Out VPP Gnat, In ASM Camel

Jeffrey Khoo

“Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” (Matt 23:24).

The leaders of Life Bible-Presbyterian Church (Life BPC) want the Far Eastern Bible College (FEBC) to relinquish its right to its birthplace and home because FEBC teaches not only the Bible’s verbal and plenary inspiration (VPI) but also its verbal and plenary preservation (VPP). An ultimatum has been unleashed that unless FEBC signs an undertaking not to teach VPP, it must cease to exist at Gilstead Road.1 I have a couple of questions: If the Rev Charles Seet and his Session are so concerned about “heresy”2 within Life BPC, why then did they allow John C Maxwell’s heretical leadership and church growth philosophy to be taught in their church? Why strain at the VPP gnat only to swallow an ASM camel?

What is ASM? ASM is Asia Seminary for Ministry which came into being through the vision of the Rev Dr Goh Seng Fong, pastor of Hope Baptist Church and former lecturer at FEBC. It is the vision of Dr Goh to “train national pastors and leaders for multiplication of His Word and kingdom in third world countries.” Dr Goh’s vision is shared by four Bible-Presbyterian leaders in Singapore, namely, Rev Tan Eng Boo of Grace BPC, Rev Tan Choon Seng of Shalom BPC, Rev Yap Beng Shin of Olivet BPC, and Dn John Ching of Life BPC.3 ASM was dedicated on October 6, 2007, and its classes in Singapore are held at night at Life BPC, using the same time slots as FEBC’s “Basic Theology for Everyone” classes on Monday and Thursday nights.

Recently, ASM offered a “Special Life-Long Equipping” course using the “MLM curriculum” of Equip International of John C Maxwell, a modernistic and ecumenical teacher who employs New Age, Charismatic, psychoheretical, and secular marketing methods disguised as biblical precepts to train Christian leaders to grow their churches and ministries. The course was conducted by the Rev Dr Goh Seng Fong at Life BPC on March 10 and 11, 2008.4 Is this consistent with Article 6 of the Life BPC Constitution on “The Principle and Practice of Biblical Separation,” and Life’s desire to keep the holy grounds of Gilstead from being defiled by heresy?

Furthermore, Life BPC and the above BP churches are members of the Singapore Council of Christian Churches (SCCC), the national branch of the International Council of Christian Churches (ICCC). Is such a promotion of neo-evangelicalism and ecumenism in line with the Biblical and separatist ethos of Dr Carl McIntire, Dr Timothy Tow, and the ICCC?

Who is John C Maxwell?

John C Maxwell holds a BA degree in Theology (1969, Circleville Bible College—Church of Christ affiliated), a Master of Divinity (1989, from the hyper-charismatic Azusa Pacific University), a Doctor of Ministry (1993, from the notoriously apostate Fuller Theological Seminary). Maxwell has authored more than 50 books, some of which have become bestsellers.5

In johnmaxwell.com, Maxwell is described as “an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold over 13 million books. His organizations have trained more than 2 million leaders worldwide. Dr. Maxwell is the founder of INJOY, Maximum Impact, ISS and EQUIP. Every year he speaks to Fortune 500 companies, international government leaders, and organizations as diverse as the United States Military Academy at West Point and the National Football League. A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Business Week best-selling author, Maxwell was one of 25 authors and artists named to Amazon.com’s 10th Anniversary Hall of Fame. Three of his books, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Developing the Leader Within You, and The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader have each sold over a million copies.”6

Should Christian fundamentalists be awed by Maxwell and use his materials to develop their leadership potential and grow their churches? It goes without saying that pastors and seminary teachers ought to be especially careful when recommending resources to church members to ensure that the resources are truly biblical and godly and safe to use. The worldly benchmarks of “majority,” “popularity,” and “success” should never be employed to decide whether a certain resource or material is good and right. In other words, the end does not justify the means. “It works, therefore it’s OK” should never be used as a criterion for choosing resources for use in a seminary class or course.

Dr Richard Howe is correct to warn against using “results” to ascertain what is good and right, “The danger is that a false idea may initially yield seemingly beneficial results but later may become ingrained into one's world view and yield unhealthy results.” As our beloved pastor and principal—the Rev Dr Timothy Tow—often warns, “Satan turns stone into bread and tempts us to eat it, but after we eat it, he turns it back into stone and we die.”

What is Wrong with Maxwell?

Richard Howe did well to expose Maxwell, listing the following concerns he has about Maxwell’s materials and methods:

“First, the manner in which Maxwell handles the Scriptures to ‘teach’ his principles is sometimes egregiously mistaken. It is my contention that the Bible is not necessarily teaching the principles that Maxwell thinks. His handling of the Scripture indicates that Maxwell does not know (or at least is not utilizing) the proper methods of biblical interpretation. … I regret that the use of Maxwell's materials sends the wrong signals to the church family as to how to use and interpret the Bible. This is especially of concern regarding the younger Christians in the church family.

“Second, Maxwell either implicitly or explicitly endorses some New Age teachers and doctrines. Even if Maxwell himself (or the church leadership) understands the dangers of New Age doctrines, it is a dangerous thing to give such tacit endorsement in front of a church family, especially considering those who are younger in their faith.

“Third, in addition to the New Age elements that are peppered throughout his material, Maxwell also employs questionable theological doctrines such as a mistaken notion of the miraculous, a conspicuous absence of the cross and questionable psychological doctrines including self-esteem psychology and temperaments psychology.”7

James Sundquist likewise warned about Maxwell’s teachings and sources, “John Maxwell’s teachings are at the core of much of [Rick] Warren’s global PEACE plan and purpose-driven programs and philosophy, and is touted by both Todd Hudnall (Assembly of God) and Dr. John Jackson (American Baptist). … John Maxwell is another major player in social engineering. Mr. Hudnall believes ministry starts with good leadership. Hudnall endorses John Maxwell a second time at the end of his PDC conference when he states: ‘Everything rises and falls with leadership.’ But what kind of leader in ministry touts well-known eugenicist Thorndike, as John Maxwell does in his ‘good’ book? Besides Edward Thorndike (evolutionist, eugenicist, humanist, atheist), the parade of false teachers and teachings that Maxwell promotes in his books is quite staggering. Just some of them include: Norman Vincent Peale (33rd Degree Mason), Robert Schuller, Richard Foster, Agnes Sanford (pantheist and Carl Jung disciple), Napolean Hill, New Age psychologist James Allen, Kay Arthur (THRIVE), Zig Ziglar, Bill Hybels, and, of course, Rick Warren.”8

John MacArthur warned against Rick Warren, one of Maxwell’s sources.9 For an excellent critique of the ecumenical gospel of church growth gurus such as Rick Warren and Bill Hybels, you will want to read Nathan Busenitz’s, “The Gospel According to Hybels and Warren.”10 Busenitz rightly concluded, “Having investigated both its evangelistic message and its evangelistic model, the sad conclusion is that the gospel according to Hybels and Warren falls far short of the biblical paradigm. Influenced more by pragmatic business principles than by prescribed biblical precepts, it is little wonder that seeker-driven churches are both numerically vast and spiritually shallow. Christ, of course, promised that He would build His church (Matt. 16:18). However, ‘it is obvious that the building must be according to His plan. Attempting to build the church by human means only competes with the work of Christ.’”

Life BPC’s contempt for FEBC but openness to ASM causes one to wonder if the ecumenical rot is now in the roots of this great fundamentalist church—the mother of all BP churches in Singapore. Will Life BPC, especially its leaders, be true to the Biblical command of separation and Article 6 of its constitution, or has the neo-evangelical and compromising spirit already crept in? I do not believe the Life BPC fundamentalist tree which has nourished many a BP church and many others in the world under its founding pastor, the Rev Dr Timothy Tow, is dead yet. I believe there is still hope if Life BPC will protect and support FEBC as she seeks to fulfil her God-given purpose as the school of prophets in the 21st century to defend God’s inspired and preserved words as we have them in the Reformation Text and Translation in the midst of an apostate, postmodern, emergent-church generation. This is the only way to preserve the godly paths of Life BPC as established by the Rev Dr Timothy Tow—its founding pastor-theologian then and now—for “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps 11:3).

Is Biblical Fundamentalism Alive in Life BPC?

The Rev Charles Seet is now the pastor of Life BPC, taking the place of the Rev Dr Timothy Tow. Is the Rev Seet a fundamentalist and a separatist like his founding pastor and teacher? He certainly was for he had written an excellent article titled, “The Principle of Secondary Separation,” which was published in The Burning Bush (January 1996), which promoted and defended the urgent need for the Bible-believing Church today to be separated not only from unbelievers and apostasy but also from disobedient believers and compromise.11 Does he still believe this? If he does, he should not be supporting or condoning ASM’s introduction of courses and resources from New Age, neo-evangelical, ecumenical, modernistic, and humanistic sources; “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” (1 Cor 5:6).

My hope is that the Rev Charles Seet would seek to be reconciled to his alma mater by taking the Dean Burgon Oath once again, and rejoin his fellow BP ministers at FEBC to take an unequivocal separatist stance, earnestly contending for the faith (and the 100% inspired and 100% preserved words of God to the jot and tittle) in these last days of rampant apostasy and compromise. “Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prov 27:5–6).