There is a false premise throughout much of the world that cultural practices and beliefs, are amoral (they are not within the confines of morals) and should be free from scrutiny, critique and evaluation by others outside or even those within that culture itself. They believe that because a belief or practice has been around for a long period of time, that gives it an authenticity and it justifies that belief. There are those that believe because a belief has it’s roots in Christianity that means that the whole belief is correct, and others yet would argue that there are no real defined terms of what is right or wrong; or in other words “truth is relative not absolute” and that you can believe what you want but that is not my truth. (or I don’t hold that to be true)
In this post I would like to look at the Filipino cultural practice of Salibatbat (Self-flagellation, carrying of crosses, severe self punishment to make atonement for sins) occurring the week prior to Easter Sunday. This is a practice done and held sacred by most Catholics in Central Luzon, Philippines. Interestingly enough
Catholic Parishioners practicing Salibatbat
I tried to find documentation on the origin, the purpose, the beliefs behind the practice etc, but was unable to find any documentation online. At best there are a multitude of videos from all around central Luzon showing the somewhat brutal practice. I want to address these cultural beliefs and these presuppositional beliefs mentioned above and show from both a scriptural point of view and a logical one, why these arguments do not hold any water and are clearly wrong.
A LOOK AT WHAT I UNDERSTAND THE HISTORY, CULTURAL CONTEXT, AND RELIGIOUS FOUNDATIONS FOR THE PRACTICE.
This is a practice that to my knowledge was founded and practiced in Northern Central Luzon and was a teaching and practice that came out of the Catholic Church. While there may be other place that the practice immigrated to outside the Philippines, My understanding is that this practice originates in the Philippines and came out of the Catholic Church. There seems to be some suggestion that this practice was started around the time of the Death March when during World war two Japan captured the Philippines and marched numerous Filipinos and Americans from Bataan to the O’Donnell Camp just outside of Capas, Tarlac. This however has been unsubstantiated by this author. When exactly this practice was started is unknown by this author as there is almost no documentation as to the background, the cultural and spiritual foundations of this practice. In fact all that could be found online was large numbers of video’s from current practices in numerous cities and barangays’ throughout central Luzon like the one above.
As for the belief itself, As mentioned it comes from Catholic beliefs and Christian beliefs and traditions about the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.We see that Jesus the Christ, who was fully man and Fully God, was without sin; He has done absolutely nothing wrong. He was born and lived among the people for 33 yrs. and it is widely held that he started his ministry at the age of 30 yrs of age. He did Miracles and many other great things and his teachings were like nothing ever heard then or to this day. He was considered a threat to Rome and to the religious local rulers, the Sanhedrin (which was made up of Sadducees, Pharisees, the Essenes and the Revolutionaries) Daily, there were people following not just the teachings of Christ, But following Him as the Messiah believing that He was God incarnate. Though they were not understanding at that time the full gospel message and what was to come (death and resurrection from the dead) he was gaining more and more of a following the the Jewish people who were converting from Judaism. In The Bible Matt 26-28:20; Mark 14-16; Luke 22-24 we see that Powerful people in the Sanhedrin planned to take Jesus out. Christ knew what was coming and used his death and resurrection as the means through which he would redeem all of mankind and bring them back into right relationship with God. He was tried, wrongfully convicted, through much lies and cunning, and was sentenced to death by crucifixion on a cross. He died. He took all of mankind’s sins upon himself, taking their death penalty himself and paying that high price that only he could pay. He was buried in a sealed tomb, guarded by Roman soldiers because they thought someone might attempt to steal the body and make a claim of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. The precautions taken by Rome and the Sanhedrin were substantial. They did not want any uprisings or false claims. They went above and beyond to make sure that there would be no problems. Please refer to More proofs for the resurrection of Jesus the Christ.
Despite all their efforts three days later he rose again, not only fulfilling what He prophesied, but also proving He was who said he was. Prior to going back up to being with God, himself he appeared to hundreds of witnesses; both believers and unbelievers. Both those that were followers of Jesus Christ and those that were not such as, Josephus, Julius Africanus and other secular writers (all contemporaries of Jesus) write about this Jesus the Christ, and His trial, his death and resurrection. Extra-Biblical Secular Witnesses and Historians Reinforce Claims of Bible. Though not all were followers of Jesus they testified to a historical fact that can be verified. This is only a small portion of the evidences but here is insurmountable proofs for the foundation of The death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, which Christians, Catholics and others all celebrate around April/May each year. Filipino Catholics reenact the death and resurrection in remembrance of what Christ did on our behalf.
WHERE CATHOLIC BELIEFS AND PRACTICES DIFFER FROM THAT OF CHRISTIANITY AND AFFECT THEIR PRACTICES
CATHOLICISM AS PART OF IT’S BELIEFS, BELIEVE THAT SALVATION IS NOT JUST FAITH THROUGH CHRIST AS EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS BELIEVE ROM:3:21-31; ROM 4:1-5; ROM 4:13; ROM 10:2-4; ROM 10:9-13; EPH 2:8-9; NOT GRACE THROUGH FAITH PLUS WORKS.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE OTHER DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CATHOLIC AND CHRISTIAN BELIEFS THAT CAN OR DO AFFECT THEIR TRADITIONS AND BELIEFS
- LITURGY- THERE ARE MANY PRACTICES AND BELIEFS IN THEIR LITURGY (READINGS, PRACTICES, PRAYERS, MASSES THAT REFLECT THEIR BELIEFS OF “WORKS AND WHAT THEY NEED TO DO “EARN THEIR SALVATION” RESULT: MAN MADE TRADITIONS AND PRACTICES ARE HELD ON EQUAL PAR WITH THE WORD OF GOD
- THEIR VIEW ON SIN IS SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT CLASSIFY SIN MORTAL OR VENIAL SIN RESULT: THIS AFFECTS HOW THEY VIEW GOD’S WORD (INTERPRETED DIFFERENTLY OR THROUGH LENSES OF CATHOLIC DOCTRINE AS WORD NOT WHAT GOD SAYS AS TRUTH.
- FALL OF MAN VIEW ON ORIGINAL SIN DIFFERS RESULT: AGAIN THIS SKEWS OVERALL HOW THEY VIEW MAN KIND IN THAT SIN DID NOT AFFECT MANKIND DOWN THE LINE. TRUTH AGAIN IS DISTORTED THUS GOSPEL SITORTED
- BELIEFS ON GRACE AND FREE WILL DIFFERS RESULT: AGAIN GOSPEL IS DISTORTED
- VIEWS ON FORGIVENESS OF SIN DIFFER IN THAT VENIAL SINS CAN BE ATONED FOR EVEN AFTER DEATH RESULT: THIS CERTAINLY DISTORTS THE GOSPEL AS THERE IS NO URGENCY TO FOLLOW GOD, SOME SINS CANS BE DEALT WITH IN THE AFTERLIFE AND ONE JUST GOES TO PURGATORY
- FORGIVENESS OF SINS NOT JUST IN THIS LIFE BUT IN THE AFTERLIFE IN CATHOLICISM. RESULTS: AS ABOVE
- THEIR VIEW ON BAPTISM AND SECOND CONVERSION DIFFERS SUBSTANTIALLY. THEY SEE BAPTISM AS ACTUALLY WASHING AWAY THE SINS AND THE NEED FOR BAPTIZING INFANTS. RESULTS: THERE IS ACCORDING TO THEM FORGIVENESS THROUGH BAPTISM AND THUS DISTORTS THE WHOLE MEANING OF FORGIVENESS AND BAPTISM. NEVER WAS INFANT BAPTISM EVER MENTIONED IN SCRIPTURE BUT RATHER IT WAS A DECLARATION OF FAITH IN CHRIST WITH THE PERSON FULLY UNDERSTANDING WHAT HE OR SHE IS DOING. IT IS A DECLARATION TO THE BODY OF CHRIST THAT YOU ARE DYING TO SELF AND LIVING FOR CHRIST JESUS
- THEY BELIEVE IN A SECOND CONVERSION RESULT: ANOTHER SICKNING TWIST ON SCRIPTURE TOTALLY CHANGING THE GOSPEL WHICH IS REALLY VERY SIMPLE AND STRAIGHT FORWARD AND MAKING IT A LEGALISTIC NIGHTMARE. IT IS PICTURESQUE OF THE PHARISEES IN BIBLE TIMES
- THEY HOLD THAT THEY HAVE TO DO PENANCE AS A MEANS OF OBTAINING FORGIVENESS OF SINS AND GETTING ABSOLUTION FROM A PRIEST. THEY BELIEVE THAT PRIESTS CAN NOT ONLY HEAR BUT FORGIVE SINS (AN ACT ONLY GOD CAN DO)RESULTS: SAME AS NUMBER 8. NOWHERE IS PENANCE AND FORGIVENESS SUCH AS THE WAY CATHOLICS STATE IT HAS TO BE DONE IS EVER MENTIONED IN SCRIPTURE. RETRIBUTION SUCH AS MONEY TAKEN BY TAX COLLECTORS (ZACHEUS) WAS DONE WHEN HE UNDERSTOOD THE GOSPEL AND THE IMPLICATIONS OF IT. OUT OF LOVE/GRACE/THANKSGIVING NOT LEGALISM
- THEY HAVE A DIFFERING VIEW ON THE AFTERLIFE BELIEVING NOT JUST IN HEAVEN BUT ALSO PURGATORY ALONG WITH HELL RESULTS:NEVER DOES SCRIPTURE EVER MENTION OR EVEN HINT AT A PURGATORY. IT IS A BLATANT CHANGING OF THE GOSPEL MESSAGE WHICH ULTIMATELY PUTS PEOPLE NOT JUST INTO SLAVERY TO THE CHURCH BUT TO THE FATHER OF LIES AND RISKS THE SOULS OF MANY FOR A LIE.
- THEY BELIEVE IN DOING PRAYER AND INDULGENCES FOR THE DEAD TO SPEED UP TIME IN PURGATORY. RESULTS: AS ABOVE IN #10 BUT ALSO IT TWISTS THE CONCEPT OF ETERNITY BY SAYING THERE IS ALWAYS AN OUT AND THAT PEOPLE CAN BE PRAYED OUT OF THIS “HALF-WAY HOUSE” BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL.
- THEIR VIEW ON SALVATION IS DIFFERENT IN THAT THOSE NOT REALLY KNOWING OR HAVING THE OPPORTUNITY TO CHOOSE CAN STILL GO TO HEAVEN RESULTS: THIS DIRECTLY CONTRADICTS SCRIPTURE JOHN 14:6; HEB 9:27
- VIEW ON THE CHURCH DIFFERS IN THAT THEY BELIEVE THAT THE CHURCH EXISTS SIMULTANEOUSLY, ON EARTH (CHURCH MILITANT), IN PURGATORY (CHURCH SUFFERING), AND IN HEAVEN (CHURCH TRIUMPHANT) MARY AND OTHER SAINTS ARE PART OF THE LIVING CHURCH.
- PROTESTANTS REJECT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH’S DOGMA THAT JESUS CHRIST ESTABLISHED “ONLY ONE CHURCH”, WHICH THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IDENTIFIES AS ITSELF
- THEY ALSO REJECTED THE DOCTRINAL STATEMENT ISSUED BY POPE BENEDICT XVI, WHICH STATES THAT ONLY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH COULD BE CALLED THE “CHURCH”. PROTESTANTS ARGUED THAT THE POPE IS WRONG, AND THAT THEY WERE LEGITIMATE CHURCHES AS WELL
- THEY DEVOTE THEMSELVES TO MARY, PRAYING TO HER TO INTERCED ON BEHALF OF THE CHURCH. CONTRAST THAT WITH WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS THAT CHRIST HEARS OUR PRAYERS AND INTERCEDES ON OUR BEHALF. THOUGH THEY CLAIM THAT THEY DO NOT WORSHIP HER PRAYERS TO HER, LITURGY ABOUT HER, HOLD LITURGICAL FEASTS TO HER. SHE IS PRACTICALLY WORSHIPED LIKE A LESSER “GOD”. RESULTS: THOUGH THEY CALIM NOT TO WORSHIP HER, BY THE VERY NATURE OF THE THINGS THEY ARE DOING SUCH AS SETTING UP STATUTES, PRAYING TO HER FOR HER TO INTERCEDE ON THEIR BEHALF, SETTING UP SPECIAL DINNERS FOR HER, AND THEY WAY THAT THEY TALK ABOUT HER AND TO HER AS THOUGH SHE HAS SOME SPECIAL STATUS AND POWER THEY ARE TREATING HER LIKE A GOD LITTLE “G” . FURTHERMORE, I HAVE AN ISSUE ANYTIME THOSE THINGS THAT ARE ATTRIBUTED TO GOD OR JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF AND THEY ARE THEN “DELEGATED” TO MARY SIMPLY BECAUSE SHE IS THE BIRTH MOTHER OF JESUS CHRIST. CHRIST NEVER GAVE HER EXTRA HIERARCHY OR STATUS WHEN HE WAS ON EARTH BECAUSE SHE WAS HIS MOTHER, NEITHER SHOULD WE ASSUME NOW THAT SHE HAS SOME.
- THEY BELIEVE IN CLERICAL CELIBACY
THESE ARE BELIEFS THAT INFLUENCE AND AFFECT THE PRACTICES OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND CAN,AND DO SKEW THE PRACTICES EVEN IF ONES NOT HELD BY THE MAIN BRANCHES OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCHES. LET’S LOOK WITH A LITTLE MORE DETAILS AT SOME OF THE ASSUMPTIONS THAT ARE GENERALLY HELD THROUGHOUT THE WORLD INCLUDING BY THOSE THEMSELVES THAT HOLD TO CATHOLICISM, AND LETS SEE HOW HOLDING SUCH VIEWS ALONG WITH THE TRADITIONAL CATHOLIC VIEWS COULD SKEW THE GOSPEL MESSAGE.
A QUICK AND VERY IMPORTANT CLARIFICATION
Before we begin, I need to make it abundantly clear, I AM ALL FOR CULTURAL PRACTICES AND TRADITIONS, i LOVE LEARNING ABOUT THEM, EXPERIENCING THEM AS i TRAVEL, AND DOWN TO MY VERY BEING, I BELIEVE THAT IS WHAT MAKES US VERY UNIQUE AND DIVERSE. this is NOT, REPEAT NOT AN ATTACK ON CULTURES THEMSELVES. NEITHER IS IT ANY ATTACK ON THE PARISHIONERS OR EVEN THE CHURCH ITSELF AS I HAVE NOTHING AGAINST THEM PERSONALLY. EPH 6:12. Rather it is a frank discussion without all the political correctness about how individuals and groups adamantly stress and get downright ornery if you suggest that the cultural practice contradicts the Word of God. What I am against is when those inside our outside a tradition hold the opinion that these things are somehow sacred and do not fall under the scrutiny of the God and His word. It is as though they think that somehow God has given them a “get out of jail” (monopoly terminology) card that says ” I know you are a special group so we will overlook those practices beliefs and traditions that contradict my Word, and just let you continue to believe that you are without sin and guilt” WHAT I AM AGAINST IS WHEN SATAN USES EXTREME TACTICS TO LIE, DECEIVE, KILL AND DESTROY THOSE WHO SHOULD BE IN GOD’S KINGDOM AND SERVING HIM BUT ARE INSTEAD “THROWING THEM IN THE LOBSTER POT”. THEY ARE THROWN IN WATER THAT IS WARM AND TEPID. THEY BELIEVE WHAT THEY THINK IS RIGHT BUT BEFORE THEY KNOW IT, THE POT IS BOILING HOT AND THEY FIND THEMSELVES IN HELL’S FIRES BECAUSE THEY HAD A RELIGION BASED ON WORKS RATHER THAN A RELATIONSHIP AND FAITH THAT WAS GRACE BASED
FALSE ASSUMPTION #1 THAT CULTURAL TRADITIONS, PRACTICES, AND BELIEFS ARE AMORAL (a view held mostly by those outside faith groups but also by those in faith groups especially corresponding more to the traditions cultures and practices themselves rather than the doctrine as such)
GETTING A LITTLE PHILOSOPHICAL
Let us assume that their premise is correct. There are many cultural religious and other practices that could then argue that they too fall under that category. Lets for the sake of argument say that we have three groups that consider their practices customs and beliefs amoral. the first a catholic church with all it’s traditions, the second a first nations native band that practices traditional Native Religions (Animism), and a third a group that is a sect off of Christianity that would by most be considered a cult. each groups traditions practices and customs are different; each one sincerely believes that what they believe is right moral and just. BUT UNDER WHAT GUIDELINES THEN CAN THEY MAKE THAT ASSUMPTION. Lets assume this cult group decided to do something similar to the Jim Jones thing in Guyana. (under the guise OF THE WHOLE WORLD WILL TURN AGAINST THEM BECAUSE WE ARE THE TRUE RELIGION FOLLOWING THE MESSIAH JAMES JEREMIAH )They poisoned all their parishioners causing them to die) Was what they did correct? was it right, moral just? under what standard can we make a determination of right or wrong if there is by your own admission no absolute truth? it would stand to reason that the same leader could say i want to marry your 13 yr old daughter. if there is no absolute truth in this world then the father has no recourse to say no because according to that cult leaders “truth” its OK and despite the father saying otherwise it would be one “truth statement against another. the world would be turned upside down and would be in utter turmoil if this was the case. Police, army, governments, schools, and so many other things could not function without law order but more importantly absolute truth which comes from the author of truth -God himself. What many fail to recognize is that they aren’t rejecting absolute truth because they seek disorder(though some do want that too) but rather because they have a bent and perversion that is anti God, and refuse to be under the authority and rule of Christ Jesus.
Lets however get back to the scenario. Let’s look at this native group. they live out a ways from any town or city and have traditions and practices religious and otherwise that have been passed down from their grandfather and he got it from his father and grandfather and so on. their beliefs derive from animism; that is the worship all off living and no-living things. They worship the rocks, the trees, all the animals the sun and the stars. they sincerely believe that each has a spirit and that these are spirit guides to guide them on life’s right path. they practice other traditions like sweat lodge ceremonies, Ghost dances, and use other methods through which they conjure up their dead ancestors. they claim to have been practicing it for “millions of years”. Is it beyond the realm absolute truth? For something to be true then there must be other contradicting beliefs that are false. According to logic if “A” is truth and “B” is contradictory both “A” and “B” cannot both be true. the opposite is also true. If “A” is false and “B” is contradictory to it then Both “A” and “B” cannot both be false. Also truth “A” or Truth “B” cannot be both truth and false at the same time. now We have a native group that claims that they hold truth and that every living and non-living being is a spirit guide to bring them closer to nature and to their “god”. While Christianity and the Bible recognize that their are many religions they say that there is one true God, They say that there is only one way to God through Jesus Christ. Furthermore it specifically says that the worship of any other god is wrong. It says that the animism they practice, the spiritism they practice is all wrong. So … Who is right? Both are opposites; both cannot be true. One has to be true and the other false. Both cannot be false and both cannot be both true and false. There is only one logical answer one must be true and the other false.
please read when cultural practices are not always right or Biblical PART 2 to hear further arguments as to why according to God’s Word not all cultural practices like Salibatbat are .right or Biblical. Happy Reading. Lets hear what you think