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“Holding forth the Word of Life” Philippians 2:16
“Holding fast the Faithful Word” Titus 1:9
The twin doctrines of Verbal Plenary Inspiration (VPI) and Verbal Plenary Preservation (VPP) of the Holy Scriptures to the jot and tittle (Matt 5:18) are most vital and indispensable doctrines of the Christian Faith. That is why the Board and Faculty of the Far Eastern Bible College (FEBC) at the behest of its founding principal—the Rev Dr Timothy Tow—take the Dean Burgon Oath which concerns the total infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible which we have in our hands today to the last letter and syllable. As the Lord had raised up Martin Luther and John Calvin and others to defend the faith in the days of the Protestant Reformation, so did the Lord raise up Dean Burgon of Oxford and Chichester to defend the Traditional and Reformation Text and the Authorised Version (AV) or King James Version (KJV) against the Corrupt and Critical Text of Westcott and Hort which underlies many modern versions and perversions of the Bible today.
On October 28, 2007, the Revs Charles Seet and Colin Wong—pastors of Life Bible-Presbyterian Church—preached against the Verbal Plenary Preservation (VPP) of the Holy Scriptures (sermons were published in www.lifebpc.com). The Rev Seet claims that VPP is “only a subjective opinion that has no biblical authority. … nowhere in the entire Bible, Old Testament or New Testament is there any verse which says that God is going to restore the 100% purity of the Greek and Hebrew text of His Word to make that exactly like the original autographs.” The Rev Seet went on to accuse FEBC of taking away the authority of the Scriptures from God’s people by upholding VPP. The Rev Wong declares that the Bible is perfect, infallible and inerrant only in the autographs (original or first manuscripts) and not the apographs (copies of the original manuscripts) claiming that his position (i.e., infallible and inerrant autographs, not apographs) is the Reformed position. We regret to say that the Revs Seet and Wong are mistaken on all counts, not considering their misrepresentation and caricature of VPP.
The Rev Wong made a very serious accusation which must be dealt with before we go on. He accused us of a “blatant lie” for saying that he does not believe the Bible is perfect. Now, he replies by asking, “Which Bible?” That is a good question. It must be categorically stated that we have never at any time accused the Rev Wong of denying that the Bible was perfect in the autographs, but the truth is he does not believe the Bible to be perfect today whether in the original languages or in any version or translation, and as such could not take the Dean Burgon Oath. Ask the Rev Wong: “Which Bible today do you consider to be infallible and inerrant?” I am sure he cannot tell you which for he does not know it nor have it; his perfect Bible is unknowable and non-existent!
What are truly lies are the spurious and malicious accusations hurled at FEBC and its faculty, that we believe in an “inspired KJV,” and that “anyone who does not use the KJV is condemned to hell.” We are called heretics, cultists, and schismatics; and threatened with relocation from our birthplace and home at Gilstead Road. Our only, humble plea is for a presently infallible and inerrant Bible, and for justice and equity.
The charge that VPP is an unbiblical doctrine needs to be refuted (2 Tim 4:2). If VPP is not based on the Holy Scriptures—our sole and supreme authority of our beliefs and practices—then it is a useless doctrine indeed. However, contrary to the thinking and reasoning of the Revs Seet and Wong, VPP is indeed a biblical doctrine as clearly taught in Psalm 12:6–7, Matthew 5:18, 24:35, John 10:35, 1 Peter 1:23–25 and many other passages.
Furthermore, the belief that God is able to restore and preserve His inspired words is not without biblical precedents. There are at least two instances in the Old Testament when God did restore His words to 100% perfection after they had been destroyed by man. The first is found in Exodus 19:16–21:26, 31:18–32:28, 34:1–4 (cf Deut 5:1–20) when Moses in righteous anger smashed to pieces the two stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments which God had authored. Are the Ten Commandments thus destroyed and lost, or have they been restored and preserved?
Let me quote our founding pastor and teacher—the Rev Dr Timothy Tow—who in an article on “God’s Special Providential Care of the Text of Scripture” published in the October–December 2002 issue of the Bible Witness wrote, “To re-establish the giving of the Law, God commanded Moses to hew another two tablets of stone and bring them with him back to the mountain top. ‘And he wrote on the tables according to the first writing, the ten commandments, which the LORD spake unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and the LORD gave them unto me. And I turned myself and came down from the mount, and put the tables in the ark which I had made; and there they be, as the LORD commanded me’ (Deut 10:4–5). The Ark of the Covenant is the only holy furniture kept inside the Holy of Holies. God’s sacred commandments, intact and written on both sides of the two tablets so nothing can be added and nothing can be subtracted and were kept secure from any human intrusion. ‘For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven’ (Ps 119:89). The restoration of the two tables is to show that heaven and earth shall pass away, but His words shall not pass away. Not one letter or even the cross of a ‘t,’ and the dot of an ‘i.’ ‘For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law’ [Matt 5:18]. Jesus says, ‘The scripture cannot be broken’ (John 10:35).”
The second instance is recorded in Jeremiah 36. Here we find the wicked king Jehoiakim cutting up the inspired scroll and throwing it into the fire (vv21–23). Can man destroy the inspired words of God? God would have us know that His words are indestructible and eternal for He will preserve and even restore them by His omnipotence and omniscience. In verses 27, 28, and 32 we read, “Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, after that the king had burned the roll, and the words which Baruch wrote at the mouth of Jeremiah, saying, Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned.… Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire: and there were added besides unto them many like words.” Our omnipotent and omniscient God is not only able to preserve His inspired words so that none be lost, He is also able to restore them to perfection so that we today might know His exact words and live by His every word (Matt 4:4).
The Rev Seet’s concern that the absolute authority of the Holy Scriptures should be restored to God’s people is admirable, and that is what VPP does. VPP promotes and defends the absolute authority of the Scriptures, that the Scriptures alone should be the supreme and final authority of every Christian’s faith and practice (as stated in Life BPC’s Constitution, Article 4.2.1), and not any human being or textual critic. Let it also be known that, contrary to what the Rev Wong thinks, the Reformed position on the infallibility and authority of the Holy Scriptures concerns the extant apographs and not the non-existent autographs (see Turretin, Owen, Muller, Letis).
How was the authority of the Scriptures taken away from God’s people and the common folk in the dark ages? It was taken away when the RCC forbade the people from reading the Scriptures for themselves, permitting only the clergy to read and interpret the Scriptures, and prosecuting and executing anyone who dared to translate the Bible, preach the Bible, and distribute the Bible to the people. It is clear that VPP does none of these. VPP encourages people to study the Bible for themselves, and is especially concerned that they study it from the authentic and correct text, and not the heretical and corrupt one. In the light of the logic of faith which is based on God’s promises of VPP as taught in the Holy Scriptures, and God’s special providential work in history and in the church, we identify the authentic Scriptures to be the Traditional, Byzantine, Majority, and finally Received Text of the Church Fathers, the Reformers, and the Reformation saints, and not the heretical and corrupted Alexandrian, Minority, and Revised texts of liberals Westcott and Hort, and ecumenical textual critics. With an infallibly preserved original text and a very accurate translation of the Bible as found in the AV/KJV, we tell the people they need not depend on so-called human authorities (textual and higher critical scholars) and their theories and speculative methods, but can take God’s Word as is, the infallible and inerrant Word which is absolutely authoritative—“Thus saith the LORD,” “It is written”—in ascertaining truth from error. VPP encourages the accurate and faithful translation of the Bible into different languages that is based on the authentic and preserved text. Clearly, VPP is directing God’s people to return to the sole and supreme authority of a presently infallible and inerrant Scripture for all their beliefs and practices.
It is not the VPP but the non-VPP position which has undermined the absolute authority of the Scriptures, for to the non-VPPist, the perfect Bible is only the intangible, unavailable, and inaccessible autographs which all “scholars” admit are non-existent today. We, on the other hand, believe in the infallible original manuscripts (apographs) that God has supernaturally preserved. But as far as the Rev Colin Wong is concerned, he says, “I do not believe any single manuscript as being better than other [sic] within the same family. The reason is that there are no two manuscripts that are identical.” So, the Rev Wong, with such imperfect manuscripts or copies, must rely on fallible human scholars and their man-made methods of textual criticism to decide or determine for him which is God’s word and which is not. That is the reason why the Trinitarian Bible Society, the Dean Burgon Society, and FEBC are steering clear of textual criticism. That is why FEBC contends that the non-VPP position is not Sola Scriptura and is in fact against Sola Scriptura because the textual critical scholar is now made the final authority or an additional authority to the Scriptures.
The Rev Seet went on to argue that, “nowhere in the Bible can we find even a single verse that says or implies God will do this [i.e. restoring His exact words] through the translators of the King James Version and that He will do it in the year 1611.” Such an argument is fallacious, for if we accept this argument, then we must also reject the 27 books of the NT Canon, for where in the Bible do we find any verse telling us that there will be a NT Canon and there are exactly 27 NT books in our Protestant Bible without any change for sure? If the Rev Seet’s argument is accepted, then should we not similarly question the decision of the bishops of the Council of Carthage who identified for us all the inspired books of the NT in the year 397? With the recent discovery of new and older books like the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, and other Gospels and Epistles which bear the names of the Apostles, should we not revise our existing Canon according to The Da Vinci Code? Why should we be so dogmatic and insistent that our NT Canon be just 27 books? Let it be stated that the very basis on which non-VPPists believe in a fixed NT Canon of just 27 inspired NT books is the very same reason why VPPists believe in all the inspired NT words of the Greek Textus Receptus on which the AV/KJV is based.
It goes without saying that in this postmodern age of uncertainty and confusion when anything goes, we need a fixed and firm foundation for our faith, existing and tangible, available and accessible. This immutable and immoveable foundation can only be our Lord Jesus Christ and His forever infallible and inerrant Word to the jot and tittle (Matt 5:18), and nothing else. We continue to pray that the leadership of Life BPC will uphold the AV/KJV not just by preference, but by affirming VPP and believing that the original language texts or words of the Holy Scriptures underlying the AV/KJV are without mistakes. “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps 11:3). May God help us!
– This article is also published at the website of The Dean Burgon Society.