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“Holding forth the Word of Life” Philippians 2:16
“Holding fast the Faithful Word” Titus 1:9
An Examination of the Paper, “Mark Them Which Cause Divisions,” Authored by the Rev Charles Seet and Elders of Life Bible-Presbyterian Church
The Rev Charles Seet and the Elders of Life Bible-Presbyterian Church (Life BPC) in their church weekly of January 13, 2008 published a paper entitled, “Mark Them Which Cause Divisions,” denouncing the Verbal Plenary Preservation of the Holy Scriptures as “a heresy.” (The paper can be found in http://www.lifebpc.com/ourstand/markthem.htm.)
What is Verbal Plenary Preservation or VPP? “Verbal” means “every word to the jot and tittle” (Ps 12:6–7, Matt 5:18). “Plenary” means “the Scripture as a whole with all the words intact” (Matt 24:35, 1 Pet 1:25). So VPP means the special, providential preservation of all the inspired words of the Holy Scriptures to the last jot and tittle, without the loss of any of the original words, prophecies, promises, commandments, doctrines, and truths. As such, the VPP Scriptures are totally infallible and inerrant not only in the words of salvation, but also the words of history, geography and science. Every book, every chapter, every verse, every word, every syllable, every letter of God’s inspired words is supernaturally preserved by God Himself to the last iota.
What and where are the words of God today? They are the inspired OT Hebrew/Aramaic words and NT Greek words the prophets, the apostles, the church fathers, the reformers used which are today found in the long and continuously abiding and preserved words underlying the Reformation Bibles best represented by the time-tested and time-honoured KJV, and NOT in the corrupted Alexandrian manuscripts and critical Westcott-Hort texts underlying the liberal, ecumenical, and neo-evangelical modern English versions.
What is heresy? The Rev Charles Seet and Elders of Life BPC define “heresy” as “a chosen course of thought or action which varies from the true exposition of the Christian faith as prescribed by the Word of God.” They mention some examples of heresy from the ancient past, namely, Gnosticism, Sabellianism, Arianism, and Nestorianism.
How do they identify a heresy? They say heresy has these three characteristics: (1) it is new, (2) it is infectious, (3) it is destructive. Actually, many heresies are not new but old ones with a new guise or disguise (e.g. Arianism is today found in the Jehovah’s Witnesses). What is infectious and destructive is not necessarily heresy either for truth is infectious and destructive as well (e.g. in the Protestant Reformation, the doctrines of Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, and Sola Scriptura spread quickly and destroyed the superstitious yoke of the Roman Church). Anyway, based on these criteria (i.e. new, infectious, and destructive), VPP is condemned as “heresy” by the current leadership of Life BPC. They say “the mouths of heretics must be stopped” at its source. The source of this heresy is the Far Eastern Bible College (FEBC).
First let us analyse their less than definitive definition of heresy. They say heresy is “a chosen course of thought or action.” Yes, life is all about choices, and our decisions to act according to our chosen paths. Jesus says there are basically two ways and the way we choose will determine our eternal destiny, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt 7:13–14). Choosing to think and act alone or to go with the minority is not heresy or heretical (e.g. 1 Kgs 19:10), though “heresy” from the Greek haireomai means “to choose.” I believe they understand that too. So, they went on to say that a thought or act is heresy when it “varies from the true exposition of the Christian faith.” But what constitutes “true exposition?” Who determines what is true and what is not true? The liberals, neo-evangelicals, charismatics, Roman Catholics, and cults all claim to possess a “true exposition” of the Christian faith too.
So what is the Christian faith? Do they consider the Christian faith to be defined by the “Five Fundamentals,” namely, (1) the inerrancy of Scripture, (2) the virgin birth of Christ, (3) His miracles, (4) substitutionary atonement and (5) resurrection? If they do, then why is VPP a heresy when it affirms #1, the total inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures which is the foundation of all our doctrines? By calling VPP a heresy, are they saying that the Scriptures are no longer inerrant? And if the Scriptures are no longer inerrant, how can they know for sure what the Christian faith truly is “as prescribed by the Word of God?”
The Rev Charles Seet and Elders of Life BPC must surely be aware that their church constitution (article 4.2.1) states unequivocally that the Word of God is “infallible and inerrant” and their “supreme and final authority in faith and life.” So before they can really ascertain what is orthodox and what is heretical they must first tell us precisely (1) what is the Word of God, (2) where is the Word of God, and (3) which is the Word of God, infallible and inerrant? Did they?
They say the KJV is “the best English translation of the Scriptures, made by godly translators from the best Greek and Hebrew texts.” We agree. They quoted the Westminster Confession of Faith (1.8) which speaks of the “singular care and providence of God” in preserving His Word and that we have the “very Word of God and fully reliable.” We agree (but we are more precise in saying that God preserved not only His Word but also His words to the jot and tittle according to Matthew 5:18 as quoted by the Westminster theologians). They identify the KJV to be “the very Word of God.” We agree. But they say God’s Word is providentially preserved in “the body of manuscripts” without saying precisely which manuscripts. Now, are these manuscripts the Hebrew and Greek texts the KJV translators used? Know that in their 2003 Statement of Clarification, they say that the underlying texts of the KJV are not perfect. Now if the underlying texts are not perfect, then how can they know for sure they have the “very Word of God” and say they have “maximum certainty?” Although they claim to base their judgement on the “very Word of God,” they really do not have the “very Word of God” since they condemn VPP as a heresy, and if they do have the “very Word of God,” it is not exactly the Word of God as originally given, only a close resemblance of it since it is not so perfect.
Can an inexact or imperfect Word of God be truly authoritative, or “prescriptive” as they say? I submit that without a presently infallible and inerrant Word of God to the jot and tittle (Matt 5:18), the Rev Charles Seet and Elders of Life BPC have no basis whatsoever to condemn VPP as a heresy and us as heretics. By condemning VPP as a heresy, they set themselves up as the supreme and final authority in place of the Bible, and judge the beliefs and practices of others based on their likes and dislikes, their whim and fancy. At any rate, at least they no longer misrepresent us as believing in “an inspired KJV” or “a perfect version” but that we assign “100% purity to the … Greek and Hebrew texts immediately underlying the KJV, [that they] are the exact words of the original writings, i.e. the very words used when God first gave His word by inspiration to the Bible writers.” We maintain that our position is entirely consistent with Article 4.2.1 of the Life BPC Constitution.
A failure to submit fully to the absolute authority of the Holy Scriptures will lead to a logic that is upside down. For instance, the Rev Charles Seet and Elders of Life BPC say that the KJV is “the best,” that the Hebrew and Greek texts are “the best,” that they have “the very Word of God” which is “fully reliable.” But one wonders how they can have such “maximum certainty” on the KJV as the “very Word of God” and “fully reliable” if the Hebrew and Greek texts (i.e. the inspired original language words) underlying it are not 100% pure or perfect (according to their 2003 Statement of Clarification)? How can the KJV be 100%, the “best,” the “very Word of God” as they say, without its underlying texts being 100% also? It is simply illogical!
The Rev Charles Seet and Elders of Life BPC lump those who teach VPP together with the heretics (Gnostics, Sabellians, Arians, Nestorians) of times past. These men were heretics for sure for they were out to destroy the Gospel by corrupting the Scriptures, by denying Christ’s 100% deity and/or 100% humanity and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. They teach doctrines that cause people to have a low view of the Holy Scriptures, of Jesus Christ and of the Triune God, and by so doing tear people away from the only Source and Foundation of salvation which is Christ and His words. This is what heresy does and what heretics do.
Does VPP cause people to have a low view of the Bible? Does VPP destroy the Gospel? Does VPP tear people away from Christ? It is clear as day that VPP does none of these! VPP upholds the present perfection of the Holy Scriptures! VPP gives people confidence in the Gospel of Jesus Christ by affirming that they can trust every single word of the Bible which teaches the preexistence of Christ, His virgin birth, His sinless life, His crucifixion, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension, and everything else it teaches without any mistake! VPP instills in people full confidence in the Reformation Bible—the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words God has inspired in the beginning and preserved continuously in the traditional, Hebrew Masoretic Text, the Greek Byzantine or Majority manuscripts and finally the Textus Receptus—which gave us the Tyndale and Geneva translations and best of all the Authorised or King James Version which God has used to bless so many millions for nearly four centuries!
The Rev Charles Seet and Elders of Life BPC appear to be upset that more and more people are having a high confidence on the KJV by believing in the biblical truth of VPP. More and more believers are blessed by this truth of the Scripture’s present perfection in the original languages. Many of the saints praise the Lord for VPP because it glorifies their Triune God (1 John 5:7). Our night classes are attended by 200–300 people coming from 38 different churches (BP and non-BP). They are very glad to hear that our almighty God has indeed kept His promise to preserve His inspired words to the last jot and tittle (Matt 5:18). They now have every confidence to live by His every word (Matt 4:4) in the midst of a wicked and crooked generation. Why cannot they rejoice with their fellow brethren over this?
It is tragic that the Rev Charles Seet and Elders of Life BPC, instead of encouraging the faith of the saints to believe in the present perfection of Scriptures, are doing all they can to hinder and stop the preaching and teaching of this precious truth to our students. Not only that, by one stroke of their pen, they condemned as heretics their spiritual father Timothy Tow, FEBC, True Life, Truth, Calvary Jaya BPCs, and all who believe in VPP. (Thankfully, we are not living in medieval days when “heretics” like Huss and Tyndale were burned at the stake, but even if we were, it would have been a privilege to be martyred for Christ of whom we are most unworthy.)
Now, if there is no such a thing as a Perfect Bible today, available, accessible, and identifiable, then on what basis do they judge that VPP is a heresy and we are heretics? Is it through a vision, a dream, a voice? Or is it through the Bible? And if it is through the Bible, then how do they know it is right if the Bible is not so right or not so perfect today? That was why the psalmist wrote, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps 11:3). I submit that when they judge and condemn us who believe in a Perfect Bible as heretics, they do so out of their own thinking and feelings—they set themselves up as the supreme standard and authority to judge and condemn others.
The Rev Charles Seet and Elders of Life BPC seem to think that just because a doctrine is divisive or leads to a division, it is therefore a heresy. If that is the case, then should they not call Jesus a heretic too for Jesus said, “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division” (Luke 12:51)? God forbid!
They say they believe in the “Preeminence of Christ.” If so, I truly hope they will see Jesus Christ as the Perfect Standard and follow His truthful and loving ways by retracting their malicious and defamatory statements made against fellow Christians who uphold the total infallibility and inerrancy of the divinely inspired and preserved words of God (VPI/VPP). Jesus is not now on earth to teach us directly, but He has left us with His Holy Spirit—who is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17), and His Holy Scriptures—which is the Word of Truth (John 17:17). These are our Perfect Standards today to judge what is truth and what is error, what is right and what is wrong.
Truth does not change, and VPP does not change either. Although we have quoted certain godly men and institutions, it does not mean that they are infallible or incapable of making mistakes. We quote them only when they say the right things according to the Scriptures. So yes, we admit our quotations of them have been selective. We follow them only if they follow the Scriptures, just as Paul tells the believers to follow him as he follows Christ (1 Cor 11:1). By the way, I did not arrive at VPP by reading Wilkinson, a 7th Day Adventist. I came to this position by reading Burgon (Anglican), Hills (Presbyterian), and Waite (Baptist), and examining what they teach in the light of Scripture, and I am throughly convinced by Scripture and Scripture alone, my supreme and final authority of faith and practice. Furthermore, to conclude that VPP is 7th Day Adventism because of Wilkinson is another piece of twisted logic. I eat rice, the Malays eat rice, so I am Malay?
The Rev Charles Seet and Elders of Life BPC question the verbally and plenarily preserved text by saying that it “mutates into more virulent forms over time.” There was no mutation, no evolution! The verbally and plenarily inspired (VPI) words, by special providence, are all preserved in Beza’s 5th which was the main Greek Text used by the King James translators, plus all the earlier ones by Erasmus and Stephanus, and put together by Scrivener. The inspired and preserved text (words) underlying the KJV is known by various names—the Traditional Text, the Common Text, the Standard Text, the Received Text, the Reformation Text, the Ecclesiastical Text. What is so “virulent” about them? The various names given to the text underlying the KJV may be new or recent, but the words in the text are certainly not new for they are as old as the Bible—the very inspired words of the autographs God has preserved “by His singular care and providence” in the faithful apographs, and not the corrupt ones of Westcott and Hort.
“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Prov 27:17). Constructive debates have their place as we seek to express the truth clearly and accurately. Improvements and refinements to statements of faith that square with the Scriptures are neither “mutations” nor “virulent.” Truth is Truth, God’s Word is Truth, and “we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth” (2 Cor 13:8). The Rev Charles Seet and Elders of Life BPC themselves admit that our VPP statements have become “more plausible” and “appealing.” That is because it is based on the truth of God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit is guiding His people to His truth (John 16:13). But instead of acknowledging the truth when they see it, they now seek to hinder the truth by calling it “heresy,” and stirring up hatred by such emotive terms as “gangrene-like,” “payload,” “venomous,” “virulent,” “toxic,” “destructive,” “horror.” It is not safe, dear friends, to change the truth of God into a lie (Rom 1:25). “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth” (Jas 3:14).
We are living in a postmodern age which resists any 100% certainty of truth and morality. The desire of this age is to be vague, so that everything can be open to personal interpretation and subjective judgement. It goes without saying that truth is not vague, but precise. Jesus said, “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil” (Matt 5:37). That is why FEBC says “Yes” to the Word of God, and takes a declared position for the jot-and-tittle preservation of the Scriptures without doubt so that we might live “by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4, 5:18). It behoves every believer to resist the postmodern philosophy which aims to destroy the forever infallible and inerrant words of God (Pss 12:6–7, 119:89), and the once-for-all-settled faith of the saints (Jude 3). But what have the Rev Charles Seet and Elders of Life BPC done? It is very sad to see them bent on destroying FEBC and VPP by choosing to say “No” to the very Word of God in all its present perfection by quoting the traditions, opinions and methods of men, thereby “making the Word of God of none effect” (Mark 7:13).
Now, the Life BOE has issued a threat and ultimatum (letter dated January 27, 2008) to FEBC to sign an undertaking not to teach or promote VPP even as a personal conviction or face eviction by the middle of the year. Like the Apostles of Jesus Christ, we can only say, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). FEBC has every biblical, historical, moral, lawful and equitable right to her birthplace and home at Gilstead Road, and may our almighty God, the righteous Judge, plead for us.
Do we not long for peace? Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matt 5:9). As Christians, we cannot but display the charity and love of Christ, for if I “have not charity, I am nothing” (1 Cor 13:2). Yet, peace and love cannot be had at the expense of truth, for charity “rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth” (1 Cor 13:6). I truly believe as Christians born again and indwelt by the blessed Spirit, Life BPC and FEBC can be reconciled by the grace of God. How? In these two ways: (1) Honour the Statement of Reconciliation of January 5, 20031 without gagging the personal convictions of either position based on the biblical truth of the divine, verbal and plenary inspiration and preservation of the Holy Scriptures to the jot and tittle without any lost word or mistake (2 Tim 3:16, Matt 5:18, WCF 1:8), and (2) resolve to sit together to discuss the apportionment and use of the premises at 9, 9A, and 10 Gilstead Road in a spirit of Christian charity and biblical equity. This will pave the way for something very good and God-honouring, which is for the leaders and members of Life BPC to be reconciled to their founding father/pastor, the Rev Dr Timothy Tow. This is good for both the church and the college, and will bring gladness to the heart of our founding father (Exod 20:12). This will be a powerful, earthshaking witness to the world for the Word of God and for the Testimony of Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father. “To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Heb 4:7).
It is utter folly and stupidity to make the Word of God of none effect when God Himself has magnified His Word above all His Name (Ps 138:3). Why is it so hard to believe that the Bible is 100% perfect, without any mistake, today? Know that “without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Heb 11:6). Things that are impossible with men are possible with God (Matt 19:26).
1 The Statement of Reconciliation of January 5, 2003 by the Board of Elders of Life BPC: “For the past 52 years, Life B-P Church has been holding forth the Word of Life, and upholding the use of the King James Version (KJV) which is the best English translation of the Scriptures, made by godly translators from the best Greek and Hebrew texts.
“Among all English Bibles today there is none that can surpass the KJV. We believe that this statement on the KJV being the very Word of God, and fully reliable, which was arrived at after the careful deliberation of the Board of Elders, is acceptable by all other members of the Session.
“And thus we should continue to exclusively use the KJV for all ministries of the church and for our members’ use, and refrain from all Modern English versions, like the RSV, NASV and NIV. One of the many deficiencies of these Modern English versions is that they are based on the corrupted Westcott and Hort Greek and Hebrew Text; whilst the KJV is based on the uncorrupted family of the Greek Received Text and the Masoretic Hebrew Text.
“In the last few months, a debate has arisen within our church concerning the Greek Received Text and the Masoretic Hebrew Text underlying the KJV. We have come to the conclusion that neither of the views propounded is dogma but personal conviction or preference. We confess our sins and repent before God that we have caused grief, consternation and confusion. We pray that God will forgive us, and that He may enable us to serve Him more lovingly and zealously till He comes.”