Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Explaining Bible Translation to Non-Christians

Most of the presentations that Kathy & I do are for a variety of Christian groups, anything from entire church congregations to women’s groups, seniors’ groups, prayer & Bible study groups, and even Christian schools. Today, however, we were asked to do a presentation for a non-Christian group. How often does that happen? Pretty rarely, but it does occur from time to time. Most of these opportunities have come from a newspaper write-up we received shortly after we first came back to Canada in the fall of 2005. This time it was for a group of retired and semi-retired business people and professionals called the PROBUS Club. It’s the second time we’ve addressed one of these clubs. I did a presentation at a club in Huntsville about a year and a half ago. The one today was in Bracebridge.

As usual, we took them on an informative and entertaining trip to Burkina Faso and the Kusassi people, introducing them to some of the cross-cultural and linguistic challenges we face there. When it came to talking about the work of Bible translation, however, we took a slightly different tack. Christian groups have no problem understanding the need for this aspect of our ministry. Non-Christians, however, question its validity, often seeing it as religious proselytizing more than anything else.

That’s why we take pains to point out the tremendous power and impact of the spiritual dimension in the lives of people like the Kusassi and other people groups that practice indigenous religions throughout Africa and around the world. They live in constant fear of evil spirits and spend much of their lives trying to appease these spirits and prevent them from harming their families, their crops, their livestock, and more. While this sounds like superstitious nonsense to many North Americans, it is very real to the Kusassi and others. Their fear of the spirits is also the key to much of their lack of development in the areas of health, agriculture, business, etc. Any efforts at community development that do not first address the spiritual issues that hinder improvements are ultimately doomed to failure.

This is where Bible translation comes in. Through God’s Word in their own language, people like the Kusassi can learn that there is someone who created them and loves them, and who is infinitely more powerful than any of the evil spirits they fear. Those who put their trust in God no longer have to spend their lives appeasing the evil spirits and being afraid to try anything new for fear the spirits will be angry. The truth found in God’s Word can set them free. Now that’s Good News indeed! And it’s something that even non-Christians can understand and agree with.