By Jane Abao
An international evangelist, considered as the most queried man on earth today reiterated his need to face his powerful nemesis in a one-on-one debate on television live. Also counted as the most sensible preacher of our time today, his challenge is not one to be easily dismissed. Some quarters look at this challenge as a spur to the debate of the century long expected by those familiar with this preacher.
Filipino evangelist Bro. Eliseo Soriano who had exiled himself for expediency, reiterated today (23/1/2008) his challenge to a church leader of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC, translated as Church of Christ) to come out in the open so that this man could defend his teachings. Soriano had been very critical of false preachers ever since, most especially those of the INC.
Eraño Manalo, the Executive Minister of the INC, one whom Soriano calls a false preacher, has been ignoring Soriano’s call for a debate. Soriano is the presiding minister of the Church of God, International, better known through their program, as Ang Dating Daan (The Old Path) by the public.
Eraño is the son of Felix Manalo, founder of the INC. He is politically a kingmaker in the Philippines for his bloc-voting congregation and is much sought after by politicians for help come election time.
Soriano, 61, left the Philippines in a hurry towards the end of 2005 when conditions turned sour to his interests as preacher, on the belief that Manalo had much to do with the string of cases maliciously filed against him. Word had reached the evangelist of impending events to happen. As he did not want anyone of his people to be sacrificed if they defended him, Soriano left the country upon advice of his security personnel.
A formal challenge to debate with Manalo was published by Soriano in one whole page of the broadsheet, Manila Times, in March 2005. The intention was to end once and for all the contentions between them and to let the public see who among them was telling the truth.
However, the INC Executive Minister Manalo merely told Soriano through his ministers in their TV program, Ang Tamang Daan (The Right Path), to debate with the Pope of Rome first and speak Latin before attempting to debate with him.
Ang Tamang Daan is an INC counterfeit of Ang Dating Daan (The Old Path), Soriano’s long running program which has won several awards. For the nth time, Soriano who has been based abroad for two years now is reiterating the call for debate with Manalo.
In a bible exposition where the interactive portion, “Ask Bro. Eli” was held today at Marinduque, south of Manila, via satellite from the United States, Soriano who is called Bro. Eli, has been challenged by a minister of the Iglesia ni Cristo or INC to explain why Soriano kept referring to his church as Iglesia ni Manalo (Church of Manalo). Soriano replied that there are so many churches of Christ but it is only the INC who refers to Christ as man and that he never was God at any time. Therefore, to make a distinction that the church of Christ he was referring to is the one that believes in Christ as man, Soriano had to refer to this group as Iglesia ni Manalo, he said.
Further, Soriano reasoned out that the Wesleyans did not find it offensive if their church was referred to as the Church of Wesley, just as the Mormons and the Aglipays did not feel slighted when they were referred to as the Mormon church or the Aglipayan church. Soriano also showed some documents on screen for the audience to see that Felix Manalo, the founder of this church, referred to the Iglesia ni Cristo as “my church.”
Piqued with the preacher’s answer, the minister of the INC (name unidentified to the audience) insisted that he could debate with Soriano at that very moment, but the latter countered that he must have the authority of Manalo first. The minister claimed that Soriano had been evading debate with his group, to which Soriano retorted that he was the one who had long been challenging Manalo to come out in the open and defend his teachings. He also warned the INC minister not to reverse the truth.
Answering from his seat abroad where is he based, Soriano said in a raised voice, “It is I who kept calling for Manalo to come out in the open and debate with me. Don’t you dare reverse the truth.”
As published in Wikipedia, “Eliseo Soriano posted a paid advertisement in Manila Times broadsheets and invited the camp of Iglesia ni Cristo in a one on one debate and discussion. The Iglesia ni Cristo answered Soriano on their program by asking him to debate first with Pope John Paul II which was bedridden at that time and died a few days after this was posted.”
The INC minister, who was tagged as the 14th inquirer in the “Ask Bro. Eli” portion of the program that night, walked out of the hall after failing to get what he wanted. As he left the hall, many of his followers took after him that several seats were vacated up front. However, even as the INC group left, there was excitement in the air.
It is nights like this that the audience becomes excited whenever one would dare challenge Bro. Eli. Until now, it is said, no one has proven this man wrong when it comes to biblical matters. His work history is one tracked with many exciting debates – with the losers leaving in bitterness after their erroneous teachings were exposed. Bro. Eli does not flinch whenever he comes face to face with false preachers, it is said. The INC are not excluded from the many fiery attacks of this evangelist.
It was evident that the inquirer was not there to ask questions on matters of faith or salvation but to register his angst and anger against the host for labeling their church as Iglesia ni Manalo.
Eliseo Soriano comes off as the most queried man on earth today. Working initially with Filipino audiences wherever they could be found, he had expanded on to international audiences. In his program, “Ask Bro Eli,” he is asked several questions ranging from relationships, to dreams, to ailments, to spiritual concerns, to management, to governance, to deep matters of truth, and he would answer by reading direct from the bible.
Each month, Soriano’s program gives off an average of 10 bible expositions where about 20 complex questions in each are asked and he would give long comprehensive answers. Each month, therefore, Soriano’s program that is held in the evening up to midnight could reap about 200-250 questions and each year, about 2,500 questions. The program had started its heydays in the radio then. Most of the questions are those not answered by the pastors of the inquirers. They included questions about idols, spirits, prayers, death, tithing, the real Jesus Christ, resurrection, judgment day, living, God the father, false preachers.
“Ask Bro. Eli ” has long been showcasing Soriano’s prowess in answering questions where most of the inquirers were enlightened and had joined Soriano’s faith – not excluding those from the Iglesia ni Cristo.
Soriano is now facing multiple charges in the Philippines filed by the Iglesia ni Cristo and its sympathizers – all of them arising from his work as evangelist. The witnesses are either those Soriano had excommunicated from his congregation for various offenses, public officials who had benefited from the bloc-voting practices of the INC, and even those who stood to gain from the filed cases.
The impact of the evangelist’s work has drastically reduced the membership of Manalo’s church that heavily depended on tithing – which practice Soriano has been preaching against. Tithing according to him is merely Mosaic law that is not applicable to Christians today.
Wanting to continue with his mission as one in a hurry, Soriano tries yet to be safe from those who would want his downfall. With his impressive humanitarian work of caring for the helpless of Philippine society, he feels he is not being given the justice due a Filipino citizen.
In one of the many earlier discussions of Soriano on Biblical topics, he had intimated that the last war to be fought will be a war between truth and evil.
Soriano had earlier filed a case with the International Human Rights Commission.