Iglesia Ni Cristo
You would be hard pressed to find another religion that is more like Jehovah's Witnesses than the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church of Christ).
The Iglesia Ni Cristo was founded in 1914 by Felix Manalo in the Philippines. Since both Charles Taze Russell and Felix Manalo got their doctrines from Seventh Day Adventist influences, the doctrines of both religions have ended up being very similar.
Similarities are that the Iglesia Ni Cristo and Jehovah's Witnesses both:
- Believe that 1914 was the beginning of the Last Days
- Don't believe in the Trinity
- Believe that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force
- Don't believe in the immortality of the soul
- Salvation not by faith, but by works
- Baptism by immersion is necessary
- Obey leaders unconditionally
- Think they are the "one true religion"
- Think/thought at one point that their founder is the Last Messenger of Revelation
- Believe missing meetings is a sin, based on Hebrews 10:24-25
- Have church discipline that includes reproof and disfellowshipping
- Eating blood is a disfellowshipping offence
- Don't celebrate Christmas, or Easter, or most holidays.
- Don't celebrate birthdays (Except the INC celebrates Felix Manao's birthday)
- Shun ex-members
- They are a restoration of the original 1st century Christianity, counteracting the 4th century apostasy
Differences between the religions include:
- INC approves of voting
- INC Disfellowships for marrying outside the church
- INC approves donating blood and receiving blood transfusions, but not eating blood.
- INC members can join the military
- INC members wear a uniform
- INC members cannot dance or drink alcohol
History of the Iglesia Ni Cristo
The Iglesia Ni Cristo was founded on July 27th, 1914 by Felix Y. Manalo. Manalo had been searching for the correct teachings in many religions. He left the Catholic Church dissatisfied in 1902, then he went to Methodist, Presbyterian, and Seventh Day Adventist churches, before founding INC.
Over the years, the church has grown to millions of members. It is unknown how many members there are, since the church does not publish member numbers, but it is estimated to be from 4 to 11 million members.
The church has gone through two generations of successors: Felix Manalo died on April 12, 1963, and his son, Eraño Manalo, took over, until his own death in 2009. The current church leader is Manalo's grandson, Eduardo Villanueva Manalo.
In 2014, like the Jehovah's Witnesses, they celebrated 100 years since 1914; the INC celebrating the 100th anniversary of the church, while the Jehovah's Witnesses celebrated the 100th anniversary of "the birth of the Kingdom".
In 2015, there was a leadership controversy in which Eduardo expelled his brother, Angel Manalo, and his mother, Tenny, for trying to "create divisions". Allegedly, up to 10 INC ministers were kidnapped and held at gunpoint. The Iglesia called it "disciplinary action". The Philippine government is doing a criminal investigation on the church.
The Iglesia Ni Cristo has the following beliefs, taken from theiglesianicristo.blogspot.mx (1 May 2017):
About the Bible
"We believe that the Bible is the word of God and the sole basis of our faith and service to God"
"We believe that there is only one true God, the Father, and no one else besides Him"
"We reject the unbiblical teaching that there are three person in one God - that aside from God the father, there is God the Son and God the Holy Spirit."
About the Lord Jesus Christ
"We believe in Jesus Christ and accept Him as the Son of God, Lord, Savior, and the Mediator between God and Man" ... We reject the teaching that Christ is God.
About the Holy Spirit
"We believe that the Holy Spirit is the power that sent by the Father in the name of Christ"
About the Messengers of God
"We believe that the late Brother Felix Y. Manalo is God's last messenger, the fulfillment of the biblical prophecies regarding the "Angel" ("messenger") from the east (cf. Rev. 7:2-3) who would preached to God's sons and daughters from the "ends of the earth" (cf. Is. 43:5-6; 41:9-10; 46:11)."
About God's Standing Policy of Election
"We believe that God elects and set apart His people to serve Him" ... The Iglesia Ni Cristo believe that since the ancient times, God has set apart his people to serve Him (cf. Ps. 4:3).People outside this election are not God's people (I Pet. 2:9-10, TEV), not of Christ, and without hope and without God (cf. Eph. 2:12)."
About Salvation and the Church
"We believe that man must enter the Church Of Christ in order to be save come Judgment Day" ... Thus, faith alone is not enough."
"We believe that man needs to receive baptism to be saved and the baptism commanded by Christ and preached by His apostles is done through immersion"
About the Church Administration
"We believe that the Church Administration is from God and we are duty bound to submit ourselves to them" ... The Iglesia Ni Cristo believes that every member is duty-bound to submit himself to the Church Administration because it is God's commandment."
About the Christian Way of Life
"We believe that those who are truly in Christ should live a righteous life based on moral teachings of the Bible"
Those who are truly in Christ should lead a righteous life based on moral teachings of the Bible: "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (I Cor. 6:9-10 NIV)
We also believe that God prohibits the eating of blood (cf. Lev. 17:10; Acts 15:28).
The Bible also strictly prohibits mixed marriage with unbelievers."
About Worship of God
"We believe that it is the whole duty of man to worship God and keep His commandments" ... Thus, the Bible strictly prohibits kneeling, bowing serving and worshipping graven images... The Christians are admonished by the apostles not to neglect their "church meetings"."
"We believe that members of the Church of Christ must love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ"... The Iglesia ni Cristo believes that members of the Church of Christ should observe the brotherhood Christ Himself established the brotherhood inside the Church of Christ (cf. Mt. 23:8; John 13:34-35)... That is why members of the Church of Christ address one another as brother and sister."
About Christian Unity
"We believe that it is God's commandment that we must subscribe to sacred unity"
Interesting Difference: Their Viewpoint on Blood
Although the INC and the Jehovah's Witnesses can both easily be considered a high control group that can be very damaging to member's lives, they differ in the damage they cause.
One of the most damaging doctrines of Jehovah's Witnesses is their stance on blood.
The Witnesses believe that Acts 15:28-29, where it says "abstain from blood", means abstaining from blood transfusions. This doctrine has led to many thousands of unnecessary and early deaths since its implementation in the 1940's.
INC members do not eat blood, based also on Leviticus 17:10 and Acts 15:28. But they correctly don't consider Acts 15:28 to refer to blood transfusions. They say, simply, "this prohibition by God can not be used as a basis for forbidding the medical practice called blood transfusion, for "eating blood" is obviously different from "transfusing blood."
So at least on this point, INC does not damage its members like the Jehovah's Witnesses.
There are many religions that are like Jehovah's Witnesses, usually tracing back to the Second Adventist movement. There is a common thread of rejecting the trinity and hell-fire, teaching "soul sleep", holding that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force, and focusing on time prophecies. INC and Jehovah's Witness similarities extend to them being considered a cult because of high levels of control over believers' lives.