Like the sowing of the grain of mustard seed (Matt 13:31–32), The Far Eastern Bible College had sprung from an idea first implanted in the mind of its founding principal as early as 1954. This idea arose partly from a pressing need to train a new generation of “evangelists, pastors, and teachers” (Eph 4:11) for the Church of Jesus Christ in the Far East, and partly from a theological confrontation with certain institutions in Singapore that had apostatised from the Faith. Setting up a biblically fundamental and positionally conservative School is one way of earnestly contending for the Faith once delivered unto the saints (Jude 3).

Thus when the Rev Timothy Tow was delegated in 1958 by the Bible-Presbyterian Church of Singapore and Malaysia to the Congress of the International Council of Christian Churches in Brazil, this was deemed a golden opportunity to pursue further studies at Faith Theological Seminary, USA, in order to equip him better for the teaching ministry.

The burden of founding a theological school increased steadily after the principal’s return to Singapore. This was reflected in a leading article in the Malaysia Christian, captioned, “The Trend Is Toward the Trained.” In the meantime, interest in the proposed Bible College grew so strong that an evening school was launched in July 1961. This evening school, offering courses in Old Testament History and Christian Doctrine, was housed at the old Life Church, Prinsep Street until the College formally opened on September 17, 1962 at Gilstead Road. The evening “Basic Theology for Everyone” classes which were opened to the public continue to this day on Monday and Thursday nights without a break.

The decision to establish a Far Eastern Bible College was made by leaders of the Bible-Presbyterian Church on September 19, 1960. This decision was precipitated by the visit of Dr Philip Clark, General Secretary of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, USA. The General Secretary’s promise to send qualified teachers to help in this ambitious national undertaking was crucial to the founding of the College.

The location of the Bible College was providentially included in a new building project by Life Bible-Presbyterian Church. The spacious, sylvan site of the new church about to be built at Gilstead Road was chosen as the College campus. This choice was made possible by Life Church’s willingness to relinquish her original plan for a kindergarten in favour of a Bible College annex. (Incidentally, such a Church-and-College complex is in the good tradition of no less a stalwart than Pastor C H Spurgeon.) In view of the College’s central position in the metropolis of Southeast Asia, being easily accessible to prospective students from all parts of the Far East, the name “Far Eastern” was chosen.

The College was purposely constituted an autonomous institution, independent of ecclesiastical control. A Board of Directors was to be elected from men of faith and wisdom within the Bible-Presbyterian Church and from our cooperating missionaries. An interim three-man committee was appointed to draft a constitution and prospectus for the College, and to serve as liaison between the Bible-Presbyterian Church and the Missions Board. The three men were Rev Timothy Tow, Rev Quek Kiok Chiang, and Dr Tow Siang Hwa.

When the Board of Directors was formed, the Rev Timothy Tow was given the onerous task to head the College, both as its principal and president of the Board. Rev Tow held the reins of principalship until he was called home by the Lord on April 20, 2009. Rev Tow relinquished the presidency after five years to Rev Quek Kiok Chiang, which office the latter held till September 1977. Dr Tow Siang Hwa was elected to the presidency in September 1977 which he served with distinction till 1989. Dr Tow Siang Yeow took over as fourth president in 1989 and served with distinction till 2012. The Rev Dr Jeffrey Khoo was appointed the second principal on May 1, 2009. He served as interim president from 2012 to 2015, and was finally appointed fifth president on April 7, 2015.

Missionaries who had played a vital role in the planting and nurture of the FEBC vine from 1964 to 1980 were Rev and Mrs John E Grauley, Dr Synesio Lyra (loaned from Shelton College), Rev and Mrs Burton Toms, and Rev and Mrs Edward Paauwe. In the past, we had several distinguished visiting professors, namely, Dr John J Davis and Dr John C Whitcomb from Grace Theological Seminary; Dr Peter Masters, Pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle (Spurgeon’s); Rev Dan Ebert III, Founder and Director of Christian Training and Missionary Fellowship, and President Emeritus of The Center for Biblical Studies, Philippines; Dr Arthur E Steele, Founder and Chancellor, Clearwater Christian College, Florida; Dr D A Waite, President of the Dean Burgon Society, and The Bible For Today; Dr Howard J Carlson, Pastor of Suncoast Bible-Presbyterian Church, Florida; Dr Gary G Cohen, President of Cohen Theological Seminary; Dr Paul Lee Tan from Bible Communications; Dr Morris McDonald from the Presbyterian Missionary Union; and Dr Raymond Saxe, pastor of Fellowship Bible Church (Ann Arbor, Michigan).

From its inception, the College has provided a standard four-year training leading to the Bachelor of Theology. A three-year course granting a Diploma in Theology, and a one-and-a-half year course awarding a Certificate in Religious Knowledge were simultaneously given. From 1991, the Master of Divinity, and Master of Religious Education—graduate programmes requiring three years, and two years of studies respectively—were offered. In 1995, the off-campus certificate and Bachelor of Religious Education programmes were added. In 1996, the certificate programme was revised to include the Certificate of Biblical Studies. From 2001 to 2015, the BMin degree was offered in cooperation with the Bible College of East Africa in Kenya. The Master of Theology and Doctor of Theology degrees were introduced in 1997 and 2002 respectively to equip those specifically called to the teaching ministry. In 2005, FEBC opened the BMin programme to its DipTh graduates who are already in ministry, and introduced the in-ministry Master of Ministry (MMin) and the Doctor of Religious Education (DRE) programmes to its alumni. In 2009, FEBC replaced its off-campus, correspondence courses with distance learning courses through the internet.

In 2005, FEBC was awarded accreditation by CaseTrust for Education, the very first Bible College in Singapore to earn this award. This recognition by an external, secular agency proves FEBC’s commitment to basic educational standards comparable to other accredited institutions without compromising its Biblical-fundamentalist faith and ethos. With effect from January 25, 2006, FEBC is exempted from CaseTrust for Education.

Life Book Centre opened in January 1976. In May 1996, the Book Centre became FEBC Bookroom. Apart from catering to the Christian public, the Bookroom is also the purchasing agent for the College Library, publisher of literature produced by the faculty, and supplier of textbooks to our students.

In conjunction with Life Bible-Presbyterian Church (LBPC), the College has maintained a ministry of hospitality all these years to passing-through missionaries, pastors, and church workers. With the Lord’s help, the Church and College acquired 10 Gilstead Road in 1989. Beulah House, as it is named, serves as hostel not only to strangers passing through Singapore, but also to increasing numbers of married students coming to the College.

On 15 September 2008, LBPC instituted a lawsuit to evict FEBC from her birthplace and home at Gilstead Road because of FEBC’s belief in the verbal and plenary preservation (VPP) of the Holy Scriptures. On 8 October 2008, Dr Boaz Boon, Dr Quek Suan Yew and Dr Jeffrey Khoo, acting on behalf of the Board of Directors of FEBC, received the Attorney-General’s consent to seek a declaration from the High Court that the registered proprietors of 9, 9A and 10 Gilstead Road hold the properties on a charitable purpose trust for the benefit and use of FEBC. An originating summons was duly filed on 6 January 2009. The High Court heard both parties in a five-day trial from 25 to 29 January 2010. On 30 June 2010, the High Court ruled in favour of LBPC. FEBC appealed. On 26 April 2011, the Court of Appeal allowed FEBC’s appeal and dismissed all the claims of LBPC. The Court of Appeal found that FEBC (1) did not become a new college after its registration as a Charity in 2004, (2) was constituted an independent college free from ecclesiastical control since its founding and not a ministry of LBPC, (3) did not deviate from the Westminster Confession of Faith by believing in the VPP of the Holy Scriptures. As such, under the law of charitable purpose trusts, FEBC has the right to possess and use the premises at 9, 9A and 10 Gilstead Road (Khoo Jeffrey and others v Life Bible-Presbyterian Church and others [2011] SGCA 18).

On 20 April 2009, the founding Principal—Rev Dr Timothy Tow—was called home to be with the Lord at the age of 88. On 1 May 2009, the Board of Directors appointed the Rev Dr Jeffrey Khoo as the new Principal of FEBC.

On 18 April 2012, Elder Dr Tow Siang Yeow stepped down as President of the Board of Directors due to ill health. He was FEBC’s longest serving President. The Rev Dr Jeffrey Khoo served as interim President after Elder Dr Tow stepped down, and was finally appointed President by the Board on 14 April 2015.

Beginning with three students and two teachers, FEBC has, by the grace of God, steadily grown to about 500 in the student body and over a dozen on the faculty. After five decades, the College has graduated a thousand men and women who are now serving in the harvest fields around the world.