Is Iglesia ni Cristo the Church of Christ?

Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, S.J., during one of our walks years ago, told us: “The Iglesia ni Cristo is neither a church nor of Christ.” It is worthwhile to ponder on his words as Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) celebrates its 95th Anniversary last July 27, 2009–95 years after Felix Y. Manalo made the INC into a corporation with him as the executive minister last July 27, 1914.

A true church of Christ has four marks: one, holy, Catholic, apostolic (c.f. Catechism of the Catholic Church Art. 811 ).   If one of this does not hold, then the Iglesia ni Cristo is a false church of Christ.

1.  Is the Iglesia ni Cristo one?  The INC is is united in doctrine and even in voting. No wonder many politicians who wished to be reelected this coming 2010 elections are all congratulating INC in its 95th anniversary. The INC passed the first test.

2.  Is the Iglesia ni Cristo holy?  The Catholic Church has produced numerous saints: beggars and kings, scholars and soldiers, old and young.  Can the INC name at least one–only one–person in all its history whom they consider as a saint, a man or woman worthy of emulation, whose life reflected the radical message of the gospel–a Mother Teresa, an Ignatius of Loyola, a Francis of Assisi?  The INC can give none.

3.  Is the Iglesia ni Cristo catholic?  Catholicity simply means universal.  The INC is universal in space: the INC is now found in many countries and its mission is to convert the whole world.  But the INC is not universal in time:  where was INC in the first centuries of Christianity, when the truths of the Faith were debated and clarified?  The INC was not there.  It is true that INC proclaims an affinity with the teachings of Bishop Arius (AD 250-336), the founder of Arianism, a heresy which denies the divinity of Christ.  But between Arius and Manalo is 1,600  years of absence.

Catholic also means “according to totality” or “in keeping with the whole” (Catechism of the Catholic Church Art. 830):

The Catholic Church is catholic because Christ is present in her.  “Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church.”  In her subsists the fullness of Christ’s body united with its head; this implies that she receives from him “the fullness of the means of salvation” which he has willed: correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry of apostolic succession.  The Church was, in this fundamental sense, catholic on the day of Pentecost and will always be so until the day of Parousia.

The INC also claims this catholicity, for they also adopt the following catholic doctrine:

Ouside the church there is no salvation.

I remembered one of INC’s television show called Tamang Daan, the Right Way in contrast to Eli Soriano’s Datin Daan or the Old Way.  In their show, one of INC’s argument to support their doctrine is a quotation from a catholic author: “Outside the Church of Christ there is no salvation.”  The two INC ministers–always two since two is the sign of Socratic dialogue for knowing the truth–will tell the readers that the text they are quoting has the imprimatur of the Catholic Church.  Then they make a twist of Faith: translate this sentence in Filipino and you will see that “Outside Iglesia ni Cristo there is no salvation.” Oh, what a proof.

4.  Is the Iglesia ni Cristo apostolic? To be apostolic, the INC must be founded by an apostle, in the same way as the Roman Catholic Church was founded by Apostles Peter and Paul. But the fact that INC only celebrated its 95th founding anniversary means that INC could never be founded by an apostle.  An apostle was a person sent by Christ with the authority to preach the Kingdom of God (c.f. Mt 10).  The apostles in turn ordained bishops and gave them authority to govern the church, as Timothy was ordained by Paul through the laying of the hands:

Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the presbyterate. (1 Tim 4:14)

And these bishops in turn ordain new bishops to take their place.  The Roman Catholic Church, for example, is apostolic because it traces its apostolic lineage from St. Peter, the first bishop of Rome, to the present pope, Pope Benedict XVI.  But who ordained Manalo?  Who laid hands on him?  No one.  He ordained himself.  Oh, I made a mistake.  Protestant pastors ordained him (full story by Emily Jordan).  But INC never recognizes the Protestant faith.  Mainline Protestants at least believes on the Divinity of Christ, which the INC reject. This itself poses a question on the validity of the Manalo’s ordination.  (The validity of the Protestant minister’s apostolic succession is a separate issue.)  So effectively, no one ordained Manalo.  He ordained himself.

5.  Thus, the Iglesia ni Cristo posesses only one mark of the true Church of Christ: it is one, but it is not holy, nor catholic, nor apostolic.  Let us not be deceived.  Not all those who are named Manny Pacquiao can box like the real Manny Pacquiao.  Not all those who calls themselves the Church of Christ or Iglesia ni Cristo is the true Church of Christ.  Only the Catholic Church is.  The Church of Iglesia ni Cristo is a false church, an Anti-Church.  The Christ of Iglesia ni Cristo is an Arian idol, an Anti-Christ.  Let us not be deceived.