Filipino president's comments on God rebuked
Dan Santiago, president of the Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship of North America, said Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte lacks "solid biblical knowledge of the Judeo-Christian God." Meanwhile, Filipino Catholic leaders -- who have feuded publicly with Duterte -- called today (July 9) for "God's mercy and justice" on blasphemers, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Duterte's latest remarks about God came July 6 at the opening of a science and technology event in Davao City, Philippines, where he noted he does believe in a supreme being, but not the biblical God. Since taking office two years ago, Duterte has drawn criticism for his crass public comments and his war on crime, which human rights groups say has included the executions of thousands by police without due process.
"If there is any one of you ... who say you'd been to heaven, talked to God, saw Him personally, and that He exists, the God [that] is yours, and if he does, it's true, I will step down [from] the presidency," Duterte said according to The Independent.
The Filipino president challenged even "one witness" to come forward with a "selfie" with the Christian God or other evidence of His existence.
"You do that today, one single witness, that there is a guy, a human being [who] was able to talk and to see God," Duterte said. "Of the so many billions, I just need one. And if there is one, ladies and gentlemen, I will announce my resignation immediately."
Santiago, pastor of Covenant Christian Church in Jacksonville, Fla., told Baptist Press Duterte "obviously ... does not have a solid biblical knowledge of the Judeo-Christian God" and "relies on his personal understanding of who God is. Largely, his comments are aimed at the Roman Catholic Church in particular due to his bad experiences with them."
Duterte has said he is Catholic and has alleged he was abused by a priest as a child. He "has frequently lambasted priests," The Wall Street Journal reported, "calling them corrupt womanizers." In late June, Duterte called the Christian God "stupid" and described Him with an expletive for allowing Adam's sin in Genesis 3 to affect the entire created order, according to media reports.
Those remarks drew criticism from Filipino Catholics and Protestants alike, with prominent evangelical leader Eddie Villanueva saying he "felt holy anger" and believed Duterte was "violating the soul of the nation" by mocking the God acknowledged in its constitution.
Santiago said in written comments, "As a minister, I will focus on continually educating our churches on biblical teachings about God, the Spirit and His Son Jesus Christ. This argument will die down by itself. It's not healthy to argue. Besides, I don't need to defend God in all of this. He is the great God and He will act according to His plan. If asked publicly, I will simply respond based on the biblical facts that God has spoken through history, nature, His Son Jesus Christ and continues to speak to us today through His Word by the guidance of the Holy Spirit."
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines issued a July 9 statement that did not specifically name Duterte but seemed to aim at his comments on God and his war on crime.
The statement called for "God's mercy and justice on those who have blasphemed God's Holy Name, those who slander and bear false witness, and those who commit murder or justify murder as a means for fighting criminality in our country," The Journal reported.
A spokesman for Duterte said he met with Filipino Archbishop Romulo Geolina Valles July 9 and promised to stop making statements about the Roman Catholic Church.
According to data reported by the Philippines' Phil Star news website, the nation's approximately 100 million residents include 87 million Christians, with 76 million identifying as Catholic and 11 million identifying as Protestants and "other Christians."