Iglesia ni Cristo at a Glance
- What: Iglesia ni Cristo (Inc) — tagalog for ‘Church of Christ’ — is one of the largest and most powerful religious movements in the Third World.
- Adherents: Reportedly, 27.000.000 in 89 countries and territories
- Headquarters: Philippines
- Founded: Formally established on July 27, 1914
- Founder: Felix Ysagun Manalo (May 10, 1886 – April 12, 1963). According to official InC doctrine Manalo was the last messenger of God, sent to reestablish the first church founded by Jesus Christ, which the INC claims fell into apostasy following the death of the Apostles. He was succeeded by his son, Eraño de Guzman Manalo. The latter died in August, 2009.
- Current Leader: Eduardo V. Manalo, son of Eraño de Guzman Manalo
- Theology: Iglesio ni Cristo claims to be to only true church established by Jesus Christ.
But while the movement says it represents Christianity, its theology deviates from the essential doctrines of the Christian faith (that which makes Christianity Christian, and not something else) to such an extend that it must be considered theologically a cult of Christianity.
In other words, the vast majority of Christians and Christian denominations do not accept Iglesio ni Cristo’s claim that it is a Christian church.
Iglesia ni Cristo’s false teachings include:
- Denial of the divinity of Jesus Christ. The divinity of Christ is one of the essential teachings of the Christian faith — as is the doctrine of the Trinity, which in turn is also denied by the Inc. Rejecting one or more of Christianity’s core teachings places an individual or movement outside the Christian faith. Such an individual is referred to as a heretic, while an organization is said to be heretical.
- Claiming that the Christian Church “was apostatized after the first century” and “was restored to its pristine purity by God by means of His last messenger, brother Felix Y. Manalo…” (Pasugo, the movement’s official organ, July/August 1988, page 7)
- The claim that salvation comes only through this church (“This may come as a surprise to many, but the Biblical truth is, though all churches profess to preach God and Christ, there is only one true church that can bring people back to the good graces of God.” (Pasugo, November 1973, page 19)
- The claim that not just anyone can teach or interpret the Bible. INC claims that only the late Felix Y. Manalo was — and Iglesia ni Cristo ministers are — given the authority by God to do so, because they “hold the seal” prophesies in Revelation 7:2-3.
The movement is considered to be theologically a cult, but it is not considered a cult from a sociological perspective. (Note the difference between the two. )
That said, Iglesia ni Cristo does have some cult-like elements, as shown in this 2004 article by AFP:
The sect was founded in 1914 by […] Felix Manalo, a disaffected former member of the Seventh Day Adventists.
Recruiting mostly from the working classes, the sect has several million adherents and has even expanded abroad, spread by the country’s large overseas work force.
By some accounts, it is now the second largest formal religion in the Philippines, a former Spanish and US colony, after Catholicism.
Discipline and conservatism define the sect. Attendance is compulsory at twice-weekly masses inside its distinctive and brightly lit spire-topped churches, where the women sit apart from the men.
Part of every member’s income goes to tithes. Dancing is prohibited, along with eating animal blood.
Iglesia spokesmen have said the sect provides “guidance” to its voters, in line with the sect’s belief that its chief minister is authorized by God to interpret the teachings of the Bible in contemporary times.
Manila pollster Mahar Mangahas of Social Weather Stations said that despite the bloc-vote weapon, the Iglesia’s recent election record is mixed. However, its support has been decisive in close contests.
It backed the wrong horse — the brewer Cojuangco — in the 1992 presidential vote narrowly won by former general Fidel Ramos, who became the country’s first Protestant president.
– Source: Little sect is big player in Philippine politics, AFP, May 3, 2004
Catholic Answers, a lay-run organization the provides apologetics information from a Catholic perspective, says this about the movement:
The organization publishes two magazines, Pasugo and God’s Message, which devote most of their energies toward condemning other Christian churches, especially the Catholic Church.
The majority of the Iglesia’s members are ex-Catholics. The Philippines is the only dominantly Catholic nation in the Far East, with eighty-four percent of its population belonging to the Church.
Since this is its largest potential source of converts, Iglesia relies on anti-Catholic scare tactics as support for its own doctrines, which cannot withstand biblical scrutiny. The Iglesia tries to convince people of its doctrines not by proving they are right, but by attempting to prove the Catholic Church’s teachings are wrong.
– Source: Iglesia ni Cristo Entry in Catholic Answers.
Anne C. Harper says
Pasugo is the official organ of the INC. This publication provides the most accurate understanding of the Iglesia’s view of Evangelicals, and when supplemented by anecdotes told by missionaries, presents a clear perspective of the INC’s view of Evangelicals.
The Iglesia considers those who claim to be “born-again” or Evangelicals to be misguided–and even deceivers. Almost every issue of Pasugo has an article which debunks the Trinity, and many have pieces refuting the doctrine that faith alone is sufficient for salvation. […]
They use very strong words when describing the supposed deception of certain strains within the church […]
Further, the INC’s teaching is be wary of Evangelicals […]
Missionaries are actually viewed as a threat.
– Source: The Iglesia ni Cristo and Evangelical Christianity by Ann C. Harper, Journal of Asian Mission 3/1 (2001)
In her paper, Harper explains why the InC has this attitude.
Christian apologetics ministry The Bereans identifies Iglesio ni Cristo’s unbiblical beliefs as follows:
- Vehemently oppose the Biblical revelation of the Triune God.
- Believes in the absolute oneness of God the Creator in the Person of the Father.
- Believes the Son as the literal Word (which has no pre-existence) who became man. He was given power by the Father to do supernatural miracles. He is not God.
- Believes in an impersonal Holy Spirit, a power sent by the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is not God but one of the spirits sent by God.
- Believes the Father (Creator) and Son (creature) must be worshipped. The Son must be worshipped because the Father says so.
- Believes a person must hear the “gospel” from authorized INC messengers and INC ministers. They are the only ones who have God’s Holy Spirit in order for them to understand the Bible.
- Believes the official name of the church is “Iglesia ni Cristo” while other names are not.
- Believes a person must be a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), be water baptized, follow the church rules (must avoid the eating of “dinuguan,” avoid joining labor unions, avoid court sessions, do block voting, be under compulsory church attendance, practice giving to the church) and perform his good deeds as an INC member in order for him to be saved.
- Believes Felix Y. Manalo is the fulfillment of Isaiah 43:5-7; 46:11, and Rev. 7:2-3 prophecies.
- They also believe in “soul sleep,” a belief that at death, the souls dies. There is no consciousness. (A belief of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church – Ellen G. White).
George M. Lamsa
Lamsa’s strongest supporters and colleagues have (apparently) always been cultists and aberrant Christian religions, not evangelicals.
The widespread support Lamsa enjoyed from non-Christian groups is a strong indication that he promoted metaphysical, heretical, and unscholarly teachings — not evangelical and scholarly.
Lamsa developed his own cultlike following over the years. He founded the Aramaic Bible Society in 1943 to propagate his work. Four years later he founded the Calvary Missionary Church and gained a larger following through print and radio. Today the Aramaic Bible Distribution Society desires to carry on the “Lamsa work” and place a Lamsa Bible “on every pulpit and in every home.” It considers Lamsa’s life miraculous and singularly qualified to bring “Truth” to the world. Society brochures state, “We believe that long ago, God formulated a Plan — and when the time was right, He brought Lamsa into the world to begin the fulfillment of that Plan.”
While Christian scholarship has disregarded or criticized Lamsa’s work, cults and new religions often quote him in print and debate when it serves their purposes. In addition to the five groups mentioned above, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Holy Order of MANS, Christadelphianism, Iglesia ni Cristo, and Astara have all tapped Lamsa’s material. These groups have consistently quoted Lamsa in opposition to evangelical Christian beliefs, further suggesting Lamsa’s distance from the biblical faith.
On the surface, Lamsa appears to be a revealer of biblical truth and culture and a friend of evangelical Christianity. Closer study, however, has revealed that Lamsa promotes metaphysical, not evangelical teachings which have led him to inaccurate interpretations and translations of portions of the Bible. As an ambassador of Nestorian, not biblical culture, Lamsa became a cultic figure in his own right.
Although Lamsa appears to offer truth to his readers, he preaches many and severe errors instead. The biblical author Jude warned against false teachers like Lamsa who are like “clouds without water” and “autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead” which deliver the opposite of what they promise. Therefore, Christians should not receive, promote, or refer to Lamsa’s work, nor stock his books in their libraries (unless it is for the purpose of discernment ministry) or bookstores. When questions about the biblical text, culture, or Jesus’ teachings arise, one should instead refer to scholarly and evangelical books on these subjects. When cults and new religions cite Lamsa in opposition to evangelical teaching, one must “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3), exposing the lifelessness of Lamsa’s teaching and leading them to the fruit of the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
– Source: George M. Lamsa: Christian Scholar or Cultic Torchbearer?, by by John P. Juedes, Christian Research Journal, Fall 1989
As is abundantly clear, the Iglesia Ni Cristo is a cult. They deny essential historic Christian doctrine—namely the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ. They hold an almost unbreakable grip on their members and they impose a man-made path to salvation through service and works. Our Lord predicted that in the last days there would come many who claim to be Christ and lead people astray (Matthew 24:5). Thankfully he also said that the true believers would not be turned away (John 6:37).
As Christians, we must be wary of the teachings of false messiahs and cultic offshoots of Christianity, such as the Iglesia Ni Cristo. We must be well grounded in the word of God so that we can spot these purveyors of falsehood. We must also realize that the people who are trapped in these cults need the salvation that can be found in Jesus Christ—the only Son of God—just as much as we did when we were lost in our sin.
– Source: What is Iglesia ni Cristo?
- How to speak to an Iglesia ni Kristo lay member (Contra) Originally published elsewhere, this text was quoted on a discussion forum.
The following are “Iglesia minister’s lines” compiled by ex-members and associates who’ve had considerable experience in associating with the leadership and lay members of this organization. These lines activate “buttons” designed to steer away members or ‘prospects’ from re-investigating and discovering Manalo’s deceitful ‘messenger’ doctrine.
- Iglesia ni Cristo (Contra) Overview article on the Catholic Anwers website
- The Iglesia ni Cristo and Evangelical Christianity (Contra) by Ann C. Harper, Journal of Asian Mission 3/1 (2001)
- Iglesia ni Cristo in a Nutshell — Doctrines examined (Contra) by Jason Stevens, Cultic Research. Note: this ‘nutshell’ is 262 PDF pages long.
- Understanding the Iglesia Ni Cristo: What They Really Believe and How They Can Be Reached, by Anne C. Harper. Only available as a Kindle edition.
[This] meticulously researched new book by evangelical scholar Dr. Anne Harper, a Manila based missionary with Action International Ministries, describes the history, teaching, growth and development of the Iglesia ni Cristo since its founding in 1914 and explains why this group has endured for the last 100 years and why it will not likely fade away.
- Iglesia ni Cristo Forum An open forum that allows for pro- and contra- posting on the Iglesia ni Cristo.
- Forum: Iglesia ni Cristo Operated by the Bereans Apologetics Research Ministry.
Encyclopedia / Profiles
- Iglesia ni Cristo news tracker at Religion News Blog
- Tract: Iglesia Ni Cristo Online, printable comic and tract in which a Christian examines the teachings of the Iglesia Ni Cristo organization in light of the Bible. Excellent!
- Iglesia ni Cristo Caution: Official website of the InC (theologically a cult of Christianity). Included for research purposes.
- Iglesia ni Cristo (Contra) Series of articles by Mike Oppenheimer, Let Us Reason ministries
- Iglesia ni Cristo Insiders Truth Page (Contra). Archive by the Internet Archive. Some of the text is also available here. The authors of the site say, “We are an integral part of the Iglesia Ni Cristo working for a change as we work from within.”
- Iglesia ni Cristo: Fulfilled Prophecy? (Contra) An archived website.
“We are here to give the other side of the story the INC does not tell. We will show you the key weaknesses the INC ministers will quickly brush off as poor exegesis. Do not be satisfied with their answers. We urge you to look further in what we say and cross-check their explanations.”
He lives and works in Amsterdam, Netherlands, with his wife, Janet.
Anton’s interests vary from Christian apologetics to street photography. He’s a coffee connoisseur who grinds his favorite coffees with an antique, cast-iron #3 Spong for use in either a stove-top Bialetti, a french press, or the Aeropress.
Photo of the Central Temple of Iglesia ni Cristo in Quezon City, Philippines by Patrick Roque. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 License.