Fr. Daniel Byantoro — Biography

The following is excerpted from Fr. Daniel’s History of the Indonesian Orthodox Church (.pdf), a reflection on his own conversion to Christianity and the beginnings of the Gereja Orthodox Indonesia, the Indonesian Orthodox Church.

Fr. Daniel was a Muslim boy who lived with his grandfather and began attending the Mosque at 5 years of age. As the boy grew older, he searched for a deeper certainty of God. In High School he met a former schoolteacher’s husband who had converted to Christianity. The young man debated the convert regarding the Trinity, the Divinity of Jesus Christ, His Incarnation and His being the Son of God. The young Muslim man won the debate, and remained unconvinced of the gospel’s truth.

One night after reciting prayers and reading the Qur’an, the young man saw a “vision” that frightened him. He encountered Christ for the first time in the form of light. Confused and trembling but with unspeakable joy, the young man began to ask such questions as “Who is Jesus Christ? What is he about?” Looking to the Qur’an, he stumbled in verse 45, chapter 3 the story of the annunciation which states, “Remember when the angels said: O Maryam, surely Allah glad tidings with a Word from Himself, His Name will be the Messiah, Isa, the Son of Maryam. He is great in this world and hereafter, and he is among those who are near to Allah”. He had read this passage many times before but this time he felt it was illumined in a manner that could only have been accomplished by Christ. He began to see Christianity differently through the Qur’an itself, which, although denying that Christ is God, treats many points of Biblical history with reverence.

The phrase “a Word from Himself, His Name will be the Messiah” made the biggest impression. “So the Messiah, Isa (Jesus) is the the Word from God,” he said to himself. God seemed a mystery in the mind of this young man. He began to ponder the meaning of the “Word” through an inner dialogue of questions and answers, beginning with, “What is a word?” and finally arriving at the conclusion, “God, His Word who is called His Son, and His Spirit are not three different Gods, but the reality within the One God. Without Spirit God is dead, without Word or Mind God is an idiot. So, a One -Personed-God, without a Spirit and a Word is no God at all, rather wood and stone.” These discoveries were astonishing and he thought to himself:

If among human beings, communication is accomplished with words and impossible without them. How much more with God. God has Only One Word, Jesus Christ. In order to know God and have a relationship with Him, one has to know His Word Jesus Christ. Now I know why I did not know who God is, because I did not know His Word. Jesus Christ. I have to believe in Him!” The young man cried and said to God: “Oh Allah, yes I believe in Your Word Jesus Christ, and I will become a Christian.

The young man invited Christ into his heart at that very moment. The young man was baptized into Dutch Reformed Protestant Christianity – the only Church he knew at this time – where his former debating opponent was an elder. He took the baptismal name of Daniel.

In 1974 while at a house prayer meeting, Daniel received the so-called “baptism of the Holy Spirit” complete with “speaking in tongues” and “prophesying” and became active in Charismatic Movement. Before this time he knew nothing on the existence of hundreds of denominations in Protestant Christianity or the difference between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, and nothing at all of the Orthodox Church.

Witnessing Activities

The young man Daniel was very active in witnessing for Christ among the young people, even while continuing his schooling. Many were converted several prayer meeting groups were founded. After high school, Daniel wanted to be an evangelist or missionary. Further, her desired to make the Gospel known to his own people, within the context of their culture, not as a “western-religion,” but the truth of God that originated in the Middle East/Israel, the land of all the prophets. Later as he was invited to preach among many different protestant churches, the young Daniel was bewildered by the plethora of groups and denominations with differing and opposing theological thoughts, traditions and practices. He also began to miss liturgical rhythm of life which he was used to in Islam and set his heart searching towards the ancient Christianity of the East. He knew nothing of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, rather his intuition told him that Christianity was born in the same Middle Eastern milieu as Islam.