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Indonesia withdraws Protestant textbook after heresy claims

Catholic priest claims the theology book contains misleading information about the Church's origins

Indonesia withdraws Protestant textbook after heresy claims

The cover of the controversial book 

Indonesia’s Ministry of Religion Affairs has withdrawn a history textbook for Protestant students following a complaint by a Catholic priest who claimed the book contained misleading information.

In a letter dated March 4 to Holy Family Father Yohanes Kopong Tuan, who made the complaint, the head of the ministry's Protestant community guidance department said the book was withdrawn following a meeting with the book’s writer and editor.

"It was decided to withdraw the book …  for the time being until it has been properly scrutinized," the ministry said in the letter.

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The book, published in 2019, is a handbook on Christian theology for junior high school students.

In his complaint, written as an open letter uploaded on Facebook on March 2 that later went viral, Father Kopong, who serves as a missionary in Manila in the Philippines, said the book claimed the Roman Catholic Church was part of the Nestorian Church, an Eastern Christian church of the East Syriac rite.

The priest called the claim a "big mistake" and "heresy" because the Catholic Church had declared that Nestorianism — based on the teachings of Nestorius, a fifth-century archbishop of Constantinople — was heretical.

"How could the Roman Catholic Church which condemned and declared Nestorius’ teachings heretical become part of the Nestorian Church?" he asked.

Father Kopong called on the writers, editors and publishers of the book to ensure “historical facts” in historical literature on religions and churches are based on truth.

Responding to the withdrawal of the book, the priest said he appreciated it, adding his letter was aimed at ensuring that the truth is told.

He said one of the book's authors, Ronald Kweniawan, has since threatened to sue him because of his complaint.

By withdrawing the book, the government is acknowledging a mistake has been made, so the threat of a lawsuit is of no concern, he said.

Fransiskus Borgias, a theology lecturer at Parahyangan Catholic University in Bandung, West Java, backed Father Kopong's complaint.

He said the Nestorian Church dates back to Nestorius, a bishop of Constantinople, who claimed that Mary is the Mother of Christ, contrary to the Catholic Church's belief that Mary is the Mother of God. The Council of Ephesus ruled that this view was heresy in 431 AD.

He added that Nestorius also strongly emphasized humanity at the cost of the divinity of Christ. With this viewpoint, in the eyes of his critics, Nestorius was supposed to have denied the divinity of Christ.

"That's why if the Roman Catholic Church is said to be part of the Nestorian Church, it must be wrong and not true at all," Borgias told UCA News.

He said such books should be scrutinized and examined carefully before publication.

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