Response to Irrelevant Rhetoric on Use of ‘Allah’

Might as well post a letter which I wrote to Malaysiakini:

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Writer’s debate on ‘Allah’ term lost in irrelevancy LINK
Dr Ng Kam Weng | Feb 27, 09 4:35pm

I refer to the letter Other Christian denominations not using ‘Allah’.LINK

This letter displays so much ignorance that under normal circumstances, it would not merit a reply. However, a concise and decisive response is given here only because readers of Malaysiakini surely deserve a more enlightened discourse on the issue.

I find the writer misguided on three counts:

First, he is plainly misguided about what the Eastern Orthodox Church believes in. Perhaps the writer is mistaken because historically, the Orthodox Church did not accept the Western Latin Church’s formulation of the Trinity that says the Holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son (the filioque clause discussed in any standard text on doctrinal history).

But contrary to the writer’s view, the Orthodox Church’s rejection of the filioque clause is not because it does not believe in the Trinity but because it believes it has a clearer formulation of the doctrine of Trinity.

In this regard, the writer’s statement that the Orthodox Church ‘believes in the Unitary of God and regards other Catholic denominations as ‘deviant teachings’” is plainly wrong. Just two examples will show how ill-informed the writer is.

The Catechism of the Eastern Greek Orthodox Church reads: ‘God the Father is the fountainhead of the Holy Trinity. The Scriptures reveal the one God is Three Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – eternally sharing the one divine nature’.

Second, the writer is guilty of a simple confusion of sociological category when he included the Mormons within mainstream Christianity. In any case, why should it be surprising even if Mormons do not use the word ‘Allah’ since the Mormon’s concept of God is more polytheistic than monotheistic or Trinitarian?

From the semantics point of view, the word Tuhan would serve the Mormons just fine. In contrast, the semantic overlap but distinction between the words ‘Allah’ and Tuhan is just appropriate for Malaysian Christians whose mother tongue is Malay to express their belief in the one God who is Trinitarian.

Third, the writer just got lost in irrelevancy when he posed the rhetorical question as to whether the Malaysian Catholic Church has conferred or confirmed with the other Catholic churches in Ireland, France, US or Latin America regarding the appropriateness of using the word ‘Allah’.

Let me assure the writer (if he doesn’t already know) that there are millions of Methodists, Anglicans and Baptists who are more than happy to use the word ‘Allah’. But still, the writer’s rhetorical question is plainly irrelevant.

The point is that these overseas churches are not using Bahasa Malaysia for their liturgy and Bible instruction. Why in the world do Bahasa-speaking native Christians in Malaysia need to go to foreigners to guide them on how to use their mother-tongue?

I can only conclude that the likes of the writer are not bothered to do a bit of homework to avoid such blatant errors, and judging from the tone of his letter, people like him are more interested to slander or undermine the reputation of the Malaysian church.

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