Biblical Case Study: The Panare Indians
Win the lost at any cost!!
I'm sure many of us have heard that statement before. It's a mission statement geared towards pressing salvation upon a person, or group of people, no matter the expense. Do I believe in the witnessing and sharing the gospel with people? Of course I do. What concerns me, however, is the method of how we introduce people to Jesus. We say that the only thing that matters is to save souls. Win the lost at any cost? Does that cost include lying and manipulation, which ironically is sin? If a person accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior through either of the two previously mentioned tactics, is that person really saved?
Our case study today will be the Panare Indians. In 1975, a group of Christian missionaries made their way to the Colorado Valley in Venezuela to evangelize to the local population. After many attempts, however, the missionaries were unable to convert the Panare Indians to Christianity. There were multiple issues that stalled their plans:
(1) The language barrier. Even though the missionaries took time to compile books in the Indian's mother tongue, there were still mistranslations between English and Panare words. Because of this, certain Christian concepts didn't pierce the hearts of the Indians.
(2) Lack of guilt or sin. In the Panare tongue, culture, and dialect, there was no concept of guilt, sin, repentance, or redemption. Can you imagine witnessing and sharing to a group of people what it takes to be saved, when they have never heard of Jesus nor guilt or sin? If that ethnic group doesn't even know those concepts, how do you effectively share the gospel with them?
So just how did the missionaries overcome the cultural differences? Simple. They translated and re-wrote the bible....
SAY WHAT??? You heard me correctly the first time. They took the bible and re-wrote it. Translating the word of God isn't bad, but it's the re-writing it to fit your own selfish ambitions that is highly dangerous and under-handed. When the Panare bible, as it was assumingly called, was completed certain figures were erased. The missionaries removed Judas, the Romans, the trial of Jesus, and Pontius Pilate. Inserted in their places was...I'll give you one guess; that's right, the Panare Indians. One section of the NT was written as such:
The Panare killed Jesus Christ because they were wicked. Let's kill Jesus Christ, said the Panare. The Panare seized Jesus Christ. The Panare killed in this way. The laid a cross on the ground. They fastened his hands and his feet against the wooden beams, with nails. They raised him straight up, nailed. The man died like that, nailed. Thus the Panare killed Jesus Christ.
Pretty despicable. The new NT continues:
God will burn you all, burn all the animals, burn also the earth, the heavens, absolutely everything. He will burn also the Panare themselves. God will exterminate the Panare by throwing them on the fire. It is a huge fire. I am going to hurl the Panare into the fire, said God. God is good. 'Do you want to be roasted in the fire?' asks God. 'Do you have something to pay me with so that I won't roast you in the fire? What is it you're going to pay me?'
One woman was so gripped with terror she jumped up and screamed, "I don't want to burn in the big fire. I love Jesus".
Thus is the story of the 'successful' conversion of the Panare Indians. I've heard some church leaders bend the truth a little, but this example is completely disgraceful and ridiculous. To come into a culture that originally had no idea or concept of guilt or sin, then re-write the books Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to make them guilty is....I'm at a loss for words.
The missionaries completely threw out all biblical ethics to convert a group of people. This is wrong, and I don't believe for a second that Jesus would actually approve of this madness. The great commission says to teach...I repeat, teach. Not coerce, lie, or manipulate God's holy word to do so.
Win the lost at any cost. Indeed; such a cost will be paid for the gross deception and misrepresentation of scripture itself.