A debate challenge was published
On March 27, 2005, a whole page paid advertisement was published in a major Philippine newspaper, The Manila Times wherein a religious preacher named ELISEO SORIANO, commonly referred to as Bro. ELI, Presiding Minister of Members, Church of God International or better known as Ang Dating Daan (ADD) challenged ERAÑO MANALO, the Executive Minister of Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) in a satellite TV debate.
Followers of both religious camps and the general public had long been impatiently anticipating what should have been an extremely exciting spiritual argumentation between the two religious leaders. The debate was expected to be a fitting climax to a religious conflict which the INC was waging more psychologically and worldly rather than spiritually and biblically.
Bro. ELI who is a well known Great Debater in religion posed the challenge against MANALO apparently to expose what he knew as falsity of the INC religion amidst worsening situation of harassment, defamation and threat of violence against him. Hereunder was the complete text of Bro. ELI’s bold and straightforward debate challenge:
A Message to Eraño Manalo:
“This message is prompted by my fervent desire to uphold the biblical TRUTH and in the same vein to address the worsening spiritual conflict that effectively divides us mainly due to our extreme doctrinal differences in Christian faith.
While we believe that ours is the doctrine derived from the Bible pure and undefiled, yours is a doctrine with variable interpretations and bereft of Biblical justification. You may consider such declaration a boastful assertion but we have sufficient basis concerning our proud Christian conviction. The same principle compels us to initiate a crusade of sustained worldwide bible expositions so as to correct common biblical misunderstandings or misconceptions. In your case however, it is doctrinal disinformation/misinformation which I am specially trying to deal with.
Incidentally, in the process of my candid and uncompromising effort to protect many other souls from being misguided and deceived, I may be coming out antagonistic at times hence, your tendency to dislike, hate and despise me. Nonetheless, if that is the price I have to pay (for just being servant no greater than my Master whose example and command I follow and obey), then so be it. If our Lord Jesus Christ in all His Godliness paid a supreme sacrifice for the sake of TRUTH and SALVATION, then who am I to shy away from God sent responsibility and not suffer as He suffered? Unfortunately though, some of those who refuse to understand due mainly to selfish interest have opted to remain in their fortress only to become agents of hypocrisy, tools for deception and peddlers of lies.
Since you have launched the program “Ang Tamang Daan” on your nationwide TV and radio network more than two (2) years ago, I have found myself perpetually at the receiving end of vicious smear campaign and character assassination. Characteristics of your designs are trashes and craps from your stinking armory of desperate propagandizing filled with dirty tricks and rotten schemes like the following:
1. The series of televised and formal endorsement by your supposedly dignified Ministers of smut magazines purportedly containing pornographic illustrations of my person.
2. The dubious testimonies of dismissed or suspended workers and members who were lucratively employed in your program purposely to vilify me.
3. The agitation effort directed to our Muslim Filipino brothers to rise up against me by presenting dubious tapes to project that I am personally against them.
4. Many other morally demeaning and libelous accusations hurled against me.
These and more, without let up have been directed and fired at will and this space is not enough to contain the complete list of unchristian acts committed against my person so freely and willfully done in wanton disregard of the Laws of God and the Laws of Man. The innumerable menu of a daily recycled negative “PR” blitz is ordinarily flavored with unsavory segments of mangled tapes played to create a “spin” of inconsistencies and contradictions in my preaching.
Uncanny diversionary tactics in frantic effort to evade the onslaught of TRUTH is usually the specialty of the day. The same is garnished completely with black propaganda, outright lies and circumvented laws of logic which are sure ingredients that cause severe moral and spiritual diarrhea to innocent and unsuspecting viewers/listeners.
However, no amount of Psychological weapons and propaganda ammunitions from the reservoir of your dirty tricks department can stop me; nay distract me from vigorously pursuing my evangelical mission. I stand for the TRUTH and refuse to be dragged down the gutter of schemes that creates a polluted atmosphere suitable for the language of hypocrisy, deception and lies to prevail. I prefer the modern arena for an intellectual and dignified religious confrontation whereby observers worldwide can judge us based on sensible reasoning straight from the scriptures. This I believe is the best way to settle who between us promotes the doctrine of TRUTH and who promotes the doctrine of LIES with the Bible as our guide.
It is therefore incumbent upon you Mr. Manalo, by virtue of your command responsibility being the spiritual leader of INC to facilitate orderliness within the confines of your spiritual fortress if you are really true. By allowing so much of these improprieties, indiscretions and acts unbecoming of your “PR” Ministers, you are wittingly or unwittingly causing collateral damage instead of doing justice to the righteous principle of Christian evangelism.
By presenting in your program some of our Muslim brothers indignant over my supposedly “offensive words” against their faith, you have actually demonstrated your potent capacity for creating “low intensity conflict”. Worse, your minions are monitoring and announcing my private activities and whereabouts as if I am a target of Muslim’s “seek and destroy operation”. This kind of behavior is an expressed admission of your willingness to act as agents for those who maybe wishing me harm. Ironically, you seem to be seeking alliance with a different religion outside your own even if such religion, according to your own doctrine (not ours) is hopeless and hell bound.
I therefore urge you now to settle our difference once and for all and put an end to the unchristian kind of spiritual warfare being introduced in your program that only tends to muddle the real issues and deviate from the biblical truth. In this regard, I am inviting you to a one on one discussion or debate which will finally settle our doctrinal differences with the bible as our sole basis. The most logical venue, viewership wise and security wise is our respective television studio to be simultaneously covered live worldwide via satellite.
I will be waiting for your response for us to discuss the mechanics hoping that you will live up to the INC’s earlier tradition of courage in defending its faith … no matter how hopeless!
ELESEO F. SORIANO, Presiding Minister
Members, Church of God International
The great escape from the haunting challenge
Bro. ELI’s challenge was formal and official but MANALO’s response was ridiculous, senseless and filled with alibis. In a press release on the same broadsheet the day after the debate challenge was published, the INC had this to say: “To respond to debate challenge at that point would be a violation of the sub-judice rules of court considering the numerous libel cases the INC filed against Bro. ELI. For further information please watch the INC TV program Ang Tamang Daan”.
It came to pass that the next day, the impatient followers of both camps watched the INC TV program in bated breath for the complete and official INC announcement pertaining to what was perceived as impending debate. Unfortunately however, public frustration set in the moment the program hosts (MANALO’s apologists Ramil Parba and Michael Sandoval) announced to everyone’s dismay that Bro. ELI must first debate with the POPE of ROME in LATIN before he could have the opportunity to face the INC leader in a one on one debate.
Indeed, Manalo’s position in this case was nothing but a demonstration of futile effort to evade a bible based debate with Bro. ELI and to avoid embarrassment. Finally, since the very subject of Bro. ELI’s daring and haunting challenge eventually passed away, the much awaited confrontation between them will forever be “the great debate that never was”.