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Monday, July 20, 2009

The Iglesia's Exclusivist Discourse

As a former sectarian preacher and as a student of language, literature and culture, I am keenly interested in how we use language to advance truth-claims, what we do to make sense of literary texts, why we choose a particular hermeneutical method in studying texts, what role socio-cultural and historical accidents have in determining our belief systems, how far we allow religious authorities to govern our thought patterns, and how our faith interplays with practice.

I thus often find myself in a self-reflexive mode, asking, for instance, why I use certain terms to classify people, things, or ideas.  Or whether I arrived at a particular conclusion in a logical way. Or why I treasure a particular set of books more than another.  Or why I write what I write and write the way I do.  Or why I believe what I believe.

I am also on the lookout for unusual pronouncements from religious folks, especially those who come  from exclusivist churches (i.e., those who claim that none will be saved from damnation who will not become a member of their group). One of these churches is the Iglesia Ni Cristo (henceforth, INC or Iglesia) founded by Felix Ysagun Manalo on 27 July 1914. It is unquestionably one of the most vibrant religious organizations in the country. As its members are wont to say, it has grown “from 1 to millions” and continues to rake in new members in and outside the country. It also continues to wield considerable clout in Philippine politics, spread goodwill through its various community services, model organizational organizational efficiency and corporate piety, and add more colors to our already multihued culture.

Along with its ubiquitous and impressive temples, its peculiar teachings also draw interest from seekers and skeptics alike. Its cornerstone doctrine is the claim that its founder is the embodiment or fulfilment of a supposed prophecy both in the Old and the New Testaments – the “ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country” (Isaiah 46.11, KJV) and the 5th Angel “from the east” who “cried with a loud voice to the four angels” (Revelation 7.2). According to the Iglesia, “the east” mentioned in those Biblical passages refers to the Philippines, Rev 6.12-7.4 was fulfilled in World War I, the four angels were actually the “Big Four” of WWI, and the 5th Angel was Felix Manalo. Since Manalo is “God’s Last Messenger,” and "Man's Last Chance for Salvation is with the Last Messenger," the church he built is therefore the ONLY TRUE CHURCH restored after about 18 centuries of wholesale apostasy in Christianity.1

To have a clearer understanding of how the Iglesia arrived at this unorthodox set of doctrines, let us quote  lengthily from some of their apologists (all emphases theirs, quotes taken directly from  some of my copies of the Pasugo, the Iglesia's official publication).

Apostasy and Restoration

With the death of the Apostles… those who took over the reins of the Church began to espouse false doctrines (cf. Acts 20:29).  Slowly but surely this organization continued to change and in 110 A.D., it adopted a new name – Catholic Church – rejecting the former name by which it was known at the time of the Apostles – Church of Christ.  Hence, the members of this organization ceased to be God’s people.  This is known in Church history as the apostasy of the Christian Church.

To re-establish the true Church of Christ, another messenger was sent from the Far East (Is. 43:5-6), to preach at the time of the "ends of the earth" (Is. 41: 9-10) which was heralded by "wars and rumors of wars" (Mt. 24:3, 33, 6-8) – World War I – that broke out on July 27, 1914, the exact date the Iglesia Ni Cristo was registered with the Philippine government.  This messenger, Brother Felix Y. Manalo, sent not to found or establish a new Church but to effect the emergence of Christ’s "other sheep" (Jn. 10:16) – the Church of Christ in these last days. 2

“The Messenger in These Last Days”

The prophet Isaiah prophesied the emergence of the Church of Christ in the last days and he also prophesied the commissioning of God’s messenger at the prophetic time "ends of the earth."

“I took you from ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Is. 41:9-10, Ibid.)

One uniqueness of this chosen servant called by God from the “ends of the earth” is that God will uphold him with the right hand of His righteousness.  God’s righteousness is the gospel of Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation (cf. Rom. 1:16-17).

Where this messenger would come from and what his mission would be were explained in a related prophecy, also from the prophet Isaiah:

“From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.

“Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted, you who are far from righteousness.

“I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed.  I will grant salvation to Zion, my splendour to Israel.” (Is. 46:11-13, Ibid.).

This man who would come from a far country in the east (mizrach) or the Far East would be instrumental in bringing God’s righteousness to the people. Through his preaching of the gospel, the other sheep from the Far East would become one fold, thus the re-emergence of the Church of Christ.  The fulfilment of this chosen servant is none other than Brother Felix Y. Manalo who preached the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) in these last days.3

The Far East (Filipino/Tagalog)

Tinututulan ng aming mga kalaban ang paglalapit namin ng dalawang salitang ‘"silangan" at "malayo."  Bakit daw namin pinagsusunod ang dalawang salitang ito, gayong magkahiwalay sa mga talata.  Upang makita ng mga kumakalaban sa amin na hindi namin sariling pamamaraan and paglalapit na ito ng dalawang salitang "silangan" at "malayo" ay sisipiin natin and Bibliang Ingles, na siyang orihinal ng Bibliang Tagalog.  Dito sa “A New Translation by James Moffatt” sa Isaias 43:5, ay ganito ang ating matutunghayan:

“From the far east will I bring your offspring…”

Sa Tagalog: “Mula sa malayong silangan ay dadalhin ko ang iyong lahi…"
Kung gayon, talagang magkasunod at hindi magkalayo ang dalawang salitang "silangan’"at "malayo." Ano nakita na ninyo iyan, mga kaibigang kritiko!

Alin ang Malayong Silangan?  Ang ating pasasagutin ay ang Kasaysayan.  Sa “World History” nina Boak, Slosson at Anderson, sa pahina 445, ay ganito ang sinasabi:

“The Philippines were Spain’s share in the first colonizing movement in the Far East.”

Sa Tagalog:
“Ang Pilipinas ay naging bahagi ng Espanya sa unang kilusang pananakop sa Malayong Silangan.”

Alin ang Malayong Silangan na pagmumulan ng lahing dadalhin ng Diyos?  Ang sagot ng Kasaysayan na ating binasa ay ang Pilipinas.  Dito magmumula ang lahing dadalhin ng Diyos.4

The Sixth Seal and WWI

How can we be sure of the particular time in man’s calendar which took place at the end of the sixth seal of the Christian era?  In Revelation 6:12,15 this is written:

“And I beheld when he has opened the sixth seal, … And the kings of the earth and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bodman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains.

Kings, great men, chief captains, rich men, free men and bondmen hid in dens.  Why? Jeremiah 4:13,19 states:

“Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as the whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles.  Woe unto us! for we are spoiled… My bowels, my bowels!  I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war”….

All classes of people shall hide in dens because of the war that will occur.  What kind of war is it?  It is a war in which modern weapons not used in previous wars shall be used, such as chariots which come like the whirlwind.  History calls them tanks.  Likewise, horses that are swifter than eagles shall be used, or according to history, the airplanes or aerial cavalry.  What kind of war shall feature the use of tanks and airplanes?  According to the declaration of God, it shall be a war in which all nations and their enemies shall be involved (Is. 34:2), hence a global or world war.  This is actually the First World War which broke out in 1914.  According to our Lord Jesus Christ, this war shall occur at the close of the sixth seal which period also marks the beginning of the seventh seal, the last period of the Christian era.

Therefore, the exact time of the ends of the earth in man’s calendar is 1914… 5

The Sixth Seal and WWI (Tagalog/Filipino)

Kailan Itinakda Ng Hula Ng Diyos Ang Paglitaw Sa Pilipinas Ng Mga Tupa Ni Jesus O Ng Iglesia Ni Cristo?

Sa Isa. 43:6, ay sinasabi:

“Aking sasabihin sa hilagaan, Bayaan mo, at sa timugan, Huwag mong pigilin; dalhin mo rito and Aking mga anak na lalake na mula sa malayo, at ang Aking mga anak na babae na mula sa mga wakas ng lupa.”

Kailan itinakda ng Diyos ang paglitaw ng Iglesia ni Cristo sa Pilipinas?  Sa mga wakas ng lupa.  Kailan itong mga wakas ng lupa? Upang ito’y malaman natin, hindi natin maiiwasang pag-aralan ang pagkakahati ng panahong Cristiano.  Ang panahon ni Cristo ay nahahati sa pitong tatak o pitong buko ng panahon (periodo de tiempo) (Apoc. 5:1; Isa. 29:11).  Kailan itong mga wakas ng lupa? Sa dulo o wakas ng ikaanim na tatak at sa simula ng ikapitong tatak, na siyang wakas na hati ng panahon ni Cristo.  Ito ang tinatawag na mga wakas ng lupa. Ano ang katunayan nito?  Sa Apoc. 6:12, ay sinasabing binuksan ang ikaanim na tatak.  Ano ang pangyayaring naganap sa dulo o wakas ng ikaanim na tatak? Ang pagtatago sa mga yungib ng mga hari, prinsipe, mga pangulong kapitan, mga mayayaman, mga makapangyarihan, at ang bawa’t alipin at ang bawa’t laya (Apoc. 6:15).

Bakit nagsipagtago sa mga yungib ang lahat ng uri ng mga tao sa dulo ng ikaanim na tatak at alin ang mga yungib na ito? Sa Jer. 4:13,19 ay ganito ang sinasabi:

“Narito, siya’y sasagupang parang mga ulap, at ang kaniyang mga karo ay magiging parang ipo-ipo; ang kaniyang mga kabayo ay lalong matulin kay sa mga aguila.  Sa aba natin! Sapagka’t tayo’y nangapahamak.

“Ang hirap ko, ang hirap ko! Ako’y nagdaramdam sa aking puso; ang dibdib ko’y kakabakaba, hindi ako matahimik; sapagka’t iyong narinig, Oh kaluluwa ko, ang tunog ng pakakak, ang hudyat ng pakikipagdigma.”

Ano ang dahilan ng pagtatago sa mga yungib ng mga hari, mga prinsipe, mga pangulong kapitan, mga mayayaman, mga makapangyarihan, at ang bawa’t alipin at ang bawa’t laya sa dulo o wakas ng ikaanim na tatak?  Dahil sa kapahamakang ibinunga ng mga karo na parang ipo-ipo at mga kabayaong matulin pa sa agila, na ito ang mga tangke at mga eroplano na naghuhulog ng mga bomba sa mga kaaway.  Kapag narinig ng mga tao ang hudyat o ang sirena, kakabakaba ang kanilang mga dibdib, at dahil sa takot ay magsipagtago sa mga yungib o mga “shelter.”  Samakatuwid, digma ang pangyayaring naganap sa dulo ng ikaanim na tatak, kaya nagsipagtago sa mga yungib ang lahat ng uri ng mga tao.  Anong uring digma ito at kalian pa ito ipinahayag ng Diyos?  Sa Isa. 34:1-2, ay ganito ang sinasabi:

“Kayo’y magsipaglapit, kayong mga bansa, upang mangakinig; at dinggin ninyo, ninyong mga bayan: dinggin ng lupa at ng boong narito; ng sanglibutan, at ng lahat na bagay na nagsisilitaw rito.

“Sapagka’t ang Panginoon ay may galit laban sa lahat na bansa, at pusok ng loob laban sa lahat nilang hukbo: kaniyang lubos na nilipol sila, kaniyang ibinigay sila sa patayan.”

Anong uring digma ang magaganap sa dulo ng ikaanim na tatak?  Digmaan ng mga bansa sa boong sanlibutan, samakatuwid ay digmaang pandaigdig.  Matagal pa bago ito nangyari ay ipinahayag na ito ng Diyos, at nang humingi ang mga alagad ng tanda ng katapusan ng sanlibutan, ito ring digmaang ito ang sinabi ni Jesus na magiging tanda, at kung ito’y Makita, sinabi Niyang Siya’y malapit na, nasa mga pintuan na nga (Mat. 24:3,6,33). Pintuan ng gano? Pintuan ng wakas.  Ang susunod sa ikaanim na tatak ay ang ikapito (Apoc. 8:1), na ito ang wakas na hati ng panahon ni Cristo.  Kailan naganap itong Digmaang Pandaigdig?  Noong 1914, sa petsa ng kalendaryo; nguni’t sa petsa ng hulang nasa Biblia – wakas ng ikaanim na tatak at simula ng ikapitong tatak, na siyang wakas na hati ng panahong Cristiano, -- na ito ang tinatawag na mga wakas ng lupa.

Kailan naman lumitaw sa Pilipinas ang Iglesia ni Cristo?  Ayon sa Rehistro na nakatala sa ating Pamahalaan ay noong 1914. Ito ang panahong itinakda ng hula ng Diyos ukol sa paglitaw sa Pilipinas ng mga tupa ni Jesus o ng Iglesia ni Cristo. 6

The Four Angels of Revelation 7.1-2

…who are these four angels or civil authorities who held back the First World War? History reveals them as follows:
"Of all the treaties made at the close of the First World War, the Treaty of Versailles was the most significant…four of the greatest political leaders of the world at that time – Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States; David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of Great Britain; Georges Clemenceau, Premier of France; and Vittorio Orlando, Premier of Italy – dominated the Versailles Conference.  They were known as the ‘Big Four.’" (World History: A Chronological Approach, p. 345-346)

Thus, the four angels in the prophecy was fulfilled in the “Big Four” of the First World War.  They were “the greatest political leaders of the world at that time” who had the power to “hold back the four winds of the earth” or stop the war.7

The 5th Angel

Does the Bible mention of an angel who was a man? In Rev. 7:23, this is written:
“And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the seas, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.'"

Does the Bible mention of an angel who was a man?  What we have just cited from the book of Revelation is a prophecy.  The prophecy tells of an angel ascending from the east.  We know that angel means messenger.  Now, was this angel or messenger, having the seal of the living God, a spirit or a man?   In a twin prophecy regarding this angel or messenger of God, in Isaias 46:11, this is written:

“Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yes, I have spoken it.  I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will do it.”

Was the angel or messenger, having the seal of the living God, a spirit or a man?  A man.  The twin prophecy written in the book of Isaias, the prophet, calls this angel or messenger of God, the man that executeth my counsel.  This angel or messenger of God was a man, and not a spirit….

Where did this angel who was a man come from?  In the prophecy we have already cited from the book of Revelation, chapter 7, verse 2, this angel was ascending from the east.  But where in the East?  We know that the East is divided into three parts, namely, the Near East, the Middle East, and the Far East.  Which of these three, did this angel come from?  According to the prophecy in the book of Isaias, chapter 46, verse 11, as mentioned above, this angel was likened to a revenous bird called by God from the east.  But this angel was not really a bird in nature.  This angel was a man.  So, the bird and the man, are one and the same.  The bird is from the east, and the man is from a far country.  So, east and far country, are one and the same, too.  Therefore, the revenous bird or man is from the FAR EAST.  This angel who was a man came neither from the Near East, nor from the Middle East, but from the Far East.

Now, what in the prophecy is meant by Far East?  In the book entitled WORLD HISTORY, by Boak, Slosson and Anderson, on page 445, this is stated:

“The Philippines were Spain’s share of the first colonizing movement in the Far East;  the name means the ‘Islands of Philip’ and refers to that grim ruler, King Philip II.”

What in the prophecy is meant by Far East?  The Philippines, Far East is the biblical and prophetical name for the Philippines.  The name Philippines is an artificial one, a name made by man, and may be changed by man anytime.  But Far East is a God-given name for the Philippines, recorded in the Book of God, the Bible.

Therefore, the human angel who came from the Far East, came from the Philippines.  This angel who was a man, was a Filipino.

One might object and say that Far East could not mean Philippines, because the Far East is made up of several countries, and the Philippines is only one of them. Japan, Korea, China, and Vietnam, are also countries in the Far East.  And so, this angel could not have been a Filipino.

Well. Geographically and conventionally speaking, this objection seems sound.  But biblically speaking, the objection is wrong. Why?  Because, as we have proven above, the angel who came from the Far East, was a man.  And as a man, he must have had only one nationality.  He must have come from one nation.  Now, if by Far East, we mean all the countries in the Far East, we would mean that he came from all the countries in the Far East.  In other words, the angel or messenger of God would have had the nationality of a Japanese, a Korean, a Filipino, a Chinese, or a Vietnamese, all at the same time.  And this is absurd!

Furthermore, was there ever a Japanese, a Korean, a Chinese, or a Vietnamese, who claimed that he was the angel or messenger of God in fulfilment of the prophecy in Rev. 7:23 and in Isaias 46:11?  Never!  The prophecy was fulfilled in the person of our late BROTHER FELIX MANALO.  This Filipino was a true angel.  A True messenger of God.8

These texts illustrate the Iglesia's method of interpretation known among students of Hermeneutics as prooftexting, or the act of stringing often unrelated Bible verses to prove a point -- a tactic often used by all sectarian groups in their polemic engagements. I had used this tactic several times while preaching for another sect which also claims to be "the New Testament Church" restored in our time. Parenthetically, it is to their credit that some (Stone-Campbell) Church of Christ  (CoC) preachers in the Philippines, although still insisting that the CoC is the true church, have seen the simplistic reasoning in the idea that the church died shortly after the first century and was revived in the 18th century by American preachers.  Accordingly, they have modified their views on the matter. Readers who wish to pursue this may want to read an online article entitled, “Continuity or Restoration?” by Dr. Eusebio Tanicala, who I believe is the ablest apologist among all the local preachers of the CoC in the Philippines today.

Prooftexting is a convenient way to "prove" with Bible verses almost every doctrine anyone could think of. Twisting literary texts this way not only supports the interpreter's biases but also appeals to some naive seekers of truth since  it appears that the Bible is simply being allowed to speak for itself.  But as world-renowned Bible scholars Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart remind us:

“…whether one likes it or not, every reader is at the same time an interpreter. That is, most of us assume as we read that we also understand what we read. We also tend to think that our understanding is the same thing as the Holy Spirit’s or human author’s intent. However, we invariably bring to the text all that we are, with all of our experiences, culture, and prior understandings of words and ideas. Sometimes what we bring to the text, unintentionally to be sure, leads us astray, or else causes us to read all kinds of foreign ideas into the text.9

If coating one's rhetorical ammunition with a hodge-podge of verses makes the speaker or writer sound like a “walking Bible,” weaving bits of historical data through these strings of verses could also dress the interpreter with the toga of  genuine scholarship. However, when these texts woven together are unravelled and scrutinized separately, they reveal a gross misuse of the text in question. When one reads Isaiah 46.11 with its context, for example, s/he learns that the bird of prey from the east actually refers to Cyrus the Great whose forces would eventually be the “punisher” of Israel’s oppressor, the Babylonian Empire (see 45.1, 46.1,3; 47.1, ff.). Reading “the Far East” or “the Philippines” into the text is an illustration of what Bible students call as “eisegesis” (inserting a concept foreign to a text).

But if we wish to do justice to a Biblical text, we must, as noted by Brethren scholar Alex Koivisto “let the Bible mean first what it meant to the original human authors and readers.”10 It is only when we have done this first that

...we can we properly and carefully apply it to our own context. If we begin with our context and work backward, we run the risk of shaping the Bible to our own preferences rather than shaping our preferences to conform to Scripture.”11

Now, what the Iglesia apologists did was to grab a 20th century concept (“the Far East,” the region to which the Philippines belongs) and meld it with a 7th century BC reference to the “east” (the region to which Persia belonged). You don’t read literary texts this way. You have to respect the original reference of pivotal terms used in a particular ancient text to properly interpret it. It wouldn’t help them to cite Moffatt because his translation doesn’t make “far east” a proper noun as the Iglesia would make it. Again, let’s listen to Koivisto:

We must let the Bible be understood as it was understood by those who wrote it and to whom it was originally written. We have no right to try to force God’s Word to act as if it were written personally to us – on our own terms. It was written to others, but for our benefit as well. We ultimately were within the scope of God’s plan as beneficiaries of His Holy Word, but it was not given to us in our time, space, and history.12

There is nothing in the immediate nor remote context of the verse that refers to a Filipino avenger. Isaiah was not written especially for the Philippines.

Doubtless, the INC’s interpretation is unique insofar as it makes the Bible say that the Philippines is the apple of God’s all-seeing eye. But we need to be wary of this kind of uniqueness for as Fee and Stuart warned:

Interpretation that aims at, or thrives on, uniqueness can usually be attributed to pride (an attempt to ‘outclever’ the rest of the world), a false understanding of spirituality (wherein the Bible is full of deeply buried truths waiting to be mined by the spiritually sensitive person with special insight), or vested interests (the need to support a theological bias, especially in dealing with texts that seem to go against that bias.13

The disputed passage in the book of Revelation being coupled with the Isaiah text is  an inexcusable abuse of  one's freedom to interpret.  The Iglesia only forced the connection by making us believe that the “east”  in both verses refers to the Philippines.

Now, you can only believe that the 5th Angel was Manalo if you can clearly establish the immediate context as having reference to World War I. Let’s go back up to Rev. 6.12. Pedro Reyes Villanueva in the February 1960 issue of the Pasugo tried to match the apocalyptic details of Rev. 6.12,13 with historical events and argued as follows: "earthquake" = Lisboa, 01 November 1755; "darkening of the sun" = darkness that prevailed over New England on 19 May 1780; "moon became as blood" = 19 May 1780; "falling of the stars" = North America, 12-13 November 1833; "heaven departed as a scroll" = World War I.14 Convincing? Only if you haven’t read A History of the End of the World, The End of the World, or AD 1000 which report various religionists offering equally “persuasive” evidences for the fulfilment of this and other apocalyptic texts.15

In assessing the line of argument adopted by the Iglesia in trying to prove that Manalo is the "angel from the east," Bible exegete Donald L. Platt wrote:

The reasoning here is quite fantastic, and is an example of the way many cults ignore the context of Scripture verses and bring together unrelated passages, resulting in some unusual beliefs. It is interesting to note that Rev. Moon, the Korean leader of the Unification Church (a cult), uses the same Rev. 7:2,3 passage to prove that he is the angel from the east, since Korea is in the East. Who knows, maybe someone from Taiwan, or Japan (called “The Land of the Rising Sun”), or Hong Kong, will soon arise and claim to be the “angel from the East.”

The Book of Revelation is a highly symbolic book, and one could make it say anything one wanted by ignoring the principles of sound interpretation, as has Felix Manalo. There are other history books which say the Philippines is in Southeast Asia, not the Far East. What does that do to Manalo’s argument?

The reader is encouraged to read any number of excellent commentaries on Revelation, which take into account the type of literature it is (apocalyptic), the culture and time period it was written in, and how it uses imagery form Old Testament books. There is a much better approach than to accept uncritically the forced interpretations of the Iglesia – based upon their assumption that the “Sugo” is Manalo. 16

Another Bible scholar, Dr.  Tino Ruivivar, also pointed out the Iglesia's misuse of the Biblical idiom, "ends of the earth," as follows:

“As any English professor – or any native speaker of English – knows, the term “the ends (plural) of the earth” does not refer to a time period at all!  That expression means the far-flung corners or reaches of the world...

“The INC writers have confused the two expressions: “the ends of the earth” and “the end of the world”! They think the two terms mean the same thing! They do not.  The first – “the ends of the earth” – refers to PLACES, the second –“the end of the world” – means the TIME when this present world will come to an end.17

He thus concludes, after pointing out the context of the Isaiah passages:
“So, the INC is wrong on all three counts!

They got the “place” wrong; it is not the “Far East” or the Philippines.

They got the “date” wrong. The “ends of the earth” does not even have anything to do with “dates.”

“They got the “event” wrong. Isaiah 46 does not refer to the “re-emergence” of the Church, but to the Jews’ restoration to their own land!18 (emphasis his - sms)

For those who wish to pursue the  other flaws in the explanations of Iglesia apologetes, I recommend the works of Platt and Ruivivar, as well as that  of  Fortunato Gonzal.19 These serious students of the Bible offer us substantive critiques that sharply cut through some of the convoluted reasoning found in the Pasugo.

Critiquing the exclusivist claims of the Iglesia and other sects is not an easy task knowing that religious convictions can be a deeply emotional field of constestation. But they must realize that to claim to have a corner on the truth is to invite a spirited scrutiny by all who are greatly interested in truth–seeking.  They must understand that when they elevate themselves as the only people of God and damn the rest of the world who do not belong to their  group, they also hurt these "othered" believers. To be smug about one's understanding of  a dot in a galaxy  of knowledge  is to multiply wounds more than healing, issue bad blood more than goodwill. To claim to be the only people who fully and accurately understand Divine Will is to deny the fact that the rest of the world may have reflected Divine Light brighter than all these sects combined have.   To claim to have a spirituality better than that of the rest of the world is to envelop oneself with a suffocating delusion of grandeur.

I would have to agree with Ruivivar when he expressed his incredulity toward the foundational doctrine of the Iglesia thusly:

I think it is a bit too much that the INC expects us to believe that the truth about the true Church was hidden from the rest of the world for 19 centuries until Manalo discovered it after three days of seclusion!”20


1 Adreil O. Meimban, “God’s Last Messenger,” Pasugo 40 (September-October 1988) 5: 10-11; Cipriano P. Sandoval, “Man’s Chance For Salvation Is With The Last Messenger,” Pasugo 24 (February 1972) 2: 2.

2 Feljun B. Fuentes, “Why God Sends Messengers,” Pasugo 42 (May-June 1990) 3: 8.

3 Feljun B. Fuentes, “God’s Standing Policy of Election (Conclusion),” Pasugo 45 (May-June 1993) 3: 9.

4 Pedro Reyes Villanueva, “Ang Lahing Dadalhin ng Diyos Kay Cristo,” Pasugo 12 (Hulyo 1959) 103: 9.

5 Adreil O. Meimban, “God’s Last Messenger,” Pasugo 40 (September-October 1988) 5: 10-11.

6 Benjamin Santiago, “Ang Katunayan Na Iglesia Ni Cristo Ang Lumitaw Sa Pilipinas,” Pasugo 12 (Agosto 1959)104: 8.

7 Feljun B. Fuentes, “The Angel From the East And His Message” (Part I), Pasugo 45 (July-August 1993)4: 8.

8 Beda H. Aboloc, “This Filipino Was A True Angel,” Pasugo 22 (December 1970) 12: 10-11.

9 Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003; reprint, Manila: OMF Literature, Inc., 2007),18.

10 Rex A. Koivisto, One Lord, One Faith: A Theology for Cross-Denominational Renewal (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books/SP Publications, Inc., 1993), 165.

11 ibid.

12 ibid., 171.

13 Fee & Stuart, 18.

14 Pedro Reyes Villanueva, “Paghuhukom sa Sanlibutan,” Pasugo 13 (Pebrero 1960) 110 :12-19.

15 Kirsch, Jonathan. A History of the End of the World. New York: Harper One/HarperCollins Publishers, 2006; Lapham, Lewis H., ed. The End of the World. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997; Erdoes, Richard. AD 1000: Living on the Brink of the Apocalypse. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1988.

16 Donald L. Platt, Counterfeit? (Manila: OMF Literature Inc., 2001), 105-106.

17 Tino C. Ruivivar, The Absurd Claims and Biggest Mistakes of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Quezon City: Evangelical Life Publications, 2005), 60.

18 Ruivivar, 62.
19 Gonzal, Fortunato. Was Manalo Really an Angel? A. Manila: Christian Literature Crusade, 1975.  A more recent study on the is Anne C. Harper's "A Filipino Church at Eighty Years: The Iglesia ni Cristo at the Turn of the Century," in Anne C. Kwantes, ed., Chapters in Philippine Church History (Manila: OMF Literature Inc., 2001), 429–450.

20 Ruivivar,  57.

Website of Interest:


Catholic Defender said...

Thanks for your article, it's very enlightening.

Posts about Holy Spirit as of July 20, 2009 | PRAYtheREVOLUTION said...

[...] [...]

Gerard said...

It is interesting to note that Rev. Moon, the Korean leader of the Unification Church (a cult), uses the same Rev. 7:2,3 passage to prove that he is the angel from the east, since Korea is in the East.

They also like for people who they are conning to become infatuated with his name "Sun Myung Moon."

Actually, it is not all that surprising that Moon would be so close to Satan. They have alot in common. The name Lucifer (who became Satan) actually means "Light Bearer". And interestingly, Moon's name "Sun Myung Moon" means: "Shining Truth". But the Bible also shares that Lucifer (satan) is an angel that disguises himself as light, and appears as light, but that in actuality, he is a liar and deceiver. The Bible calls satan: "That Ancient Serpent", and "The Dragon". Similarly, Moon's name "Sun Myung Moon" (Shining Truth) is not the name he was born with. Moon changed his name when he decided to pretend to be the messiah. Moon's real name is: "Young Myung Moon" which means: SHINING DRAGON in Korean.

scott saboy said...

and thanks for reading. :)

Zarach said...

These are interesting things to find ourselves thinking about. It seems that since humans discovered the tree of the knowledge of good and evil we are all in a pursuit of trying to figure out which is which ever since: discernment is the issue of the age we live in.

Noted from your comments here and on your blog that you may be interested in an author I have on book tour right now. He has written a book on Revelation from a restored Hebraic point of view--you may find very interesting to ponder.


scott saboy said...

Zarach, thanks for the note. Is it possible for you to send the book for review in this site? Chris, sounds intriguing but I think speculations as as this are a waste of time.

kcjacinto89 said...

Hello :)

Well, I could see that you are knowledgeable on Religions and also a critic on what these churches have been teaching.

You wrote:
"Simply citing verses and claiming these to confirm a truth-claim does not constitute real proof — one needs to explain how a particular interpretation fits into the immediate and remote contexts of these scriptural texts."

-The Bible is the Iglesia ni Cristo's only reference - i guess I could say - "ang Biblia ang saligan ng aming mga paniniwala." All of the teachings of our church and also during our worship services are verses from the Bible.

You wrote:
"how far we allow religious authorities to govern our thought patterns, and how our faith interplays with practice."

- Our church authorities do not interfere or force us to do this and that, they teach us and help us how to live our lives in the ways of the Lord, and also to achieve the perfection of our faith - so that in the forthcoming of Christ and Judgment day we can glorify our LORD GOD.

"ISANG NAGNININGNING NA IGLESIA- Sa Efeso 5:27 ay inilalarawan ang isang "nagniningning" na Iglesia: "walang batik o kulubot o anumang dungis, kundi banal at walang kapintasan." Sa gayong kalagayan nilalayong makarating ng Iglesia ni Cristo, kaya ang mga kaanib ay hinuhubog sa banal na pamumuhay at tapat na paglilingkod sa Diyos tungo sa kasakdalan at ganap na pagkakaisa ng pananampalataya." -from our leaflets

-We all know that almost all religion also use the Bible as their reference, only we have different interpretations.

So who really has the right interpretations? We INC members believe of God's Messenger in these last days, and we firmly believe that it is our Brother Felix Y. Manalo.

-"Na laging nagsisipag-aral, at kailan pa man ay hindi nakararating sa pagka-alam ng katotohanan"-Apostle Paul (II Tim. 3:7)
-"At sinabi nya sa kanila, Sa inyo ay ipinagkaloob ang makaalam ng hiwaga ng kaharian ng Dios......"(Marcos 4:11-12)

-We believe that the messenger in these last days is the only one who can truly understand and interpret the Bible and God's Gospel.

---The reason why I am trying my best to answer or comment about your Post on the Iglesia Ni Cristo is because of this:
--IPAMAHAGI SA LAHAT -"Nilalayon ng Iglesia Ni Cristo na maipamahagi sa lahat ng tao ang ebanghelyo ng kaligtasan, bilang pagtupad sa utos ni Cristo, gaya ng nakasulat sa Marcos 16:15-16,"...Magsiyaon kayo sa sanlibutan, at inyong ipangaral ang evangelio sa lahat ng kinapal. Ang sumasampalataya at mabautismuhan ay maliligtas"

---I know where you are coming from about the INC claiming the ONE TRUE CHURCH - and I firmly believe that. Every religion claims that they are the ONE TRUE CHURCH.

"There are only two types of religions-that which belongs to God and Christ and those which do not."

---We all have our own option. God had given us the right to choose. But He also told us to choose the RIGHT PATH. It is up to us which to believe.

I guess I have already done my part.

-some people are afraid to join the Bible studies of our church because they thought that if they join or attend our worship services they are already a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo - and that is not true. There are many stages for you to become an INC member. . .

And I know that you are a very intelligent person (i could see that with your intellectual thoughts and posts), and also a critic on the INC doctrines. If you wanted to know what our doctrines really are and not just by books written by other critics on our church, you can join the Bible studies. In the studies, you can raised your questions and critics - and know what the Iglesia ni Cristo's doctrines really are.

Thank You. You have been very respectful, frank, kind and I do appreciate that.


faith-alone+grace-alone said...

This blog is a great one! Mr. Felix Y. Manalo's unbiblical teachings must really be exposed all over the world. Pity on those people who were brainwashed and continued to be fooled by this false prophet. Its next to impossible that those inside the INC would be able to get out of this well-organized cult. Why? INC authorities have perfected the art of mind conditioning. Its only thru God's grace that an INC member, who is deeply rooted with its devilish, unbiblical teachings would be able to get out and run away from its 'spell'.

Consider what I found: "He whom God has chosen or taken from the ends of the earth, the fulfillment of which is undoubtly Brother Felix Manalo, is the seed of Abraham" (Pasugo, Nov., 1976, p. 14). Pay close attention to the article "the". The statement in red doesn't say FYM is "a" seed of Abraham. Furthermore, the statement is not in the beginning of the sentence.

So what does the INC meant when the pasugo wrote FYM is THE seed of Abraham?

Check this out people... this is one website INC authorities are 'commanding' their members to stay away from. Please check it out and see why.

As expected, INC authorities just tried to brush all the contents aisde by saying/insisting these are just bunch of lies put up to discredit the INC. Really?

This site ( is an eye-opener. I heard many INC members were awakened after reading this site.

May God have mercy to all those INC members who are sincerely seeking God's face and wanting to be saved from eternal damnation. May God open their spiritual eyes and ears and touch their hearts so they may know God's truth! Amen!

God bless you sir for this wonderful blog.

scott saboy said...

thanks for enriching the discussion kapatid :)

faith-alone+grace-alone said...

An Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) Writer Misrepresents Dr. Charles Caldwell Ryrie

The Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) ministers are very deceiving in their presentation, whether they speak about their founder, quote the bible, book references, and bible scholars. They are devoted to bring all Filipino people into their religious fold even if they had to lie about many things. Even the famed scholar of Dallas Theological Seminary, Dr. Charles Calwell Ryrie, did not excaped the fangs of the INC ministers when one of their writers wrote in their very own Pasugo magazine,

“In the annotations of his Ryrie Study Bible he had this to say about the phrase in John 1:1 ‘and the Word was with God.’

‘In this verse the Word (Christ) is said to be with God (that is, in communion with and yet distinctfrom God) (p. 1599).’

“Therefore, when Dr. Ryrie says, that the Word is distinct from God he is saying the Word is notthe same, but rather separate or different from God.” (PA1984, 14, 15)

This INC writer wanted to show the reading public as if Dr. Ryrie agreed with their Unitarian
understanding. Fortunately, one religious researcher named Robert Elliff discovered how this INC writer misrepresented Dr. Ryrie in his Ryrie Study Bible concerning John 1:1. Immediately, he wrote Dr. Ryrie about it and the latter wasted no time to respond last July 23, 1988 to his letter (TOTC, 82),

Dear Mr. Elliff,

Thank you for writing about Iglesia ni Cristo. Anyone can look in my Study Bible and see
how conveniently (for them) this author omitted the last phrase in the note on John 1:1The
full note reads: “In this verse the Word (Christ) is said to be with God (i.e., in communion
with and yet distinct from God) and to be God (i.e., identical in essence with God).” If that is
not clear enough to say that I believe in the full deity and equality of Christ, let anyone read
the notes at John 10:30 and 20:28. The doctrinal summary in the back of the Bible
under Trinity is also quite clear.

I don’t know what English dictionary the author used to substantiate the idea that distinct
means different in nature or quality, but my webster gives no such meaning.

Such lack of integrity in quoting me or lack of scholarship in the misuse of words scarcely
requires responding. But if you have any opportunity to respond and correct what this author has said in quoting (partially) me, please do so.

Sincerely in Christ,

Charles Ryrie (sgd)

If you don’t believe this, why don’t you start comparing their very own Pasugo quotation in that article with the whole context of John 1:1 commentary on the Ryrie Study Bible?

scott saboy said...

Such a misrepresentation underscores how genuine scholarship suffers within a exclusivist religious discourse. Sectarian discourse thrives in the marriage between the pursuit of Truth and the practice of intellectual dishonesty. Let’s keep the discussion going! :)