Bearing True Witness

Jeffrey Khoo

I write in response to the article and statement published in the Life Bible-Presbyterian Church (BPC) Weekly of January 27, 2008, namely, (1) “Bearing False Witness” by the Rev Charles Seet, and (2) “An Appeal to VPP Proponents” by the Life BPC Board of Elders (BOE).1

Ninth Commandment

The Rev Charles Seet wrote an excellent article against breaking the ninth commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Exod 20:16). He rightly warned against lies, deceits, boastings, flatteries, false accusations, gossips, perjuries, etc. Despite his warning against bearing false witness, it is necessary to reveal that the Rev Seet when he taught the Ten Commandments at the Far Eastern Bible College (FEBC) commented that there are times when employing “deceit” is not a sin. In his lecture notes, he wrote that in times of war it might be necessary to tell a lie (i.e. a “lie of necessity”). The Rev Seet is even quoted in the internet as an advocate of such a “lie of necessity.”2

Now, if the Rev Charles Seet believes that bearing false witness or telling a lie is acceptable in times of war, how can we be sure that he does not deem the present situation between Life BPC and FEBC to be “war,” and that he is not employing deceit in his writings and dealings with us? How can we be sure he is speaking truthfully since he believes that “Truth must always be given to whom it is due, but it may not be given to an enemy who may use that truth for evil purposes” (emphasis his). Does he see FEBC as an enemy? From his “Mark Them Which Cause Divisions” paper branding VPP a “heresy” without any biblical justification, and seeing it as an evil which must be destroyed together with its proponents, I cannot help but think that he sees us as enemies. He tells us not to bear false witness, but how can we be sure he is bearing true witness at this time, and not employing deception or telling lies to destroy his enemies?.

At this juncture, will the Rev Charles Seet bear true witness by telling us whether it is true or not that an Elder of Life BPC had recommended the anti-KJV/pro-modern-versions book—One Bible Only?—privately to Lifers when the Rev Dr Timothy Tow was still the pastor of Life BPC, thereby undermining his leadership and his defence of the KJV against Westcott and Hort? Was it not true that another Elder had deemed FEBC “extreme” for rejecting the NKJV? Would he also consider the Trinitarian Bible Society (TBS) to be “extreme” since the TBS like FEBC rejects the NKJV? Will he testify honestly or will he apply the “lie of necessity”? Please be reminded of the inspired and preserved, infallible and inerrant words of God: “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil” (Matt 5:37); “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Cor 13:1).

Selective Quotation

The Life BPC BOE say to quote selectively is to bear false witness. This is a strange allegation indeed. Scholars often quote selectively but fairly to prove a point based upon certain presuppositions and premises, and often write papers to build their own case or that of other published authors/scholars by introducing new arguments or evidences that had not been previously considered. This is not to say that those who have been quoted necessarily support the position or supposition of the author or writer or vice versa. Every scholar has to do his own research and thinking. This is all part of the scholastic exercise of iron sharpening iron (Prov 27:17). As far as Christianity is concerned, we do not go on a wild goose chase, but have a totally infallible and absolutely authoritative basis or source which is the 100% inspired and 100% preserved words of God by which we subject all our thinking and reasoning, convictions and conclusions. It is baffling why this should be considered “false witnessing.”

Now, the Rev Charles Seet and his Elders say I am guilty of “selective quotation,” and in their judgement, “bearing false witness.” They say that in my paper on John Owen’s view of the Perfect Bible, I was deceitful by hiding the fact that John Owen “advocated the exercise of diligence in searching the Word of God to solve textual variants in or among the copies we have.” If they had read my paper carefully and thoroughly, they would not have wronged me, for I stated clearly in that article, “Owen did not deny the existence of textual variants (387). Nevertheless, he clarified that ‘the whole Word of God, in every letter and tittle, as given from him by inspiration, is preserved without corruption’ (388).”3 I also went on to deal with “textual criticism,” and showed how Owen was against it because the divine origin and nature of Scripture did not allow for it.

If I am guilty of “selective quotation,” then I am afraid the Rev Charles Seet and his Elders are guilty of it too. For instance, they quoted John Owen about “textual variants” but stopped short of what Owen went on to say about how textual critics have wrongly used a corrupt translation like the Septuagint (LXX) to correct or emend the inspired and preserved Hebrew text. Right after Owen said, “God by his providence preserving the whole entire, suffered this lesser variety to fall out, in or among the copies we have, for the quickening and exercising of our diligence in our search into his Word” (as quoted by the Life BOE), he wrote in the very next paragraph, “It was an unhappy attempt, (which must afterward be spoken unto,) that a learned man hath of late put himself upon, viz., to prove variations in all the present Apographa the Old Testament in the Hebrew tongue from the copies used of old, merely upon uncertain conjectures and the credit of corrupt translations. Whether that plea of his be more unreasonable in itself and devoid of any real ground of truth, or injurious to the love and care of God over his Word and church, I know not; sure I am, it is both in a high degree. The translation especially insisted on by him is that of the LXX. That this translation either from the mistakes of its first authors, (if it be theirs whose name and number it bears,) or the carelessness, or ignorance, or worse, of its transcribers—is corrupted and gone off from the original in a thousand places twice told, is acknowledged by all who know aught of these things. Strange that so corrupt a stream should be judged a fit means to cleanse the fountain; …” (emphasis his).

It is clear Owen dismissed the LXX as a “corrupt” translation and is opposed to “uncertain conjectures” which we on the basis of VPP likewise dismiss and oppose. Why did the Rev Charles Seet and the Elders of Life BPC not go on quoting Owen and his warnings against textual criticism despite the textual variants but instead accuse me of “bearing false witness”? Jesus warned, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matt 7:1–5).

Burgon, Hills, and Waite

Now, it is without question that J W Burgon and E F Hills both believed in the jot-and-tittle preservation of the Holy Scriptures (Matt 5:18), and this is nothing short of verbal and plenary preservation (VPP).4 However, this does not mean that they agree on every point as regards the identification of the texts, and that was why I said, Burgon’s Majority Text position is “good,” Hills’s Received Text underlying the KJV (“maximum certainty” but not “absolute certainty”) is “better,” and Waite’s Received Text underlying the KJV (100% certainty of exact words kept intact) is “best.”5 This has to do with the question of consistency in the identification of the preserved text or words by means of the logic of faith, but none of them ever denied VPP or the jot-and-tittle preservation of the Scriptures (Matt 5:18), unlike certain American fundamentalists, neo-evangelicals, and modernists today who say that Biblical preservation is not taught in the Scriptures, who dismiss it as a “new doctrine” invented by the Westminster divines, who believe that there are lost words in the Bible, and who employ conjectural emendation by attributing “scribal errors” to certain parts of God’s Word when there are none (e.g. 1 Samuel 13:1, 2 Chronicles 22:2 etc). Based on God’s promise of jot and tittle preservation (or VPP), I do not believe that God’s people throughout the ages have been reading such “errors” or “mistakes” in the Bible, but the infallible and inerrant, inspired and preserved words of God.

Burgon, Hills, and Waite are all on the same team of KJV defenders, and they essentially agree as to where the inspired words of God are preserved. By way of illustration, if Burgon, Hills and Waite were to be asked, “Where is Life BPC/FEBC?,” Burgon would answer, “It is in the Newton area,” Hills would say, “It is along Gilstead Road,” and Waite would reply, “It is at 9, 9A and 10 Gilstead Road.” All three answers are true (Burgon’s answer is good, Hills’s is better, Waite’s the best), without denying the very existence and location of Life BPC and FEBC. In terms of location, the first is close, the next is closer, and the last is the closest, being most specific and certain. A Bible believer will not lose his way if he consults Burgon, Hills and Waite, but if he were to ask Westcott and Hort, the modern textual critics or modern versionists, they would tell him that Life BPC/FEBC is in Woodlands, and he would surely lose his way. Now, this veritable and charitable way of looking at the Biblical doctrine of VPP is not something the Rev Charles Seet and his Elders are ignorant of, for I had written a sincere letter on March 27, 2003 to the Life BPC session seeking for peace and unity on the basis of truth and love, but they rejected it on April 16, 2003. They were hard on Pastor Tow during session meetings for taking the same 100% view on Scripture among other things, which sadly drove him to his resignation a few months later, on August 20, 2003. Where was the verity, sagacity, and charity in all this? Let that sober, sagacious, and scholarly man answer. May the Lord raise up a Gamaliel (Acts 5:34–39)!

Textual Variants

The Rev Charles Seet and Elders of Life BPC accused me of deceit because, according to them, I hid or denied the existence of “scribal errors” or “textual variants” in the manuscripts. This allegation is false. I spoke about “textual variants” in my book, Kept Pure in All Ages.6 I also mentioned them in my paper, “A Plea for a Perfect Bible” where I said, “No one denies that scribal errors were committed during the work of copying Scripture. But the question is: Did God allow any of His inspired words in the autographs to be lost during this transmission process? Although the Church does not have the autographs (the very first scripts) today, she has the apographs (copies) which reflect the autographs. Providentially speaking, the autographs were neither lost nor destroyed.”7

In light of God’s promise to preserve every jot and tittle of His inspired words in the original languages (Matt 5:18), I am against attributing scribal errors to the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures when there are none to begin with. It is also important to understand that scribal errors are human errors committed during the copying of Scripture and should not be identified with Scripture for they have no part whatsoever in God’s infallible and inerrant Word. God has ensured that none of His inspired words is lost and His inspired Word as a whole is not corrupted in any way. Faithful scribes not only copied the Scriptures but also corrected any copying errors and identified the authentic words or readings by the guidance of the Holy Spirit throughout the ages and especially in the days of the Protestant Reformation. As such, we believe the Hebrew and Greek texts, words or readings underlying the Authorised, King James Bible are not only the closest to the autographs but the very autographic texts themselves, the 100% authentic and infallible apographs, by special or extraordinary providence (Rom 11:33–36).

Scribal Errors?

The Rev Charles Seet in his sermon, “The Word that Endures Forever” (October 28, 2007) said, “And some had undermined the authority of the scriptures by claiming that there are mistakes and discrepancies in the Bible and certain parts of the Bible are not true.… Now the truth of the matter is that the alleged contradictions in the Bible are only apparent. They can be explained, they can be nicely harmonised.” Amen! This is precisely what VPP teaches and promotes and what I had encouraged him to do back in 2002, that the so-called “discrepancies” in the Bible, especially with reference to chronology, dates, numbers, spelling, names, and places etc are only apparent and not true discrepancies, and that we should harmonise and not amend or change them by calling them “scribal errors.”

Now, I would like to know from the Rev Charles Seet how he would square his statement above with what he wrote in his personal website when he said, “Alleged discrepancies and errors that have been adduced as proof of limited inerrancy can be explained in several ways: Changes in spelling, changes in units of weight and measurement, different calendar systems, or mistakes made by scribes during the copying of manuscripts,” and yet claim that “the allegation that I ‘believe the Word of God is not 100% perfect but preserved with copy errors’ is false”?8 If the Rev Seet believes that the Word of God is 100% perfect, and that it is not preserved with “copy errors” then why did he argue for such an error in 2 Chronicles 22:2 (and other like passages) when there is none to begin with? Why did he write in a paper submitted to the Rev Dr Timothy Tow after the July 30, 2002 faculty meeting that “scribal errors do exist, but they are so insignificant that they do not affect the preservation of the whole Bible,” and then gave a list of such scribal errors in 2 Kings 8:26/2 Chronicles 22:2, 2 Kings 24:8/2 Chronicles 36:9, 2 Samuel 8:4/1 Chronicles 18:4, 1 Kings 7:16/2 Kings 25:17, and Judges 18:30?

When the Rev Seet was asked about Matthew 5:18 in those days when he was still in FEBC, he replied that he had to reexamine what Jesus said in Matthew 5:18, that jot and tittle does not mean jot and tittle because he believed to be “fact” that 2 Chronicles 22:2 contains a scribal error. If he now denies that there are such mistakes in the Old Testament, then that is VPP is it not? Why does he now say VPP is “heresy” and we are “heretics” when we believe and teach that the Word of God is 100% perfect without any error or mistake (scribal or otherwise)? His words and actions are very contradictory and confusing.

The Rev Charles Seet and his Elders said that John Owen advocated the exercise of diligence in searching the Word of God to solve textual difficulties. We agree with Owen and have done just this through our papers defending the present infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture which are published in The Burning Bush (re Moses or Manasseh in Judg 18:30,9 the age of Ahaziah in 2 Chron 22:2,10 Saul’s reign in 1 Sam 13:1,11 the numbers in Ezra 2 and Neh 712). As the Lord enables, more papers would be published in future to defend the infallibility and inerrancy of the Hebrew and Greek texts/readings/words on which the KJV is based (e.g. Ps 22:16, Acts 12:4, Jude 25, etc) without undermining the veracity of the Scriptures and the faith of the saints by calling them “mistakes” or “errors” (scribal or otherwise).

Has the Rev Seet changed his view in light of his October 28, 2007 sermon? We are not sure at all since he remains vague and refuses to answer questions. But one thing is sure: By calling VPP a “heresy” which must be “stopped at its source,” he clearly forbids us to teach that “apparent discrepancies” in the original language texts or words immediately underlying the Authorised Version are not due to “scribal errors.” For our belief in the infallibility and inerrancy of every single word of the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament on which the Authorised, King James Bible is based (which they claim to uphold as “the very Word of God”), and teaching that there are no such errors or mistakes in our Bible in light of Matthew 5:18 and other Bible verses, he now brands us as heretics, bans us from the church sanctuary, and requires us to relinquish our lawful rights to possess and use our birthplace and home at 9, 9A, and 10 Gilstead Road. Is such an act just and fair, veritable and charitable?

Biblical Separation

Only recently, an Elder of Life BPC wrote to someone concerning the mega-church ministry of Joel Osteen and his wife. This Elder said, “… while I can listen and accept the teachings of the Osteens, FEBC may not – because they do not subscribe to VPP! Watch Joel Osteen Online and that will turn FEBC off for sure! FEBC will consider the Osteen's preaching humanistic, neo-evangelical, etc.” Now, whether Joel Osteen subscribes to VPP or not, I do not know. Has he made any statement about it? Nevertheless, it is true that FEBC does not endorse Joel Osteen, and neither should Life BPC (if they adhere to their constitution). Although Osteen may say certain things right or somewhat right about practical living (humility, forgiveness, love, etc) which are also taught by many philosophers, moralists, and religionists, he has gotten other things very wrong. One very wrong thing is his inability to confess explicitly the uniqueness of Christ and Christianity, that Jesus is the only Saviour of the world and only Way to heaven in a “Larry King Live” interview in 2005, much like Billy Graham in a Robert Schuller interview in 1997.13 The neo-evangelicalism and ecumenism of Billy Graham is well known,14 and Joel Osteen is no different. It is thus no surprise that Osteen should say that Mormonism is Christianity in a Fox News interview on December 23, 2007.15

We do not judge Joel Osteen subjectively but objectively by the Perfect Standard of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the perfectly inspired and perfectly preserved words of God, but this Elder commends Osteen and condemns FEBC by no other standard than himself, according to his liking or disliking. It goes without saying that bearing true witness involves judging a person not by his appearance but by the righteous standards revealed in the Perfect Law of God (Ps 19:7, John 7:24, Heb 4:12), which is none other than His verbally and plenarily inspired Word supernaturally preserved by His singular care and providence to the jot and tittle (Ps 12:6–7, Matt 5:18).

I am thus utterly amazed that an Elder of Life BPC has no qualms saying that he can “accept the teachings of the Osteens” without any qualification, and then slight FEBC’s separatist stance against the error of humanism, neo-evangelicalism, etc. It shows a gross lack of knowledge, wisdom and discernment from a high-ranking church officer, a Sunday School superintendent and teacher, who should know better. Let it be known that all pastors, elders and deacons of Life BPC are required to be “in full agreement with the doctrinal stand of the Bible-Presbyterian Church, in particular with its Principle and Practice of Biblical Separation” (Article 13:3), which is clearly spelt out in Article 6, “Principle and Practice of Biblical Separation.”

Lest they forget, permit me now to cite Article 6.8 which states, “In loyalty to God’s revealed Word, we, as an organised portion of the people of God, are obliged to oppose all forms of modernism, cultism, Romanism and false religions. Dialogue for the purpose of reaching a compromise between all true Bible believers and representatives of such beliefs is impious, unbiblical, treasonous and unfaithful to the holy God, as He has revealed Himself to us in His infallible, inerrant Word.” (Where and which is Life BPC’s “infallible and inerrant Word” may I ask?) Article 6.9 states without equivocation, “We are opposed to all efforts to obscure or wipe out the clear line of separation between these absolutes: truth and error, light and darkness. (See Jer 5:20; 2 Cor 6:14–18.) We refer to such efforts by New Evangelicals, Charismatic Christians, promoters of ecumenical cooperative evangelism and of the social gospel, and all churches and other movements and organisations that are aligned with or sympathetic to the Ecumenical Movement.” This must surely include separating from Westcott and Hort who denied the inerrancy of Scripture, the historicity of the creation account, and other fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, and all the liberal, ecumenical, neo-evangelical, corrupt modern versions of the Bible today that stem from their corrupt Greek text.

In light of the constitutional requirements of Life BPC, especially as regards Biblical Separation, are the leaders of Life BPC truly “preserving godly paths,” or are they systematically removing the “godly paths” and dismantling the “landmarks” of the Bible-Presbyterian Church as founded by the Rev Dr Timothy Tow? FEBC is faithful to the doctrines and ethos of its founding father, and that is why he stands with his school of prophets, and hoping that the church he founded—beloved Life BPC—would repent and return to the godly paths he has originally established in his younger days and now strengthened in his old age. But it is indeed sad and tragic that the current leaders of Life BPC are dead set in getting rid of FEBC by stirring up hatred against FEBC, maligning it as a heretical institution. Even Dr Peter Masters of Spurgeon’s Tabernacle, who holds to a position very close to ours though not exactly, does not deem VPP to be heretical but honourable, bearing true and not false witness!

Plea for Peace and Unity Based on Truth and Charity

As much as the Rev Charles Seet and his Elders have rightly exhorted us to bear true witness, we urge them to do likewise. Truth is open and does not hide. “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31–32).

“To err is human, to forgive divine.” How we thank God that there is always mercy and forgiveness when He is present within us and His Spirit fills our hearts, removing every selfish ambition and pride in true repentance and submission to Him and His authoritative words. May we see a Biblical and Christlike resolution soon between Life BPC and FEBC in order to preserve the Bible-Presbyterian faith and movement. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Ps 133:1).