Saturday, December 10, 2011

Are you single and in ministry?

If you are single, don’t despair. As someone said, “It’s better to be alone and single, rather than married and miserable.”

But if you are single and in ministry
, then you should read “Missionary Single Issues” from Missionary Care (Resources for Missions and Mental Health). You can download this resource as a PDF file (267 kb) or as a Word file (261 kb). Topics include:

This free PDF was written by Ronald L. Koteskey, Member Care Consultant for GO InterNational (an interdenominational world-wide Christian mission organization involved in organizing short-term missions, among other projects). While Ron wrote this material specifically for unmarried missionaries, his insights, comments, and suggestions are valuable for singles in a cross-cultural environment. Ron and his wife (former teachers with 35 years experience in Bible colleges, public and Christian schools) maintain two websites and which provide free resources like brochures and e-books for two culture-kids, marriage issues, and reentry for missionaries.

Ron’s terms of use for this e-book: “Permission is granted to copy and distribute this book in its entirety without charge. Send it to anyone you believe may benefit from reading it. Please do NOT post this book anywhere else on the Internet.”

Notes: [1] Related post: Free PDF on marriage issues for missionaries (also for pastors and other persons in ministry); [2] This ministry does not necessarily endorse the opinions or beliefs of the resources cited here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

800,000 visitors and counting for “Better English for everyone” website

According to my tracker, my website “Better English for everyone” reached over 800,000 visitors last Tuesday afternoon. The website became online September 27, 2007. It has been averaging 2,000 plus visitors daily since last week. Google Analytics, my other website tracker, reports that visitors have come from 195 countries or territories. The top ten countries in number of visitors are the USA, Philippines, India, United Kingdom, Brazil, Thailand, Spain, Mexico, Canada, and Australia.

Better English for everyone contains numerous links to Gospel websites and my website trackers report that these have been clicked, even by visitors from Restricted Access Nations. Thanks to everyone who have browsed this site. Soli Deo gloria!

Note: Please read 700,000 visitors and counting for “Better English for everyone” website; jump to “How you can help this website” or “How I became involved in Internet ministries”.

Better English for everyone figures for the last 30 daysThe Sitemeter graphic above shows the number of visitors (yellow bars) and page views (red bars) from October 28 to early November 27.

3000 visitors
Note: The website reached 3,000 visitors (first time ever) as of Tuesday, November 29, 2011.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Gospel According to Twilight; Twilight’s Mormon connection

The Darkness of Twilight, by Sue Bohlin (Probe Ministries)

Twilight movie posterThe Twilight saga is a publishing and movie phenomenon that sweeps tween and teen girls (and a whole lot of other people) off their feet with an obsessive kind of following. Millions of Christian girls are huge fans of this series about love between a teenage girl and her vampire boyfriend-then-husband. But it’s not just a love story made exciting by the danger of vampires’ blood-lust. I believe the Twilight saga, all four books and their corresponding movies, is spiritually dangerous. I believe there is a demonic origin to the series, and the occult themes that permeate the books are a dangerous open door to Satan and his hordes of unholy angels.

Twilight is also spiritually dangerous in the way it presents salvation. When Daddy Vampire Carlisle turns Edward into a vampire, it is described as saving him. He ended a 17-year-old boy’s physical life and turned him into an undead, stone cold superbeing, which Edward describes as a “new birth.” Vampire Alice describes the process as the venom spreading through the body, healing it, changing it, until the heart stops and the conversion is finished. Poison heals, and changes, and converts to lifelessness? Healing poison? This is spiritually dangerous thinking. Isaiah warns us (5:20), “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

This upside-down, inside-out way of thinking is rooted in Stephenie Meyer’s strong Mormon beliefs. Twilight’s cover photo of a woman’s hands offering an apple is an intentional reference to the way Mormonism reinvents the Genesis story of the Fall. LDS (Latter Day Saints) doctrine makes the Fall a necessary step, called a “fall up.” At the beginning of the book you will find, alone on a page, Genesis 2: 17—”But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Read the complete article)
The Trouble with Twilight, Christianity Today interview by Laura Leonard of Beth Felker Jones, Wheaton College theology professor and author of “Touched by a Vampire: Discovering the Hidden Messages in the Twilight Saga” (Random House, 2009)
Touched by a Vampire: Discovering the Hidden Messages in the Twilight Saga (Random House, 2009John Granger wrote in Touchstone magazine that the Twilight novels are “an allegory of one gentile seeker’s coming to the fullness of Latter-day Saint faith and life.” Are there any particularly Mormon themes in the books that might be at odds with a Christian worldview?

I read a quotation the other day from a Mormon woman suggesting the books could be used as a Mormon evangelism tool, saying, “Perhaps we could say to people, ‘We can promise you will be together forever and no one will even have to bite you.’” I can see this theme of eternal family as the place where salvation happens as an “in” to Mormon evangelism, as it is very much part of Mormon thought. As is the way goodness is approached in the books: the vampires in the books are struggling against their darkest desires [to drink human blood] and they talk quite a bit about their souls—whether they have souls, and whether God might reward them for their attempts to be good. What’s missing is the Christian gospel, the idea that we can’t overcome our darkness on our own, that no matter how hard we work to be good, we're going to fail, and we’re going to need Jesus. The picture of goodness in the books is a salvation by works. “I’ll try hard enough and perhaps God will be pleased.” (Read the complete interview)
Twilight, Harry Potter, The Wizard of Oz and the Wiccan Revival, from Good Fight Ministries, by Joe Schimmel, pastor of Blessed Hope Chapel, an evangelical non-denominational fellowship in Simi Valley, California
Very few people are aware of the shocking truth that both Stephenie Meyer, who authored the Twilight saga, and J. K. Rowling, who authored the Harry Potter series, appear to have channeled their novels as evil spirits directed them. Like Rowling, Meyer has set her sights on our vulnerable youth; the Wall Street Journal reported, “Twilight has targeted the collective soul of teenage America, and will surely have its way.”

Meyer claims that she was compelled to write Twilight after the story was first communicated to her through a dream in June of 2003. Meyer admitted:

“I woke up (on that June 2nd) from a very vivid dream. In my dream, two people were having an intense conversation in a meadow in the woods. One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire. They were discussing the difficulties inherent in the facts that A) they were falling in love with each other while B) the vampire was particularly attracted to the scent of her blood, and was having a difficult time restraining himself from killing her immediately… I typed out as much as I could remember, calling the characters ‘he’ and ‘she.’” (Source:

This dream was so significant to the Twilight saga, that Meyer produced a transcript of her dream in Chapter 13 of her book, Twilight, entitled "Confessions." Meyer claims that sometime after she “received” the revelatory dream she heard incessant voices in her head that wouldn’t stop until she would type, "Bella and Edward [the vampire] were, quite literally, voices in my head. They simply wouldn't shut up. I'd stay up as late as I could stand trying to get all the stuff in my mind typed out, and then crawl, exhausted, into bed … only to have another conversation start in my head.” (Read the complete article)
The Gospel According to Twilight, by Elaine A. Heath, from
The Gospel According to Twilight from AmazonElements of the relationship between Edward and Bella make the hair stand up on feminist Christian necks, especially when adding in the bit where Bella scarcely survives the violence of her wedding night. Though broken and bruised the next morning, she begs for more. This part of the story is terrible news for girls and women—unless you read it through another lens, such as Stephenie Meyer’s.
The Eve story has an entirely different meaning in LDS theology, with Eve as a moral heroine who sacrifices her life so others can live. What is going on here? Is Bella a Christ figure, offering her body and blood for others’ salvation? Or is she a sex-hungry temptress who’s willing to go to hell if she can just have her guy? Is Bella fallen, redemptive or both? (Read the complete article)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

22nd Fundamental Bible Conference in Metro Manila

Dates: October 25-28, 2011, 6 to 9:30 PM

Venue: Integrated Bar of the Philippines Julia Vargas, #15 Julia Vargas Ortigas Center, Pasig City

Theme: Loving The Living New Testament Church

Theme Verse: “... know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth, ” 1 Tim 3:15.

Conference Committee Chairman: Roberto-Jose M. Livioco, D.D., D.Min (candidate)

One-Time Registration Fee: P160

For inquiries, contact 636-5535, 801-6789, 829-4474 or

Seminar Topics:

  1. “The Church and Authentic Worship” by Dr. Phil Kamibayashiyama, Bob Jones Memorial Bible College, Quezon City
  2. “The Church and Her Fellowship” by Dr. Roberto-Jose Livioco, Foundation Baptist Church, Pasig City
  3. “The Church and Trials: God’s Sovereignty in Suffering” by Pastor Gary Jones, Light House Bible-Believers Church, Paranaque City
  4. “The Church’s Need for Prevailing Prayer” by Pastor Leo Lorenzana, Promised Land Baptist Church, Malabon City
  5. “The Church and Her Finances” by Pastor Jun Gonzales, Las Pinas Baptist Church, Las Pinas City
  6. “Male Spiritual Leadership in the Home and the Church” by.Pastor Cornelio Sacramento, Christian Baptist Church, Bulacan, Bulacan
  7. “The Role of Women in the Home and the Church” by Mrs. Denise Peterson, First Baptist Church, Land O’Lakes, Florida
  8. “The Church and the Devil’s Strategies” by Pastor Carl Gormley, Calvary Baptist Church, San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan
Service Messages by Dr. David Peterson, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Land O’Lakes, Florida:
  1. “The Primacy of the Local Church”
  2. “The Purity of the Local Church”
  3. “A Passion for the Local Church”
  4. “The Purpose of the Local Church Amid a Lost World”
Preachers and Workers Fellowship, Friday, October 28, 3 to 5 PM. Topic: “The Pastor’s Responsibility to His Flock”

Monday, September 26, 2011

700,000 visitors and counting for “Better English for everyone” website

According to my tracker, my website “Better English for everyone” reached over 700,000 visitors several days ago. The website became online September 27, 2007. It has been averaging 1,500+ visitors daily this week. Google Analytics, my other website tracker, reports that visitors have come from 195 countries or territories. The top ten countries in number of visitors are the USA, Philippines, India, United Kingdom, Brazil, Thailand, Spain, Mexico, Canada, and Australia. (Jump to “How you can help this website” or “How I became involved in Internet ministries”.)

Better English for everyone contains numerous links to Gospel websites and my website trackers report that these have been clicked, even by visitors from Restricted Access Nations. Thanks to everyone who have browsed this site. Soli Deo gloria!

The numbers are gratifying for anyone involved in Internet ministries but they do not really represent the number of people who have actually or beneficially used this website. We have to consider factors such as bounce rates, time spent on site, number of pages viewed, etc. Due to the differences in the way these trackers work, Google Analytics reports a higher number of visitors but a lower average time spent (1:05 minutes). Oppositely, Sitemeter reports a lower number of visitors but a higher average time spent (2:55 minutes).

Sitemeter reportThe Sitemeter graphic above shows the number of visitors (yellow bars) and page views (red bars) from August 27 to early September 26.

As you can see, the number of visitors peaks on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Saturdays have the lowest number of visitors. But from my analysis of the detailed statistics (not shown in the graphic above), visitors during Saturdays and Sundays usually views more pages and spends more time on the website than visitors during Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Based on the keywords they used in searching Google (“lesson plan”, “worksheet”, “printable”, etc.), the visitors are typically ESL or EFL teachers.

Google Analytics report on top ten countries from August 24 to September 24, 2011 (click the graphic to see the clear, enlarged view)

googl analytics report 30% of users spend 60 seconds or more per visit

This time factor (derived from Sitemeter reports) is significant based on Jakob Nielsen’s article “
How Long Do Users Stay on Web Pages?”. Nielsen, citing a massive study by Microsoft Research, says:

The first 10 seconds of the page visit are critical for users’ decision to stay or leave. The probability of leaving is very high during these first few seconds because users are extremely skeptical, having suffered countless poorly designed Web pages in the past. People know that most Web pages are useless, and they behave accordingly to avoid wasting more time than absolutely necessary on bad pages.

If the Web page survives this first — extremely harsh — 10-second judgment, users will look around a bit. However, they’re still highly likely to leave during the subsequent 20 seconds of their visit. Only after people have stayed on a page for about 30 seconds does the curve become relatively flat. People continue to leave every second, but at a much slower rate than during the first 30 seconds.

So, if you can convince users to stay on your page for half a minute, there’s a fair chance that they’ll stay much longer — often 2 minutes or more, which is an eternity on the Web.
The average time spent by visitors to Better English for everyoneis 1:05 minutes (Google Analytics) or 2:55 minutes (Sitemeter). In his article, Nielsen says that “the average is not the most fruitful way of analyzing user behaviors”. Based on my analysis of Sitemeter reports, 30% of users spend 60 seconds or more per visit. This pattern has been consistent since early last year.

How you can help “Better English for everyone”

[1] If your church or ministry would like to sponsor the web hosting fees for Better English for everyone, please email me at for more information. My current web hosting plan with dot.PH Domains is US $66 per quarter with a monthly bandwidth limit of 15 GB. The bandwidth limit for September will be reached early next week. Once the limit is reached, the website will be offline (until it refreshes for the next month within the quarter). The quarter ends on October 8, 2011.

Because of the increasing number of visitors, I need to upgrade to the next higher plan of US $155.40 quarterly billing (US $41.80 monthly) with a bandwidth limit of 30 GB per month. With annual billing, the cost is lower at US $38 monthly or a total of US $458.00.

More than 90% of visitors reached
Better English for everyone through search engines like Google and Yahoo. You can help increase traffic to this website by posting links to it from your websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

Internet ministries

My Internet ministries consist of two websites and, and several blogs, namely, “Salt and Light” (articles on relationships, marriage, family), “Baptist Churches in the Philippines” (directory of churches); “Legal Updates”, “Campus Connection”(youth-oriented articles including photography), “A picture is worth a thousand words”, and “Baptist Distinctives, free online Bible Institute for Asia, Africa and Latin America”. I also have free PDF newsletters available for download on legal issues affecting the Filipino family.

If you want to know more about web ministries, please surf to the Internet Evangelism Day website.

How I became involved in Internet ministries

I have always been interested in reading and writing. During my grade school days in the 1960’s, I woke up early everyday to go to the guardhouse and read all the English newspapers delivered to a Chinese business tycoon who owned the compound I grew up in. Afternoons after my classes, I would again go to the guardhouse to read the Evening Post (if I remember the newspaper’s title correctly).

That Chinese business tycoon had in his garage a room filled, from floor to ceiling, with hundreds of Reader’s Digest, Life Magazine, Saturday Evening Post, and other magazines. During school breaks, I would spend hours there reading. Whenever I missed lunch, my mother would begin looking for me and she would always find me in that room.

During my high school years (Rizal High School, 1969-1973), I continued my habit of reading newspapers; I spent part of my lunch breaks in the library. In my junior year, I became a sports reporter for our schoolpaper “The Rizalian”. The adviser, Miss Consolacion Constantino, patiently edited my articles, but none of my articles was ever published.

After I lost my NSDB mining engineering scholarship in UP Diliman, I followed the UP guidance counselor’s advice that I should go into writing as a college course and career. I graduated in 1979 with an AB English degree from Philippine Christian University.

I became an English grammar teacher (Dona Aurora High School in San Mateo, 1981-1983), and then a journalism teacher and schoolpaper adviser (Quezon City Science High School, 1983-84, and Rizal High School, 1984-1995). In 1985, I enrolled in a BASIC programming course in my alma mater PCU. In my work, I learned desktop publishing (Pagemaker 4), word processing (MS Word 2), and graphics (Coreldraw 3), using our school’s 486 computer, Brother laser printer, and flatbed scanner. (My first computers were a Texas Instrument 99/4A with 16k of memory and a Commodore 64, both gifts from my nephew Ken.)

I was admitted into the Philippine bar in 1995 and practiced law until 2005 when I stopped accepting cases.

In 2003, as I was surveying the ministries still open to me considering my age and circumstances, I learned that online writing was a viable ministry. I canvassed several schools and institutions where I could possibly learn website design. One company in Shaw Boulevard (opposite Jovan Condominium) charged Php 60,000 for its website design course. Too expensive. Genetics Computer Institute had a website design program costing Php 16,000 while Informatics offered its program at Php 20,000. Their curriculum was not what I really needed. Meralco Foundation offered an HTML course at only Php 4,000 but by that time, I had already learned how tedious and error-prone hand coding was.

I began buying books on website design; the books were very expensive, with prices ranging from Php 500 to Php 1,700 (Vincent Flanders’ Son of web pages that suck). I read through the books even though I could not really understand what I was reading. I then bought from a computer bookstore in SM Megamall and SM Centerpoint several tutorial CDs on Dreamweaver and Microsoft Frontpage.

In 2005, I designed and printed out using Pagemaker 5 a sample page of what I wanted my website to look like. To inspire and challenge myself, I brought the printout wherever I went and looked at it from time to time; I also showed it to friends, telling them that I was designing a website. Applying what I learned from designing yearbooks in my work as a schoolpaper adviser, I did a detailed storyboard for each page of my website. Starting that January, I spent my mornings reading my Dreamweaver book and studying the tutorial CD. I thought that I did not have to understand or learn everything about website design. I only had to learn whatever I needed for the website as I conceptualized it. All this time, I also began learning what blogs were.

By late October 2005, I already had created my first blog (“Legal Updates”). I finished designing my website by late November. Although I had registered the domain name and paid the web hosting fees by early December, I did not know how to upload the files from my computer to the server. I did not know what FTP (file transfer protocol) was.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Falling away: “Explaining Deconversion from Christianity” from Journal of Religion & Society

(Note: The Journal of Religion & Society is a cross-disciplinary, electronic journal published by the Rabbi Myer and Dorothy Kripke Center for the Study of Religion and Society at Creighton University.)

“Explaining Deconversion from Christianity: A Study of Online Narratives”, by Bradley R. E. Wright, Dina Giovanelli, Emily G. Dolan (University of Connecticut), and Mark Evan Edwards (Oregon State University)

“Why do people leave religion? An estimated one-third or more Americans drop out of religious participation or affiliation at some time during their life.”

Based on their study of 50 autobiographical narratives written in 2005 by former Christians (most of them between 20 and 50 years old, and predominately middle- and upper-class), these authors identified four reasons for deconversion:
(1) Intellectual and Theological Concerns;
God’s shortcomings;
Interactions with Christians; and
Interactions with non-Christians.
Intellectual and Theological Concerns
“Some writers contrasted Christianity negatively with other conceptualizations of knowledge, such as science, education, and everyday common sense.”

“The writers sometimes experienced tension and anguish as they sought to reconcile their religious beliefs with other forms of knowledge – wanting to believe in one but unable to explain away the other. Ultimately they felt logically compelled, almost against their wishes, to reject Christianity.”

“More specifically to Christianity, numerous writers expressed concerns about the doctrine of hell and the existence of human suffering. Eternal punishment did not fit with some writers’ belief in a loving God, and so they viewed the existence of hell as evidence against the existence of a God worthy of devotion.”

“The problem with hell was not its existence, per se, but its implied injustice. The writers did not understand, for example, why God would condemn people who had no access to Christian teaching.”

“Similar to objections about hell – suffering in the afterlife – some writers rejected God’s allowance of suffering in the current life.”

“Many writers condemned the Bible as inaccurate, offensive, and generally not believable.”
God’s Failures
“Some writers believed that God existed, but they rejected him because he did not help them, especially in times of trouble.”
Interactions with Christians
“The most frequently mentioned role of Christians in deconversion was in amplifying existing doubt. The writers told of sharing their burgeoning doubts with a Christian friend or family member only to receive trite, unhelpful answers. These answers, in turn, moved them further away from Christianity.”

“Ex-Christians were not only critical of fellow parishioners, but also of clergy’s and church lay-leadership’s failure to address the doubter’s questions.”

“Christian hypocrisy was also mentioned occasionally. Some writers told of harm done to them by Christians. For example, a former Pentecostal Christian, and now self-described Hellenic pagan, spoke of her “mistake” in dating a Fundamentalist Christian and how she felt abused by him.”

“Other writers commented on general, amoral behavior among Christians. One wrote that extra-marital sex was rampant in the church that he attended.”
Interactions with Non-Christians
“The narrative writers rarely described individuals outside of the church as helping bring about their deconversion. Rather, they described new relationships with non-Christians (exemplified by their participation in an online community for deconverts) as the consequence, not cause, of changes in their beliefs.”

Read the complete article.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Caution for pastors in solemnizing an “ecclesiastical marriage” or “marriage in the eyes of God and the church”

I will discuss in this post the following topics:

Over the years, pastors have asked me about the situation of couples who are new believers, enthusiastic about becoming church members and being involved in ministry, but are in a legal mess. Based on the admission of the couples themselves or an investigation by the pastor, these couples are just living in because the man or the woman, or both are legally married to other parties.

(Pastors are divided on the issue of divorce and remarriage. Please read my post “Biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage” where I discussed the views of Chuck Swindoll, Radio Bible Class, and Probe Ministries on this issue.)

I have always counseled pastors to tell the couples in this kind of situation to:
1. file a petition in court to have the subsisting marriage declared void; and

2. refrain from sexual relations while the case is ongoing.
The problem arises however when these couples tell their pastor that they cannot afford the costs of filing a petition for declaration of nullity. In Metro Manila, the costs range from 150 to 200 thousand pesos. The costs are lower in the provinces.

(Please read the Frequently Asked Questions section of my Family Matters website for discussions on declaration of nullity, annulment of voidable marriage, psychological incapacity, etc.)

What an “ecclesiastical marriage” is as practiced by some Baptist pastors

To deal with this problem, some pastors have reportedly resorted to solemnizing what they call “ecclesiastical marriage” or “marriage in the eyes of God and the church.” These pastors conduct a ceremony where they pronounce the man and woman as “husband and wife in the eyes of God and the church.” (Since there is no marriage license or marriage certificate, these pastors do not report the “ecclesiastical marriage” to the Local Civil Registrar or the National Statistics Office.) Despite the man and woman being legally married to other parties, these pastors then allow them to have sexual relations, become members of the church, and be involved in ministry.

Relevant discussions:

“Americans share views on marriage, church and state roles” (Baptist Press)

“The Church and Civil Marriage” and “A Legal Perspective on the Marriage Pledge” (First Things)

“Time To Rend Marriage? 1 in 4 Pastors Agree with First Things Petition” (Christianity Today)
For a marriage to be Biblical, it must comply with the legal requirements (unless the requirements are clearly un-Biblical)

Some Baptist pastors and missionaries are against State-sanctioned marriages. Citing how Rebekah just went with Abraham’s servant and became Isaac’s wife, they say that the Biblical example of marriage shows that the only ones involved in the contract were the couple themselves or their immediate family members. But, for several reasons, I believe that Baptist pastors and missionaries in the Philippines should not teach their members that if they want to get married, they can just follow this so-called “Biblical example of marriage” of proclaiming by themselves (or by appearing before their families) that they are now married.

First, we must distinguish between what is cultural and what is Biblical, between what was applicable to Jewish culture in Biblical times and what is applicable to our culture now. This so-called “Biblical example on marriage” in Isaac and Rebekah’s story only shows what Jewish culture was like in Biblical times and thus cannot be used to argue that it is the way people should get married today. (The New Testament narrative of Joseph and Mary shows that there was a “betrothal” period between a prospective husband and wife; should we also have this today? For that matter, should our country be a monarchy instead of a democracy since Israel was a monarchy from Saul onwards?)

Second, you can just imagine the social chaos that will follow if a man and woman can get “Biblically married” without complying with the legal requirements. A man and woman (for example, two infatuated teenagers in your church youth group, or a 50-year old guy and a 16-year old girl) can by themselves proclaim that they are now married. What if the man or woman falls in love with another person and abandons the other? What will be the status of their children? What about inheritance rights? The institutions of marriage and the family will break down.

Third, based on the Apostle Paul’s admonition in Romans 13 for Christians to submit to the State, a marriage must follow the legal requirements for it to be valid before the eyes of God. The exception, of course, is when any requirement is clearly contrary to Biblical principles. I don’t know of any provision on marriage of the Family Code of the Philippines that is contrary to the Bible. In fact, the Family Code’s definition of marriage (Article 1) is completely Biblical:
“Marriage is a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman entered into in accordance with law for the establishment of conjugal and family life. It is the foundation of the family and an inviolable social institution whose nature, consequences, and incidents are governed by law and not subject to stipulation, except that marriage settlements may fix the property relations during the marriage within the limits provided by this Code.”
Solemnizing an “ecclesiastical marriage” is illegal and punishable under the Revised Penal Code

If a pastor applies for a license to solemnize marriages, he recognizes and voluntarily submits to the authority of the State. He cannot therefore simply set aside the essential and formal requisites on marriage (Articles 2 and 3) of the Family Code of the Philippines. By solemnizing an “ecclesiastical marriage”, the pastor violates Article 352 of the Revised Penal Code, which states:
Art. 352. Performance of an illegal marriage ceremony. – Priests or ministers of any religious denomination or sect, or civil authorities who shall perform or authorize any illegal marriage ceremony shall be punished in accordance with the provisions of the Marriage Law.
Under Section 39 of Act No. 3613, the penalty for violating Art. 352 is imprisonment of two months (minimum) up to two years (maximum).

Supreme Court ruling in “Estrada vs. Escritor” cannot be used as basis for an “ecclesiastical marriage”

Please read my post “The Estrada vs. Escritor case: Did the Supreme Court legitimize live-in relationships in the name of freedom of religion?” The Escritor case is the Philippines’ landmark case on freedom of religion. Briefly, the facts of the case are:

[1] Soledad Escritor is a court stenographer in Las Pinas. She started living in with Luciano Quilapio, Jr. twenty seven years ago when her husband was still alive but living with another woman. Quilapio himself is married to another woman. When Escritor entered the judiciary in 1999, she was already a widow, her husband having died in 1998. They have a son. Both Escritor and Quilapio are members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

[2] Escritor was charged administratively in July 2000 before the Supreme Court for immorality.

[3] In her defense, Escritor claimed the 1987 Constitution provision on freedom of religion. She claimed that her relationship with Quilapio had the blessings of her denomination. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have a long-standing, worldwide practice based on their doctrines where a man and woman, unable to get legally married, are recognized as husband and wife through the signing of a document called “Declaration of Pledging Faithfulness”. The Supreme Court in its ruling describes what this Declaration is all about:
For Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Declaration allows members of the congregation who have been abandoned by their spouses to enter into marital relations. The Declaration thus makes the resulting union moral and binding within the congregation all over the world except in countries where divorce is allowed. As laid out by the tenets of their faith, the Jehovah’s congregation requires that at the time the declarations are executed, the couple cannot secure the civil authorities’ approval of the marital relationship because of legal impediments. Only couples who have been baptized and in good standing may execute the Declaration, which requires the approval of the elders of the congregation. As a matter of practice, the marital status of the declarants and their respective spouses’ commission of adultery are investigated before the declarations are executed. Escritor and Quilapio’s declarations were executed in the usual and approved form prescribed by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, approved by elders of the congregation where the declarations were executed, and recorded in the Watch Tower Central Office.

Moreover, the Jehovah’s congregation believes that once all legal impediments for the couple are lifted, the validity of the declarations ceases, and the couple should legalize their union. In Escritor’s case, although she was widowed in 1998, thereby lifting the legal impediment to marry on her part, her mate was still not capacitated to remarry. Thus, their declarations remained valid. In sum, therefore, insofar as the congregation is concerned, there is nothing immoral about the conjugal arrangement between Escritor and Quilapio and they remain members in good standing in the congregation.
[4] Upon investigation of Escritor’s claims, the Supreme Court found that:
Respondent appears to be sincere in her religious belief and practice and is not merely using the “Declaration of Pledging Faithfulness” to avoid punishment for immorality. She did not secure the Declaration only after entering the judiciary where the moral standards are strict and defined, much less only after an administrative case for immorality was filed against her. The Declaration was issued to her by her congregation after ten years of living together with her partner, Quilapio, and ten years before she entered the judiciary. Ministers from her congregation testified on the authenticity of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ practice of securing a Declaration and their doctrinal or scriptural basis for such a practice.
[5] The Supreme Court dismissed the administrative complaint against Escritor.

The Supreme Court ruling in Estrada vs. Escritor cannot be used as a legal basis by Baptist pastors in solemnizing an “ecclesiastical marriage” for several reasons:

[1] The Supreme Court clearly stated that its ruling is pro hac vice (“for this one particular occasion”). The Escritor ruling did not establish a general rule but an exception to the general rule on the basis of a valid exercise of the Constitutional freedom of religion. As the Supreme Court clarified, “It does not mean that the Court would grant exemptions every time a free exercise of religion comes before it. Thus, we find that in this particular case and under these distinct circumstances, respondent Escritor’s conjugal arrangement cannot be penalized as she has made out a case for exemption from the law based on her fundamental right to freedom of religion.”

[2] While the Jehovah’s Witnesses base their long-standing, worldwide practice of “Declaration of Pledging Faithfulness” on their doctrines, Baptist pastors and churches do not have any Biblical basis (whether in the Old Testament, the Gospels, Acts or the Epistles) for an “ecclesiastical marriage”. There is “no record in the Bible that any prophet, priest, rabbi, apostle or deacon ever presided over a marriage ceremony or had the authority to do so.” From where then does a pastor get his authority to solemnize an “ecclesiastical marriage”?

As I stated above, the only reason why some Baptist pastors have resorted to solemnizing an “ecclesiastical marriage” is because the man or the woman cannot afford the costs of having the subsisting marriage declared void. Human reasoning and pragmatism, not any Biblical principle, are their only bases. Please take note that the “Declaration of Pledging Faithfulness” of the Jehovah's Witnesses applies only when the couple cannot secure the civil authorities’ approval of the marital relationship because of legal impediments, not the lack of financial means. Once all legal impediments for the couple are lifted, the validity of the declarations ceases, and the couple should legalize their union.

Resorting to “ecclesiastical marriage” manifests a lack of faith in an omnipotent and sovereign God

Moreover, these pastors and couples manifest their lack of faith in an omnipotent, sovereign God who can:
[1] provide the finances needed to obtain a court decree on the nullity of the subsisting marriage; or

[2] change the man and woman’s personal circumstances; or

[3] provide the grace that will enable the man and woman to live separately if He chooses sovereignly not to change their circumstances or to provide the finances in obtaining a court decree.
A man and woman having sexual relations outside of marriage are committing sin. The greater sin however lies with the pastor who misleads the man and woman into thinking that an “ecclesiastical marriage” bestows God’s approval and blessings on their relationship.

“Ecclesiastical marriage” further complicates matters legally

Property relations between the man and woman in an “ecclesiastical marriage” will fall under Article 148 of the Family Code. Because the subsisting marriage has not been declared void by the courts, the legal spouse remains the man or woman’s heir.

What do you do with the children born to the man and woman? Will they be reported as legitimate or illegitimate? What surname will they use? What will be the rights of these children in terms of inheritance?

Benefits such as paternity leave are available only to legally married persons.

Please read these relevant links:

Friday, May 06, 2011

“Counterfeit Gospels” by Trevin Wax

Counterfeit GospelsTrevin Wax is an editor at LifeWay Christian Resources. He received a Masters of Divinity at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and spent several years serving the First Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Tennessee as Associate Pastor. He has been blogging regularly at Kingdom People since October 2006.

Trevin enumerates the counterfeit gospels as:

[1] Therapeutic Gospel: Sin robs us of our sense of fullness. Christ’s death proves our worth as humans and gives us power to reach our potential. The church helps us find happiness.

[2] Moralist Gospel: Our big problem is sins (plural) and not sin (nature). The purpose for Christ’s death is to give us a second chance and make us better people. Redemption comes through the exercise of willpower with God’s help.

[3] Judgmentless Gospel: God’s forgiveness does not need to come through the sacrifice of His Son. Judgment is more about God’s goodness, not the need for human rebellion to be punished. Evangelism is not urgent.

[4] Activist Gospel: The kingdom is advanced through our efforts to build a just society. The gospel’s power is demonstrated through cultural transformation, and the church is united around political causes and social projects.

[5] Churchless Gospel: The focus of salvation is primarily on the individual, in a way that makes the community of faith peripheral to God’s purposes. The church is viewed as an option to personal spirituality, or even an obstacle to Christlikeness.

[6] Quietist Gospel: Salvation is about spiritual things, not secular matters. Christianity is only about individual life change and is not concerned with society and politics.

Related articles by Trevin Wax:

You can download a 25-page PDF that includes all of the “Gospel Definitions” Trevin has collected.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Free 500-page PDF on missionary kids for parents, teachers and caregivers

Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and Joyce Bowers have graciously given permission to post this book online for people to download free of charge because the book is out of print. This 500-page book contains the collected wisdom of 38 authors who wrote the 56 chapters. It was the collaborative effort of ACSI, Interaction, Inc., and Mission Training International (MTI) and provides resources for people who have responsibility for MKs and other TCKs. (From

Chapters include: Preparing Children for Missionary Life; Preparing Our MKs for College; Making Career Choices; Bruising: When Things Go Wrong; Family Dynamics That Affect the MK; The Importance of Fathers in MK Development

Download as a pdf file (1.68 mb)

Download as a Word .doc file (1.53 mb)

Download as a .zip archive (469 kb)

Download as a .mobi for the Kindle (5.8 mb)

Other available resources from and

Monday, February 14, 2011

Why do so few people take the Gospel to the unevangelized?

The Great Omission, A Biblical Basis for World Evangelism”, by J. Robertson McQuilkin (read from Google Books or download PDF)

McQuilkin is the President Emeritus of Columbia International University and spent 12 years as a missionary in Japan. He resigned as president to care for his wife, Muriel when she reached the stage of Alzheimer’s disease in which she needed full-time care (listen to his moving resignation speech.)

During one lecture before several hundred college students, McQuilkin was asked, “How is it, with so many unreached peoples, there are so few Christians going?” In this book, he provides five major answers:

We don’t care that much.

We don’t see very well.

We think there must be some other way.

Our prayer is peripheral.

Someone isn’t listening.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

BBFI Global Fellowship Meeting, Cebu, Philippines, February 21-24, 2011

Baptist Bible Fellowship International will hold its Global Fellowship Meeting on February 21-24, 2011 at the Bible Baptist Church, no. 55 Katipunan St. Cebu City, Philippines. For more information about this global conference, accommodations, etc., please visit the BBC Cebu website, the event website (all-Flash), or download the PDF brochure (2 MB).

Schedule of activities

Monday 6:00 PM – Opening service

  • Shoji Yoshida (Japanese missionary in Asia)
  • Dr. Armie Jesalva (Pastor of host church – Philippines)
Tuesday 9:00 AM – Remember the past
  • Mike Valdez (Filipino missionary in Cambodia)
  • Elmer Deal (BBFI Missionary in Congo)
  • Nuth Pich (Pastor in Cambodia)
  • Alfonso Alvizo (Evangelist in Mexico)
  • George Housney (Evangelist for Middle East)

Afternoon: Seminar on reaching the Muslims with the Gospel, 2:00 PM

Tuesday 6:00 PM
  • Tsunehiro Michishita (Pastor in Japan)
  • Edivaldo Cano (Pastor in Brazil)
Wednesday 9:00 AM – Rejoice in our present opportunities
  • Jeevan Sharma (Pastor in Nepal)
  • Dr. Jae Kee Lee (Pastor in Korea)
  • Larry Nelson (BBFI missionary in Australia)
  • Gerardo Nable (Pastor in Philippines)
Lunch; Special luncheon for Asian Baptist Clearinghouse, 12:30 PM

Wednesday 6:00 PM
  • Cherlsoon Yim (Korean missionary in Ghana)
  • John Chow (Pastor in Taiwan)
Thursday 9:00 AM – Renew our vision for the future
  • Paul Byars (BBFI missionary with ABC – Philippines)
  • Mukendi Cikala Jean (Pastor in Congo)
  • Malid Khaled (Pastor in Middle East)
  • Leonard James (Pastor in United Kingdom)
  • Jun Lumagbas (Pastor in Philippines)

Afternoon: Seminar of outreach program by Bible Baptist Church, Cebu, 2:00 PM

Thursday 6:00 PM
  • Linzy Slayden (BBFI President – USA)
  • Dr. Daniel Kim (Pastor in Korea)

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Seven billion people by end of 2011