In Pinoy conversations, when faith becomes the subject, you can see some misunderstandings in the words we use. Considering that the Philippines is a “Christian” country, sometimes words get lost it’s meaning. This doesn’t mean we are totally illiterate when it comes to the nitty gritty of their faith or about the Bible. Even in Pinoy evangelical circles, who are more exposed to books and biblical teachings, sometimes get confused with these terms. So for the benefit of all of us, we shall unlock the meaning of the following words commonly misunderstood by Filipinos.
Born-Again – As a Filipino, what comes in your mind when you hear the word, born again? For some Pinoys, it usually refers to a charismatic movement that flourished from the 80’s, most specifically the group Jesus Is Lord (or JIL) Movement headed by Bro. Eddie Villanueva. This group, just like any charismatic groups, have TV shows were they preach and heal people. They had their spotlight here and there because some Pinoy celebrities are members of some churches of this group.
We can see the word born again in the Bible and it’s not referring to a charismatic movement. In John 3: 3, we see Jesus talking about it with Nicodemus. Born again in context with this chapter means regeneration, which is sole act of God making someone dead in sin, come alive and ready to receive the gift of faith which is also from God. For someone to be right with God, God need that sinner to be regenerated. This is a crucial aspect of salvation, because if we believe salvation is from God alone, it must regeneration. For more about being born again and regeneration, check out this article from Monergism.
Iglesia or Iglesiya – When Filipinos use this word, they commonly refer it to the church or members of Iglesia ni Cristo founded by Felix Manalo. Although the word is mentioned in Catholic mass referring to the church or you can read it on Tagalog Bible translation, Iglesia became a household name due to the popularity of Iglesia ni Cristo.
However, Iglesia is a Tagalog translation of the Greek word ekklesia which means called out assembly. Hence, iglesia or ekklesia refers not to a building, a religious group but to a group of people called by God out from this sin fallen world. Whether it’s the universal or local church, iglesia or iglesiya can be used. A believer can also use the word simbahan,which is more popularly used in the Philippines.
Catechism – The next two words that we will tackle are not just misunderstood by Pinoys but also by many specially in evangelical circles. In the Pinoy context, catechism is something associated with the Roman Catholic Church. Catechizing is usually done during fiestas, where babies will be baptized in a church or chapel. The godparents will undergo a “seminar”, which include teaching basic Roman Catholic doctrines, in a form of catechism before the baptism.
However, catechism is not solely a Roman Catholic thing. Other denomination do have catechism as a teaching tool for the lay people. Using a catechism doesn’t make you Roman Catholic, so you should not dread using one. Catechism is basically a summary of essential doctrines a Christian group believes. It’s written in a question and answer style, for brevity and easy memorization. Throughout the centuries, churches benefited with the use of catechism. Personally, I use the Baptist catechism to teach our church youth group.
catholic – This final entry to our list is similar with entry #3. Christians associate it with the Roman Catholic Church solely, because they can read obviously the word, catholic. But as you can see, I typed it in lower case to make a distinction from the capitalized one. Also the we dropped the word “Roman” from it. When referring to the Catholic church a hierarchic church where the pope is the head, we use the word Roman Catholic.
But what about the small catholic? What does it mean? It simply means universal highlighting the universality of the church. This means the church is not limited to the local church you can find in your neighborhood, but to all churches all over the planet. The universal or catholic church also refers to the church from different ages or time. So everytime you hear the word catholic in the Apostles’ Creed,it doesn’t refer to the Roman Catholic Church, it only means the Christian church of all times and of all places.
What other words do you think that are misunderstood by our fellow Filipinos? Please comment down below.