Just a tiny passage today on what I think is one of the most important distinctions between the worldviews of Christianity and Islam: the identity of Jesus.

Without any true knowledge they attribute sons and daughters to Him [God].  He is far higher than what they ascribe to Him, the Creator of the heavens and earth!  How could He have children when He has no spouse, when He created all things, and has full knowledge of all things? (6:100-01)

February 2011

It just so happens that the cover story in this month’s edition of Christianity Today concerns the translation of the term “son of God” in Christian Bibles aimed at a Muslim audience. The author of the article, Collin Hansen, reports that term alone is “repugnant” to a Muslim.

That sentiment is crystal clear in today’s passage from the Qur’an.  God having children?  Wouldn’t that mean God had sexual relations with Mary?  Hansen says this is how many Muslims hear the phrase, as they do not possess the same nuanced, trinitarian idea Christians have of a spiritual conception by way of the Holy Spirit, not actual sexuality.  The idea that Jesus is the “son of God” causes confusion at best and often revulsion.  Later we will see the Qur’an call a curse down on Christians who call Jesus the “Son of God” (9:30).  Some Muslims will even go so far as to leave the presence of someone who uses the phrase so as not to risk punishment upon themselves.   Christianity Today quotes Rick Brown, a long time missionary to Muslims:

Missionaries can live in a Muslim culture for decades, blaming Muslims for being “‘resistant” to the gospel, when the problem actually lies with linguistic and cultural stumbling blocks.  Once these are removed, many Muslims are quite open and interested in knowing more about Jesus. (“The Son and The Crescent,” CT, 2/2011)

Because of this, a whole new wave of translations of the Bible have come about that change the “son of God” language and replace it with more Muslim-sensitive phrases like “the Beloved Son who comes (or originates) from God” or “the Beloved of God.”  The desire is to communicate the same metaphorical connection between “Father” and “Son” without putting up the same barriers.  These translators argue that the really important point is that Muslims comes to know Jesus as the Savior from sin, not the Son.

Other translators and missionaries complain that this compromise “undermines belief in Jesus Christ as the pre-existent, only begotten Son of God.”  This makes Jesus less than he really is.  J. Scott Horrell argues that “when Jesus used Father-Son language, he reached ‘the deepest levels of divine discourse'” and we miss out on this same level of intimacy when we neglect the phrase (“The Son and The Crescent,” CT, 2/2011).  Yes, Jesus is Savior but he is also Son.

It is all an interested, complicated can of worms.  Love compels us to tear down every barrier possible.  But when are we tearing down too much?

What do you think?