Hello friends. I realized that the podcast may not be as clear as I had hoped, and that some people may prefer to read than watch, so here is the text of my rebuttal to minister San Pedro’s claims made in his post. Enjoy!
San Pedro’s post attempts to define what being a true member of the Church means; i.e. not purposefully causing divisions for selfish reasons, have unwavering obedience to the Church Administration, etc. I will attempt to respond to his case in relation to what is currently happening in the Church.
Note: Every verse I am citing can be found in the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible, as it is known to be an “essentially literal” translation of the original Hebrew and Greek, and as of now stands as the most standard English translation.
Intro: Jesus Christ
My interpretation of Philippians 2:5 (NIV) is almost the same as San Pedro’s, as in one must model the behavior of Jesus Christ as explained in Philippians 2:6-11.
6 Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant being made in human likeness
8 And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
San Pedro’s overall claim is that a true member of the INC should attempt model Jesus Christ, which I can agree with.
Aside from the values San Pedro lists in his post, I will add one more. Evidently this is the most important of them all: Love. As all love comes from God as God is love: 1 John 4:7-8 “7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love not knows God, because God is love.” Being as Jesus Christ was sent by God because of his love, one should model themselves after Christ because he is essentially the embodiment of God’s love.
Allow me to define love, and why it is so important:
1 Corinthians 13 “The Way of Love”
13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Clearly, love is extremely important. Out of the three greatest human qualities of faith, hope and love, love is the greatest of them all. One who is without love is nothing.
“Humbleness, Obedience, and Love”
It is indeed true that Biblical doctrine describes Jesus Christ as the perfect person, who gave himself to be a human through his selflessness. Ultimately, his sacrifice for the sins of his people is the absolute testament to his, and ultimately God’s, love. This clearly the greatest act of selflessness; sacrificing oneself for the wellbeing of others.
Philippians 2: 1-5
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
San Pedro argues that it is selfishness that drives people to cause divisions in the Church, obviously referring to expelled ministers such as Isaias Samson and the dozens of regular members who have been expelled. He asserts that people such as these pursue their own interests, and do not think for others. As such, this justified their expulsion from the Church. He can say that, “I did not specifically write about Samson or the expelled Manalos, so this argument is written out of context.” It is however obvious of the subject he is writing about, as in many of his past posts on his Facebook page he has written on how expelled brethren, more specifically the Manalos, have made it their goal to cause divisions in the Church.
I argue that no action taken by Isaias Samson, Tenny Manalo, or any expelled member of the Church was done for selfish reasons. What selfishness was evident in the brethren who were expelled by participating in the vigil at Burlingame, California? Were they selfish in their wanting for answers from the administration whose integrity was in question? Were they selfish in their wanting for counseling for a concern that has clearly caused them to have heavy hearts? Where is the selfishness? How about Isaias Samson? Is his wanting of justice selfish? Arguably not. Every person is entitled to justice under the law. Since when is filing a lawsuit considered selfish? Or what about a distressed mother who wants to speak to her son? Is she selfish in her wanting to speak to her child? Is posting a video asking for help equate to selfishness?
Reasonable human behavior cannot just be defined as ‘selfishness’ without some explanation. Legitimate concern being met with expulsion, as seen in the dozens of members who have been expelled, is simply appalling for a church. These brethren don’t even get a chance to defend themselves before they are expelled. Where is the spiritual counsel? Where is the outreach of the administration to these brethren? It is virtually nonexistent. Is this how a Church, whose goal is to strengthen the faith of all its members, chooses to demonstrate it? Arguably, such things seem to demonstrate that the Sanggunian don’t hold the interests of their own brethren in high regard.
On obedience, we can agree that obeying God’s commandments is pretty important. I probably don’t need to cite the specific verse, as it’s pretty much a basic tenet to follow commandments. I want to cite one commandment in particular, and that is: 1 Thessalonians 5:21 21 “but test everything; hold fast what is good.” This verse is pretty logical; to discover the truth, you must test it. This was even said by Joel San Pedro’s brother, Rommel San Pedro, during a video on INC Media about the theory of evolution. In the case of the Church, it is the Sanggunian’s integrity that is being tested. Is it unreasonable? No, as anything can be questioned. There just needs to be an answer. Progress isn’t made without questions. Truth isn’t discovered without questions. So, how has the Sanggunian attempted to bring out the truth? With their most effective method; Expulsion. There’s no love in the actions the Sanggunian are undertaking. Expelling brethren for having concerns about the Church, without even a shred of consideration, is appalling for a Church that preaches love. As stated before, if one cannot show love to every person as they should, even if they have great spiritual power, they are nothing at all.
“Bringing Honor to Christ’s Name”
1) I agree that Jesus is pretty awesome and holds great significance. San Pedro argues that worship service is vital in giving glory to God and Jesus Christ, and is also the place where brethren receive true teaching. If this is so, then why are brethren being pushed out of worship service? They are essentially being denied the chance to give praise to Jesus Christ. This is once again evidence that the Sanggunian are committing unwise actions. They claim they love their fellow brethren. They claim that they want to edify their faith. They want to answer their questions. Yet, when they see brethren who only want the answers to their questions (I.e. brethren who took part in the vigil in Burlingame, etc), they were expelled? And thus denied the chance to receive spiritual counseling by the administration and during the worship service? It makes absolutely no sense at all. San Pedro can’t claim that brethren shouldn’t get out of the “habit of meeting for worship” when the brethren can’t even control that once they are expelled. I know expelled brethren who have tried to attend worship service, only to be denied entry. By doing so, they are being denied counseling, and are essentially ostracized by the community they were once part of. Their names and reputation are wrongful slandered, without the opportunity to tell the congregation their stories. The administration will do that for them.
2) Next, San Pedro argues that those who bring “internal matters” between members outside of the Church set precedent to slander the name of Jesus Christ, the one whom the Church bears the name of. His claims are a)Internal affairs should not be brought to non-Church authorities, and b) Bringing affairs to outside authorities will slander the name of Jesus Christ.
Here’s why that is misinterpreted:
The translation of the verse that San Pedro uses, 1 Corinthians 6:4, is incomplete without the first three verses. Here:
1 Corinthians 6:1-4 “When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church?”
Note the important word used to describe the cases here; “Trivial.” What is meant by trivial? Trivial is defined as being of little value of importance. Essentially, we should resolve matters of little value with those with standing in the Church. Easy question; is illegal detention “trivial?” If you answered yes, please take some time to reassess your core values. The answer is obviously no. Illegal detention is a violation of human rights, one that cannot be simply handled with religious authorities. In the context of 2000 years ago, I can reasonably assume that a trivial case would be being cheated during a purchase or exchange of goods, or my donkey dying when it fell into a pit someone dug. It’s only logical that the nature of the dispute will lead to an appropriate means of solving it. Civil law is civil law, and even the Bible states that one must adhere to the laws of the land in Romans 13:1-5. Even Apostle Paul himself resorted to the law when he was wrongfully arrested as a Roman citizen in Acts 16: 37-40.
Next, keeping internal affairs internal for the sake of saving face is the most abusive logic I have ever heard. This essentially sets precedent for a church to hid heinous crimes from legal authorities to prioritize the reputation. Question. if someone or some peoples within the Church are committing crimes that slander the name of Jesus Christ, isn’t it only logical that such crimes be brought forth and judged? It’s like having a house that looks really nice on the outside, but is an absolute mess on the inside. Saying that all internal affairs should be kept within the Church is a preposterous notion.
Ironically, the members of the Church in the Philippines already made it an external affair by marching at EDSA. The Church was even the first one who filed two lawsuits against ministers for libel. Such hypocrisy. You don;t have to worry about expelled members slandering the name of the Church, as you already did it yourselves.
“Understanding the Work of the Administration”
San Pedro claims that it is the Church Administration tasked with maintaining the unity of the brethren. The example he cites is found in 1 Corinthian 1: 10-13; 10 I appeal to you, brothers,[a] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? “
In this verse, Apostle Paul observes how the Church split into different factions , placing their ministers at the head of these factions. We read them crying up Paul, or Apollos, or Peter. Paul beseeches the brethren to avoid divisions, and just as Christ was not divided, the members should not be divided. The consequence is that doctrine will eventually differ from the truth, leading to a structural and doctrinal schism. As seen today, the most obvious replication of this is seen in the Church of Christ. Whilst Jesus Christ and God still have a place in the recent chants of the members of the Church, they were largely shadowed by the chants of, “We are One with EVM!” In the more recent videos by INC Media, all the brethren rave about is how they are one with the Church Administration, and more specifically, Eduardo V. Manalo. They even have huge posters with a fingerprint donning INC colors saying, “I Am One With EVM” in huge letters, whilst Jesus Christ and God have a tiny place at the top. This is pretty much a replication of what happened with the Philippian members. If San Pedro’s claim that the administration is the one entrusted with keeping the members united in common understanding, then why does the administration have a bigger place in their battle cries than Jesus Christ, who sacrificed his life for the Church?
“Being Like-Minded in Caring for the Church”
In the last part of his post, San Pedro claims that the Church Administration make decisions to better the welfare of the Church, and as such all of its members should unquestionable submit to it.
If the members of the Church remain completely like-minded to the decisions of the Church, you get things like the EDSA rally, which was a complete embarrassment to the Church in virtually every way. It showed everyone that the members of the Church blindly follow its leaders without any knowledge of what exactly they were doing. One brother who was interviewed had no idea what he was there for, but his minister told him to go, so he went. The manner of which the brethren conducted themselves under the guidance of the administration did nothing to benefit the welfare of the Church. It showed those outside of the Church that the brethren have no knowledge of the gospel when it came to obeying legal authorities, no knowledge of what their own laws were, and overall conducted themselves in a way that one person even described as cultish. The administration even lied to the brethren that the agreement with the Philippine government was a victory for the Church, and these brethren still aren’t fazed? They still think that the Administration made the right call when they told everyone to hold this rally?
Secondly, I already addressed that God doesn’t always appoint benevolent authorities. We should not be shocked, because we know that it is all part of his plan to benefit the peoples he is trying to help. Likewise, we should not be shocked when even our religious authorities display ungodly behaviors. Look at Jesus’ disciple, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus Christ and instigated his crucifixion. What we should take note however, that without Judas, Christ would not have died for the sins of his people, so Judas being ungodly worked out in the end. Just like today, ungodly authorities have a place, as they only serve to bring out a greater good in the end.
Feel free to share your thoughts!