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|“The LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep SILENCE before him.”|
A Review of Daniel Chua’s Redefinition of Biblical Separation in the Bible-Presbyterian Constitution
It goes without saying that Satan our adversary is a wily enemy. Just like the monkey god who can transform himself into 72 different forms, Satan changes shape and tune even into “an angel of light” to seduce and ensnare the unwary and undiscerning. “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” (2 Cor 11:13–15). That is why believers are enjoined not to be spiritual novices, to be “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph 4:14). When the old serpent rears its ugly head in new and different ways, the Church is duty bound to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3). A fresh call for separation is issued and new resolutions drafted to resist the devil and counter his newfangled heresies.
One telling sign of the book’s lack of objectivity and charity is its biasness against and one-sided treatment of the Verbal Plenary Preservation (VPP) controversy. The editors devoted one whole chapter on it but published only Life BP Church’s statements against VPP without publishing the responses by Far Eastern Bible College (FEBC). It is all too obvious that Chua and his fellow writers are unable to grasp the truth of VPP. They cannot see that Satan who in the past had attacked Verbal Plenary Inspiration (VPI) and lost that battle is today attacking the Bible from behind by attacking its preservation (VPP). They cannot see that the Bible is not only infallible and inerrant in the past when it was first given (in the autographs) but is equally infallible and inerrant today (in the apographs) (Ps 12:6–7, Matt 5:18, 24:35). They say they are “Reformed” but their view on the Bible proves otherwise. What is more is that the Rev Dr Bob Phee in his lead article in Chapter 11 not only undermines VPP by speaking out of context on certain matters, but also maligns its adherents by inaccurate reporting, parroting others without getting his facts straight.
Chua says separation “our raison d’etre” has become “our Achilles’ heel”. He says the problem lies with extending “the separation stand to a wider and wider range of issues and causes”. As discussed above, the wider range of issues and causes are not brought on by us but by the enemies of our Lord and attackers of His Word. Chua speaks like Eliab who chided David for standing against Goliath, but with David we reply, “Is there not a cause?” (1 Sam 17:29). He denies that the “moderates” in the BP camp are neo-evangelicals. But actions speak louder than words. The “moderates” have departed from the original BP position. Since the dissolution of the Synod in 1988, they have advanced in their non-separatist position by cooperating with those who have compromised the faith, they are open to charismatic tongues, they have replaced the good old KJV with modern corrupt versions, they have introduced Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) into their worship services etc. Even Phee, their anti-VPP writer, wrote and distributed a paper titled “Neo-Evangelicalism in the Bible-Presbyterian Church” back in October 1988 detailing the alleged neo-evangelicalism of Quek Swee Hwa. It appears Phee has made a U-turn.
Chua cites Timothy Tow’s opposition to Billy Graham as a case of extreme separation. It is common knowledge that Graham was a progenitor and promoter of neo-evangelicalism. One needs only to look up Prof George Marsden’s Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism to see this. Marsden wrote, “Graham and Fuller Seminary agreed that they had to jettison the counterproductive negativism of extreme fundamentalism and that they had to be open to sympathizers in ecumenical old-line denominations.…Graham lent his endorsement to Fuller Seminary as a leading institution in the emerging new evangelical coalition.” Chua says that the Session of Life BP Church and the BP Presbytery in the late 1960s did not agree with Tow on the matter of Graham and that cracks already existed in the BP Church then. Indeed, no one questions that there were detractors who opposed Tow on the Graham issue, but some had repented. By and by, as Graham showed more and more his true neo-evangelical and ecumenical colours, Tow was vindicated.
Those who oppose the doctrine and practice of separation as defined by the founding father of the BP Church should leave and form their own denomination and call it by another name. That would have been the honourable thing to do. But some choose to remain within the BP fold till this day, paying lip-service to separation but are practically neo-evangelicals. Harold Ockenga who coined the term “neo-evangelicalism” said that while neo-evangelicalism reaffirms the theological view of fundamentalism, it repudiates its “separatism and its determination to engage itself in the theological dialogue of the day. It had a new emphasis upon the application of the gospel to the sociological, political and economic areas of life.” He went on to say, “Neo-evangelicals emphasized…the recapture of denominational leadership, and the reexamination of theological problems such as the antiquity of man, the universality of the Flood, God’s method of creation, and others.”
It is thus no surprise that the editors of this book want to recapture the denominational leadership by forming a new presbytery. It is no surprise that co-editor Quek Swee Hwa was open to the possibility of the Genesis “years” being “months” and not literally “years”, and questioned the universality of the Genesis Flood. It is no surprise that co-editor David Wong had no qualms getting his DMin from Fuller Seminary (flagship seminary of neo-evangelicalism) and working with Haggai Institute (an evangelical institution which cooperates with liberals, Catholics, and charismatics). When neo-evangelicals speak of separation and say they are for it when they are actually not, they invariably contradict the Bible and themselves. This is very telling of the book’s neo-evangelical slant and its lack of objectivity and utter biasness. The neo-evangelical ethos of the editors show extreme prejudice against biblical and true separation as practised by Timothy Tow the founding pastor of the BP Church and other BPs who are true to the BP faith and practice.
Chua talks about “second-degree separation”. Biblical separatists have never been fond of this term for they do not find such “degrees” of separation in the Bible. That is why it is seldom heard as Chua himself observed. It is not found in the 1956 and 1971 constitutions, neither is it found in the post-1986 constitution. Separation is separation and has the holiness of God as its premise. The holiness of God does not come in degrees, neither does separation.
What must however be emphasised is that biblical separation contains these two aspects: (1) Separation from unbelievers (2 Cor 6:14–7:1) and (2) separation from disorderly believers (2 Thess 3:6, 12–15). One is protective, the other chastitive.
The Rev Charles Seet, current pastor of Life BP Church, has an article on “Secondary Separation” which was published in The Burning Bush in January 1996. In it Seet preempted Chua and rightly said, “We agree that the obvious compromise and deceit of these missionaries deserve a strong response. But we wonder if it is really justified to react against them by blaming the term ‘second degree separation’ (which is virtually synonymous with the term ‘secondary separation’). A better way to deal with those who revile secondary separation would be to prove that the Bible does teach a separation from those disobedient to the command of separation from unbelief. They may revile the term, but they cannot easily knock down the clear teaching itself.” Separation from disorderly or disobedient believers which undermine the gospel witness and the health of the church is certainly biblical and warranted regardless of what Chua says.
Chua at the end seeks to justify his brand of separation by claiming that “the moderate churches could hardly be accused of deviating from our original position on biblical separation.” The appellation “moderate” is a term often used by unbiblical adherents and practitioners to make themselves look appealing and “balanced”. It is just a guise. For instance, the pastors and professors in the Southern Baptist Convention who deny the fundamentals of the faith, who are actually liberals and modernists, call themselves “moderates”. Now we have so-called “moderates” in the BP Church who are seeking to redefine biblical separation to fit “their” BPism, and speaking badly of BPs who do not fit their modern “moderate” mould. Chua calls his BPism “our original position”. It is far from original or biblical.
By the way, Chua on the premise of “our original position” calls for a new presbytery named “Bible-Presbyterian Church in Singapore” (BPCIS). It is a misnomer. The name misrepresents and misleads.
The above is primarily a critique of Chua’s paper on separation (pp518–22), and some parts of the book. Much more can be said. A more comprehensive and critical analysis of the entire book (525pp) will come in due course. JK
1. Timothy Tow, The Singapore B-P Church Story (Singapore: Life Book Centre, 1995).
2. Timothy Tow, Disciples of McIntire (Singapore: FEBC Press, 2002).
3. Jeffrey Khoo, Biblical Separation: Doctrine of Church Purification and Preservation (Singapore: Bible Witness Literature, 2004).
Available at FEBC Bookroom, 10 Gilstead Road, or download from FEBC’s website: http://www.febc.edu.sg/v15/publications/febc_press.
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