I would like to share a number of interesting thoughts by Pastor Brutus Balan of a Baptist Church in Australia in the Facebook (FB). I hope he doesn't mind.
In his posting Brutus Balan said,
1. In today's religious context, the word 'Allah' is a word loaded with Islamic theology. The God of the Christian Bible Yahweh-Elohim from Genesis to Revelation is a trinitarian mono God. IT is not a creation of the Church but it is a inspired revelation. Its maths is hard to understand but it is the heart of John 3: 16 and Jesus' life will be nonsensical as much as His sacrifice for sinful and doomed humanity if the second person of the Trinity did not incarnate in the human flesh. The Christian Gospel is based on this redemptive revelation of the triune Godhead. The Quranic concept of 'Allah' is in total opposition to this. There is NO similarity between them whatsoever.
2. The early 'Christian missionaries', mostly Roman Catholics erred when they started to Christianize pagan words (jargon/terminology), concepts, icons, statues (Mother and child), festivals and celebrations (like Christmas/Easter) and included them as Christian so the 'converts' from the Christianized societies are not brought into a cultural vacuum. Therefore the word `Allah' that pre-dates Islam, a word that was and is a non Hebrew word for a pagan deity was Christianized and retained among the middle Eastern converts and used in the Bible translation. This syncretism was followed in Asia with the use of the word, Allah among minority ethnic 'converts'. It was wrong then and it is wrong now.
3. The word 'Allah' is a transliteration of the Arabic word. Why would a Christian missionary/translator use an Arabic word to represent a Hebrew God of the Bible? It is due to the syncretistic attitude as mentioned above. To be true, the translators and 'Christian missionaries' at that time ought to have transliterated the Hebrew word, 'Jehovah' for `Lord' and 'Elohim' for 'God' in the available script of each ethnic group of converts and not the word 'Allah'. Why use the pre-Islamic Arabic word 'Allah' for the Biblical God written in Hebrew the language of the Old Testament? After all 'the people of the Book', the Jews were worshipping Jehovah-Elohim 500 years before Mohammed. No matter how it is insisted, it is a betrayal of the the God of the Bible. Words do not exist in a vacuum and they are loaded with implications. When we import from the Quran a word that is alien to the Hebrew Bible, we also import its foreign teachings.
4. Bible translations are the efforts of humans and in this digital age correction can be made easily to remove the word 'Allah' and replace it with `Jehovah' and `Elohim' or close to its sound in any ethnic laguage. Christians who have used the Islamic word, 'Allah' must be told of its implications and the error made earlier and enlighten them as to why we need to change. Education is the enlightening of people from ignorance to knowledge as new information avails as it is realized or discovered. Most who claim to be Christians are untaught of the Biblical truths. Most are adherents to the rites and form without a clue to its theological basis to their faith. So, like any other education, evangelical teacher/pastors need to educate the dill and the bright. New Bible translation with 'Allah' removed ought to be phased in with education. The use of any word depicting/portraying the God of the Bible should be in keeping with the Hebrew jargon and etymology. Words may have common roots in a locality but they are not to be thought as one and the same. Hebrew script and language is vastly different from the Arabic.
5. The present controversy over the use of the word in the Christian context has a political agenda both sides are guilty of. The so called fear of the erosion of Christian rights and its domino effect if unchallenged is to the detriment of the Christian faith. The rights of minorities must be challenged in Courts as a political matter. Christian theology should not have been used as a means to that. The Roman Catholic Church in my opinion made an unwise move plunging the country to this sad polarisation of people.
6. If I were a Muslim I would welcome the Christians to use the word 'Allah' for it plays into the Islamic faith. Well, if the Christian God is also Allah, then the Christian is none other than a wayward Muslim for that is the God of the Quran. In time when the lines are blurred and ignorance of the biblical doctrines blooms to bliss, Islam will be a tempting option for a nominal 'Christian'. The use of the word 'Allah' then is the Islamization of the Christian. (Note - on this part definitely Muslims have their own reasons on why they are against it)
7. Finally, I speak as an evangelical Christian, believing the Bible as THE Word of God, uncorrupted and the final word to humanity. It is Jesus who said that 'He is the way and the truth and the Life. No man comes unto the Father (God) but by me' (John 14: 6). Jesus affirmed and confirmed the Hebrew Bible and never once used the Arabic word, 'Allah', referring to His Father (Jehovah-Elohim). So Christians who take the Bible as God's Word should not use the word 'Allah' to refer to the Hebrew God of the Bible.
In response to a post by a fellow Christian, Brutus Balan said,
1. IBS like any Bible translators will loathe to change a word or words lest the revised version makes the former void. They from time to time conference and decide in line with pragmatism. So they kept the error and defend it with vigour and gobbledegook.
2. The early translators erred in TRANSLITERATING the Arabic word 'Allah' borrowed from Islam at that time in Asia, a common usage by the Muslims then and incorporated it into the Indonesian Bible text. That is to keep with the religious context of those who were converting to Christianity. Since the OT of the Bible was written in Hebrew, the language of the Jews, I cannot understand why these modern translators cannot use the TRANSLITERATED Hebrew words for the God of the Bible as it is now, ie. LORD God = Yahweh or Jehovah Elohim as part of the Malay / Indon translation. The same consistency to apply even for the New Testament in BM words for God and Lord (Theos and Kurios) for it is a reference to the same Biblical God. The' Lord Jesus' = Jehovah or Yahweh Yesus. If there are no indigenous word or equivalence for a word of another language, people have always transliterated the foreign word, contextualizing it and adding it to the local vocabulary.
3. The Indonesian and Malaysian languages are testament to this, like 'confrontasi', reformasi, etc.. Adonai too as it is found in the Bible must be retained as it is transliterated for it is another word for Jehovah. They will then be part of the Malay/Indon vocabulary posing no problem. We don't even need to worry about 'Tuan' Tuanku or Tuhan. The BM readers of the Bible will have a clear understanding of its meaning. Why the unwarranted intrusion of an Arabic word 'Allah' into the translation of the Hebrew Bible? No matter what the root and all the semantics about 'Allah', this word is not found in the Biblical text in reference to the Biblical God. After about 500 hundred years AD, this 'Allah' is now well distinguished as the deity of the Quran. The 'Allah' of the Quran is in total contradiction to the triune Jehovah-Elohim of the Bible.
The third response by Brutus Balan is as below;
1. The Indonesian/Malay Bibles erroneously use the word 'Allah' to refer to the God of the Bible. I have explained it in my posts. Even though the argument that it is not an exclusive word for the Muslims for it pre-dates Islam and that it is currently used by non English speaking Christian minority, this Islamic deity called 'Allah' is never found in the Hebrew text of the Bible. Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic languages may have similar linguistic root from where it branched out but since the birth of Islam, Allah, is a word that refers to the deity of the Quran. This Muslim deity is antithetical to the Biblical God, Jehovah-Elohim. They are poles apart even though many say there is only a minor difference. They mean well but have not investigated the content of the Bible and the Quran, its theology.
2. Allah, in today's understanding and context refers solely to the Islamic god. If Christians continue the use of the word 'Allah', we are then likening and admitting that the Allah of the Quran is the same God of the Bible and in time this blurring of meaning and import will eventually draw us closer to Islam. Reading the posts here and other blogs you can see how many people are now saying that there is little difference between Muslims and Christians and that we all worship the same God. The blurring of the line has happened right now with this generation.
3. The Muslims are saying that the Triune God of the Bible is the corruption that Mohammed was raised by Allah to set right . They are also caliming all the Jewish, Hebrew speaking Biblical patriachs as their own, and to be Muslims and that Christians are in error believing a God who exists in three persons, yet one God, a revelation of the Bible. In no time those who are reading the BM Bible with 'Allah' as god, will soon begin to think that it is the same God of the Bible. This is the goal of the Ecumenical Movement and the Interfaith purpose of the dialogue to unite all religions as worshipping one and the same God. NO, WE DO NOT! The word 'Allah' since Mohammed is the god of the Quran as defined by Mohammed.
4. It is foolish of the TBS to retain this word in the BM Bibles arguing on semantics and pre-Islam history of this word. It is foolish of TBS to not correct it by transliterating the Hebrew word as is to Jehovah for Lord and Elohim for God to refer to the Biblical God. This God is different from 'Allah'. The TBS could have changed it easily and explained the changes in the Introduction or the Preface of the BM Bibles but they foolishly decided to carry on with the error of the early translators. I have read their goobledegook arguments and it is wasted ink.
5. If there is a strong public demand from BM using Christians for this change, then the TBS will print a revised edition of the BM Bibles. Demand it. In the meantime, teach the BM users not to read it as 'Allah' but as 'Jehovah' (Adonai) for LORD and Elohim or 'Tuhan' for God, and Tuan for Lord in reference to people. Teach them the Islamic import of the word 'Allah' and that it is not our God.
6. When this begins to happen in Malayasia, it will reverberate to the other parts of the Christian minority of the world for the change. What is wrong must be corrected no matter how long the error was commitied. This Malaysian controversy over this issue may be a blessing in disguise. Start this movement in your neirgborhod. Let the Muslims have the use of 'Allah' of their Quran and let Christians distinguish themselves with their Biblical God. Fighting for this Arabic word to refer to the Hebrew Biblical God is running after another god of another religion. But maintain a deep respect for the Muslims and live in peace, Dare to be different with mutual respect. Those who seek the truth will investigate and Truth will find them.I would say that this is one of the most honest opinions by a Christian Pastor and I believe this is the kind of value that was originally taught in the Bible.
As suggested by another Christian by the name of Tony Chew (click here) "to avoid Christians to be seen as confrontational cult and at the same time not to compromise our belief, I would like to suggest Lord God to be translated as Tuhan Ketua, Tuhan Tuan, Tuhan Yang Mulia, Yang Agung, Tuhan Bapa, Tuhan Eli and Tuhan Elohim. Lord Jesus can be translated as either Tuhan Jesus or Tuan Jesus depending on what we believe in. Since the Catholics belief is in God oneness, so the most appropriate translation would be Tuan Jesus. Tuhan Jesus would be more suitable in the belief of plurality of God. Afterall, when God revealed His name to Moses, this was what He said, "What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." 3:13-15. God says who he is n by wht name he is to be called. Ths divine name is mysterious just as God is mystery: Isa 45:15; Judge 13:18."