In this expose, we shall provide excerpts from Ben Douglas exposition of Eli Soriano and the MCGI cult. Many thanks to Ben Douglas, former Vice President of Catholic Apologetics International for this exposition which is available at Kerygma Forum . We have promised our dear readers that we shall provide you with the real truth about behind the MCGI cult and we remain true to that mission by providing point black facts. Here is PART 1 of the series;
Ang Dating Daan: An Old Path Incarnate Again-By Ben Douglas
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 studies his teachings 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.
The story starts with a man named Felix Manalo, who left the Catholic Church as a teenager. He dabbled briefly in 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 flirted 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 that:
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. So, either Felix Manalo was accepting awards and taking classes from men he regarded as apostates, or his claim to head the only true Church of Christ came later, and from 1914-1919 he believed himself to be the head of just another Protestant church.
While Manalo was away in America his church begat the grandfather of Ang 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 Iglesia ng Dios Kay Kristo Hesus.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
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 wholly erroneous. 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 off 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 unethical 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.
Read Part 2 on this link: http://wp.me/p5n0fL-2L