Readers, this is Ben Douglas’ next exposition of Eli Soriano. Part Three.Hope you are enjoying these series and are learning more about this destructive man made cult and their Notorious leader?Feel free to give us feedback.
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 led astray. 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
Soriano’s interpretation here misses the mark completely. 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 are many more errors 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 received through the laying of hands (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 4:8). 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. However, excepting his provision for the salvation of those who never hear the Gospel, Soriano in effect 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 who has no clothes. 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 misinterprets extrabiblical literature as well:
[“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]
Soriano has completely missed Shakespeare’s point. 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 expositions grows more grave. This is, in fact, the case, as I will demonstrate below.
Part Four coming soon……………………