Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"Bible Presbyterianism: A Need For Redefinition" - Synopsis and Excerpt from the Preface

The following is an introduction to the contents of the recently published manuscript. It includes a synopsis, and an excerpt from the Preface.
Synopsis: The manuscript, consisting of 24 chapters, is an analysis of the theological-hermeneutical grid of Bible Presbyterianism, with particular focus on the works of scholars at Far Eastern Bible College (Singapore). Written in an irenic spirit, the work begins with a discussion of the distinction between Israel and the Church, and the consistently literal hermeneutics adhered to by Bible Presbyterians. After a general, comparative study of Bible Presbyterian and Reformed ecclesiology, the author discusses the various doctrinal ramifications of the Israel/Church distinction, such as the pretribulation rapture theory, the parenthesis interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27, the restitution of Ezekielian sacrifices in the Millennium, and the concept of a Davidic, earthly Kingdom. The difficulties of reconciling the Westminster Standards and the Belgic Confession together with the eschatological schema of dispensational premillennialism are also looked at. Finally, the author returns to the Israel/Church distinction adhered to by Bible Presbyterians, and compare the Bible Presbyterian’s theological-hermeneutical grid with that of Progressive Dispensationalism.
The author demonstrates that Bible Presbyterians adhere to the sine qua non of Dispensationalism. In fact, the Bible Presbyterians are closer to Normative Dispensationalism than to Progressive Dispensationalism. The author believes that this work will contribute to the ongoing dialogue between Dispensationalists and Covenant theologians. Dispensationalists will be pleasantly surprised that Bible Presbyterians are actually much closer to them than to Reformed theology on the dispensational-covenantal continuum. The manuscript makes use of contemporary discourses and studies in Dispensationalism, as well as current thoughts in Christian theology.
Excerpt from the Preface:
"This book is written primarily as a response to a course taught by Dr Jeffrey Khoo of Far Eastern Bible College (FEBC), the only Bible Presbyterian seminary in Singapore. The course is entitled, Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. In this series of lectures, Dr Khoo claims that Bible Presbyterians have been falsely labeled “dispensational” by other Covenant theologians. This is despite the fact that Bible Presbyterians in Singapore adhere to the sine qua non of Dispensationalism, as well as to Dispensational Premillennialism.
My objectives in writing this book are as follows: Firstly, I would like to present the theological-hermeneutical grid of Bible Presbyterianism as propounded by FEBC. This includes a discussion of the sine qua non of Dispensationalism, and its major ramifications in the areas of Bible Presbyterian ecclesiology and eschatology. Secondly, I would like to correct the caricatured description of Dispensationalism as presented in Dr Khoo’s course. In fact, a principal contention of this book is: an adherence to Dispensationalism’s sine qua non does not allow a theologian to avoid the appropriate appellation of “dispensational.” Thirdly, I would like to illustrate that one’s prophetic schema is determined by one’s underlying theological-hermeneutical grid, be it dispensational or covenantal in structure. The reader will be shown that the essence of Dispensationalism has its greatest implications in the areas of ecclesiology and eschatology.
There is a saying that every fourth verse in Scripture was prophetic when written. “There is hardly a book in the Bible,” observes Girdlestone, “which is wholly devoid of the prophetic element.”[1] Although eschatology cannot be made a test of one’s orthodoxy or salvation,[2] the student of the Bible must realize that prophecy constitutes a substantial portion of Holy Scripture. The interpretation of such prophetic passages is governed by one’s hermeneutics, which in turn is directed by how one views ethnic Israel and the Church (i.e. ecclesiology). Furthermore, the subject of eschatology cannot be divorced from the rest of systematic theology. As the eschatology and ecclesiology of a theologian are systematically determined by his underlying theological-hermeneutical grid, an adherence to a particular millennial view (i.e. Dispensational Premillennialism) will disclose to a good extent how the theologian approaches Scripture. A Dispensationalist will read Scripture dispensationally,[3] while the Reformed theologian interprets Scripture with a different theological-hermeneutical grid.
Some Christian leaders have sadly acquired an agnostic stance with regard to biblical prophecy. Since prophecy constitutes much of Scripture, portions of the Bible are either ignored or misinterpreted by these teachers of God’s Word. It is sometimes even claimed that prophecy is irrelevant to a Christian’s spiritual progress. These claims are often made because it is felt that eschatology should not divide brethren-in-Christ. While it is true that the interpretation of prophecy should not divide Christians, an agreement upon the correct understanding of prophetic Scripture will bring about stronger unity in heart and spirit. This call for unity in the understanding of prophecy becomes imperative when one discovers that prophecy not only comprises a large portion of Scripture, but is also intimately intertwined with all areas of God’s Word.
The reader will soon discover that eschatology cannot be isolated from the rest of systematic theology. In fact, major prophetic themes are concerned with either the First or the Second Advent of Christ. The misinterpretation of prophecy also means a misunderstanding of certain aspects of the person or work of Christ. Consequently, in the study of systematic theology, the importance of prophecy cannot be overemphasized."

[1] Robert Baker Girdlestone, The Grammar of Prophecy (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1955), 8.
[2] This excludes the erroneous belief that Christ will not return visibly, physically, and gloriously.
[3] To read Scripture dispensationally is to interpret Scripture using the sine qua non of Dispensationalism. This will be discussed in detail in this book.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Publication of a manuscript written in 2006 - "Bible Presbyterianism: A Need For Redefinition?"

After a long hiatus of almost a decade, I have finally made available online a manuscript written in 2006. I have previously decided to hold back the publication due to certain concerns. Far Eastern Bible College and the Bible Presbyterian churches in Singapore were having a serious doctrinal controversy over the VPP (Verbal Plenary Preservation) doctrine. At the same time, FEBC was threatened with eviction from the church premise. Apparently, Life BP Church had ordered FEBC to vacate the premises by 30 June 2008. This event was followed shortly by the death of the founding pastor Rev Timothy Tow in 2009.

Several years have since passed. And things are a little calmer than before.

I want to extend my gratitude to my previous pastor Rev Koshy and Dr Jeffrey Khoo for their godly examples as leaders, and for their preaching and teachings. I want to emphasize that this manuscript was written out of concern and love for the BP churches in Singapore. It is hoped that more time and effort would be devoted by FEBC and the BP churches in Singapore to the study of Reformed Theology. Perhaps a better understanding of their theological grid might lead to more common ground and unity amongst the BP churches in Singapore.

The manuscript is now available online for download.