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Ang Dating Daan: An Old Path Incarnate Again

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Post by Dhugz on Wed Aug 25, 2010 9:07 pm

By Ben Douglass. A refutation of Eliseo Soriano’s cult.

I. Introduction

Nothing under the sun is new, neither is any man able to say: Behold this is new: for it hath already gone before in the ages that were before us (Ecclesiastes 1:10).

When a Filipino Catholic man first alerted me to the existence and activity of The Church of God International of Mr. Eliseo Soriano, which he publicizes through his popular television show Ang Dating Daan (“The Old Path” in Tagalog), my first instinct was that it was a bit absurd to refer to a religious group as the Old Path which has only been around for about 30 years. However, upon further study of its history and of the corpus of Mr. Soriano’s teachings, I have realized that this is not the case. Rather, it is more ironic than absurd, because it really is an old path, simply not in the sense that Mr. Soriano thinks it is. For it is the same path that we see incarnate in the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many other similar groups: a charismatic leader claims direct divine revelation, twists Scripture, preaches vigorously, and with the help of fortuitous social, economic, and psychological circumstances, manages to attract a sizable flock to follow him down to perdition. Fortunately, Soriano’s claims are so easily falsifiable, so manifestly absurd, his exegetical incompetence so blatantly obvious, his self-contradiction so evident, that any person of good will who reads this essay will be able to see him for the false prophet that he is and fly back to the bosom of Holy Mother Church to be reintroduced to the divine life of grace in the soul. A bit of background first.

II. A Brief History of The Church of God International

He that gathereth not with me, scattereth (Matthew 12:30).

Schisms are the plague of all schismatics. Once a group of factious men splits off from the Mystical Body of Christ to follow winds of doctrine more to their liking, little remains to bind them to each other. Hence, whenever someone comes to an irreconcilable doctrinal disagreement with the leadership of the schismatic church, or simply wants power and authority that they have but are not willing to give him, the first schism is followed by further schisms, and factions proliferate. This is the principle which underlies the history of Ang Dating Daan. Since Soriano is fond of scientific analogies, I will use one myself: bacteria multiply by splitting.

The story starts with a man named Felix Manalo, who left the Catholic Church as a teenager. He toyed briefly with a cult called Colorum which claimed direct communication with God, and then joined the Methodist Episcopal Church and became a minister. As his Catholic mother lay dying he “rejected the last sacrament for her.”1 He then spent a brief stint as a Presbyterian minister, then left them as well for the Christian Missionary Alliance, who impressed him because they baptized by immersion only. He then switched teams again after he lost a debate to a Seventh Day Adventist minister and decided that since he couldn’t beat them he would join them. He left them as well after deciding they were wrong about observing a Saturday Sabbath, and briefly played the harlot with atheism and agnosticism. Finally, according to the account which he convinced his credulous followers to believe, in November 1913 he spent three days and nights in total seclusion studying the Bible and came out convinced that he was God’s last messenger, the messenger from the Far East prophesied by Rev 7:2-3; Isaiah 43:5-6; 46:11; 41:9-11. In any case, in 1914 started a church for himself, which would later claim Protestants to be apostates, and itself to be the one true Church of Christ outside of which there is no salvation.2 But his own biographers give lie to these claims, relating “on December 25, 1918, ministers of the Christian Mission honored Felix Manalo as an outstanding evangelist. The certificate was signed by Ministers Leslie Wolfe and Higinio Mayor, attested by attorney V. Dimagiba. The affair, held at the Gloria Theater in Tondo, Manila was attended by Church members and several Protestant pastors… In August 1919 Manalo visited all local congregations before departing for the United States to advance his Bible studies. He advised the brethren to keep united and protect one another in his absence. One day in September that year he sailed for the U.S. and stayed at Berkeley, California, burying himself in Bible research and studies, and attending classes in a school of religion.”3 So, either he was accepting awards and taking classes from apostates, or these claims came later, and from 1914-1919 Felix Manalo believed himself to be the head of just another Protestant church.

While he was away his church begat the grandfather of And Dating Daan, when two of his students whom he had passed over for ordination, Teofilo Ora and Januario Ponce, started their own church called the Iglesia Verdadero de Cristo (“The True Church of Christ” in Spanish) and drew away much of his fold with charges of immorality. True to the nature which this schismatic church inherited in its genesis, it soon begat the father of Ang Dating Daan with another schism. Nicolas Antiporda Perez founded the Iglesia ng Dios Kay Kristo Hesus, Haligi at Suhay ng Katotohanan (“The Church of God in Christ Jesus, Pillar and Ground of the Truth” in Tagalog), and attracted a following. The day before Eliseo Soriano turned seventeen, his parents took him to hear one of his sermons; the topic was, not surprisingly, the true Church of God according to the Bible, and Soriano was convinced. Perez baptized him, and made him a minister, the only other minister in the whole church. Hence, Soriano expected that when Perez died he would accede to the leadership of the InDKKHHaSnK (hmm, that’s large and unwieldy even as an acronym; I shall not use it again).4 However, when Perez died, a woman name Levita Gugulan in fact came to power,5 and Soriano, true to form, left and started yet another splinter church. He claims that he was forced out by former colleagues who “driven by extreme greed for power embarked on dark schemes against him and launched an underground plot to malign and discredit” him.6 I will prescind from the veracity of this statement, as foul play would not surprise me amongst the denizens of either side of this divide.

Soriano further claims that this occurred in fulfillment of Zechariah 13:8-9, a claim with about as much credibility as Manalo’s claim to be the angel ascending from the east of Revelations 7. Zechariah 13:7 is about the execution of Christ (cf. Matt 26:31) and the following two verses are about the persecution of the early Christian Church. For Soriano to apply it to his little group 2000 years later is absolutely inane. Consider how mild the persecutions Soriano has endured really are compared to what the early Church went through. The early Christians were torn to pieces by lions while crowds of heathens laughed at them; Soriano got sued, and lost. They were crucified; Soriano got briefly kicked off television. They had the option of sacrificing to demons or losing their heads; Soriano’s character is sometimes verbally attacked by the ministers he so frequently attacks himself. Soriano in fact has not endured any more persecution than Mohammed endured, whose persecution consisted of verbal abuse, a boycott, family pressure, and juvenile pranks like people dumping trash on his porch. This, compared to what Christians have endured, is child’s play.

In any case, Bro. Eli, as he now likes to be called, registered his group as Iglesia ng Dios kay Kristo Hesus, Haligi at Saligan ng Katotohanan (“The Church of God in Christ Jesus, Pillar and Ground of the Truth”), a name almost identical to the name of Gugulan’s group, Soriano having only replaced one word for “ground” (suhay, brace) with another (saligan, basis). Not surprisingly, Gugulan sued him, and the Philippine Supreme Court ruled in her favor. Soriano then changed the name of his group to Iglesia Ni YHWH at ni YHWSA HMSYH, and, most recently, to Members Church of God International.7 This is ironic because in one of his sermons which is posted at the Ang Dating Daan website Soriano chastises the Jehovah’s Witnesses for having multiple names throughout their history, and he insists that the real name of the true church is The Church of God in Christ Jesus, and that if an organization does not bear this exact name it cannot be of God.8 I eagerly await Mr. Soriano’s admission that his church no longer meets his own criteria for being of God.

And somehow, in spite of his ignominious origins, legal troubles, and self contradiction, Soriano has managed to draw a rather large following to himself, including many former Catholics. He apparently has an extraordinary memory, and amazes his listeners with his ability to regurgitate Scripture passages of the top of his head. One of his shows, in fact, is called “Ask Soriano, and the Bible Will Answer.” However, he clearly does not understand much of what he has memorized, as will become evident throughout this essay. Soriano must be very charismatic as well, given the way his followers fawn over him.9 He also exploits the chaotic religious landscape of the Philippines with his constant harangues against false preachers, wolves in sheep clothing, who are only after money and don’t really care about their flocks. He is thus a magnet for all those who are disillusioned and disaffected with their current churches, and who are willing to listen to a man claiming that he really loves them, and that he’s “the only sensible and sincere evangelist”10 who cares for them and wants to lead them to salvation. Soriano also uses dishonest debate tactics, such as heckling, setting up debates on his home turf where the audience can shout his opponents down, and recording his opponents’ words so he can replay them to the audience and pronounce allegations of contradiction.11 Finally, he is adept at character assassination, and smears all apostates from his group.12 He uses, in sum, the tactics characteristic of a cult.

III. The Bible Predicted Me, and God Himself Teaches Me

The Lord hath not sent thee, and thou hast made this people to trust in a lie (Jeremiah 28:15).

As noted above, Soriano claims to be the only sincere evangelist. Everyone else is a charlatan, according to him. Naturally, he also claims that he has been predicted by Scripture, specifically Ecclesiastes 9:15. He is, as he styles himself, the poor wise man who saved his city from destruction. Again, this is inane; it is simply another manifestation of Soriano’s utter incompetence to interpret Scripture, for in Ecclesiastes 9:15, Solomon is not predicting anything, but simply illustrating a principle (i.e. that wisdom is better than strength, even though it is accounted as less in the eyes of the world), by relating an event from the past. A poor and wise man saved his city from being destroyed by the army of a great King, but afterwards no one remembered his name. This may be a parable, or it may refer to a real event (Scripture records similar occurrences in Judg 9:52-55; 2 Sam 20:14-22). But in either case, it is narrated as an event which was completed in the past. Moreover, Soriano has yet to turn aside any armies or save any cities, and given the way he dresses, he clearly is not poor, and given the way he preaches, neither is he wise. Finally, the poor wise man’s name was forgotten in obscurity, but Soriano’s fame is only growing. Indeed, his great ambition is that “before I die… all people from the different parts of the world would be able to hear me as I preach the Gospel of Christ.”13 He should have realized, if he wanted to claim Ecclesiastes 9:15 for himself, that he would have to avoid professing ambitions to everlasting world renown. Clearly, if he were to preach his gospel to the entire world, his name would not be universally forgotten. In sum, no passage of Scripture refers directly to Mr. Soriano. He is simply one of the many false prophets contributing to the great apostasy predicted thereby.

Soriano seems to realize that his arguments, while perhaps impressive on the surface, absolutely fall apart upon anything resembling a deeper analysis. Most likely this is why he forbids his followers from interpreting the Bible. Indeed, in an article aptly titled, “Should the Bible Be Interpreted” he declares “it is not correct for us to interpret the Bible! God did not give anybody the right to interpret the Bible! And nobody can claim, not even a person with a Bachelor’s degree, like Law for instance, that he can explain the Bible, even if he follow the principles of hermeneutics or the formal study of methods of interpretation… the only thing that we have to do is, read the Bible. Do not interpret it.” He then quotes Romans 16:25-26 and Colossians 1:24-26 and concludes “Now, can anybody claim that, God left a certain mystery unexplained for these pastors to clarify and interpret themselves? Doing this is a clear act of deception.”14 Next, he further pronounces that “The Bible should no longer be explained by man inasmuch as the Bible already explains itself.”15

This is definitely the most blatant instance of duplicity I have discovered on the part of Mr. Soriano. As the reader has probably already noted, and will continue to note throughout this essay, Soriano’s arguments generally rest on tenuous, dubious, and even outright erroneous and incompetent interpretations of Scripture. We will see again and again that Soriano breaks his own rule and interprets the Bible, and does a poor job of it at that.

And of course, the idea that the Bible is so clear that no one needs to interpret it is itself unbiblical. My first instinct when I read the above passages from Mr. Soriano was to quote 2 Peter 3:16: “As also in all [Paul's] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.” The Bible contains many things that are “hard to be understood,” mysteries which need to be explained, a clear refutation of what Soriano states above. One would think, then, that Soriano would avoid this passage. However, he does not, for in a later article Soriano teaches that yes, the Bible does need to be interpreted after all. He quotes 2 Peter 3:16, then states:

We really should know how to use the bible. We should not perceive it as something so simple that anybody can readily interpret. In fact, it is the opposite! The Bible is not a plain as it may seem to be. The Holy Scriptures has the highest degree and the utmost quality of words and wisdom any book could offer that a man can read in his lifetime…. The Bible is unique and more special than any other book essential to our salvation. Hence, not anybody can just stand up and explain, elucidate, or even interpret the words of the Almighty Himself!16

He is here developing a self-contradiction which will be consummated in future articles. But I will make a brief digression first. Soriano illustrates his point with an example:

In Psalms 22:6, the one who is speaking is supposedly ‘…a worm, not man. Reproached of men, and despised of people.’

Continuing in verse 16 and 18, this so-called ‘worm’ said that: ‘…dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me… For they pierced my hands and my feet, they part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.’ These descriptions fit very well to our Lord Jesus Christ because Christ experienced all these at the time of His crucifixion and death. Therefore we can safely say that Jesus Christ, as He himself said, is ‘a worm, not man;’ but, in John 8:40, Jesus said to the Pharisees that He is ‘a man hath told you the truth’. Still, in 1 John 5:20, it says that, ‘Jesus Christ is the true God and eternal life.’ Here, we are faced with the dilemma of distinguishing the real nature of our Lord Jesus Christ. Is He a worm, a man, or a God? This is one of the greatest debates in the religious world; but how can we, in our humble being, be able to understand this seemingly complicated issue? Is it possible for us, human beings, to comprehend complexities such as these?17

Indeed, Mr. Soriano, that is why Jesus established a Church against which the gates of hell would not prevail (Matt 16:18), and promised to be with her “all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matt 28:20), to send her the “Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever: The spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17) who, when He comes, “will teach you all truth” (John 16:13). That is why he told his apostles, “He that heareth you, heareth me” (Luke 10:16) and why the apostles appointed successors to perpetuate their ministry for future generations (cf. 1 Tim 5:19-22; 2 Tim 4:2-5; Tit 1:5; 2:1, 15). For although almost anyone could see that Psalm 22:6 is using a metaphor, not literally saying that Jesus is a worm, it did indeed take divine guidance to bring humanity to a proper understanding of the hypostatic union, the union of the divine and human natures in the single person of Jesus Christ. God guided the successors of the apostles, the bishops of the early Catholic Church, men like St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Athanasius of Alexandria, to explain to their flocks the mystery of the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, true God, in the true man Jesus Christ, and this understanding, received from the apostles and transmitted and developed by the same bishops of the early Catholic Church, was finally codified at Catholic ecumenical Councils such as Nicaea and Chalcedon. Christendom has never been without authentic Christian teachers, the successors of the apostles.

But no, Soriano would have his followers believe that Christ abandoned his Church, and that for almost 2000 years there were no “sincere evangelists” who faithfully taught apostolic doctrine, or, rather, he would have them believe that these evangelists existed but there is simply no historical record of them because the mean old Catholic Church covered it up. How convenient. Incidentally, this is the same logic that Dan Brown uses in The Da Vinci Code to argue that Jesus was a mere man who taught peace and worshiped the sacred feminine. You see, once one decides to reject the entire historical record as a forgery written by power hungry men, one can make up any cockamamie story about the past one wants to, and this is how Soriano deceives his followers into believing that his doctrines, so foreign to Christian history, actually represent authentic apostolic teaching. But it is a lie, and Soriano’s duplicity is manifest.

Let’s return to the developing contradiction. Soriano concludes this article by relating the means of properly interpreting the Bible. First, one must have the Spirit of God, which requires one to fear the Lord and keep His commandments. He reconciles his statements thus far with his dictum that no man may interpret the Bible by insisting that the Bible interprets itself, and that if one has the Spirit of God and searches the Scriptures diligently, one will find the explanation of the passage one does not understand in some other passage somewhere else.

Incidentally, he further insists that one must not refer to any book besides the Bible itself in the endeavor of Biblical interpretation, and that anyone who does so is flirting with damnation (I suppose he would except his own sermons and his “book” (I put “book” in quotation marks because I printed it on 16 pages of 8-1/2 x 11 inch paper) Leaving Behind the Fundamental Doctrines of Christ. Sure, it’s alright to refer to those writings in order to understand the Bible). This is absurd. Tremendous insights can be gained into biblical interpretation through historical, grammatical, and linguistic analysis, and this often requires reference to non-biblical literature. Try figuring out what archegos means, for instance, without referring to extra-biblical Greek writings (it is used only once in the entire New Testament: in Hebrews 12:2). Archeology and geography also throw light on much of what is obscure in Holy Scripture. Finally, the Church Fathers, who held on to the traditions which they received from the apostles (2 Thess 2:15), which included the proper understanding of many passages of Scripture, likewise provide for us a sure guide for understanding God’s Word. But Soriano would cut off his flock from these tools, and from education in the methods of biblical exegesis, and leave them adrift all by themselves to try to interpret these ancient texts, written in a language and culture far removed from their own, and expect them to just be able to read and understand. And naturally, they will fail. Without knowing the first thing about Greek and Hebrew exegesis, and being ignorant of the Church’s theology of things like salvation, the trinity, and the hypostatic union, they will simply be unable to understand these seemingly contradictory texts. Then, they will have to turn to Bro. Eli. This is where his self-contradiction reaches its consummation. The following is from an article entitled “Three Colors of Death Green & White & Red” in Soriano’s Old Path Magazine:

Firstly, parables, as parables, were not meant to be understood by most people… Secondly, Jesus used minute details which were intended to hide the truth of the text from the non-spiritual, but to reveal truth to God’s people… Thirdly, symbols (such as the woman, merchant man, wind, angel, dove, water, fire, and others) frequently appear in texts of the Bible.

All of these show the need for a teacher who has the Spirit of God so that one may understand the Word of God. Nothing less would be able to lead one to truth and guide one until the end.

And God is faithful that he would not leave his people alone without one. Fortunate, indeed, is one who has found that true preacher.

As attested to by many, God is really with Bro. Eli Soriano. He is remarkably an extraordinary individual – unschooled by the world’s standards but unbeatable in biblical matters. He can see what others do not and has the understanding of the Word of God not found in anyone even among sages. And for that, how blessed is the Philippines! …It is then no surprise that he claims he is being taught by God which explains his deep understanding of God’s Word and the revelations given to him… Anyone thirsting for the knowledge of God would make sure he is in the right path – the Old Path. And if you truly care for truth, you must make sure you are being led by someone with an understanding given by God, and teaching things of God – like a spring that never runs dry.18

There is more of the same in articles entitled “Super-Preacher in Our Times” and “Nobody Does It Better” in the same issue:

There is no secret in the Bro. Eli’s being unique, singular, and distinctive. The Bible gives its own explanation in John 3:34 as him being sent, therefore speaks the words of God, who gave him unlimited spirit – For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.19

The irony of it all is that God has equipped the faithful preacher with full knowledge of the Bible with unmeasured Spirit, then warned him what not to do that he may finish his work, and yet allowed him to be fair game to wicked people and their evil designs. But God is faithful, this mysterious set-up may be the strength of God’s design in preserving His nation through His Faithful preacher – one whom none can beat in unlocking the mysteries of the Bible…

As Bro. Eli preaches, he makes distinctions between quantity of the word, its quality, its direction, time, construction of meaning, and extent of meaning. He goes as far as explaining the source and the intended receiver to place the message in proper context… Truly, none can compare with the understanding that Bro. Eli has that symbolisms in the Bible are effectively expounded to his congregation and to his hearers in bible expositions. While he has not formally studied so-called hermeneutics that are the fare of secular schools, his level of understanding shows an awesome depth that each topic – unheard of before from all corners of this world – is as valuable as his next topic would be. Indeed, Bro. Eli preaches faithfully. Foremost, he unlocks mysteries from the Word of God like nobody. The faithful one whom God has assigned would do his task God’s way – like Bro. Eli.20

Now Soriano’s true colors come out. Before, anyone who feared the Lord and patiently worked at it could interpret the Bible. Now, only he can. Before, “God did not give anybody the right to interpret the Bible!” Now, Soriano is divinely commissioned to interpret the Bible. Before, he asked “can anybody claim that, God left a certain mystery unexplained for these pastors to clarify and interpret themselves? Doing this is a clear act of deception.” Now, he is “unlocking the mysteries of the Bible” for his flock who eagerly lap up every word that falls from his lips. The contradiction could hardly be clearer. Now I am eagerly awaiting Mr. Soriano’s admission that, in addition to his group not being a true church, he has also perpetrated “a clear act of deception” on his poor unfortunate followers. For he has left them utterly dependent on him to learn anything at all about Sacred Scripture. Indeed, how dare they question he who is receiving direct revelation from God. IF YOU QUESTION THE MAN WHO GETS HIS INTERPRETATION STRAIGHT FROM THE MOUTH OF THE ALMIGHTY YOU ARE A REPROBATE! How dare you think to read what competent Bible scholars and exegetes have to say about Sacred Scripture! They are all liars! All preachers except me are charlatans who only want your money!

Do not listen to this man. He is incompetent to interpret the Bible, and he contradicts himself. This alone should be enough to disqualify him in the eyes of any Christian who would diligently “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). But if that still is not enough, let us examine his repeated appeals to his allegedly exemplary character as proof of his divine commission. Let us even grant that what he says about his life is true. Even so, do not the Catholic saints far exceed him in holiness, sacrifice, labor, and love? Has he stared down a barbarian at the head of an army of the same, as St. Leo the Great did? Did he resist a threat to be boiled in oil when he was but nine years of age, as the Fatima children did? Has he reduced his sleep to three hours a night to attend to the spiritual needs of his children, as St. Pio did? Really, there is nothing so extraordinary about Soriano. Even I can match him. Does he live an austere life? So do I. Does he abstain from the sinful pleasures of the world? So do I. Does he endure persecution and insults, has he had things thrown at him or been threatened for the sake of his gospel? So have I. Can he quote the Bible? So can I. Does he understand what he is quoting? I more so, as I have demonstrated above and will demonstrate again and again as Soriano says the most stupid, asinine, and flabbergasting things I have heard since a young lady at the local abortion clinic told me I have a right to own a slave but not a right to eat (at least the poor guy would go free in no more than 40 days). In sum, to all followers of this old path, I want you to know that Soriano is not the only one who loves you. The Catholic Church loves you, and wants you back. Moreover, she will welcome you back with open arms.

IV. Soriano and the Stinkblossom

Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things? (John 3:10)

The more one reads of Soriano, the more his ignorance is manifest, and the more it grieves one to consider how very many people he has deceived. Take, for example, Leaving Behind the Fundamental Doctrines of Christ. The entire “book” is based on one gargantuan blunder. In fact, if I were to write a book about every blunder in history that was larger than this blunder, it might still be a shorter book than Leaving Behind the Fundamental Doctrines of Christ. He somehow completely misreads Hebrews 6:1-2, which states, in the KJV: “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ [i.e. the first rudiments of Christian doctrine], let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” As the following quotes demonstrate, Soriano actually thinks St. Paul is telling his readers to forget about or ignore these fundamental doctrines:

But why did Paul admonished the first Christians that they (including Paul himself) must leave behind these fundamental doctrines of Christ? The fundamental is more on the material! Jesus wants us to attain, not only physical, but spiritual blessings. The fundamental purpose of laying on of hands is to heal the physical or material body of the subject person. But Christ, in his capacity, wants us to seek for the spiritual significance of His teachings because this is the way to learn more of Him…

Why then do we have to stop or leave this fundamental doctrine of Christ on the laying on of hands? A person with leprosy can be healed physically but his spirituality isn’t…21

But why did Paul said, in his dispensation, that Christians must leave the fundamental doctrine of the resurrection of the dead? …A saint who died in this dispensation, particularly in this time will not be delighted to be resurrected, to inhale again polluted air, to drink polluted water, and to eat chemical-laden foods and to be subjected to harsh brutality and gory death again… One thing is sure, the many glory-hungry and money-hungry preachers (it is against my conscience to call them preachers) of our times, who pretend to have power to resurrect the dead are all liars, which further belies their stand of being God-sent. It only displays their total ignorance of what Saint Paul have said almost two thousand years ago that perfection can be attained by leaving the fundamental doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.22

Now, Soriano’s interpretation here is simply silly. All St. Paul is saying that once his audience has sufficiently mastered the basics of the Christian religion, it will be possible for his discourse to advance to more lofty themes. Analogously, a math teacher might tell his students that once they have mastered arithmetic they can move on to algebra. St. Paul is absolutely not telling his audience that they ought to forget or abandon the “fundamental doctrines of Christ.” These are the foundation of Christianity; they support the entire soaring edifice, and without them the religion has nothing on which to stand. The foundation can never be forgotten. St. Paul’s only point is that once it has been laid properly once, the Christian teacher can move on from teaching these subjects and start building upon them the superstructure of more advanced theology. To risk mixing metaphors, once the new Christian has been nursed to a certain degree of maturity on spiritual milk, the teacher can then begin to give him solid food (Heb 5:12-14). It would be silly to keep “laying the foundation” over and over again, by teaching nothing but the basics, and never graduating Christian students from ecclesiastical kindergarten, just like it would be silly to hold back school children in the same grade year after year. Once we learn how to read, write, and do basic math, we can move on to history, philosophy, engineering, etc. But that does not mean we can forget about reading, writing, and basic math, or the more advanced subjects will become impossible. So too, should a Christian forget about repentance, faith, baptism, the laying of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, he will turn his religion into nonsense.

There’s more silliness in Soriano’s “book.” As a side note, for one who blasts the Catholic Church for using a little bit of Latin in her liturgy, he has no problem with using the Latin phrase prima facie himself in the very first paragraph. Don’t you see, Mr. Soriano, that learning the meaning of a few words of Latin, whether prima facie or dominus vobiscum is really not that hard?

In any case, following his opening harangue against false preachers, a feature almost ubiquitous in his works, Soriano quickly jumps into a fairly odd theological disputation: he constructs a dichotomy, as false as it is sharp, between the idea of Jesus as the personal Lord and Savior of the Christian, and His operation through the corporate body of the Church. But as one who is so famed for his ability to memorize the Bible, he should know that both concepts are present in Scripture. See for example the Magnificat, wherein Our Lady exclaims “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47; cf. John 20:28).

It seems Soriano is led to a false conclusion because he starts out from a faulty philosophical premise, namely that that which is “personal” cannot be shared. Indeed, he challenges that if Jesus were the personal savior of anyone, it would be unethical to let Him be someone else’s savior as well. He makes an analogy to a man sharing his wife, his “personal property” as Soriano describes her. This is clearly an instance of equivocation regarding the meaning of “personal,” as the word does not necessarily imply exclusivity or possession, but merely a relationship. Jesus has an intimate and direct relationship with each individual soul consecrated to His service, and jealousy need not ensue. That Soriano thinks jealousy would ensue from such a relationship merely demonstrates once again that he is incompetent to interpret Scripture. He has projected his own erroneous presuppositions onto the Word of God, and his exegesis has been clouded accordingly.

A little while later, Soriano makes yet another exegetical blunder when he states that the primary purpose of the laying of hands is “to heal the physical or material body of the subject person”23 (this is allegedly why we ought to “leave behind” this fundamental doctrine; Jesus wants us to forget about temporal things like bodily health and move on to the spiritual realm). One wonders if he is reading the same Bible as the rest of us. Scripture frequently records that the Apostles laid their hands on persons in perfect bodily health, in order to confer a spiritual gift. “The Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands” (Acts 8:17; cf. 19:6). St. Paul likewise urges St. Timothy to kindle afresh the charisma, the spiritual, supernatural gift which he thereby received (2 Timothy 1:6). That gift was his ordination to the episcopacy. The Apostles, through the laying of hands, also ordained St. Stephen and six other men to the diaconate (Acts 6:5-6). So, one sees that in Scripture the laying of hands is ordered primarily to supernatural and spiritual realities, not mere bodily health as Soriano says. And the Catholic Church is ever faithful to the Bible. In fact, the phrase “the laying of hands” is simply the biblical manner of denoting the Catholic sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Orders.

Moving on, it does not take Soriano long to make another obvious mistake: he uses Hebrews 11:13, 35-40 in attempts to prove that the saints resurrected in Matthew 27:50-53 are not currently in heaven. Hebrews 11 is about the era before the Cross, the era of the Old Covenant. Men like Abraham and Noah died in faith, but did not go immediately into heaven. As St. Paul says in Hebrews 11:40, they “received not the promise; God providing some better thing for us, that they should not be perfected without us [the saints of the New Covenant].” However, that era is over, for on Holy Saturday, Christ descended to the abode of the righteous dead and “preached to those spirits that were in prison” (1 Pet 3:19). His mission was successful, and “ascending on high, he led captivity captive” (Eph 4:Cool. This means He brought the souls of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, et al to heaven with Him, where they now comprise the “cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1) who, as St. Paul informs us, watch over the lives of Christians. Should we die in a state of grace, we will follow them. There is no period of “soul sleep” as Soriano believes. We will not lie senseless in our graves until the general resurrection on the last day. Rather, “it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27). We will be judged immediately and sent to either heaven, purgatory, or hell; on the last day this judgment will merely be publicly declared.

Next, leaving behind Leaving Behind the Fundamental Doctrines of Christ, let us go on to Soriano’s sermons, not sparing them from critical scrutiny, but likewise demonstrating their bankruptcy and internal contradiction. Let’s start with his sermon on “the salvation which is being taught by the Bible”, in which he chastises his ecclesiastical great grandfather, the Iglesia ni Cristo of Mr. Felix Manalo, for teaching that outside of it there is no salvation.24 He is, of course, quite right in decrying this claim as false. It is indeed blatantly and obviously false. However, in effect Soriano makes the exact same claim, for while he does reject any form of extra ecclesiam meam nulla salus (outside my church there is no salvation) in theory, this is essentially what his doctrine amounts to in practice. Although he teaches that the true Christian church existed before him, that he joined it, and did not create it, and is emphatic that it is forbidden for preachers to create their own churches, on the other hand he teaches that the only means of joining the true church is to assent to the whole body of apostolic doctrine as recorded by the Bible.25 And who possesses the whole body of apostolic doctrine? Who is the only preacher who properly understands the Bible and teaches all its commandments without addition or deletion? Who is the only preacher who uses only the Bible to interpret the Bible, without referring to other books? Soriano, of course. He is, recall, the “only sensible and sincere evangelist,” and has been divinely commissioned to unlock the mysteries of the word of God. He “holds the key,” to use the headline of one of his magazines, to the meaning of Sacred Scripture, and thus he holds the key to eternal salvation. His literature reminds his followers:

Not all preachers can save, however. Only the faithful one used by the Lord as vessel can save – himself and those that hear him.26

I care for my fellow Filipinos. As former President Joseph Estrada once said, nobody will care for the Filipinos but the Filipinos themselves. Many foreigners have come to our country but they only deceived us. We can have no other ally except our fellow Filipino . . . a Filipino, who speaks clearly . . . a Filipino who knows every righteous thing that the Bible says. I am extending you whatever I can offer, my countrymen. That is what I am here for.27

Most of our preachers today are like the devil. Why? They speak slyly. Whenever they use the Bible, they employ deception.28

So, Soriano can on the one hand avoid making the preposterous and untenable claim that his 30 year old group is the one true Church of Jesus Christ outside of which there is no salvation, and on the other hand he can tell people that he is the only preacher who can lead them to salvation. How convenient.

Errors abound in this sermon. Soriano soon begins to inveigh against “vain repetition” and other alleged errors in Catholic prayer, and he makes basically the same wrongheaded comments as any fundamentalist Protestant would. More on this below. But in addition to the standard Protestant fare, he also says something so uniquely absurd and incompetent that I have to mention it here. He quotes a large section of the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, including the lines “Tower of David, pray for us. Tower of ivory, pray for us. House of gold, pray for us. Ark of the covenant, pray for us. Gate of Heaven, pray for us.” Then, he exclaims:

Even towers, which are without tongues, are petitioned to pray for them. Even the house of gold, even the tower of ivory, even the Ark of the Covenant, even the tower of David! Could they pray? Where did you get those ideas? Why are you also urging the gate of heaven to pray for you? Can they pray? They could perhaps produce a squeaking sound, but to pray to . . . that is impossible! The gate of heaven could not pray! That is not found in the Bible. Why are you calling on so many things to pray for you?29

Now, surely any competent person reading this litany would realize that Catholics are not literally asking towers, houses, gates, and arks to pray for them; these are simply titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary. How did Soriano miss this? Is it because of ignorance, dishonesty, or spiritual blindess that he cannot grasp the obvious meaning of these prayers? Should he not be able to infer, given that the previous 27 lines of the prayer invoked Mary under a different title, that this is the meaning of these lines as well? And could he not at least have asked a Catholic to explain this prayer to him before he started expatiating with such ridiculous pronouncements?

And it does not take Soriano long to ram his foot even deeper down his throat. He asks, incredulously, “If you were a woman, how would you feel about being addressed as ‘ginoo’ (mister)? Wasn’t she the wife of Joseph? Why don’t you call her ‘Ginang Maria’ instead?”30 Here, Soriano’s error stems from a lack of knowledge of the history of his own language. Filipino apologist Marwil Llasos explains:

During the 19th century, “ginoo” (gentleman) or “maginoo” (gentlemanly) was applied to both men and women. In fact, our national hero, Jose Rizal (a true-blooded Tagalog from Calamba, Laguna) wrote to the women of Malolos (Malolos, Bulacan, also a tagalog-speaking town. Until now, Bulacan is known for its high-sounding or classical Tagalog) addressing them “Mga Maginoong Babae ng Malolos” (“gentlemanly women of Mololos”). Soriano, in his ignorance, does not understand classical language.31

So, one begins to notice a pattern here. When Soriano is in ignorance, instead of having the humility to ask someone more knowledgable to enlighten him, he just assumes he is right and merrily blunders his way along. He quite confidently makes his bombastic pronouncements on all manner of subjects, and it never quite dawns on him what a fool he is making out of himself, that he does not know what he is talking about, that he is the proverbial Emperor with no clothes on. Pray God some day he will look at himself and realize he is naked. Lastly, though it has been corrected at some point, this sermon used to say that 6×6=39.32

Errors abound in others of his sermons and teachings as well. First, for one who habitually thrashes those who consult the dictionary when they have trouble understanding the Bible (recall he cuts off his followers from any means of understanding the Bible besides himself), he has no problem starting off his sermon on whether religion is necessary with, “if we are going to consult the dictionary for the meaning of the word ‘sect’, it means religious ‘faction.’”33

Second, he claims in his sermon on whether it is God’s will that we join a Church that, “Everything that the Apostles saw and heard had been written down.”34 This is just a blatant and explicit contradiction of Scripture. It is written, “But there are also many other things which Jesus did; which, if they were written every one, the world itself, I think, would not be able to contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25). Has Soriano not read this verse?

Third, in another sermon35 he quotes Proverbs 22:1, which says “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches,” and makes yet another exegetical blunder. He actually thinks it is referring literally to a person’s appellation, e.g. John, Eliseo, Jude, Elizabeth. He doesn’t realize that “a good name” in this context is a metaphor for a good reputation. Perhaps he should have let the Bible interpret the Bible, and read Proverbs 10:7: “The memory of the righteous is blessed, but the name of the wicked will rot.” Clearly, the second clause of the sentence is the converse of the first; the righteous will be remembered fondly, but the wicked will be remembered in infamy. Their reputation will remain foul forever. See also Ecclesiastes 7:1; Sirach 41:12-13; Proverbs 18:10; 21:24. This is really quite simple! Literally every competent, published biblical commentator understands this passage. Jew and Christian, Catholic and Protestant, conservative and liberal: everyone sees what only Soriano is too blind to see.36 Incidentally, Soriano also manifests his inability to recognize a literary device when he quotes Matthew 6:9, “Hallowed be thy name” and concludes that we ought to worship the name of the Lord. “Hallowed be thy name” is simply a poetic way of saying “Hallowed are you.”

Fourth, while explaining where the water for Noah’s flood came from, Soriano makes a rather silly scientific blunder:

[O]xygen and hydrogen are abundant in our atmosphere. And if you combine two molecules of hydrogen with one molecule of oxygen, the result is water. Put some ice in a glass. After a while, there would be moisture outside the glass. That is because the molecules of hydrogen had combined with the molecule of oxygen.37

This is entirely wrong! The reason water condenses on the outside of a glass of ice water is not because new water molecules are being formed through the combination of atmospheric hydrogen and oxygen. The true explanation is as follows: the atmosphere contains a large amount of water in vapor form. If the air becomes saturated with more water vapor than it can hold, some of the water will precipitate out as moisture. Furthermore, hot air is capable of containing much more water vapor than cold air. If hot air containing a large amount of moisture is rapidly cooled, the air suddenly will no longer be able to hold that moisture, and the water vapor will condense. Thus, when a cold glass of ice water causes a drop in the temperature of the surrounding air, water precipitates out of that air, and condenses on the side of the glass. Soriano really should learn his elementary atmospheric science before he presumes to teach people about it.

Fifth, Soriano gets his history wrong:

Galileo was expelled by the Pope because of his adherence to the Copernican theory, which was in contradiction to what the Pope believed in. There were so many things that they disagreed on, and one of them was on the shape of the earth. The Pope believed that it was flat. Actually, that was a common belief that time. They thought that the earth was flat and if you reach the edge of the earth, you will fall. They also believed that, based on the horizon, wherever the earth ends, there also is where the sky ends. But Galileo believed otherwise. He believed that the earth is round. And because of upholding a belief that was contrary to the belief of the Pope, he was expelled from the Catholic Church. And eventually, it was proven that what Galileo believed in was true.38

There are three glaring errors here. First off, “the Pope” did not believe in a flat earth, and this belief was not common among scholars at any point in Christian history. This was a calumny against Christendom invented by 19th century rationalists like John W. Draper.39 All educated people at the time of Galileo recognized that the earth is a sphere. Second, Galileo’s trial before the Inquisition had nothing to do with the shape of the earth; it concerned his opinion that the sun is fixed and immobile at the center of the universe, and that the earth revolves around it. The proposition that the sun is immobile was condemned as heretical, and the proposition that the earth moves was condemned as at least erroneous in faith. Third, Galileo was never excommunicated. He was held vehemently suspect of heresy, and so forced to sign an oath of abjuration, consigned to house arrest, and made to recite the seven penitential psalms each week. But he was never expelled from the Catholic Church. Soriano cannot seem to get anything right.

Sixth and finally, Soraino commits elementary logical fallacies:

“A rose by any other name will still be sweet.” That is not true! If somebody gives you this quotation, that would mean that, that person is out of his mind. Why say that, a rose by any other name is sweet? In the Philippines, there is a flower called, katuray. By the mere sound of its name, we can already tell that this flower is not sweet, even if you call it “rose”. Using the name “rose” for a “katuray” will not make it any sweeter. Misnaming anything is not good.40

Either Soriano has completely missed Shakespeare’s point or he has directly contradicted himself. The point of the phrase “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is that a thing, objectively, is what it is. The name one applies to it does not change its intrinsic nature. A rose will still be a rose, and thus will still smell sweet, even if you call it a stinkblossom. Similarly, the Catholic Church will still be the Church founded by Christ, even if you call it awful names like the whore of Babylon, and the holy sacrifice of the Mass will still yield an aroma of spiritual fragrance which is pleasing and acceptable to the Lord even if you call it an abomination. Conversely, as Soriano points out, calling a katuray a rose will not make it sweeter. Calling a stinkblossom a rose will not make it less foul. Thus, no matter whether Soriano calls his church “the Church of the living God, Pillar and Foundation of the Truth,” “Members Church of God International,” or “Ang Dating Daan,” it will never be the pillar and foundation of the truth, it will never be the church of God, and it will never be the same “old path” referenced in Jeremiah 6:16. So, we certainly grant to Soriano, that misnaming things is not good, and that calling evil good and good evil will neither make evil good nor good evil. But that is exactly what Shakespeare is saying in the phrase Soriano rejects. Soriano thus uses an argument which proves that misnaming something does not change its nature, in order to refute a phrase which teaches that misnaming something does not change its nature.

In order to deal with Soriano’s wider argument here, viz., that the true Church of God has to have the proper, biblical name, and cannot bear an invented name such as “Catholic,” suffice it to note that the Bible freely applies at least 45 names to the Church: Temple of God (1 Cor 3:16); spiritual house (1 Pet 2:5); body of Christ (Eph 1:22); household of God (Eph 2:19); Israel of God (Gal 6:16); congregation of saints (Psalm 149:1); bride of Christ (Rev 21:2); etc. There is nothing to prevent the same Church from freely applying new names to herself, so long as these new names accurately describe her, now that the Bible is finished.41 And “Catholic” most certainly does accurately describe her. She is universal; she is the whole Church, and she counts among her members men from every race and nation under heaven, to which, God willing, might one particularly ornery Filipino soon be added.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will state it again: Soriano is incompetent. He ought to be embarrassed at the utterly foolish things that he has said. Moreover, his followers ought to realize that one who so frequently sticks his foot in his mouth might not be the most reliable guide to the finer points of Christian theology and biblical exegesis, and that it might not be the safest thing to place one’s eternal salvation in his hands. For if he can be so wrong about something so simple as recognizing a metaphor, he can be wrong about something difficult like the nature of God or of salvation as well. Indeed, one would expect his errors to be all the more grievous as the subject of his ignorant expositions grows more grave. This is, in fact, the case, as I will demonstrate below.

To be continued.......................................

Source: Catholic Faith defender Blog

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