I was disturbed of what I learned. Someone had fooled me for a very long time, or maybe my brother was just uninformed, and the questions lingered for as long as I remember.
By Mark Anthony Serrano
As I recollect the past, a longing feeling saddens my heart. I was young and naive when my mother left me. She left because she was in pain, and she never returned because God took her. When my mother was still alive, she was my teacher and taught me about God. Before she passed, she left me a bible. I read it every day and every night–looking for reasons, but the questions just lingered for as long as I remember.
My father was a drunkard. I remember one day he was beaten up in front of my own eyes because he disrespected someone. He received death threats, and it led him to move to the province. After three years he returned as a changed man. He was no longer a drunkard but a bible reader. He attributed his change to the INCM (Iglesia ni Cristo ni Manalo), but it was all a fleeting change. After a couple of months, he returned to his old ways. His transformation was all but an illusion, but regrettably I also became an INCM member.
When I was baptized in INCM, a female church worker advised our group to watch for a certain preacher. The name is Brother Eli Soriano. In her own words, she said “Manood kayo sa Channel 13, kay Eli Soriano. Sa atin iyon!” (Watch Channel 13, the program of Eli Soriano. That is ours!) From that moment on, it was stuck in my mind that Bro. Eli Soriano was an INCM. I wondered what was special about him, but the questions lingered for as long as I remember.
Years passed, and I had this dream. In my dream I saw a man sitting on a giant rock. His face was hidden from me. He spoke with authority and said, “All your questions are already answered in the Bible,” and a metaphor was given to me to be wary against people with evil intentions. I was puzzled and asked myself, “What does this dream mean? Who has all the answers? Is the Bible really that complete?” And the questions lingered for as long as I remember.
In 1996, I migrated to the United States and lived with my uncle, a Catholic devotee. He forced me to participate in the Catholic mass, although back then I still considered myself a member of the INCM. At the same time, I was also a fan of religious debates. Often I spent my time in chatrooms–debating and proving that Jesus Christ was just a man and nothing more. This was my belief then.
In 2000 I parted ways from my uncle and moved back to the Philippines. I have a younger brother who at that time had been watching the “Ang Dating Daan” program. By chance I saw Bro. Eli Soriano speaking on the television. I boldly told my brother “Hindi mo ba alam na Iglesia ni Cristo iyan,” (Didn’t you know that, that man is a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo?). My brother vehemently corrected me stating that Bro. Eli Soriano was never an INCM. I was disturbed of what I learned. Someone had fooled me for a very long time, or maybe my brother was just uninformed, and the questions lingered for as long as I remember.
I have an uncle who was a former drug addict who had lived with vices all of his life, but he was an avid fan of the “Ang Dating Daan” radio program. He had some insecurity that prevented him from leaving his faith. But he wished to become a member of Bro. Eli’s group. I helped him overcome his insecurities by going with him to Apalit. However, it was the day I started disliking the Ang Dating Daan doctrines. It started when I heard the teaching that it’s better to remain unmarried. At that time I just had a break-up, so it was painful to hear such advice. I had decided not to listen to the Ang Dating Daan program anymore.
However, I still could not avoid listening to Bro. Eli because my uncle kept tuning in to the Ang Dating Daan program. This was the time when the discussion between Ang Dating Daan and INCM started to gain traction. In my heart I was still pro-INCM then, but I was also a man of logic. Whenever Bro. Eli would respond back against the accusations of the INCMs, my heart refuses to accept, but my mind kept telling me he was right, and there was an inner battle, and it all began from here.
One year had passed when I decided to return back to the US to continue my studies. At that time I was still not fully convinced of the Ang Dating Daan. One day I was participating in a religious debate against a Baptist regarding the true nature of Christ. As former INCM member, I firmly defended that Christ was just a man and nothing else, but I also believed that God cannot be tempted. The Baptist asked me, “Did Christ fall to temptation?” I replied, “No”. He followed through, “If God cannot be tempted and Christ cannot be tempted, then Christ is God?” For some reason this debate had led to a spark of thinking, and in my mind a seed of doubt had sprouted. I said to myself, “Christ cannot be tempted, and so is God. Therefore there are two Gods?” However, being a proud INCM, I did not accept defeat. I had to make excuses, but deep in my mind the questions lingered for as long as I remember.
The following day I’ve started reassessing myself and my belief. Maybe the doctrine of Trinity is true? But that couldn’t be. Maybe there is the doctrine of duality–there are two Gods? So I thought maybe the Ang Dating Daan was right after all. So I thought I would debate again and pretend I am a member of the Ang Dating Daan to see how their doctrines will fare against other teachings. To my surprise, from atheists to Baptists, no one was able to refute the teachings. But I wanted more like someone gravely thirsty for water, and this led me to seek for more. I want to be indoctrinated.
Back then we still had an IRC-based chatroom named #angdatingdaan. I visited our chatroom and told the Admins I was an INCM member and would like to participate in the indoctrination, but no one would entertain me seriously. Maybe it was because they are accustomed to chatting in Tagalog and here comes a stranger who keeps chatting in English. Or maybe because I was an INCM and they were afraid of me being an insider, but I did not cease asking. On the third day, I had managed to convince them, and finally we scheduled the indoctrination sessions. With God’s help I was baptized in the Church of God in Los Angeles in 2003.
As a member of the true church, my eyes were opened and I learned numerous things. My knowledge grew. I was no longer the man who believed that Christ is just a man. In the church all my questions were answered fully, and it dawned to me the meaning of my dream. The answers are already written, and I have kept them in my heart. Thanks be to God!