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  "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
. . .  John 3:16  . . .

MARK THEM WHICH CAUSE DIVISIONS

Paul Ferguson

I refer to the paper "Mark Them Which Cause Divisions" written by the Rev Charles Seet and Elders of Life Bible-Presbyterian Church, Singapore, published in January 2008.1

It is with great sadness that we are witnessing the splintering of Singapore Fundamentalism and the unedifying spectacle of brethren resorting to naming godly men, like Dr Timothy Tow, Dr Tow Siang Hwa, and Dr Tow Siang Yeow who have stood for the Faith for more than half a century as "heretics." It is deeply grieving to many believers around the world that the Board of Elders of Life Bible-Presbyterian Church (hereafter referred to as "Life BPC") should resort to such public statements in a legitimate disagreement over which brethren have a right to follow their own conscience concerning.

The word "heresy" is, as Life BPC state, derived from the Greek verb haireomai which means to "choose." They go on to define it as "a chosen course of thought or action which is held dogmatically but varies from the true exposition of the Christian faith as prescribed by the Word of God." I shall examine the dogmatic implication of this in respect of the Verbal Plenary Preservation (VPP) position of FEBC in a moment, but it is first worth also considering other biblical principles that balance the use of such expressions in a public context.

It is clear that the mark of a godly spiritual church and leadership is that they are always innately cautious in using such loaded and volatile terms about fellow brethren and publish them on a website for the pagan world to gloat over. Life BPC would be advised to heed the consequences of the example of even a godly leader like Moses who, "spake unadvisedly with his lips" (Ps 106:33). The Apostle Peter also dares to say that Christians, like Life BPC, should speak as the "oracles of God" (1 Pet 4:11), when defending the faith before the public. Our Lord Jesus warned, "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" (Matt 12:36, 37).

The expression "heretic" is commonly associated in most believers’ minds as meaning what Harold O J Brown in his book Heresies states as "someone whose teachings or beliefs extends beyond legitimate doctrinal difference to undercut the very basis for Christian existence."2 It is not good enough for Life BPC to hide behind Greek definitions to justify using a "loaded term" that creates the impression in the minds of their members that their founding pastor has started a new cult, like the Mormons, or has denied the doctrine of the Trinity. For Life BPC to irresponsibly label their founding pastor a heretic and a promulgator of "heresy" surely cannot be an acceptable, balanced, or a legitimate response. Their manifest inconsistency in this area can be clearly seen in that they stated on 8 November 2005,

However, for the sake of brotherly love and harmony, we do not want to discriminate against any persons who, on grounds of their own personal conviction, would choose to believe that the texts or copies underlying the KJV are an exact replica of the original autographs. We believe "there are truths and forms with respect to which men of good character and principles may differ. And in all these, we think it the duty both of private Christians and societies to exercise mutual forbearance toward each other." (Article 5.5, Constitution of the Life Bible-Presbyterian Church). 

If Life BPC truly believes that the VPP view is a "heresy," one must ask why would they exercise forbearance for over two years to their members to believe in a "heretical doctrine" and claim to be content that their pastor, Dr Timothy Tow, would continue to shepherd them when he believes and espouses "heresy." The question must also now be asked: Does Life BPC permit any other heresies to be practised by their members and pastors? According to Titus 3:10, which they offer as a proof text for their statement to prove their claims they are to "reject" such a person as he "is subverted and sinneth" (v11) yet incredibly they are happy to have "open heretical sinners" in their leadership and membership!

John Owen comments on this passage that a heretic is one "that there is no hopes of a restoration or recovery; he is in a desperate condition, having opposed the person, or office, or sacrifice of Christ; having either trodden the Son of God underfoot, or counted his blood common, or done despite unto the spirit of grace; in either of which cases there is no more sacrifice for sin." Is this how Life BPC now describe the Board of FEBC including their founding pastor? With a huge degree of irony, Life BPC state on their website that those who, "forcibly impose the new view on others (e.g. by name-calling or intimating that they lack saving faith) brings no glory to God, and will only discredit the Church of God."3 Life BPC’s wholly inconsistent and unbiblical position only delineates their muddled up thinking on this issue. In addition, a clear exegetical understanding of Titus 3:10 delineates that this is a passage dealing with the discipline of an adherent of a local church by the members of that local church. As Life BPC admit in their statement4 of 25 January 2008: "The Board of Directors of the College now consists of members who are no longer in the Church," what Scriptural mandate do they have for labelling the views of FEBC as "heresy" based on Titus 3:10?

Life BPC seek to justify their outlandish claim by defending it on three grounds that the VPP position of FEBC is "new," "divisive" and "infectious." It is true that Spurgeon, rightly said, "There is nothing new in theology save that which is false." However, the fallacy of Life BPC’s position can be seen if we reverse the question on them and ask can they show a doctrinal formulated statement before the twentieth century that states that God had not and would not perfectly preserve all of His Words for His people in any Greek manuscript or printed text? It is clear that Spurgeon was not referring to doctrines such as VPP that have a legitimate Biblical interpretative base but false doctrines that have no possible Scriptural foundation. We can be confident that even Spurgeon would acknowledge that many of the doctrinal statements he placed in his Church Constitution were only formulated in "written form" during the second millennium after Christ, such as "independent church governance" and "immersion only baptism." Naturally, he would argue that these were not heresies, but doctrines that had been practised by the church and believed throughout the centuries and based upon his understanding of the Word of God. Notwithstanding, the fact remains that such a doctrinal formulation was not seen until post-Reformation times.

In a similar vein, we can also be confident that Life BPC would not claim that the Body of Christ is so narrow that it only encompasses believers from the Reformed Premillennial Presbyterian background that they base their Church Constitution either. Does that make them "schismatic" and "heretical," according to their definition? We challenge Life BPC to show a Church Constitution that is exclusively based on their distinctives that has existed from the time of the Apostles until the nineteenth century. We could cite many other examples of "new," but not heretical doctrinal formulations, by, for example, simply asking Life BPC to show us a Church Creed that expressly deals with the doctrine of inerrancy before the 1800s. Indeed, the Trinitarian Bible Society (TBS) expressly state that they have had to tighten up their doctrinal formulations as recently as 2005 because,

These paragraphs refer to the copies of the Holy Scriptures to be circulated by the Society and the beliefs of the Society’s members. However, they do not explicitly state the Doctrine of Holy Scripture. This was probably because in 1831, when the Constitution was drawn up, the humble, God-fearing supporters of the Society generally understood the historic Protestant doctrine of Holy Scripture and there was no need to express more than that which is contained in the wording of the Constitution. The history of the decline of orthodox Christianity over the last two centuries is only a reflection of the decline in spirituality of the Lord’s people.5

The consistency of Life BPC is shown to be hollow and merely empty rhetoric when we look at their current stands on this issue. For instance, Life BPC’s Church Constitutional position on Preservation is clearly different from that of BJU whose faculty openly state "that the text based upon the Alexandrian manuscripts is, as a whole, superior to the text based upon manuscripts of the Middle Ages."6 Certainly, BJU’s view is "infectious" as seen by their proselyting attempts in their Greek classes and at the World Congress of Fundamentalists in 1999 with their book, From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man, which Dr Bob Jones III stated from the platform was the, "most significant book for fundamentalism in this century." The Rev Tan Eng Boo of Grace Bible-Presbyterian Church who, ironically, has signed a statement, "A Statement on the Theory of Verbal Plenary Preservation (VPP)," on the Life BPC website, has publicly stated, "Many newer manuscripts have been discovered since the days of Erasmus who used the Greek text which underlines the KJV… There are many good Bible versions today, like the New King James Version (NKJV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), English Standard Version (ESV) etc."7

So, let me clarify the problem for Life BPC. They currently fellowship and allow speakers who believe the following to use their sanctuary:

(1) Dr Bob Jones III whose university officially teaches, "Therefore, along with the great majority of conservative scholars, that the text based upon the Alexandrian manuscripts is, as a whole, superior to the text based upon manuscripts of the Middle Ages." One of their staff members, Dr Samuel Schnaiter, in his 1980 PhD dissertation has even stated, "With regard to preservation, however, no Scripture explicitly declares anything of this sort of guidance to apply to the manuscript copyists as far as the precise wording of the text is concerned. Some have deduced such supernatural guidance from Scripture. They note passages that promise God’s Word shall never perish or be lost. However, such promises of preservation in view of the wording variations must apply only to the message of God’s Word, not its precise wording."8

(2) The writers of One Bible Only? from Central Baptist Theological Seminary who state "the doctrine of preservation was not a doctrine of the ancient church," and "we might have lost a few words through negligence," and "not only is Scripture without a verse to explain how God will preserve His Word, but no statement in Scripture teaches that God did preserve perfectly the original text of Scripture."9

(3) The Rev Tan Eng Boo of Grace Bible-Presbyterian Church who argues, "Many newer manuscripts have been discovered since the days of Erasmus who used the Greek text which underlines the KJV.… There are many good Bible versions today, like the New King James Version (NKJV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), English Standard Version (ESV) etc."

(4) The Rev Colin Wong stated in his message, "Did God Write Only One Bible?" at Life BPC sanctuary on 28 October 2007, "Since the translation of the KJV or the Authorized Version of 1611 there has been more concrete manuscripts evidence that is available today, which is far superior to that which was available to the King James Version translators in 1611."

However, Life BPC officially state that, "we believe that God has fully preserved His Word in the body of manuscripts (or texts or copies) after the original autographs were lost" and "We uphold the use of the KJV Bible, which is the best English translation of the Scriptures made by godly translators from the best Greek and Hebrew texts, which are the closest to the original texts."10 This position, for instance, is clearly different from the positions of BJU, Central Baptist, Revs Tan and Wong who believe that there are "better" extant Greek texts than these "best" Greek texts underlying the KJV. It seems that the Board of Elders of Life BPC are in total confusion as to any discernible and objective position on this issue. They want to live and preach as if they have a perfect Bible, but they refuse to admit it. Life BPC state that the words of God have indeed been perfectly preserved, yet they impliedly teach that no one can find them all at one time, and place them in one Book! It therefore follows, according to this view, that God’s words are not preserved in any real sense. They are not preserved enough to read in one Book. Life BPC does not believe a person can read, from Genesis to Revelation, every perfect word of God that was found in the originals today. How then can they call this "preservation?" Nevertheless, let them prove their view of preservation. How will they do it? Will they use a Bible that they claim is no longer 100% perfect?

It is clear to any reader who has a modicum of discernment that the above distinct positions cannot be reconciled no matter what "spin" is placed upon it. Each discerning member of the BPC Movement surely has a right now to ask Life BPC – which one of the above views are, "the true exposition of the Christian faith as prescribed by the Word of God?" Could Life BPC give us all a framework for judging whether all of these views are congruent with and Biblically prescribed by the Word of God? They clearly believe that they have discerned this in their condemnation of VPP, so it should be an easy task for them to share with us. Again, from their previous definition of "heresy," we can only assume that the others must surely be a "new" invention, "divisive" and, at least, potentially "infectious."

Dr Bob Jones III clearly has no problems apparently in being "divisive" and pouring scorn on Life BPC’s official view of preservation as "schismatic" and "confusing" as he said on the back cover of God’s Word in Our Hands, "Like a clean-edged sword, God’s Word in Our Hands cuts through the current confused and schismatic clatter on the subject of biblical preservation."11 The members of Life BPC surely have a right to especially demand that their Board of Elders issue a public rebuke against these persons and ban them from the sanctuary of the church forthwith as "heretics." If they refuse to do so, then we can only conclude that they are not acting on principle after all, but are in reality engaged in a semantic exercise deliberately targeting FEBC.

A simple test to establish the integrity of the position that Life BPC has adopted would be for them to issue an agreed statement cataloguing the mistakes in the underlying text of the KJV (that they are so confident is there!). This must include testable, objective, and tangible evidence that makes it clear to all objective readers that (1) these mistakes are there and (2) they have a Scriptural framework for doing this. If Life BPC will not or cannot provide the evidence, then every congregational member has a right to surely question the validity of their statements and conclude they are being economical with the facts. The Rev Charles Seet publicly stated in Life BPC sanctuary in a sermon12 on 28 October 2007 that, "the correct reading can be easily determined by comparing scripture with scripture" so I assume this should be a relatively easy task. Indeed, Life BPC would be doing the church at large the greatest possible service by releasing Rev Seet on a Sabbatical to produce this perfect text for us all – it would be the talk of the Millennium!

Life BPC wholly misrepresents the VPP position as a "new" concept when they say,

The new view became prominent only in the last 30 years in America and is held only by a small number of writers and institutions, e.g. Dr Donald A Waite. It is NOT held by the majority of fundamental, Bible-believing institutions, churches and writers (e.g. Trinitarian Bible Society, and G I Williamson, author of The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes). The first to propound this view was a Seventh-day Adventist, Benjamin G Wilkinson (1872 – 1968) with his book Our Authorised Bible Vindicated (1930). Wilkinson was also the first person to misapply Psalm 12:6-7 as though it were a promise of the preservation of the KJV.  Notably, others such as James Jay Ray, David Otis Fuller and Peter S Ruckman have continued to use Wilkinson’s interpretation of this passage.13

This statement shows the poor scholarship and research of Life BPC who are clearly plagiarising the views of anti-KJV and anti-Preservation writers. A number of glaring inaccuracies are evident in this statement.

(1) It is not true that VPP is a "new" concept. William Aberhart (1878-1943), for instance, was a pastor, Bible school dean, radio Bible teacher, the principal of one of the most prestigious high schools in Canada, and a greatly beloved political leader—the Premier of Alberta from 1935-43—and he wrote in 1925,

I can still believe the Lord Jesus Christ, when he said: ‘For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled’ (Matt. 5:18). ‘Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away’ (Matt. 24:35). If these words mean anything, they inform us that the Lord Jesus intended to see to it that the Bible, His Word, would be preserved for us in a perfect, infallible state.14

I hope Life BPC will immediately retract this manifest error.

(2) Life BPC claim that "Wilkinson was also the first person to misapply Psalm 12:6-7 as though it were a promise of the preservation of the KJV" and misrepresent the weight of evidence upon which this was based, "The vast majority of Bible commentaries do not interpret this as a passage on preservation of God’s Word."15 However, many noted Christian writers believe it is referring to the "Words of God" such as John Wesley in his notes which were first published on June 5, 1765 says,

V. 6. Pure—Without the least mixture of falsehood; and therefore shall infallibly be fulfilled.

V.7. Thou shalt keep them—Thy words or promises: these thou wilt observe and keep, both now, and from this generation for ever.16

John Calvin implied that "some" in his day believed it when he said "Some give this exposition of the passage, Thou wilt keep them, namely, thy words; ....." Matthew Poole accepts it as a valid interpretation as he says it includes "Thy words or promises last mentioned." Others, including Henry Martyn, G Campbell Morgan, and Kidner also take the same view.17

(3) Life BPC18 and others19 have been arguing, in a most misleading manner, that the Trinitarian Bible Society (TBS) position is in contradistinction/opposed to the position of VPP of FEBC. Notwithstanding, that the TBS has issued no public statement to this effect, let us compare the TBS official position with both Life BPC and FEBC. All of the following quotations have been drawn from "The Statement of Doctrine of Holy Scripture"20 issued by "all the Members of the General Committee, the Vice-Presidents and the General Secretary" in 2005. The TBS state very clearly that:

In conformity to God’s purpose, promise, and command, faithful and accurate copies were made (Deuteronomy 17:18; Proverbs 25:1) and, through God’s special providential care, His Word has been preserved in all generations (Psalm 119:152; Matthew 5:18; 24:35; Luke 16:17; 1 Peter 1:25).21

The TBS also state in the Preface that they hold to,

The Reformation Confessions such as the Westminster (1647), the Savoy (1658), and the London Baptist (1689), state regarding Scripture that, ‘The Old Testament in Hebrew, (which was the native language of the people of God of old,) and the New Testament in Greek, (which at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations,) being immediately inspired by God, and, by his singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical… (WCF 1:8).

So we can conclude from these statements that the TBS believe all the Words of God have been providentially preserved "pure" and "in all ages." Also, the preserving of these Words has been done by God and not man so we cannot believe that this would be done carelessly or by accident. We cannot play semantics and say that "pure" only means really 99.9% as it can only rationally mean 100% and perfect as the WCF state that it was done by God, who cannot err as any impurity as "a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." The question now is: where does the TBS state the "pure Words of God are?" They say,

The Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles received the preserved and standard Hebrew text of the Old Testament as Scripture (Luke 4:16-19, 21; 2 Timothy 3:16). This serves as our pattern for accepting the historically received text of the New Testament also as Scripture (1 Timothy 5:18 cf. Luke 10:7; 2 Peter 3:15-16)… These texts of Scripture reflect the qualities of God-breathed Scripture, including being authentic, holy, pure, true, infallible, trustworthy, excellent, self-authenticating, necessary, sufficient, perspicuous, self-interpreting, authoritative and inerrant (Psalm 19:7-9, Psalm 119). They are consequently to be received as the Word of God (Ezra 7:14; Nehemiah 8:8; Daniel 9:2; 2 Peter 1:19) and the correct reading at any point is to be sought within these texts.22

So, these "texts" are to be received the same way Christ and the apostles received them i.e. as the perfectly preserved and inspired Scripture (2 Tim 3:16), as they are "pure, true, infallible, trustworthy, excellent, self-authenticating, necessary, sufficient, perspicuous, self-interpreting, authoritative and inerrant." Therefore, we can safely conclude that the TBS believe that these "texts" can be said to be the perfect 100% inspired Words of God. Now, which "texts" are they referring to? The TBS state,

The Trinitarian Bible Society maintains that the providentially preserved true and authentic text is to be found in the Masoretic Hebrew and the Greek Received Texts. In so doing, it follows the historic, orthodox Protestant position of acknowledging as Holy Scripture the Hebrew and Greek texts consistently accessible to and preserved among the people of God in all ages. These texts had remained in common use in different parts of the world for more than fifteen centuries and they faithfully represent the texts used in New Testament times.23

So, the TBS state very clearly that the "true and authentic text" is "found in the Masoretic and Received Texts," but only those from the Received text family. It adds a further limb of proof here which is important as it must only be in those texts that are "consistently accessible to and preserved among the people of God in all ages." This would appear to expressly rule out any such concept of a "Majority Text" position that "preservation is throughout the ages in all the extant manuscripts, versions and the citations by the Church fathers." However, how does the TBS define as the, "Masoretic Hebrew and the Greek Received Texts?"

The Society accepts as the best edition of the Hebrew Masoretic text the one prepared in 1524-25 by Jacob ben Chayyim and known, after David Bomberg the publisher, as the Bomberg text. The Greek Received Text is the name given to a group of printed texts, the first of which was published by Desiderius Erasmus in 1516. The Society uses for the purposes of translation the text reconstructed by F.H.A. Scrivener in 1894.24

It should be noted carefully that the "Greek Received Text" is defined by the TBS as "the name given to a group of printed texts, the first of which was published by Desiderius Erasmus in 1516." This clearly does not include any other so-called "Majority Text" from any other Byzantine Family manuscripts that are extant today that differ from any of the "printed texts." We can only logically conclude that the TBS only accept these "printed texts" as having the "true and authentic text" of the "pure" Providentially Preserved Word of God.

Life BPC have tried to argue that the TBS statement does not mean this and that the TBS allow latitude of interpretation in that they believe all of the "Words of God" are preserved somewhere in the extant manuscripts within the "Byzantine Text" family. However, the TBS clearly state they only view the "printed texts" not the extant manuscripts as the "Greek Received Text," which they also state is "definitive and the final point of reference in all the Society’s work." However, in a final and surely decisive blow to the Life BPC position, the TBS also, in their definition of the "Majority Text," expressly and definitively rule out any such view as Biblically valid,

Majority Text: A text based on the majority of manuscript witnesses. The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text, edited by Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad (1982), is a modern example of the Majority Text. Although close to the Received Text, there are a number of differences and some of these are significant (e.g. John 7:53-8:11; Acts 8:36,37). Furthermore, as no detailed collation of all surviving manuscripts has taken place, the exact majority text cannot yet be determined; and even if one day that became possible, the resultant text could only be provisional and tentative, because the discovery of further manuscripts might change minority readings to majority readings, or vice versa. The doctrine of providential preservation, however, teaches that the Church is—and always has been—in possession of the true text of Scripture.25

In other words, the TBS have adopted a faith-based test for determining the exact words of Holy Scripture which is "the doctrine of providential preservation, however, teaches that the Church is—and always has been—in possession of the true text of Scripture." What the TBS are stating here is that there is no further examination needed of extant texts within any of the textual families as we already have the exact words of the autographs in the "printed texts" of the "Greek Received Text." In simple terms, it is crystal clear to anyone who reads with an open mind, that the TBS believe in VPP in the various editions of the printed Greek Texts of the Textus Receptus! This is very different from the Life BPC position that only holds to a nebulous and undefined view that "God has fully preserved His Word in the body of manuscripts (or texts or copies) after the original autographs were lost."26

By contrast, FEBC state that:

The infallible and inerrant words of Scripture are found in the faithfully preserved Traditional/Majority manuscripts and fully represented in the Printed and Received Text...that underlies the Reformation Bibles best represented by the KJV.27

The TBS position, from the deductive and logical analysis above can only differ from FEBC in one marginal aspect; that they would change this statement to "fully represented in the Printed and Received Texts," as they state "the scope of the Society’s Constitution does not extend to considering the minor variations between the printed editions of the Textus Receptus." It would also seem logical that the TBS would probably lean more to the view of FEBC as no doubt it makes more sense to assume that the KJV translators made the right choices with the greater evidence before them in determining the true text when comparing what the TBS say are "variations" that are "not of great significance and rarely affect the sense"28 in the various printed editions of the Received Text.29

Despite Life BPC accusations that FEBC is "divisive" on this issue, the reality is that FEBC readily embraces the TBS position as a legitimate interpretation and state,

FEBC concedes that others can differ with them "over the absolute certainty as regards the underlying texts or words" but as long as other VPP and KJV defenders "...maintain VPP in the lineage of Byzantine/Majority manuscripts and the Textus Receptus..." and deny the Westcott-Hort Text and also deny the existence of scribal errors, "...slight differences of opinion over the verbally preserved texts/words among KJV defenders should remain as non issues...."30  

(4) Life BPC claim that the conviction of VPP, "is not held by the majority of fundamental, Bible-believing institutions, churches and writers." Notwithstanding, that their distinctives of Reformed Premillennial Presbyterianism is in a relative minority in these categories and they do not consider that a problem, a quick survey around the "Fundamentalist world" will show how worthless such an observation is. For instance, in the USA, it is reckoned that the number of independent Baptist churches is roughly 10,000 and most of these are pro-KJV and VPP. We will list just a few examples:

(i) Crown College of the Bible and Temple Baptist Church is an Independent Fundamental Baptist Bible College and Seminary in Powell, Tennessee with more than 1,000 students. The founder and President, Dr Clarence Sexton has spoken at many Free Presbyterian Churches in Northern Ireland and is a close friend of Dr Ian Paisley and have exchanged pulpits many times.31 The Reformers’ portraits line the halls of Temple Baptist Church. In 2007, Dr Sexton gave the opening address to the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International (FBFI) Annual Fellowship.32 His Church, Bible College and Seminary use the KJV exclusively and clearly state in their "Statement of Faith" on the Scriptures that,

We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Bible, "as it is in truth, the Word of God..." (I Thessalonians 2:13). We believe in verbal, plenary inspiration in the original writings, and God’s preservation of His pure words to every generation (II Timothy 3:16, Psalms 12:6-8). The Masoretic Text of the Old Testament and the Received Text of the New Testament (Textus Receptus) are those texts of the original languages we accept and use; the King James Version of the Bible is the only English version we accept and use.33

(ii) Pensacola Christian College has 4,500 undergraduate students and has recently appointed Dr Lloyd Streeter as co-pastor of the Campus Church34 who has published a book fully endorsing VPP in which he says,

We have no original language manuscripts for the book of Job except those copied in A.D. 900 by Massorite scribes. That is a gap of approximately 3000 years. Actually, we do not even know the language in which Job was originally written. Think of it, dear reader – 3,000 years with no manuscripts? How would you know that Job is God’s Word if you had to depend on ‘early manuscripts’? There is ONE way to know and that is by faith. God said He would preserve His Word and He kept His promise. … So it means absolutely nothing that there is a "scarcity" of Greek manuscript evidence in the first several centuries of church history. Our confidence is in the God of the Bible Who said that He would not allow His words to fall by the wayside never to be known to man again. Early copies were worn out and destroyed (especially the best ones!) but the Word of God is indestructible and unalterable. God always saw to it that the best copies were copied. The Holy Spirit taught God’s people to know and keep the words of God. … Furthermore, ... trustworthiness of the King James Bible should be looked upon as a winnowing or refining process extending from Tyndale through 1769. God used such men as Erasmus, Beza, Stephanus, Tyndale, the translators of the English versions which preceded the KJV, the translators of the KJV itself, and those who corrected printing and spelling errors between 1611 and 1769.35

(iii) David Cloud runs the Way of Life website ministry which has the largest list of subscribers and viewers of any Fundamentalist ministry. Cloud receives 2,500 and more personal letters and e-mails each month. Hundreds of Independent Baptist Churches are associated with him and listed in his Directory of Churches.

(iv) Singapore has a number of Independent Baptist Churches, listed in David Cloud’s Directory that are clearly VPP.36 For instance, Shalom Baptist Church states, "We believe that God preserved His Word in the Traditional Masoretic and Traditional Greek Text (the Textus Receptus) and we hold the King James Version which is based on these texts as the best English translation of the Bible." 37

(v) The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland clearly embrace the TBS’ position that all the "Words of God" have been preserved in the Received Text of the Textus Receptus editions. Speaking of the WCF, they disagree with the Life BPC interpretation and state,

Note how the Confession emphasises "in all ages." The claim of biblical criticism is that manuscripts discovered over the past 150 years which were not used or available to the Church in the preceding 1500 years are more authentic than the standard text (often called the Received Text) which form the vast majority of available manuscripts which the Westminster Assembly spoke of as having been kept pure in all ages. This text is witnessed to by the general consensus of the Church in each generation. God has preserved the Scriptures down through the ages for the salvation of men and the edification and comfort of His church, not buried away secretly but publicly in the usage of His Church. It is significant that Isaiah 59:21 speaks of the Church’s continuous possession of the Word, this verse is, as John Owen, put it, "the great charter of the Church’s preservation of truth." Any close consideration of the following verses will show that the providential preservation taught in relation to the Word of God extends beyond its doctrines to all of its words. Every word of the Scriptures as originally given was fully inspired of God and in the same way every word preserved by God is also fully inspired (See Matt. 5:18; Matt. 24:35; Matt 28:20; Mark 13:31; Luke 16:17; Luke 21:33; 1 Cor 11:23; 1 Pet 1:25; Rev 22:18-19).

Any Church that holds fully to the teaching of the Westminster Confession must recognise that the Bible teaches the full providential preservation of the text of Scripture. Not least because various parts of the wording and teaching of the Westminster Standards depend on verses that are only in the Received Text and have therefore been omitted in most modern versions (e.g. Matt. 6:13, 1 John 5:7).38

(vi) Dr Ian Paisley is the Joint Chairman of the World Congress of Fundamentalists and Founder of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster. The Rev Dr Ian Paisley MP, in his book My Plea for the Old Sword (KJV), wrote:

Divine Revelation plus Divine Inspiration plus Divine Preservation equals the Divine Bible. These all, without exception, cover the whole field of every Word of God. There is no such thing as verbal Revelation without verbal Inspiration and there is no such thing as verbal Inspiration without verbal Preservation. In all cases it is not partial but plenary i.e. full, complete, perfect. …

The Divine Revelation, put into writing the verbally Infallible Scriptures through Divine Inspiration, must have Divine Preservation in order to be available to all generations. The verbal Inspiration of the Scriptures demands the verbal Preservation of the Scriptures. Those who would deny the need for verbal Preservation cannot be accepted as being really committed to verbal Inspiration. If there is no preserved Word of God today then the work of Divine Revelation and Divine Inspiration has perished.

In such a case any Bible is as good as any other. Hence the multiplication and continuing changes of perverted English versions of the Bible on the market today.

Those who believe in a partial preservation are not much better. To say that God has preserved most of the Original Scriptures but not them all, robs us of every Word of God. Therefore we cannot live [by His every word, Matt 4:4]. This is but another way to pen-knife God’s every Word.

Those who do not believe that God preserved His Word are really going down the path of final rejection of that Book of which the Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘The Word of God cannot be broken.’ Thank God, no potency can disintegrate this Rock.39

Dr Paisley went on to defend the VPP of Scripture in the original languages and the KJV from Psalm 12:6-7:

Surely here we have the Doctrine of Divine Preservation divinely revealed. The preserved Scriptures cannot be lost or caused in any way to perish. As of the God who uttered them, so we can say, ‘Thou remainest!’

It is interesting to note that the new Bibles vary the words of Psalm 12:6-7 and so eliminate the testimony of that verse to the Divine Preservation of the Scriptures. They insist that the ‘them’ of verse seven is not a reference to God’s words but to God’s people … and destroy the text’s testimony to the Preservation of God’s Word.

God’s providential preservation of His own Word ensured that the true Scriptures were not hidden away in the library of the Antichrist nor in a monastery of ‘Greek Catholic’ idolatry at the time when Tyndale prepared his Bible. Faithful and true copies of the originals were at hand for the Divine Bombshell (Tyndale’s translation of God’s Holy Word into English) which would smash the Roman Antichrist. He translated into English the Preserved Word of God, not the Perverted Word of God.

A return to the Apostolic Gospel comes as a result of Tyndale’s work. A return to the Apostate Gospel comes as a result of the translation of Rome’s long hidden, perverted text and other such perverted texts in the Modern Perversions of the Scriptures.

The Authorised Version translated into English the Preserved Word of God and so preserved for the English speaking peoples of the World, the Word of the Living God, the only infallible Rule of Faith and Practice.40

It is clear from these quotes that Dr Ian Paisley believes that the "true Scriptures" were only preserved in a "full, complete, perfect" manner in the "true copies of the originals … at hand" which gave us Tyndale’s Version and eventually the Authorised Version. Will Life BPC denounce now the Joint Chairman of the World Congress of Fundamentalists, Dr Ian Paisley as a "heretic?" Will they do this also for the TBS, Crown College, Dr Clarence Sexton, Way of Life, hundreds (if not thousands) of KJV-defending churches across the world, and Dr Lloyd Streeter, co-pastor of the Campus Church at Pensacola Christian College? Will they issue a statement banning all of these groups from the premises of Life BPC for their "heresy?" In accordance with Titus 3:10 and their claim to practise in their Constitution "Ecclesiastical separation from all churches or groups of churches who are doctrinally impure," will Life BPC "reject" and separate from the TBS, Dr Ian Paisley, the Free Presbyterians of Ulster and Scotland, Crown College, Pensacola Christian College, and the World Congress of Fundamentalists for promoting "heresy" and allowing "heretics" into leadership.

It is axiomatic, from all of the evidence presented above, that a "new formulation" of an historic doctrine is not necessarily characteristic of "heresy." It is also clear that Life BPC have not even carried out the basic steps of collating the evidence properly and analysing it objectively. This was the very evidence that they used to act in a discriminatory, inconsistent and unbiblical manner in their inflammatory and unjust action. Unless they retract we can only conclude that they are simply willing to tolerate any view on preservation, save that of FEBC.

In light of the above evidence, we can only plead that Life BPC formally retract their visceral and clearly unfounded and unbiblical accusations against their founding pastor, Dr Timothy Tow and the Board of Directors of FEBC. Further delays will only compound the great wrong of these terrible slurs and slanders, which as they themselves stated, "brings no glory to God, and will only discredit the Church of God"41 for the infallible and perfect Scripture warns, "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" (Matt 7:2).

Questions for Life BPC

These questions which I have modified for the Life BPC context are based partly on some suggestions raised by Independent Baptist author, Kent Brandenberg.42

(1) Do you believe it is possible that the underlying text of the KJV in Hebrew and Greek is an exact 100% copy of the autographs? If not, do you have a Scriptural framework and any objective textual critical framework for rejecting so that we all can "test" your bold assertions?

(2) How can you add or take away from something that isn’t settled? In other words, what difference does Revelation 22:18, 19 make?

(3) How is the Bible considered perfect if there are errors in it? If the errors aren’t related to the words, then what difference does verbal inspiration make? What is the Scriptural basis for errors in the Bible?

(4) Where does the Bible say there would be sixty-six books? If it doesn’t say, then how do we know there are not more or less? What are the reasons that Christianity rejected the Apocrypha and accepted the book of Revelation?

(5) What is the pre-19th century historic basis for the doctrine of the errancy of Scripture, that is, the history of assuming that we don’t know what the Words are or that there are errors in Scripture?

(6) What is the historic position on the preservation of Scripture?

(7) What is your developed Scriptural position on the doctrine of preservation that you have believed and believed before you began examining textual criticism?

(8) What was Paul telling Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 that was profitable for doctrine, correction, etc.? If every Word and all of them was necessary for thoroughly furnishing us to every good work, then how could we do that without all of them?

(9) When Jesus told us that man shall live by every Word in Matthew 4:4, should we assume that He meant that we would not have every Word?

(10) When something passes away like heaven and earth will pass away, does that mean that it will disappear? If God’s Words are not going to pass away or jots and tittles are not going to pass away, does that mean that we are still going to possess them?

(11) Was the Critical Text available for believers from c.1525-1825? If someone, like BJU believes that this "new" text is closer to the autographs are they believing in "heresy" as their view is also "infectious" and "divisive?"

(12) Does Scripture teach anywhere that man was responsible for restoring a lost text?

(13) Can you show me physical, tangible evidence that the Ben Chayyim Hebrew Masoretic and the Scrivener TR are not the same words as the original manuscripts?

(14) How can a member of Life BPC be confident that prophecies are being fulfilled literally today, if he does not have all the words of the Bible available to him?

(15) Where does Scripture say that a miracle is a greater and more thorough act of God than providence? Is something that God does providentially less God than it is when God does something miraculously?

(16) Can you prove that all the words of the autographs were not available to the translators of the KJV as they were consolidated into a printed edition?

(17) In light of Matthew 5:18, can you provide any evidence that prior to Erasmus there was no agreement among the true remnant church as to the "preserved text" to the degree of "jots and tittles" having been preserved? Can you prove that all of the period of time before 1611 all of the "words" were not in one place at one time?

(18) Which of the following positions reflect your view?

(i) Every Word of God was inspired and has been preserved and is available today.

(ii) Every Word of God was inspired, but we’re not sure that every Word has been preserved.

(iii) Every Word of God was inspired and has been perfectly preserved, but we’re not sure that every Word is available.

(iv) We don’t have every Word of God today, and we may never have had it.

(19) What fundamental doctrine of Scripture and what dangers to the Church is there from the consequences of believing that God has perfectly preserved His Words today? Do you believe that doubt in a perfect Bible is the less dangerous position? How would you prove to a cult member or a non-believer that you have an infallible, inerrant Bible?

(20) In light of Isaiah 59:21, "As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever," what words have departed from the mouth of believers in 2008? When did "for ever" end? Do you agree with John Owen who said on his commentary on this passage that it means the "Words" of God, "shall always continue with the church and her spiritual seed, such as are born in her, and brought up by her, throughout all successive ages, and to the end of time; and it may be observed, that after the conversion of the Jews, to which this prophecy has a special regard, they shall no more apostatise?" Do you agree with The Pulpit Commentary edited by H D M Spence and Joseph S Exell whose exposition on this section says, "The Spirit will be accompanied with certain "words" which will be put into the Church’s mouth; and these words will remain unchanged and pass on from mouth to mouth, age after age, for ever. The "words" intended are probably those of the entire Bible—"all God’s revelations" (Cheyne)—which the Church will maintain as inspired truth through all ages." 

(21) Where are all the extant manuscripts of the New Testament? How does one look at every single one of them? Has Life BPC elders ever studied any of them – if so, how many?

(22) Do you agree with Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones’ book, God the Father, God the Son, when he says that miracles are a sub-category of providence?

(23) Do Life BPC agree with Rev Tan Eng Boo of Grace Bible-Presbyterian Church that "We have in our hands the perfect Word of God…. We believe we have the perfect Bible, but not the perfect version!" 43 If so, can they state where this "perfect Bible" is?

(24) Do Life BPC believe God would providentially lead Samuel to "let none of his words fall to the ground" (1 Sam 3:19), yet He did today as we cannot find some of these Words? Does any Bible version tell us that God would preserve His words "out there somewhere" among thousands of variant readings and that it is up to the scholars, who never agree with each other and keep changing their minds every few years, to tell us where the true words of God might be found?

(25) If a member of Life BPC does not have access to all the "Words of God" today, will God hold him accountable on the day of judgment for rejecting and not receiving them (John 12:48) and not keeping His commandments (Luke 16:10; Rev 22:14)?

(26) Who is preserving the Words of God today – God or man?

(27) Can Life BPC identify absolutely all the Words of God today? Could they explain how they could do this? Rev Charles Seet said at Life BPC sanctuary in a sermon44 that "The correct reading can be easily determined by comparing scripture with scripture" so this should be a straightforward task.

(28) In light of 2 Peter 3:2 which say, "That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour" are we excused of this as we do not have all these words?

(29) As "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom 10:17), how can the members of Life BPC "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3) if we do not have all of that faith?

(30) Life BPC stated45 in respect of Matthew 24:35 that "The words of Jesus will continue to be certain, valid and trustworthy even after the universe ceases to exist." Can a member of Life BPC know today that all the Words of Jesus are "certain, valid and trustworthy" if they do not have them all?

(31) Life BPC stated46 in respect of the words "kept pure in all ages" in the Westminster Confession, "If they had truly written it with the intention of proving perfect preservation of Scripture, more would have been written about it." Can they show us any evidence from the writings of any of the Westminster Divines to prove that the basis of their interpretation of this is correct? 

(32) In light of the following quote in 1893 for The Evangelist by E D Morris,47 expert on the Westminster divines, who contributed to Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, do you believe that the one-Bible-belief started in the 1970s or the mid-twentieth century?

As a Professor in a Theological Seminary, it has been my duty to make a special study of the Westminster Confession of Faith, as have I done for twenty years; and I venture to affirm that no one who is qualified to give an opinion on the subject, would dare to risk his reputation on the statement that the Westminster divines ever thought the original manuscripts of the Bible were distinct from the copies in their possession.

(33) In light of the following quote by Samuel Rutherford, in A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience, in 1649, do you believe that we can separate the teaching of Scripture from the actual Words?

Though the Letter of the Scripture be not the Word alone, yet the Letter with the true sense and meaning of it, is the Word.... So if ye destroy the Letter of the Scripture, you do destroy the Scripture; and if you do deny the Letter, how is it possible that you should attain to the true sense thereof, when the Sense lies wrapped up in the Letters, and the words thereof?

We must say, we have not the clear and infallible word of God, because the Scripture comes to our hand, by fallible means, which is a great inconsequence, for through Scribes, Translators, Grammarians, Printers, may all err, it followeth not that an [un]-erring providence of him that hath seven eyes, hath not delivered to the Church, the Scriptures containing the infallible truth of God.

(34) In light of the following quote by Richard Capel, one of the divines, when he writes (Capel’s Remains, London, 1658, pp 19-43), do you agree that God by His providence hath preserved all the words "uncorrupt?"

[W]e have the Copies in both languages [Hebrew and Greek], which Copies vary not from Primitive writings in any matter which may stumble any. This concerns only the learned, and they know that by consent of all parties, the most learned on all sides among Christians do shake hands in this, that God by his providence hath preserved them uncorrupt.... As God committed the Hebrew text of the Old Testament to the Jews, and did and doth move their hearts to keep it untainted to this day: So I dare lay it on the same God, that he in his providence is so with the Church of the Gentiles, that they have and do preserve the Greek Text uncorrupt, and clear: As for some scrapes by Transcribers, that comes to no more, than to censure a book to be corrupt, because of some scrapes in the printing, and ‘tis certain, that what mistake is in one print, is corrected in another.

Notes

1 http://www.lifebpc.com/ourstand/markthem.htm.

2 Harold O J Brown, Heresies (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1984), 2.

3 http://www.lifebpc.com/ourstand/godlypath.htm.

4 http://www.lifefebc.com/ourstand/stmtrelations.htm.

5 http://www.trinitarianbiblesociety.org/site/statement.pdf.

6 Bob Jones University. "Position of the Bible Department of Bob Jones University on the Scripture" (mimeograph). Office of the President, no date. Printed in Standing Without Apology: The History of Bob Jones University by Daniel L Turner (Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, c1997). Appendix D, 322-3.

7 The Perfect Bible or the Perfect Version? at http://www.truth.sg/response/pborpv.htm.

8 Samuel Schnaiter, Relevancy of Textual Criticism, 1980.

9 Edward Glenny, The Bible Version Debate, 93, 95, 99.

10 http://www.lifebpc.com/ourstand/stmtfaith.htm.

11 James B Williams, ed, From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man (Greenville: Ambassador Emerald International, 1999).

12 Rev Charles Seet, "The Word that Endures Forever," preached at Life Bible-Presbyterian Church on October 28, 2007.

13 http://www.lifefebc.com/ourstand/godlypath.htm.

14 Cited by David Cloud from William Aberhart, The Latest of Modern Movements, 1925 at http://www.wayoflife.org/fbns/trusted-voices-on-translations.html.

15 http://www.lifebpc.com/ourstand/godlypath.htm.

16 John Wesley, Explanatory Notes on the Old Testament.

17 A comprehensive list is at http://www.wayoflife.org/fbns/fbns/fbns88.html.

18 http://www.lifebpc.com/ourstand/godlypath.htm. So desperate are Life BPC to buttress their misrepresentation of the TBS view that they have resorted to citing A J Brown, former editorial secretary of the Trinitarian Bible Society (TBS) in a 24-year-old document, "Faith and Textual Scholarship", TBS Quarterly Record (Oct-Dec 1984). They have acted, at best, carelessly in failing to study the clear statements of the latest "Statement of Doctrine of Holy Scripture" by the TBS. This error is compounded when the TBS has rejected the validity of the statements of A J Brown, as Mr David Larlham, the Assistant General Secretary of TBS, recently wrote to Dr Jeffrey Khoo of FEBC, "we would suggest that neither you nor the Rev. Wong should place any such reliance upon the comments of Mr Andrew Brown going back around 20 years." David Cloud lists correspondence from Mr Brown (www.wayoflife.org/articles/majoritytext.htm) clearly endorsing the "Majority Text" position in the 1980s, but he states that Mr Andrew Brown was "dismissed from the Trinitarian Bible Society in 1991."

19 http://www.truth.sg/tbsnonvpp.htm.

20 http://www.trinitarianbiblesociety.org/site/statement.pdf.

21 Preface, Section 4.

22 Section 6.

23 Note 1, page 6.

24 Note 3, page 6.

25 See definition of "Majority Text" in Word List, 9.

26 http://www.lifebpc.com/ourstand/stmtfaith.htm.

27 Editorial, The Burning Bush 12 (2006): 2.

28 "A Brief Look at the Textus Receptus" in Appendix 3.

29 Indeed, the TBS state in Appendix 2, (footnote 4) that "the Society believes that the latest and best edition is the text reconstructed by F H A Scrivener in 1894."

30 The Burning Bush 12 (2006): 80.

31 http://www.wbir.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=31306.

32 http://www.fbfi.org/content/view/61/29.

33 http://www.thecrowncollege.com/Future/Faith.aspx.

34 http://www.pcci.edu/CampusChurch/PastorBios.html.

35 Lloyd Streeter, Seventy-five Problems with Central Baptist Theological Seminary’s Book "The Bible Version Debate" (LaSalle: First Baptist Church, 2001), 98, 99, 104.

36 http://www.wayoflife.org/fbns/churchdir/!churches.htm.

37 http://shalom-baptist.com/index.html.

38 http://www.fpchurch.org.uk/Beliefs/AuthorisedVersion.php.

39 Ian R K Paisley, My Plea for the Old Sword: the English Authorised Version (KJV) (Belfast: Ambassador, 1997), 102-3.

40 Ibid, 106.

41 http://www.lifebpc.com/ourstand/godlypath.htm.

42 http://www.kentbrandenburg.blogspot.com.

43 http://www.truth.sg/response/pborpv.htm.

44 Rev Charles Seet, "The Word that Endures Forever," preached at Life Bible-Presbyterian Church on October 28, 2007.

45 http://www.lifebpc.com/ourstand/godlypath.htm.

46 Ibid.

47 Prof E D Morris for decades taught the Westminster Confession at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio

 

Paul Ferguson was born in Northern Ireland and was brought up in the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, where his father is a minister in the London congregation. He studied Biochemistry at Queen’s University, Belfast and Law at King’s College, University of London. Paul then practised Corporate Law for five years in London and has also been a lecturer in Law and British istory in various universities in Southeast Asia. After completing a Doctorate in Religious Education from 2006-2008 at Foundations Theological Seminary in Dunn, North Carolina, he is now studying for a Doctorate in Theology at Far Eastern Bible College in Singapore. He is married to a Singaporean, Cheryl, and they have a daughter, Sarah Anne.

 

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