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Q&A: Complementarianism is a liberating force in Islamic world, Arabic translator says

July 3, 2007

Following is a Q&A with Palestinian evangelical scholar Yohanna Katanacho who serves as director of the academic affairs at Bethlehem Bible College in Galilee.

Following is a Q&A with Palestinian evangelical scholar Yohanna Katanacho who serves as director of the academic affairs at Bethlehem Bible College in Galilee. Katanacho has taught the Bible and theology at Bethlehem Bible College for several years and holds doctor of philosophy and master of divinity degrees from Trinity International University in Bannockburn, Ill. He has also served as a pastor and elder in the local church. He recently translated the Danvers Statement and 50 Crucial Questions into Arabic.

Gender-News: How did you first become aware of the gender debate within evangelicalism and at what point did you begin to think about translating some basic complementarian works into Arabic?

Yohanna Katanacho
: Dr. Wayne Grudem taught me when I was a student at Trinity International University (1996-1999) in the master of divinity program. His clear and prayerful teaching inspired me in more than one way. I was very impressed with his prayerful attitude and humility. He used to close his eyes and lift up a quick prayer before answering any question.

I tried to know Dr. Grudem better and explore the reasons behind his passion for supporting the complementarian position and not the egalitarian one. The more I knew him the more I liked the idea of making his works available in Arabic. I expressed my feelings to Dr. Grudem who insightfully perceived that this is part of God’s plan for my life. Then he asked me to translate the Danvers Statement and the second chapter of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood ("Fifty Crucial Questions").

GN: Have you translated other theological works?

Katanacho: After finishing the translation and making it available to Arab speakers, I was asked to participate in translating Dr. Grudem’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Now I gladly use the translated works in teaching undergraduates at Bethlehem Bible College.

GN: How is the gender issue perceived and debated in the Arab-speaking world as opposed to the way it is perceived and debated in the West?

Katanacho: It is worth noting that in the Arab world the issues are different. While Dr. Grudem affirms the complementarian position in a context that has an egalitarian perspective, we in the Arab world aver the same biblical position in an Islamic context. Radical Islam has marginalized women and oppressed them. Within my cultural conceptual grid, the complementarian biblical position is a liberating force! Interestingly, in one of my classes, a prominent Arab Israeli pastor accepted the complementarian teaching and as a result decided to help the women in his church to serve the Lord more effectively. He decided to get them involved in playing musical instruments and participating in leading the worship as well as making sure that they are involved in serving God.

GN: In what way do you hope to see God use the Arabic translation of the Danvers Statement and 50 Crucial Questions?

The global church has to take into consideration the Islamic world, [which includes] more than one billion people. The complementarian biblical position in the western world is considered conservative. In the Islamic world we consider the same position as therapeutic and invigorating. Muslim women who convert to Christianity see it as just. Most Arab Christians as well as Muslim followers of Christ perceive it as the only acceptable alternative. The pertinent Arabic translation can contribute to impacting the progress of the Kingdom of God among our beloved brothers and sisters in the Islamic world. No doubt, more works are needed and I pray that the one who started a good work will produce many more good works.

View the Arabic translation of the Danvers Statement.

View the Arabic edition of 50 Crucial Questions.

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