Only in the Philippines
Today, President Arroyo declared September 7 as a national day of mourning for the late Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) leader Bro. Erano Manalo. All flags will be flown at half mast on Monday.
This is only one of those regular and special holidays in commemoration of religions and religious leaders in the Philippines: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, INC Foundation Day, end of Ramadan Day, All Saints’ Day, and Christmas. Next year, I heard that the Chinese New Year will also become a regular holiday. Moreover, Filipinos are so fond of celebrating deaths and death anniversaries, such as this one and the death of Mrs. Cory Aquino last month.
What is the Iglesia ni Cristo? It’s a sub-Christian cult founded by Felix Manalo, Erano’s father, in 1914. The older Manalo was involved in all kinds of Christian churches–Catholic, Methodist Episcopal, Presbyterian, Missionary Alliance, Adventists, atheists, and agnostics. Finally, disenchanted with all kinds of religions, he founded his own, the Iglesia ni Cristo. Today, INC has about 3 million members and its churches are located in practically all the continents of the world, especially where there is a substantial Filipino presence.
Why is the INC a cult?
Simply, it exhibits all the marks of a religious cult: (1) It claims to be the only true church, and anyone who is not a member of the INC has no salvation. (2) Only its ministers are true messengers of God. (3) Almost all of its doctrines are heretical, aberrant and unorthodox. (4) It has rigid controls of its members’ lives, even outside the church.
The INC claims that the early Christian church apostasized and that Felix Manalo was the one who restored the apostolic church as the INC. It rejects the Trinity and like the 4th century Arians, believes that Jesus is only a created being (as do the Jehovah’s Witnesses). The apologetics website thebereans.net lists these major heretical beliefs of the INC:
- Vehemently opposes the Biblical revelation of the Triune God.
- Believes in the absolute oneness of God the Creator in the Person of the Father.
- Believes the Son as the literal Word (which has no pre-existence) who became man. He was given power by the Father to do supernatural miracles. He is not God.
- Believes in an impersonal Holy Spirit, a power sent by the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is not God but one of the spirits sent by God.
- Believes the Father (Creator) and Son (creature) must be worshipped. The Son must be worshipped because the Father says so.
- Believes a person must hear the “gospel” from authorized INC messengers and INC ministers. They are the only ones who have God’s Holy Spirit in order for them to understand the Bible.
- Believes the official name of the church is “Iglesia ni Cristo” while other names are not.
- Believes a person must be a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), be water baptized, follow the church rules (must avoid the eating of “dinuguan,” avoid joining labor unions, avoid court sessions, do block voting, be under compulsory church attendance, practice giving to the church) and perform his good deeds as an INC member in order for him to be saved.
- Believes Felix Y. Manalo is the fulfillment of Isaiah 43:5-7, 46:11, and Revelation 7:2-3 prophecies.
- Believes in “soul sleep,” a belief that at death, the souls dies. There is no consciousness (a belief of the Seventh-Day Adventists).
The INC’s most-often quoted Bible is the one produced by George Lamsa, founder of the Aramaic Bible Society and whom the Christian Research Institute’s article, “George M. Lamsa: Christian Scholar or Cultic Torchbearer?” says “promoted metaphysical, heretical, and unscholarly teachings—not evangelical and scholarly.” Here is what CRI wrote about the INC’s connection with Lamsa:
While Christian scholarship has disregarded or criticized Lamsa’s work, cults and new religions often quote him in print and debate when it serves their purposes. In addition to the five groups mentioned above, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Holy Order of MANS, Christadelphianism, Iglesia ni Cristo, and Astara have all tapped Lamsa’s material. These groups have consistently quoted Lamsa in opposition to evangelical Christian beliefs, further suggesting Lamsa’s distance from the biblical faith.
So, if you see a church building like the one above, beware!
Here are a few good resources on the Iglesia ni Cristo: