<a href="https://biblicalmissiology.org/blog/author/dirvine/" target="_self">David Irvine</a>

David Irvine

I was born and grew up in Iran. I came to the Lord here in the US in 1972. I took 3 years of Bible College preparing for the ministry when I began my “accidental” career in law enforcement. My wife and I have been interested and drawn to missions for years. Upon my retirement we joined Wycliffe USA and spent a year and a half training and preparing to go to West Asia to run an SIL NGO. We learned that SIL Eurasia had adopted the Insider Movement and resulting Muslim Idiom Translation style for the region and resigned 3 weeks prior to our departure. We are now with Horizons International.


  1. David Irvine

    Dear “Abdul Asad”
    What I have seen and deduced is not perceived heresy but very real. Listen to all of the cries from mother tongue and heart language believers. It is not maligning to challenge someone’s thinking. If that were the case then you have maligned me. You have gone beyond that to insinuate that I am not well traveled or smart enough to understand, let alone challenge this theology and missiology.

    Great men come and go. It is God’s word and His glory that matter and that remain. It is by the whole council of His word that these things will be judged not by picking and choosing what you like as you say you have done on your blog. (I would post a link to it if you desire but it appears as if you want your true identity to be under the radar)

    I see from your blog that you are a foreigner in a Middle Eastern country. So this name “Abdul Asad” is a pseudonym. Do you post remarks here, on your blog and in St. Francis Magazine with this Middle Eastern name to give yourself credibility? And that over and above the real Middle Easterners who see this theology imposed on them? You use a lion calligraphy as your symbol. Do you know what it means? You use it to illustrate yourself as “servant of the lion”. Here is what it says:
    علي بن ابي طالب رضي الله تعالى عنه وكرم الله وجهه
    which means “Ali Bin Abu-Talib May Allah be Pleased with him and … may Allah honor his face” This is the Muslim-Sunnah way of calling and introducing Ali (the Prophet’s cousin). ### It is used only for Ali! ### Do your Muslim friends know you have taken it to mean you?

    Not only are you loose with Muslim culture and meaning you are also selective in Christian theology. On your blog you say: “you learn quickly that much of the theology that you thought was so important isn’t really that important in the beginning.”

    You say “having a wide theological knowledge… is a bit shallow, you have found it far more important to have a narrower theological focus…”

    After reading your blog and the tone of your remarks I will simply let the article speak for itself.

    David Irvine

  2. abdulasad7

    “Walls says theology ‘is therefore occasional and local in character’. The implication is we should not expect any sort of Christian unity in theology.”

    Brother, you are seriously misunderstanding Andrew Walls. Walls totally affirms the catholicity of the church and historic orthodoxy. He’s just smart enough (and well traveled enough) to point out the fact that ALL theology arises out of a particular local context. Even the Creeds arose out of a local context(s) – the Roman Empire and the challenge of Arianism, to name a few. Thus, we can speak of Asian theology, African theology, etc. and we can even subdivide those categories into things like Korean theology, Japanese theology, Kikuyu theology, Zulu theology, etc.

    It’s a LONG way from what Walls teaches to what you have deduced here. Please don’t malign the teaching of such a great missiologist and man of God in your efforts to combat perceived heresy elsewhere.

  3. David Irvine

    Thank you for the note. Lucidity is something I have found lacking when discussing terms and meaning with IM proponents. This article grew out of my attempts to understand how people who claim to be “evangelical” and claim to hold orthodox Christian beliefs could support and teach something that is so fundamentally different. My conclusion is not really that earth shattering. What we have is a system of thinking and definitions of truth and authority that rise out of evolution, “enlightenment” and experience, not revelation. It is an attractive thing because it allows us to define God, sin, redemption, and virtually anything else we want to. Everything including theology is local and contextual. Everyone is right, no one is wrong (unless of course you have a narrow doctrinal view like Andrew Clark’s “man in the pew”). What a system!
    David I.

  4. Roger Dixon

    A very lucid description of the way IM proponents present and argue their points. I had contact with them in the ’90s in West Java, including hearing John Travis describe his understanding of Kurios & Greek influence and it is frustrating that IM people ignore biblical scholarship that goes back to the LXX and also illustrates Paul’s theology to the hellenists. Seemingly, IM people will not listen to points that contradict their views but simply continue to reiterate their views even though they have no basis for them. Thanks David for your description of one branch of this unbiblical philosophy.

  5. Salaam-Corniche

    David and company:
    I did a small comparison of some items from the “old” Wycliffe (1395) and the “new” Wycliffe organization. What would the old master say of the tampering with the text?

    A sampling from Luke’s Gospel from Wycliffe 1395 Bible and the contemporary Wycliffe sponsoned Lives of the Prophets.

    For Lives of the Prophets see: http://www.answering-islam.org/fileadmin/reviews/lives-of-prophets.pdf
    For Wycliffe’s translation: http://lookhigher.net/englishbibles/wycliffebible/luke/11.html

    Luk 1:32 This schal be greet, and he schal be clepid the sone of the Hiyeste; and the Lord God schal yeue to hym the seete of Dauid, his fadir, and he schal regne in the hous of Jacob with outen ende,

    v. 35
    Luk 1:35 And the aungel answeride, and seide to hir, The Hooly Goost schal come fro aboue in to thee, and the vertu of the Hiyeste schal ouerschadewe thee; and therfor that hooli thing that schal be borun of thee, schal be clepid the sone of God.

    From Lives of Prophets (L.O.P.)
    The Spirit of God will come down
    upon you and this thing is the proof
    that this child is the awaited Christ
    who will rule forever.

    Luk 4:3 And the deuel seide to him, If thou art Goddis sone, seie to this stoon, that it be maad breed.

    L.O.P. If you are truly the Messiah of the Most High God, command these
    stones to become bread.

    Luk 4:9 And he ledde hym in to Jerusalem, and sette hym on the pynacle of the temple, and seide to hym, If thou art Goddis sone, sende thi silf fro hennes doun;

    L.O.P. Afterward, the Devil took Him to Jerusalem and stood Him on the edge
    of the House of God. If you are truly the Messiah of God, throw yourself
    down from up here

    Luk 11:2 And he seide to hem, Whanne ye preien, seie ye, Fadir, halewid be thi name. Thi kyngdom come to.

    L.O.P When you pray, say: Our loving, heavenly Lord

  6. David Irvine

    Here is a very simple test to see if it is linguistic or theological. Proponents of MIT within Wycliffe and SIL say that “Son of God” and “Father” convey wrong meaning. They replace these words with words that mean “proxy”, “representative” and “guardian”. Many mother tongue, heart language speakers say they are wrong. So linguistically these westerners are challenged by mother tongue speakers. Also notice that Wycliffe and SIL proponents and other translators whom they consult for, make this substitution in more than one language. The connection is religion (Bengali, Turkish, Arabic) demonstrating that it is tied to the receptor religion not the language. Why is this done over the objections of the receptor language native speakers? The answer is that this Insider Movement paradigm and shift in western theology is driving the linguistics and translations.

  7. David Irvine

    Thank you for your note. I have not confused theology with translation. The point is that a shift in theology is driving the type of translation. Instead of God’s revealed word informing culture it has become fallen culture informing. It is a thinking and theology that is man centered.

  8. David Irvine

    Although I did not choose the title it is appropriate. No it is not sensationalistic or alarmist. What is alarming is the steadfastness with which Wycliffe and SIL leadership have been defending this shift in theology all the while claiming they have not shifted at all. Yes, if the ship continues as it is, it is sinking. It is also alarming that SIL censures those within who raise warning flags, yet gives freedom and license to those who have been promoting this theology for years.

  9. M. S.


    I’ll answer this question as I’m the one who chose the title.

    “3. Do you think referring to SIL as a “sinking ship” is sensationalistic or alarmist in tone? Are you purposely trying to paint all of SIL in a bad light? If so, is this a biblical practice? Do you think the commenter above understood you correctly to talk about the “great danger WBT-SIL is in”? Do yo think there is a charitable way to disagree in these matters?”

    I referred to SIL/Wycliffe as a ship that is sinking, because people are abandoning it for the life rafts, while some rather go down with the ship rather than fix the holes. I have no problem portraying a ‘Christian’ organization that has turned down a road of bad theology and hubris in a bad light. In fact, we should. 1 John 2 15-27. If John the Apostle can preach love and community and preach against anti-christs who have come from within the community, I have good Theological company. A whole article is written about this in: https://biblicalmissiology.org/2011/11/07/tottering-at-the-abyss-pergamum-and-thyatira's-courtship-with-false-religion/

    The actions Wycliffe and SIL have done have been going on for years. They HAVE been engaged for years. They have been spoken to behind closed doors in more than charitable ways. They ignore, sometimes repent only to pull their confession and defend their stances even more. Wycliffe, SIL, Rick Brown, Jeff Hayes have had their opportunities of charity. The church is in danger. It is time to take things into the light.

    Eph 5:10-14
    11 And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14 For this reason it says,

    “Awake, sleeper,
    And arise from the dead,
    And Christ will shine on you.”

  10. Warrick

    Hi David,

    1. Can you please provide an example of an ahistorical, non-contextualized version of Christianity or preaching of the gospel?

    2. Are you aware of your own paradigm? If you’re not a post-modernist, are you a modernist or a critical realist? How can you avoid the trappings of modernism when critiquing post-modernism?

    3. Do you think referring to SIL as a “sinking ship” is sensationalistic or alarmist in tone? Are you purposely trying to paint all of SIL in a bad light? If so, is this a biblical practice? Do you think the commenter above understood you correctly to talk about the “great danger WBT-SIL is in”? Do yo think there is a charitable way to disagree in these matters?

    Looking forward to your answers.


  11. Tertius

    David, I appreciate your point that, the “Apostle Paul gave [the Greeks] a great deal of practical and theological guidance that was actually inspired not just translated.” I also appreciate your observation that Walls failed to discuss inspiration and its place in authoritative revelation. However, it seems to me that you have confused Wall’s discussion of theology with the topic of translation (though there is some overlap). Please clarify why you think that asking new questions about Christ and writing new systematic theologies specific to cultural contexts results in a rejection of the verbal-plenary inspiration of Scripture. The inspired Scriptures will challenge every culture, but certain passages will be more relevant (note: not less truthful or inspired) to some cultures than others. Isn’t true theology, in part, searching the inspired Hebrew and Greek Scriptures for answers to our deepest questions? Weren’t the early creeds that hashed out homoousia doing this very thing? Can we not use our own heart languages to express these truths?

  12. Baruch


    Thank you so much for your faithfulness to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Having the courage of one’s convictions, even when it means sacrificing what seems to be a God-given goal, because of refusing to compromise the known will of God (i.e. the Bible), is such an incredible witness and challenge to live what we believe. Abraham and Sarah thought that they could “help” God fulfill His promise to them by using Hajar as a surrogate mother. Is this not what IM and MIT proponents are doing? In effect they are saing, “God’s Word is not good enough, Let’s “help” Him out with our anthropological studies regarding culture and linguistics.”).

    I appreciated so much your highlighting and explaining the often unstated principle behind what Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT)-SIL is doing, namely, that inspiration is ongoing,and they view translation as inspired as the original autographs of Scripture.. This is exactly what Eugene Nida and Charles Kraft taught (I appreciate the reference to Kraft in the footnotes).

    Thank you for sharing this story with us. May it have wide readership and be used by God to awaken many within the Church to see the great danger WBT-SIL is in.

  13. Salaam-Corniche

    Thank you David.
    You have lived one-roller coaster ride. Thanks for your clarity and candor in describing it. Please tell me the name of the book that you referred to “on Christian mission to Muslims” that gave you much grief. Is this required reading in the organization as a whole?


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