By Pedro C. Moreno
Published December 1, 1992
FIVE HUNDRED YEARS HAVE ELAPSED since the arrival of the Spaniards to America. That event has continued to have profound implications concerning the culture, race, mentality and religion on Latin America.
Recently, the Roman Catholic church held public discussions in Santo Domingo asking for forgiveness of America’s indigenous peoples, its self-criticism leading the way for a desire for a new protagonism. But these discussions were marred by the Catholic Church’s constant reference to the “problem of sects” in Latin America.
Though the Catholic Church nobly recognizes its share of responsibility for the “shadows” that accompanied the arrival of the Spaniards five hundred years ago, it fails to take a real stance on the explosive growth of evangelical Christians in Latin America. In spite of being able to submit to self-criticism in recognizing its many internal problems (lack of Christian testimony, lack of priests, formalism in church participation, etc.) the evaluation of growth of the non-Catholic churches is unreasoned and non-objective.
The easy answer is that “the sects” (a perjorative and dehumanizing label many Catholics insist on using to describe evangelicals) are financed by groups in the United States. Those who support this position, like the ostrich, hide their head in the ground and fail to see the reality of change that surrounds them.
On the other hand, with abundant documentation, a number of Catholics have recognized the genuine and native character of the evangelical churches and the powerful social impact of their message.
But what is it that makes Latin Americans flock to the evangelical churches? First, it is two fundamental messages: the person of Jesus Christ and the Bible. Second, the evangelicals build an empirical theology, based not so much on theological reflections, but on experience and daily reality. Their detractors do not hesitate to label them “fundamentalists” and even “fanatics.”
How is the evangelical message presented? It states that the common person, though poor, sick, full of problems and lacking a reason to live, can find a solution. Which one? “Jesus Christ!” answers the evangelical with energy and conviction.
Phrases such as: “Jesus is alive” – “He has power” – “God will take you out of your problems” – “God can heal you” – “You can find meaning for your life if you surrender to Christ” are recurrent and common in the preaching of the evangélicos.
Thus, while the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America is seeking ecclesiastical reform, the evangelicals have concentrated their message in two elements (Christ and the Bible) and have discovered that it is exactly what the people want and need to hear. Of course, the message does not exhaust itself with the preaching, but innumerable testimonies show that it is really helping the people to reorder their priorities, giving them an optimistic outlook in life, helping them solve their family problems (i.e., by saving and investing money that otherwise would be spent in alcohol and “fiestas”) and encouraging them to seek a better education for their children and more productivity at work.
Not without reason, the evangelical message constantly emphasizes that “everything you do, you do it for God.” Moreover, can anyone imagine the impact on the poor when they hear that “you have access to the unlimited power of God through prayer, and control over your circumstances,” rather than the other way around?
Some say that evangelical Christians are exclusive and think they possess the only truth. However, exclusivity is not in Christianity but in Christ himself. He said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6).
Religion, whatever it may be (Judaism, Islam, Christianity) by its nature is exclusive. If religion accepts that the others are also true, it loses raison d’etre and ceases to be true.
Truth, by an ontological requisite inherent to itself, has to be the only one. There cannot be many “truths.” That is why, when some sectors of the Roman Catholic Church and even the evangelical churches attempt to combine themselves with theologies substantially different from the Christian doctrine, such as “Andean Theology” (pantheist) or rescue some Marxist elements through “Liberation Theology,” they end up diluting their message, discouraging evangelism and questioning their own identity. Religious syncretism ultimately is not beneficial for any of the theological currents, which in the process of combining themselves, being contradictory in principle, lose their identity and their purpose.
A story is told about a boy who was brought before Alexander the Great to be tried for robbery. Alexander the Great solemnly asked, “Boy, what is your name? The boy timidly replied, “Alexander, sir.” Raising his voice, Alexander the Great sentenced, “Boy, you either change your conduct, or you change your name.”
Christianity does not admit middle grounds, syncretisms or doubts with respect to its identity, mission and purpose.
Finally, and going beyond this ontological and doctrinal analysis, we cannot overlook the fact that a religious society cannot be intolerant toward different religious, ethnic, cultural and linguistic expressions. The exclusive character of religious doctrine that we touched upon earlier takes place in the realm of idea, but should not reflect as an attitude of rejection toward people of different ideas.
In fact, we can have unity while respecting our diversity. We cannot impose diversity by force any more than we can impose uniformity by force. A society presupposes the existence of mature, reasonable and free citizens, and they will be the ones who will choose whatever fits them best regarding their religion, culture and life in general. We can be united and work toward a better country, a better standard of living, a better future for our children, without necessarily having to think and act in the same manner.
Pedro Moreno is representative of The Rutherford Institute for Latin America.
Forerunner - Home » The Forerunner Newspaper » Latin America
Your comments are welcome!
With “preaching to the lost” being such a basic foundation of Christianity, why do many in the church seem to be apathetic on this issue of preaching in highways and byways of towns and cities?
Is it biblical to stand in the public places of the world and proclaim the gospel, regardless if people want to hear it or not?
Does the Bible really call church pastors, leaders and evangelists to proclaim the gospel in the public square as part of obedience to the Great Commission, or is public preaching something that is outdated and not applicable for our day and age?
These any many other questions are answered in this documentary.
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Download the Free Study Guide!
Just what is Calvinism?
Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won’t evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? What are the differences between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Why did men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards and a host of renowned Protestant evangelists embrace the teaching of predestination and election and deny free will theology?
This is the first video documentary that answers these and other related questions. Hosted by Eric Holmberg, this fascinating three-part, four-hour presentation is detailed enough so as to not gloss over the controversy. At the same time, it is broken up into ten “Sunday-school-sized” sections to make the rich content manageable and accessible for the average viewer.
Running Time: 257 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Foundations in Biblical Eschatology
By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.
All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?
These and many more questions are dealt with by four authors as they present the four views on the millennium. Each view is then critiqued by the other three authors.
$12.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981
Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House. More recently, it was by catching just a glimpse of what this film reveals that Planned Parenthood director and abortion advocate Abby Johnson turned and became a strong advocate for the pre-born.
The modern technology of real-time ultrasound now reveals the actual responses of a 12-week old fetus to being aborted. As the unborn child attempts to escape the abortionist’s suction curette, her motions can be seen to become desperately agitated and her heart rate doubles. Her mouth opens – as if to scream – but no sound can come out. Her scream doesn’t have to remain silent, however … not if you will become her voice. This newly re-mastered version features eight language tracks and two bonus videos.
“…a high technology “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” arousing public opinion just as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 antislavery novel ignited the abolitionist movement.” – Sen. Gordon Humphrey, Time Magazine
Languages: English, Spanish, French, South Korean, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese
Running Time: 28 minutes
$17.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Exposes the Dangers of Abortion to Women!
These shocking eyewitness accounts expose the dangers of abortion not only to unborn children, but to the health and lives women as well. An antidote to the smokescreens of the liberal media, these short clips show what really happens in and around abortion clinics.
Although the content is emotionally gut-wrenching, these videos have been used in church seminars and small groups to educate Christians on the abortion issue and to lead people toward a pro-life position. Contains 2 hours and 40 minutes of materials that can be shown separately.
Watch these pro-life videos on-line.
“These videos helped change my mind from pro-choice to pro-life. Your videos are what did it for me. I will be walking in next year’s March For Life in San Francisco.” — A. Jackson, California
“I was going to have an abortion until I saw your video. Praise Jesus!”
— M. Drew, YouTube Commenter
$4.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)