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Protestant/ Evangelical/ Pentecostal Influences in the Development of a Filipino Christian Faith

Warning:  The following is an exceptionally long journal entry last December 2003.  I might as well publish it now for interested readers and not after my wife leafs through my journal when I'm six feet under.

This is a culmination in part of my thoughts back then and is liberally interlaced with personal opinions, study, observation and learning as an active part-time youth minister and working law student passionate about a Scripturally-based, life-changing and nation-building Filipino Christian Faith.

It is my sincere hope that this will help those who, like me, are in a continuous  process of digging into the depths of the joy, peace and incomprehensible greatness of our LORD.  These are some truths that re-focused my life and has been directing it ever since.

I hope that this will not be construed as a calculated offense against one tradition and the exaltation of another but as a stimulus to read Scriptures and establish a living personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Here goes...

December 30, 2003b
9:52 AM, Tuesday

            Manoy Buboy's wedding is about to start here at the Cathedral of Saint Gregory the Great in Albay.  Only Uncle Jaime, Auntie Fatima and Manoy Julius are present.  Too bad Manoy Jonathan, an Oakwood detainee, is not present to witness his brother's wedding.

The Cathedral of St. Gregory the Great in Albay, Philippines with Mayon Volcano complementing the composition.


      I am no longer accustomed to the freely circulating air in large domed and vaulted church buildings such as the one I'm sitting in right now due to ten years of attending mostly small rented rectangular halls or rented gymnasiums for evangelical services.  Although the church atmosphere is still familiar, and despite the presence of images and embellishments on the walls, halls, windows, corners and ceilings, God still seems so aloof, unreachable and impersonal -  similar to a government officer hidden behind decorated bureaucratic curtains, cubicles, grills, rules and protocols. 

            I do not discount the fact, though, that there are some religious who feel otherwise; that there are those who emotionally feel an other-worldliness in this atmosphere.  Still, I humbly pose a question to the sincere religious:  Is this feeling translated into a change in every aspect of one's thought-life and daily living?   Is this translated into a total submission to God in every detail of life and in every pattern of sin that could, as it should, change one down from a dishonest government clerk to a corrupt, womanizing Congessman, or preclude a kidnapper from his pre-meditated designs, or a vendor from cheating scales, or a cop from collecting his self-legislated street tax, or Juan from crossing the street when the traffic light is red, or Nena from inordinately disposing of her sari-sari store's trash?  Does he or she feel the victory of Christ's acts and God's sovereign will as elucidated by Paul in his excellent letter to the Romans? 
            Come to think of it, have there been a lot of priests or religious leaders in the church expound, or even just mention, the glorious and incomprehensible liberation and triumph of the Christian as written in the books of Romans, Hebrews, Ephesians and Galatians?  Why the silence on the very same discourses written specifically to reveal the glories of God's mysteries?  Or is it for the very reason that there are clear, express, and unequivocal teachings set forth in these and other books of Scripture that are too difficult to submit to?

            I recall how the church in the middle ages prevented and punished those who promoted a reading of scripture by the masses.  I suppose the goal of that suppression of understanding for the retention of ignorance was akin to the Philippine Friars' centuries long suppression of education to the Indio, or of the denial of suffrage and education of women everywhere, even up to this century in some lands.

            I don't think I am the only Filipino with that perception so I wonder why Filipinos still patronize the church.  Is it simply because they are in the majority in this country, thus they think they could not therefore be wrong?  Is the great majority always right?   Is the democratic majority plus one always legally, ethically, morally, or spiritually correct? 

            The problem is when you're in the majority you may not perceive any real threat or you may not even care if you may actually be a majority in the wrong.  After all, "How could 84% of 85 million people be wrong?" one may ask.  And if they are really wrong is it of great consequence to them?  Could a loving God as we know Him, really, seriously and righteously send this number (or even just half or a fraction of it) to an eternal lake of fire and brimstone "where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched"?  “Definitely not!” they may exclaim.  But what is the authority upon which they base their thoughts and assumptions?  Even a cursory reading of the Old Testament and some parts of the New Testament will shed some light to the open and seeking mind.

             On the other hand, I also wonder how many evangelicals are tempted to reintegrate with the big church  because of the large number of heirs to the widely accepted and comfortable society and traditions that are void of Scriptural basis.

             It is a fact that there are numbers who join the "born-again"/evangelical fold but after some time silently fall back and cut flanks.  These may be due to several factors ranging from the personal (such as a flood of family problems either directed by Satan and his minions or a test from God designed to improve one's character), the practical (a poor believer finds more sources of credit in the larger church and evangelicals tend to forget the physical needs of human beings); psycho-social (this holds the bulk of the sense of "belongingness" through participation in community traditions like fiestas, infant baptisms, holidays for the commemoration of the dead, etc. -- all of which are almost institutionally and structurally void in evangelicalism -- although the evangelical fellowship is deeper and more intimate than the larger community events abovementioned); and doctrinal (as the Biblical  teachings that the gate to God's kingdom is narrow and that of destruction is wide, the parable of the sower, and the cost of following Christ, etc.)

             "But why not?" someone may raise a counter-question.  After all, it is honestly difficult to deny that belonging and walking through churches such as this conjures a strong romantic sense of "Filipino-ness".   Being Roman Catholic is being Filipino just as being Protestant is being American; or to be Thai is to be Buddhist, or to be born Arab or Malay or Indonesian is to be a Muslim.  I guess the logic does not hold for the American example due to changes brought by waves of immigration, modernism and post-modernism or due to revisionism’s erasure of American Protestant foundations.

Gradual Influences

             As I reverently gaze around and observe the physical and liturgical changes in the church, I could not but see and recall the catalytic role of the Protestant Reformation and this century’s evangelical and pentecostal movements.  Examples of these are the adoption of songs, programs and even religious terminologies and language.

            Looking at the altar and remembering others I’ve seen lately, I notice a uniform change of the Crucifix.  That symbol of a defeated Christ (as sensed by evangelicals) displays the Catholic attitude of gradual adoption of change.  Gradual because they just didn’t realize this before or they may have just been unwilling to openly accept that they are wrong.  They may only make incremental changes to prevent or arrest loss of confidence in the church. 

            The crucifix has long been an image of a nailed Jesus Christ.  Now it is still a three-dimensional representation of a romanticized Christ with the exception that the Christ is no longer fastened and nailed on His cross.  His hands are now free and a light cloth is draped over his torso, depicting a now victorious Saviour.  The iconoclasm is still present, but Christ is already free and no longer in agony.

            The instances of change may be an unconscious adoption on the part of a number who, when  asked about such matters, would not know that these in fact are foreign influences adopted in either or a combination of two ways: (1) a reaction to the loss of adherents and/or (2) sincere adoption aimed at improvement and renewal.

            Reading through time, one will see that the issues raised, fought for, defended and even died for, from the period prior to the reformation (John Hus, John Wycliffe, etc.) and during and following the reformation (Luther, Calvin, etc.), have been outrightly denied and opposed by the established Church during those times have been actually but slowly adopted through time.  Things that were not done and adopted during the era when they were actually raised were eventually incorporated in Catholic belief and practice.  Prescription does not lie against the State, I guess the principle is made to apply to the church as well.

             A Lot of those said issues are already accepted, if not institutionalized in the church today.  In one sense this can be viewed as one of history's ways of showing how correct the reformers/evangelicals were in the first place.  It also indicates that despite opposition, evangelicals continue to act as salt and light of the earth -- influencing the thought-life and practice even of those who are unaware of such influences.

            One example of this influence is the focus on the Bible.  There was a long period of time that the Bible was a prohibited reading for ordinary men and women especially in their own native tongue.  This has changed mainly because of the Reformation and Evangelical witness.  "Heretics"/ Protestants like Wycliffe died and were put to death in their efforts toward this end.  They lived and died believing that God's word is for the instruction and edification of every believer regardless of social status and education, hence, should be readily available to everyone, translated into their mother tongue as much as possible.  At present, Evangelicals through Bible societies and translators still lead in these endeavors.

A Bible in Every Language

            Sola Scriptura - this has been one of the concise battle cries of the Evangelical faith that is inarguably not subject to compromise just as some relations and acts in a State are not subject to stipulations or waiver due to a declared public policy.

            No one is above Scripture.  It is the ultimate source of belief and practice; and it is the only positive, objective, final -- hence, inerrant -- declaration of its Sovereign source, Who alone is infallible.

            No man, no matter how righteous and intelligent he may appear, can claim near equality to the written, inspired word.  Paul even wrote about his open and vehement rebuke of Peter (whom Roman Catholics believe to be the first Pope, infallible ex cathedra) in his letter to the Galatian believers in order to heavily punctuate that the Christian faith is founded not on mere human personalities, aspirations, opinions and hypotheses.  Paul also severely writes to the Galatian believers "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!"

            This ascription of supreme authority and reliability on the written word can be likened to our own country's Constitution.  The Constitution is one rigid, supreme document that defines and holds the country together.  It sets forth its broad scope in a beautiful Preamble and goes to every possible detail in the constitution of government and the laying of personal rights as well as duties and obligations.   It embodies the will of the Sovereign people.  Hence, no one is above it.  It bears the stamp of the Sovereign -- the people -- in its creation, hence, only the same Sovereign can amend, suspend or entirely change it. 

            No privileged class nor individual can ever be above it - not even the President nor the Chief Justice himself despite being the primus in a tribunal that has ultimate say on matters of constitutional interpretation.  Everything must yield in the light of its express provisions.  No law, regulation, proclamation, decree, or executive order, is above it -- not even when these are written or raised with good intentions and under reasonable, noble or ideal terms.  No Court sits and exists apart from the Constitution.  All executive acts must be guided and directed by it.  All statutes must flow from, and never beyond it.  It is THE  law of the land, covering it's physical and legal dominion.

            God's Word is written by inspiration of God the Sovereign Himself, and Him being the Sovereign author, there could be no argument as to who has the power to amend, suspend or entirely change His Word.  It is THE  law of the universe, which is the scope of God's dominion or "jurisdiction". 

            It is of great comfort that this Sovereign, unlike the human sovereign of a human Constitution, is:

(1)  Omniscient, hence cannot commit mistakes;

(2)  Omnipotent, hence wielding power to effectively enforce His words;

(3)  Omnipresent, hence can see to it that His Word does not return to Him void;

(4)  Holy and just, hence we are assured that no provision in His Word is designed to oppress the poor and no provision is founded on ill-motive;

(5)  Perfect, all-encompassing (plenary), and eternal, hence His Word does not contain mistakes and the provisions therein need no amendments as human Constitutions need in order to adjust to the changing times. 

            His infinite wisdom coupled with the above-mentioned attributes renders the idea of an amendment, to borrow from legal parlance, "superfluous", "moot and academic" or outright inapplicable.

Hymns and Worship Music

            Another example of evangelical influence is that lively, victorious singing such as King David's singing and dancing were not sung before.  I could even remember a time when Born-Again worship were frowned upon and laughed at.  Now, that is passing away.  Things formerly thought of as weird, such as the raising of hands in worship, are changing.  The greatest hymns and songs sung even by Catholics now were penned by great Protestants (Amazing Grace - John Newton; Hark the Herald Angels Sing - Charles Wesley, El Shaddai - Michael Card, etc.).  Famous contemporary Christian as well as praise and worship songs are widely Evangelical/Pentecostal (Hillsong, Don Moen, Chris Tomlin, Ron Kenoly, etc.). 

            If only Filipino Roman Catholics took time to investigate the changes in the church, or the songs, language and programs they are embracing, then they would see the sources of these in Bible-based Evangelicalism.

Since I didn't have any part  in the wedding ceremony, my only real participation during Manoy Bobby's wedding service, aside from the ritual standing up and sitting down, was my earnest and sincere giving of the sign of peace toward the people in the surrounding pews. 

            What's next, Lord?  What is the next course of action?  How do we balance the desire to see the majority of Filipinos come to a genuine Bible-based faith in Christ who will be worshipping You in "spirit and in truth"?

            It is so difficult to tell people they are wrong, even in the most sincere and humble way, without the risk of being labeled arrogant for believing that you may be right and they may be  wrong.  But we are ambassadors of Christ, tasked to represent Your kingdom and its truth.  Since You also used the word ambassador (2 Cor. 5:20) I am reminded of the courtesy, diplomacy, and earnest attitude that a diplomatic envoy is expected to assume.  Help us to balance this with the boldness in preaching Your truth.  A lot of times starting off a gospel conversation incorrectly turns fatal and the opportunity is lost.  

[Jn 3:21] “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”[NASB]

[Ga 2:14] But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?  “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; [16] nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of  the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of  the Law; since by the works of  the Law no  flesh will be justified. [17] “But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! [18] “For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. [19] “For through  the Law I died to  the Law, so that I might live to God. [20] “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and  the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. [21] “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through  the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”[NASB] 

            Help me, dear God, to live everyday in the pursuit of peace, unity and progress for my nation, but always mindful to live and stand for the clear, unequivocal teachings of Scripture.

            I believe Filipinos need a clear presentation of Scripture.  I believe a lot of them, must be made aware by the power of Your Spirit, of the history of the Protestant/Evangelical/Pentecostal fold in a non-adversarial mode.  This is needed because the fear of listening to Evangelicals is borne out of a lack of understanding, personal study, fear of cults and other related social and historical factors. 

            A good way of sharing the gospel to Filipino Catholics is to ask why they believe what they believe and answering their questions sincerely while directing their thinking toward the reliability and authority of Scripture.  That reminds me of Francis Schaeffer. 

May it never be forgotten that success in witnessing depends on the Spirit of God, so is the retention of the fruits of the harvest.

It's already 3:03 PM and we're about to go back to Manito.  We're beside the cathedral of Manoy Bobby's wedding.  A funeral car is just parking. 

Two ceremonies in one day -- a wedding, starting a new life of union; and a funeral, the end of life.  Where that dead person's soul is going is a question that finds two answers based on doctrine.  If the Catholic view is correct, then the person is going to heaven if he lived a life good enough for God.  If he was not that good then he has a second chance in purgatory.  He has room to be lax.

If the Protestant view, as founded in Scripture is correct, then that dead person only has two possible places to go to -- heaven or hell - the opportunity of choice of which ended the moment he or she breathed his/her last breath.   But if he understood and has appropriated God's plan of salvation by grace through faith alone, through the death of the God-man Jesus, then we're sure he is in heaven right now; if not, then Satan has once again prevailed, as he has been daily doing, over a poor soul and over a slumbering 21st century Evangelical Church.

Hence, the great challenge for us Evangelicals to preach the word (2 Tim. 4:2) should reverberate in every Evangelical's ear and should capture our imagination and daily living.  We need to continue to seek ways (not mere methods) to gently peel off the scales that blind a great many Filipinos -- just as our Lord Jesus did to Paul, blinding him with overwhelming light for only such a glorious light could melt the scales of Scripture-short religious beliefs.


  1. Kuya Aboy! Wow, I enjoyed this post thoroughly. I hope I can be as good as you in writing! This is worth sharing especially to those who are open-minded in seeking out the truth. I've always believed that God will not deny a person seeking the truth - seeking Him, that He will be found by those who seek to find Him.

  2. Wow, Keren, thanks! I really didn't expect anyone to read this entry primarily due to its length. :-) Thanks for your great effort and patience. Yes, let's trust in God's heart as He rewards those who seek Him earnestly.

  3. Enjoyed it too Sir Aboy. Read it thoroughly. thanks

  4. Salamat po, Prof. Rod. :-) It's humbling to have someone of your stature read this post. This is not even a fraction of what you already know but you still patiently read it.


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