Cult: Good or Bad? Dissecting the Meaning of a Misunderstood Word

As a student who majors in languages, we were taught to be aware of words that have connotative meanings which differ from their original definitions. The word “gay” for example in our time, would refer to people who are homosexuals or people who have different sexual preferences. However, back in the day, people who were feeling happy and overjoyed were described as gay.

Last Friday (May 9), while I was participing in the Ang Dating Daan Bible Exposition, a guest from Dubai wanted to confirm if the Members Church of God International was a cult. The Bible Exposition held by the MCGI is hosted by Bro. Eli Soriano, who is popularly known as the host of the longest-running religious program in the Philippines, “Ang Dating Daan“.

The visitor exclaimed that he had heard many rumors that the said church was a cult, and that particular information hindered him from affiliating himself in the Church.

Indeed, the word cult nowadays is being interpreted negatively. Citing the Merriam-Webster free online dictionary, a cult is defined as…

(1) a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous
(2) a situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much
(3) a small group of very devoted supporters or fans

When most people hear the word “cult”, what immediately comes into their minds are weird, creepy-looking people wearing masks who practice some sort of insane, devilish ritual. This is emphasizec by numerous references in popular media like movies and books, wherein cults are portrayed as groups who seek out virgins and sacrifice them to demons, for example. This would explain the first definition.

The first definition holds true to certain organizations that indeed practice these extreme and dangerous rituals. An example of this would be the People’s Temple cult. Founded by Indiana-based leader Jim Jones, the People’s Temple is a :religious” movement most famous for their mass suicide in 1978 which resulted in 914 people dead from cyanide poisoning, 276 of which were children.

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 The mass suicide committed by the followers of Jim Jones’ People’s Temple cult resulted in 914 total deaths caused by cyanide poisoning. It is also known throughout history as the Jonestown Massacre.
Photo from: cbsnews.com

Secondly, extreme devotion to someone or something isn’t entirely new. Popular franchises like “The Lord of the Rings”, “Harry Potter”, “Doctor Who” and even famous celebrities and phenomena have gained cult followings.

On the contrary though, Bro. Eli, in response to the guest’s inquiry, stated that there is another meaning to the word “cult”. This other, more rightful meaning, however, is nowhere near today’s devilish definition. He said that in the Spanish and Portuguese versions of the Bible, Romans 12:1 has this to say:

“Así que, hermanos, os ruego por las misericordias de Dios, que presentéis vuestros cuerpos en sacrificio vivo, santo, agradable a Dios, que es vuestro racional culto.” (Romanos 12:1 ; Las Sagradas Escrituras) 

“Rogo-vos pois, irmãos, pela compaixão de Deus, que apresenteis os vossos corpos como um sacrifício vivo, santo e agradável a Deus, que é o vosso culto racional.” (Romanos 12:1 ; João F. Almeida Atualizada)

Both translations used the word “culto” when referring to “reasonable/rightful worship or service ” as stated in its English translation.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1 ; King James Version

When traced back to its original Greek counterpart in the Bible, the word “culto” came from “latriea(pronounced la-tri-ah) which means “worship; divine service. In fact, the Filipino word “kulto” is derived from the Spanish and Portuguese version. It is also defined by the UP Filipino Dictionary as,may natatangi o pinong pag-uugali, pag-iisip, o panlasa (having unique or refined demeanor, thinking, or taste)”, a definition that Bro. Eli agrees upon.

Bro. Eli implied that being called a cult isn’t something really bad. If it means being extreme devotion to something, brethren from MCGI are surely proud to be extremely devoted to God. If being a cult means having unique, specific and distinct qualities which makes us different, then MCGI members would be proud to fully adhere to the Bible’s doctrines regarding any matter in life, be it clothing, practices and lifestyle — something that other religions don’t do.

Similar to the word “gay”, the word “cult” also has its preconceived notions now, confining the word in such negative meaning that it’s other definitions become overlooked or forgotten. It is important that we recognize how to use its rightful meaning in rightful context to achieve clarity of thought and avoid misconceptions.

For more information about Bro. Eli, MCGI and the cult issue, read more here.

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Mere Coincidences or God’s Will? CLSU Grad Student Enlightened by Biblical Answers of Bro. Eli

In life, are there really things such as coincidences and/or chances?

Bro. Eli Soriano, host of the longest running television program in Philippine History, Ang Dating Daan, replies no, as a guest from Munoz, Nueva Ecija asks him that question in last Friday’s (March 7) Worldwide Bible Exposition.

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One of the Ang Dating Daan Mobile Coordinating Centers was stationed in Central Luzon State University for last Friday’s Bible Exposition.
Photo Courtesy: Sophiya Baluyot, PVI

Wilson Concepcion, a graduate student of Central Luzon State University was reviewing for his board exams when he happened to pass by the Ang Dating Daan Mobile Coordinating Center stationed in the campus as he was going home.

Having been heard Bro. Eli before and interested with his manner of teaching, he stopped by to listen.

As Wilson was given the opportunity to ask a question to Bro. Eli, he recounted his mixed feelings of wanting to be part of the Church yet doubtful of his readiness. He asks Bro. Eli if it was just mere coincidence that he happened to pass by the mobile coordinating center, having been wanting to attend that night’s Bible Exposition but was hindered with his belief that the nearest local was far away.

Bro. Eli answered that things that happen to us are not coincidences but work together for the fulfillment of the will of God. For those who love God, things aren’t just trivial chances or coincidences; he cited Romans 8:28.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28 (King James Version)

A teary-eyed Bro. Wilson listened to Bro. Eli as the preacher remarked that everything that has happened to him is supportive of God’s cause to call him to serve the Lord.

Bro. Eli implored him to attend the Ang Dating Daan Mass Indoctrination, wherein he would hear the true doctrines of Christ, especially now that he is being called into the Church. Also, in his listening will his confusions and doubts be removed, added Bro. Eli.

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Bro. Wilson Concepcion recounts the events that led to his attendance in the Bible Expo.
Photo Courtesy: Sophiya Baluyot, PVI
Interview Courtesy: Jerlo Rialp

Indeed, all the things that happened to Bro. Wilson aren’t just coincidences. As what the organizers of the Bible Exposition Campus Tour could testify, the Mobile Coordinating Center was in CLSU for a reason. As what a fellow organizer and blogger once said, it wasn’t just Bro. Wilson who got his question answered back then. The people who are asking for explanations for happenings they don’t understand were also taught to trust in the Lord and acknowledge that all things happen for a reason, and those things that happen are for the good of those who love God.

Bro. Wilson is currently attending the Mass Indoctrination being held by the Ang Dating Daan. For inquiries, guests may visit the nearest Ang Dating Daan coordinating centers for more information.

Ang Dating Daan Bible Exposition Turned Debate, Rouses Students of PH Universities

The regular monthly Bible Exposition held by the Ang Dating Daan deviated from its usual format, with a debate aired lived in its stead last February 7, Friday.

The discussion, which revolved around Christ being the true founder and owner of the Church, was defended by Mr. Eusebio Catarinen, a pastor hailing from the province of Negros. Bro. Eli Soriano, Presiding Minister to Members Church of God International (MCGI) took the opposition.

One of this month’s remote points was the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. The remote point was connected via satellite through the Ang Dating Daan Mobile Coordinating Center.

ImageThe Ang Dating Daan Mobile Coordinating Center (pictured above) is being set up by its organizers for the upcoming debate to be held later on in the evening.
Photo Courtesy: Wisdom U. Ison of Photoville International

Parked along the Freedom Park and near the Main Entrance Gate, onlookers and passersby couldn’t help but stop, stare and listen at the sight and sound of the debate. The visitors varied from students coming from various colleges as well as university professors and staff alike.

Throughout the debate, Bro. Eli continuously showed his expertise in debating.

“Bro. Eli presented his arguments clearly. Based on what I’ve heard, I would side with Bro. Eli. I was more enlightened with his explanations and I am much more convinced that God is the true founder and owner of the Church,” says Ralph Lobrigas, a Business Administrations student of Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Techonology.

Mr. Eusebio, on the other hand, earned some rants about his manner of debating.

“I think Mr. Eusebio needs to learn more about what he is saying. I think he also needs to learn more about the process of debating, [especially] in a technical perspective,” says Irving Penano, a Third Year, Broadcast Communications Student of PUP.

All in all, the ADD Debate held in PUP co-organized by Bread Society International – PUP Chapter, was a success with God’s help, with its attendees tallying up to more than a hundred.

God-willing, the Ang Dating Daan will host its Bible Exposition at another PH university. The University of the Philippines Diliman will be one of the remote points for the Bible Expositon to be held in March.

For more information about the upcoming Bible Exposition, visit the official Facebook page of Ang Dating Daan.

Interview Courtesies: Emmy Borromeo

BREAD SOCIETY’s The Great Debate – A Success, Tallies 100+ Participants

Students from the University of the Philippines Diliman were given the chance to hear God’s words through Brother Eli Soriano, in an event entitled “The Great Debate: Creationism vs. Atheism.”

Hosted by Bread Society InternationalUP Diliman Chapter, the event was part of the university’s ACLE or Alternative Classroom Learning Experience. The ACLE is a university-wide event where student organizations can hold symposiums, film-showings, and other similar programs to provide a day where UP students can learn new things in alternate classroom settings.

Held last January 16 in CAL 206, the event was jampacked with UP students and non-UP students alike, with the total tally of attendees reaching 140 participants.

ImageCAL 206 was jam-packed with students, some weren’t able to have any seats.
Photo Courtesy: Aileen Dorosan
UPD Bread’s Account

ImageBecause of lack of space inside the venue, students piled outside the room’s window areas to be able to watch the event.
Photo Courtesy: Aileen Dorosan
UPD Bread’s Account

Despite some misunderstanding about the event being aired live, it did not hinder fellow UP students to attend the said event. The video played was actually a former Bible Exposition video held in Nasugbu, Batangas last 2011, where Mr. Gerome Almodovar, co-founder of RDNA, Rationalists and Darwinists of Nasugbu, asked an atheism question to Brother Eli Soriano, host of the Bible Exposition. Spanning an hour and a half, the video details how the Exposition became an impromptu debate, when both sides started giving arguments.

“It was a good event, I saw the different arguments of both sides,” says Leo, a first year BS Economics student. “Having watched the event, it made me know which points to consider in atheism and creationism.” He added.

“My attention did not stray anywhere else, just on the video. Every moment, we were waiting [for] what’s going to happen next!” Exlaims Ian, also a first year BS Economics student.

“I like how Bro. Eli’s arguments were laid out. The other guy also had good arguments, but he wasn’t able to back up his claim,” commented Jaycee, a third year BA European Languages student.

ImageParticipants of the event had good things to say about the debate.
Photo Courtesy: Aileen Dorosan
Interview Courtesy: Emmy Borromeo
UPD Bread’s Account

In the end, UP BRead had achieved its goal of providing an excellent alternative classroom learning experience, judging by the feedback given by its event participants.

Come last week of February or the first week of March, UP Bread will once again hold an event geared towards promoting the Bible.

God-willing, UP Diliman will be one of the remote points of Ang Dating Daan’s Worldwide Bible Exposition, as hosted by Bro. Eli Soriano and Bro. Daniel Razon. Here, UP students, professors and staff are all welcome to ask questions and be answered by the Bible.

The upcoming event, unlike the previous one, will be LIVE.

The Truth Will Set You Free: Tarlac City Jail Inmates Hear God’s Words through ADD Bible Exposition

Words of God transcend boundaries as inmates from the Tarlac City Jail were given the opportunity to consult their Biblical queries through the Ang Dating Daan Bible Exposition, as hosted by Brother Eli Soriano and Brother Daniel Razon.

Bro. Eli gave time to our truth-seeking fellowmen locked behind bars to answer their questions and restore their faith in God, adding that not all people behind bars are evil; some of them are just victims of injustice, or lacked the capacity to defend themselves.

The first inmate asked Bro. Eli a question by citing from personal experience. “Nananalangin po ako bago matulog, tapos isang beses, pagkagising ko, nakagawa po ako ng kasalanang di ko naman sinasadya. Mapapatawad po ba yun?” (I pray before I sleep, but one time, when I woke up, I unintentionally sinned. Will that be forgiven?)

Bro. Eli responded that there are two kinds of sins, (1) Unintentional and (2) Intentional, reading the verse of 1 Timothy 1:13 along with many others. The verse talked about Paul’s previous life as a persecuter of the Church, but he was forgiven, because he did it out of ignorance.

“Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief”
1 Timothy 1:13 (King James Version)

The second inmate asked what was the first thing the Creator has done. Bro. Eli answered that even though God created the heavens and the earth, those are not the first things He created. He read Proverbs 8:22;31.

(22) “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.”
(31) “Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.”
Proverbs 8:22; 31 (King James Version)

The first thing that God created was His earth.

ImageLive Twitter feed using the #ADDBibleExpo hashtag last
Ang Dating Daan Bible Exposition.
Photo Courtesy: @TheOldPathTV Official Twitter Account

At the end of the session with Tarlac Provincial Jail, Bro. Eli called upon the inmates to attend the Ang Dating Daan’s Mass Indoctrination, a two-week long event which had already started last Monday, December 2. Workers will be sent to them to conduct the sessions. He said that there they will learn the true doctrines of Christ based from the Bible, citing that, the truth of God’s words will set them free. It may not set them free in the material jail cells of this world, but it will set them free from the bondage of transgression.