When the son writes you better listen …

I got an interesting email today where my young friend writes RE: Mr. CHEAH MISREPRESENTS MY FATHER’S RELIGIOUS POSITION. I wonder whether Gareth would do the same if I was inaccurately described as a New Age pastor because I appreciate Michael Hedges and Will Ackerman (now that’s another story).

Apparently, the response is triggered by an opinion piece Religion plays a big role in cultivating a person’s character which (to give a benefit of a doubt) seems intended to be moving the discussion on religion’s role forward in our context. But by describing my former lecturer in theology and now Methodist bishop as “a real gentleman, very open-minded and liberal in his theological views.

Dr Hwa, a former principal of Seminari Teoloji Malaysia in Seremban, is among those in the forefront of the Protestant Christian community who are advocating ecumenical unity not only among Christians but also among peoples of all faiths.

Dr Hwa has great influence among the Conservative wing of Protestant Christianity in Malaysia and hence is in a very strategic position to influence and lead the Conservatives into dropping their exclusive doctrinal position and opening up to the process of mergers with peoples of other faiths. “ would definately require clarification.

I doubt Bishop Dr. Hwa Yung is a theological liberal … he’s a gentlemen and is perhaps more open than many conservative Christians in Malaysia (but again it depends on what issue here). Even if he’s more open, my impression of him has never been one who would be an all out “liberal” that’s pretty certian – I studied four years under him and has since been in touch with him, read his books and his articles, and interact with him whenever we have a chance.

QuakYogi captures the confusion and seeks to clarify his father’s postion here:

“Mr. Cheah depicts Dr. Hwa as a sort of theological liberal. Now in Christian theology, the ‘liberals’ are a very specific family of thinkers, which Dr. Hwa is somewhat opposed to. There are two kinds of religious pluralism, and Mr. Cheah fails to clearly articulate Dr. Hwa’s position on religion. Allow me to attempt a correction – I write as if on behalf of Dr. Hwa because Dr. Hwa is currently out of the country, and because Mrs. Hwa has been sending me panicked SMSes.

One kind of religious pluralism is epistemological pluralism. In this view, all religions are equally valid methods for any human being to access the Truth, which is God… or whatever you choose to call The-Ultimate-Object-of-Religion. This is generally not Dr. Hwa’s theological position, nor is it the position of the Methodist Church of Malaysia at large.

A different kind of religious pluralism is political-but-not-epistemological pluralism. In this view, a person can believe that ONLY his own religion gives access to the Truth. Nevertheless, because that person wishes to maintain good social relations with his geographical neighbours, he chooses to live harmoniously in a society with other people who do not share his convictions about the Truth. If I am not mistaken, it is this version of religious pluralism which is embraced by most religious people in Malaysian society. I know for a fact that Dr. Hwa readily supports this point of view.”

Thus, from my view , I think using language like “dropping their doctrinally exclusive position”, “mergers with peoples of other faiths” indeed inaccurately describes what I believe Dr. Hwa is attempting to do. Perhaps a more appropriate description would be “dropping their exclusive attitudes and postures when engaging with people of other faiths” …

That’s just my 2 cents reaction. And authors as well as newspapers should be more careful especially when using terms and terminologies that often already carry with it loads of baggages with it . But then again in this time and age, a letter like the one the son sent and blogs should make some difference right?

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