Sunday, August 30, 2015

What Not to Miss About the INC Scandal

About a month ago, scandal broke out within the Philippine-based organization called the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC, or Church of Jesus Christ).1 It began when a video went viral, in which Angel Manalo and Cristina "Tenny" Villanueva Manalo, son and widow of the former INC executive minister "Ka Erdy" Manalo, called for help from their fellow members, claiming that their lives were in danger. Other discontented INC members immediately took the opportunity to air their grievances. Most notable of these are Isaias Samson Jr., the former editor of PASUGO, the organization's monthly publication, and Roel Rosal, a former minister who claims to that he was expelled for exposing corrupt practices among certain officials.2 The most significant allegations these men leveled against the INC were illegal detention of ministers and internal corruption within the group's heirarchy.

Responding swiftly and decisively to these 'divisive' and rebellious acts, the INC leadership expelled Angel and Tenny Manalo, as well as sympathizers who gathered outside their home on July 24. Samson was expelled soon after, and a charge of libel has been filed against him.

Meanwhile, the DOJ and NBI have begun investigating the alleged case of illegal detention. While Justice Secretary Leila De Lima has received much criticism and abuse from the INC, she seems to be unperturbed, and continues to enjoy the support of MalacaƱang.

"Not A Doctrinal Issue"

It's clear that people on both sides of the rift believe that the central issue has nothing to do with the organization's doctrines, but only with its leadership and authority structure. Angel and Tenny Manalo, Samson, Rosal, and other excommunicated members have consistently professed their continuing loyalty to the 'church'. Samson's lawyer has stated their perspective clearly:
This is not a schism. This is not a doctrinal issue. This is an issue of the frailty and, in some, instances criminal behavior of persons, whom we will later identify in the appropriate cases. His trust in God remains.
But There Really Is A Doctrinal Issue

Clearly, the intention of the dissenters was not to question INC doctrines, to which they still adhere. Rather, they only wanted to resist the allegedly corrupt leadership. But by provoking their opponents to expel them from the church, they have unintentionally exposed one of the most glaring absurdities in their beliefs: that salvation is dependent upon church membership and complete submission to authorities.

One has to ask the question: Assuming the INC doctrines are correct, what happened the moment these former members were formally expelled from the INC? Did God withdraw their salvation?

The obvious answer, based on their doctrine, is 'yes.' But the absurdity of it becomes clear in the case of Ms. Sarah Manuel, who rushed to the house of Angel and Tenny Manalo after seeing their video online. She was not looking for trouble, much less did she intend to defy her organization's leaders. Nevertheless, she was expelled because her knee-jerk sympathy was interpreted as defiance of the church's leadership. And having been expelled, she, according to their doctrine, has now lost her salvation.

Salvation Is From the Inside Out

If there's one thing that we shouldn't miss about this fiasco, it is how flippantly eternal life can be gained and lost according to the INC's doctrines. This is because they have completely misunderstood the fact that true salvation is a gift of God to individuals, not only to the church. And it not only involves forgiveness of sins, but freedom from sins. In other words, true salvation confers not only a legal status of 'righteous', but new life in Christ, who promises to His sheep,
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one. (John 10:28-30)
And by the way, according to 2 Corinthians 5:17, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."

One wonders how they badly their ministers have to twist and torture Scripture in order to explain away those verses, and many others like them.

1 (Those who are familiar with the INC know that their biggest deviation from biblical Christianity is their denial of the Triune God as revealed in Scripture, and of the divinity of Jesus Christ.)
2 GMA News provides a helpful timeline of events relating to the crisis.

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