:44; 23:14; Mk. 7:16; 9:44,46; 11:26; 15:28 16:9-20; Lk. 17:36; 23:17; 24:12,40; Jn. 5:4; 7:53-8:11; Acts 8:37; 28:29; Rom. 16:24; and 1 Jn. 5:8. Further, large portions of other verses are deleted, including most of Matt. 5:44; 15:8; 19:9; 20:7; 20:16,22; 25:13; 27:35; 28:9; Mk. 6:11; 7:8; 9:49; 10:24; 11:10; 13:14; Lk. 1:28; 4:4; 9:55,56; 11:2-4; 21:4; 22:64; Jn. 5:3; Acts 2:30; 9:5-6; 23:9; 24:6-8; 28:16; Rom. 8:1; 11:6; 14:6; 1 Cor. 6:20; Gal. 3:1; Eph. 5:30; 1 Thess. 1:1; 1 Tim. 6:5; Heb. 2:7; 1 Jn. 5:13; Rev. 1:8,11; and 5:14.
A great many of the omissions in the UBS Greek New Testament affect key doctrines of the faith, including the deity and virgin birth of Christ, the Atonement, and the Trinity. For example, the UBS Greek Testament deletes the word "God" in 1 Tim. 3:16, thus destroying the effectiveness of one of the Bible's clearest testimonies to the fact that Jesus Christ is God. The words "the Lord" are removed from 1 Cor. 15:47, thus destroying this testimony to Christ's deity. (He IS the Lord from Heaven!) The words "by Himself" are removed from Heb. 1:3, thus deleting this powerful witness about Christ's atonement. The deletion of Acts 8:37 in the UBS Greek Testament destroys the effectiveness of this passage of Scripture as to the fact that faith must precede baptism. The removal of 1 Jn. 5:8 takes from the Bible one of the plainest references to the Trinity.
The Bibles which went to the ends of the earth during the great missionary era of the last four centuries had these testimonies in them, but now they are removed in modern versions by the adoption of a new Greek text. Remember, too, these are but a few of the hundreds of examples which could be given. We are convinced the new text is a corrupted one which should be rejected by God's people.
Again, careful and thorough studies can be obtained on this important subject from Way of Life Literature and other publishers. In particular we would recommend Everett Fowler's Evaluating Versions of the New Testament, and David Otis Fuller's True Or False. We would also recommend the New Eye Opener pamphlet which shows 200 of the most serious changes in the new texts and versions. These are listed in our catalog.
The fact is that Wycliffe uses the corrupted United Bible Societies text as the underlying basis for their work. There are exceptions to this, as we noted earlier in the study, but for the most part, the United Bible Societies text is the preferred text.
WYCLIFFE AND CONTEXTUALIZATION
Another cause for alarm in regard to Wycliffe is their adoption of the unscriptural "contextualization" view of missionary work. This will not come as a surprise to those familiar with Wycliffe's dynamic equivalency method of Bible translation. Dynamic equivalency seeks to adapt the Scriptures to the culture of the people. This is exactly what contextualization does. It seeks to adapt missions and church work to the culture of the people. The philosophy behind dynamic equivalency and contextualization is the same, and both are unscriptural.
A Wycliffe worker who labored in Nepal published an interesting account of his experiences and the lessons learned while living with his family for twelve years among the Magar tribe in a remote Himalayan region. There is no doubt the man and his family made considerable sacrifice to live among this primitive people and to become the first foreigners to learn the Magar language.
There is a deep problem in the nature of this Wycliffe worker's philosophy of missions, though, and I fear it is illustrative of the general trend of Wycliffe. In the book Life Among the Magars, Gary Shepherd makes some very strange statements in regard to missionary work:
"When we first went out to live with the Magars, we had to make a choice as to what our role would be in their society. With our supposedly superior knowledge and training, should we take upon ourselves the role of a teacher? ... but we refused this role. We felt that inevitably we would misunderstand their indigenous social systems, resulting in at least a certain amount of confusion, and potentially, outright failure of whatever program we sought to introduce. They would misapply some, if not most of our teaching; they might even end up worse off than before. We felt that we didn't want to be responsible for `throwing the monkey wrench' into their smooth-running society. ...
"As I looked at their society, I thought of it in terms of a wheel intricately filled with many spokes. Each spoke represented one of the important systems of their life and thinking. There were the `spokes' of good and evil deities, their beliefs about diet and disease, their concern over forest elves, their method of forest management, their discipline of kinship relations, their local authority patterns (religious and secular) and many, many more.
"Each system consisted of a unique, complex way of thinking and acting. Each system had its multiple pieces which were specially tailored to form the spoke that held up their wheel of life. Just as an overtightened spoke on a bicycle would result in a crooked wheel, in the same way, any changes made in a spoke of their society would have ramifications all across their social system.
"If a change we made resulted in a crack or break in a spoke, then it was our responsibility to somehow repair that crack, a next-to-impossible task in my opinion. They and only they knew their society well enough to adjust successfully the tension on their spokes. For this reason, as much as possible, we refused the teacher role. ... As I think back on it now, the role that we chose might best be termed the role of an `Example.'" (Gary Shepherd, Life Among the Magars, pp. 189-191).
Of course, if this was a reference merely to secular matters it would not be such a shocking statement, but Mr. Shepherd is referring to religious as well as to secular things. The culture to which he is referring is animistic. Nepal is a Hindu kingdom, and it is therefore impossible to disassociate Nepal's culture from idolatry, its official state religion. Hinduism is a religion which permeates every facet of any society it controls. Thus when this Wycliffe worker refused to take the role of a teacher to bring change to the Magar culture, he was refusing to do what Christ has commanded of missionaries. This is certainly different from Paul's message and methodology among the idolaters of Athens!
It is right to be an example of that which we believe and teach, but we are not called to be examples only. If a man does not come to a nation as a teacher, he simply is not a New Testament missionary. Indeed, we are commanded to proclaim a dogmatic message to the nations that Jesus Christ is the only Lord and Savior and that God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent. We are to teach the people all things whatsoever Christ has commanded in the Scriptures. The New Testament missionary is a Teacher!
No doubt, such a Bible ministry will result in drastic change when the message of the missionary teacher is received. The spokes of the cultural wheel might indeed twist, even crack! But if they don't break now, they definitely will--and that by violence!--at the coming of Jesus Christ.
It appears that Wycliffe is rapidly adopting the popular new-evangelical missiological philosophy of contextualization. This, again, is because they are drawing from such a wide spectrum, denominationally and doctrinally.
There are other serious problems with Wycliffe, but this should suffice. We know, too, that this exposure will not be popular. Wycliffe is the largest Protestant missionary agency in the world, and the very nature of their work places them above criticism in the eyes of many. Even so, for these six reasons we are convinced that faithful Christians should not support Wycliffe Bible Translators or the Summer Institute of Linguistics. We would also warn our fellow fundamental missionaries of becoming involved with Wycliffe's training programs. Their destructive new evangelical philosophy is contagious!