Is Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) the Church from the Far East or Far West?

One of the favorite verses used by the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) to buttress its claim that the Catholic Church apostasized after the death of the apostles and the reemergence of the true Church in the Far East is Isaiah (43:5-6):

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back’. Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” (New International Version)

Moffatt Translation: “From the far east will I bring your offspring, and from the far west I will gather you.” (emphasis ours)

Today’s English Version: “Do not be afraid—I am with you! From the dis­tant east and the farthest west I will bring your people home.” (emphasis ours)

as quoted by Marlex C. Cantor of INC-Pasugo.

But we must note that Isaiah is a Jew and his prophecies are meant for the Jewish people.  if we look at the Isaiah passage carefully, we see that the text simply says that the Jews, after their diaspora, will be gathered again from all the four corners of the world: East, West, North, and South.  This in fact happenned after their Babylonian captivity in 586 BC and their subsequent return in 538 BC, as recorded in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah.  This also happenned again after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Romans and the return of the Jews to form the State of Israel in May 14, 1948.   Thus, the passage in Isaiah speaks of the gathering up of the Jews after their diaspora and not the formation of Iglesia ni Cristo in the Far East.

Why do the INC insist in the Far East?  If we follow the Moffatt translation, the new Church of Christ could also have been in the Far West.  And Far North and Far South, for that matter, for these places must also “give up” the sons of Israel.

In the passage of Isaiah, the center of the world is in Israel: everything else is determined with respect to it–East and West, North and South.  When INC tries to apply that passage to the modern era, the division of the world into East and West is not anymore centered on Jerusalem, but somewhere between Rome (the Western Roman Empire) and Byzantium or Constantinople  (The Eastern Roman Empire)–now in Istanbul, Turkey.  Great Britain, a western civilization, became an worldwide empire in the Modern Age and the terms Near East, Middle East, and Far East was invented, still with respect to the old boundaries of the Old Roman Empires:

The term Far East was popularized in the English language during the period of the British Empire as a blanket term for lands to the east of British India. Prior to World War I, the Near East referred to relatively nearby lands of the Ottoman Empire, Middle East to northwestern South Asia and Central Asia, and Far East for countries along the western Pacific Ocean and countries along the eastern Indian Ocean.(Wikipedia)

The Eastern and Western Roman Empires were two halves of the Roman Empire under Theodosius I, who made Catholicism as the empire’s official religion.  Thus, if INC insists that it rose from the Far East, then INC accepts the division of the world defined by Christians in general and Catholics in particular.  INC is not a Christian church, since it denies the divinity of Christ.  INC is closer to Islam, who claims that “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.”  For INC, “There is no God but the God of Jesus, Jesus is his prophet, and Manalo is his last prophet.”

Reply to Iglesia ni Cristo: Prohibiting priests to marry and abstinence from meats are doctrines of demons?

Marlex C. Cantor wrote an article in INC-Pasugo, “The Church After the Time of the Apostles, the fourth of six parts”.  In this article, Cantor said that there are two doctrines of the devil which is embraced by the Catholic Church, proving that the Catholic Church apostasized after the time of the Apostles:

  1. Forbidding priests to marry
  2. Abstinence from meats

Cantor did not give the reason why, but a fellow INC member who commented on my blog post, “Is Iglesia ni Cristo the Church of Christ?” said that the proof is in the First Book of Timothy:

Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the last times some will turn away from the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and demonic instructions through the hypocrisy of liars with branded consciences. They forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Tim 4:1-3)

REPLY: Marriage and Priestly Celibacy

1. The Catholic Church does not forbid marriage, because one of its Sacraments is Marriage or Matrimony. Celibacy is not a doctrine but a disciplinary rule for priests in the Latin-Rite (Roman) Catholic Church; in Byzantine-Rite Catholic Church, married priests are the norm, but bishops are normally unmarried. St. Paul himself encourages celibacy:

“To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion” (1 Cor 7:8-9).

The Roman Catholic Church wishes its priests not to marry so that they can follow Christ more closely by renouncing marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven:

[His] disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”
He answered, “Not all can accept [this] word, 8 but only those to whom that is granted.
Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” (Mt 19:11-12)

What Paul refers to in the teaching of demons which forbid marriage are those of the gnostic sects  like Manichaeans who thinks that matter is evil and spirit is good:

Manichaeans Laity (Hearers or Listeners) were allowed to marry but were encouraged to practice birth control. The Elect (Monks & Nuns) were forbidden to enter into worldly forms of householder marriage. (The Order of Nazorean Essenes)

REPLY: Fasting and Abstinence

2. The phrase “abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” refer to the issue of abstinence from meat offered to idols in the time of Paul. Concerning this issue, Paul said:

“Eat anything sold in the market, without raising questions on grounds of conscience, for “the earth and its fullness are the Lord’s.” If an unbeliever invites you and you want to go, eat whatever is placed before you, without raising questions on grounds of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This was offered in sacrifice,” do not eat it on account of the one who called attention to it and on account of conscience; I mean not your own conscience, but the other’s. For why should my freedom be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake thankfully, why am I reviled for that over which I give thanks? So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Avoid giving offense, whether to Jews or Greeks or the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved. (1 Cor 10:25-33)

But during Lent, the Church commemorates the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Before his death, Christ told his disciples:

“So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. 26 The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mt 26:40-41)

To overcome the tests or temptations of the devil, Christ fasted for forty days and forty nights (Mt 4:2) But the disciples were not able to, not even just to pray with Jesus for one hour. So when the trial came and Jesus was arrested, all them fled and Peter even denied Jesus three times. Fasting (not eating a meal) has a function: it strengthens our spirit against temptations. If we could not fast, the second best thing to do is to refrain from eating what we love to eat, and that is meat (you can still eat fish). The Catholic Church is prudent that it prescribes abstinence from meat all Fridays of the year and fasting only during certain days of Lent (only one full meal for the whole day). The money saved by the person from his fasting and abstinence he then gives as alms to beggars or to charitable institutions.

As an aside, even modern culture have realized the value of fasting and abstinence, not for spiritual reasons, but for keeping ourselves healthy: fasting and abstinence from meat removes excess body fat.