30 Orange Grove Road, down Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore 258352
Mailing Address: 1 Goldhill Plaza, #03-35, Singapore 308899
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: http://www.truelifebpc.org.sg
(Ring Pastor Jeffrey Khoo 62561189 Anytime)
|“The LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep SILENCE before him.”|
The four major church denominations in Singapore are the Anglican, Methodist, Brethren and Presbyterian—known as the “Big Four”. Out of the fourth arose the Bible-Presbyterian Church. In the history of Singapore Churches, the Bible-Presbyterian Church figures prominently.
Growth and Prominence
Singapore Church historian Bobby Sng wrote, “In the 1950s, four new groups made their appearance: the Lutherans, Baptists, CNEC and the Bible-Presbyterians. By 1964, these four had initiated a total of 222 other new congregations, two more than the Big Four. This growth was all the more remarkable as, unlike the Big Four, this new generation of churches did not have any previous network of churches to rely on. They had to start from virtually nothing. They succeeded in growing because their more vigorous evangelistic efforts enabled them to tap the vast potential among the younger generation. A casual visit to any one of these churches in the 50s would have impressed one with the high proportion of youths in their midst—sometimes as much as 95% of the congregation.” (In His Good Time [Singapore: Graduates’ Christian Fellowship, 1993], 241).
Another reason for prominence was the battle for the faith against liberalism. Sng recounted, “The end of the War brought about a kaleidoscopic change in the church scene. It saw the emergence of a new generation of Christians who were not only theologically alive but who also refused to remain passive. Compelled by a burden to remain true to the Word of God, they chose to challenge the liberals…. By the early 50s, the battle for truth had exploded in Singapore with a ferocity that surprised many.” (In His Good Time, 244).
Battle for Truth
It was the Bible-Presbyterian Church which took the lead in the battle for truth. Sng wrote, “Among the many people who responded to the gospel at John Sung’s meetings in 1935 were two young boys, both China-born and coming from godly family backgrounds. Few realized then that within 20 years these two young men would be blazing a trail in the church’s fight against liberal theology, affecting the lives of hundreds of Christians.” (In His Good Time, 244). The two young men were Timothy Tow and Quek Kiok Chiang.
As can be seen above, the spiritual success of the Bible-Presbyterian Church was due to the application of the double-edged Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God itself (Heb 4:12). And the two edges consist of (1) the Gospel and its evangelism (Matt 28:18–20) and (2) the Truth and its defence (Jude 3).
Keith Hinton, former lecturer at Singapore Bible College, wrote, “… in 1950, Timothy Tow, influenced by the International Council of Christian Churches (ICCC), broke from the Presbyterian Church to form the new and rapidly growing Bible Presbyterian denomination. By 1971 it had 13 congregations and 828 members, increasing by 1983 to 27 congregations and 4,105 active members.” (Growing Churches Singapore Style [Singapore: Overseas Missionary Fellowship, 1985], 27). Hinton went on to write, “In 1950, Rev Quek Kiok Chiang and Dr Timothy Tow formed the first Bible Presbyterian Church. Their strong drive, convictions on doctrine and separation, mission and evangelism, have enabled them, from their position of executive power, to build, direct and discipline a denomination that in 32 years has grown…” (Growing Churches Singapore Style, 128).
Why Conservative Churches Grow
The Bible-Presbyterian churches in Singapore have increased in number since. In 2019, there are a total of 43 Bible-Presbyterian churches in Singapore (35 English, 7 Chinese, 1 Tamil) with about 20,000 members (Wikipedia, sv “Bible-Presbyterian Churches [Singapore]”). Dean Kelley of the United Methodist Church and former Director of Civil and Religious Liberty at the National Council of Churches (USA) observed that in America, “the fundamentalists and Pentecostals increased their numbers at about the same rate as the mainline churches’ decrease…. These groups not only give evidence that religion is not obsolete and churches not defunct, but they contradict the contemporary notion of an acceptable religion. They are not ‘reasonable,’ they are not ‘tolerant,’ they are not ecumenical, they are not ‘relevant.’ Quite the contrary!” (Why Conservative Churches are Growing: A Study in Sociology of Religion [New York: Harper & Row, 1972], 25).
Why Study Bible-Presbyterianism
The Bible-Presbyterian Church’s history and theology is a most worthwhile study in view of the (1) Past: We need to know who we are (identity) and what we are in God’s providence (history) and in the light of God’s Word (theology). (2) Present: The undermining of Bible-Presbyterianism by a new organisation called “Bible-Presbyterian Church in Singapore” (BPCIS) and its new book Heritage and Legacy of the Bible-Presbyterian Church in Singapore (Singapore: Finishing Well Ministries, 2018) edited by Chua Choon Lan, Quek Swee Hua and David Wong. They attempt to revise the history and doctrine of the Bible-Presbyterian Church. (3) Future: The need for this and future generation to know their spiritual forefathers and their biblical-theological foundations so that they will be able to discern between what is and what is not Bible-Presbyterianism.
Let us hold fast to the good old Bible-Presbyterianism: “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” (Jer 6:16). JK
BIBLE-PRESBYTERIANISM: HISTORY AND THEOLOGY
“Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.” (Jer 6:16).
With the passing of the founding fathers of the Bible-Presbyterian Church in Singapore, namely, the Rev Dr Timothy Tow (d 2009), the Rev Quek Kiok Chiang (d 2015) and Dr SH Tow (d 2019), the next generation of Bible-Presbyterian leaders and members need to uphold the good old faith by imbibing the founding spirit and ethos of their pioneering forebears and appreciating the roots and fruits of their Bible-Presbyterian faith and practice.
Sadly, a new generation is emerging that seeks to undermine the beliefs and practices of our founding fathers especially those of Timothy Tow and SH Tow. These Bible-Presbyterians who were at the centre of the controversy that resulted in the split of the Bible-Presbyterian Church and the dissolution of the Bible-Presbyterian Synod in 1988 had just released a book called Heritage & Legacy of the Bible-Presbyterian Church in Singapore to tell “their side of the story”. It is really their attempt to rewrite history and redefine doctrines.
Can we keep quiet and say nothing? We are reminded of the words of Mordecai, “For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esth 4:14). We cannot be silent!
Thankfully, our founding pastors and leaders had bequeathed to us a trove of books and articles and other documents which reveal clearly their beliefs and convictions. It goes without saying that as true Bible-Presbyterians, there is a need to revisit and revive the history and theology of our good old Bible-Presbyterian faith—to address and defend Bible-Presbyterianism in the light and authority of the Holy Scriptures.
“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines.” (Heb 13:7–8). The Apostle Paul told young Timothy, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Tim 4:16). We can do no less. JK
Daily Vacation Bible College
Come and join us at FEBC’s Daily Vacation Bible College classes starting tomorrow May 6–11, 8.30am–12pm, Life BP Church (Sanctuary), 9A Gilstead Road, to study the History and Theology of the Bible-Presbyterian Church. The topics and speakers are as follows:
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