In one of my last few academic theological papers, I had to evaluate Paul Knitter’s typology: replacement, fulfillment, mutuality, and acceptance as a framework for inter-faith dialogue in his Introducing Theologies of Religion. On top of that, our class had to analyze why we prefer a certain model or a framework for inter-faith dialogue. This model or framework could be a modified form of the existing one or one of the current existing one. Towards the end of my paper, I suggest what is the responsibility of a Christian theologian in inter-faith dialogue, and what marks a true inter-faith dialogue, and hopefully to probe for possible development in the near future regarding inter-faith dialogue. However, I don’t think I can continue along that line of academic development anymore, so I shall call it an unfinished journey. Allow me to share an extract from my paper,
I believe my responsibility as a Christian theologian is to confess my faith, and to invite others to experience the liberating relationship with God. The act of confession and invitation necessarily entails the art of listening and being instructed by others, as well as to practice the act of compassion towards people of different faiths. I would suggest that the ethical-practical bridge component in the mutuality model is a must for mutual dialogue. By crossing the ethical-practical bridge, I am challenged to accept the value and dignity of human life regardless of other faith commitment. I am called to recognize the presence and work of the Spirit of the Trinity among others, and to work for the exaltation of human's freedom from despair and social injustice. This implies that in inter-religious dialogue, I must recognize the radical differences of other religions, and allow their rich complexities to speak to me by not imposing my question of salvation on them. I must allow them to be who they are in order for them to speak to me, and to confess my own ignorance while seeking to learn from them. My above argument spells out why partial-replacement model may not be preferred and why the fulfillment model and the Heim’s proposal are more compatible with the root-metaphor of the kingdom of God and more conjugal to grids that provide natural habitat for extension of thought, and linkages beyond the immediate horizon.
I believe that the God whom we have a relationship with cannot not be held captive to any religion, nor be contained within any doctrines or propositions. To be in a relationship with the triune God we come to know in Christ is to be set free to know, to love, to serve and to live in submission to the authority of Jesus Christ the head of the paradigm community whom we called the church.
(An extract from Swee-Leong Koh’s final paper, in fulfillment of the academic requirement of Dr. John Berthrong’s class Theologies of Dialogue, Fall 2009)
Now that I am a cancer patient, I am called once again to ponder my relationship with the God who is not contained within any doctrines, I am called once again to re-experience the God who is Love despite of all the physical ailments I am going through. It is no longer an academic contemplation about who God is, but a call to experience God despite the failings of my physical body. I am getting thinner and I am trying hard to regain weight; I had my tummy fluid extracted last week but the fluid is returning, so has the “sharp pains”. I am learning to trust my life into God’s hands and trying to learn how to rejoice at whatever relief that can be found. My journey towards inter-faith dialogue may not be fulfilled, while my new journey continues to mark new milestone for me; and I ask God to be extremely merciful in my new journey which will probably see me passing on into the next life.