Monday, April 14, 2014

Pastors I’m Concerned About

  1. I’m concerned about the pastor who reads and teaches the Bible literally instead of literarily. This is not to suggest the Bible is not important or any less God’s word. It’s to say the Bible is literature, divine literature to be sure, but literature nonetheless. That means it needs to be read and understood as God’s word to us (or for us) in the context of its literary genre. Not all the Bible is prescriptive; and none of it was written to be used as a random list of verses cherry-picked capriciously to beat people up or defend our personal ideas and beliefs. The Bible is the holy canon which reveals God to us through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Pastors who mishandle God’s word are extremely dangerous.
copied from:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Rev Dr Timothy Tow text sermon: When Brothers Quarrel

Text: "A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle" (Prov 18:19 ). 

This observation by King Solomon is well illustrated by a recent court case fought between the Lam Soon brothers in Singapore . Why can't the brothers, in their seventies, come to terms? Usually it is quarrel over property where much money is involved. 

How about spiritual brothers? When they fall out, it is also hard to patch them up. This happens even in the highest echelons of faith, between Paul and Barnabas. In preparation for the Second Missionary Journey, an argument developed when Barnabas wanted Mark to come along. Paul would not agree because Mark left them in the midst of the First Missionary Journey. "And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other" (Acts 15:39 ). 

A similar altercation came between Andrew Gih and John Sung in the midst of their co-labouring in the Bethel Evangelistic Band. The contention was also so sharp that they went each to his own way. 

Did we hear of any reconciliation thereafter? No, when brothers fall out, the only way is let time heal under the working of the Holy Spirit, by the Word of God. Let the brotherly fall-outs fall in again by stages, as they read the admonition of the Word. "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Eph 4:30-32). 

Now, everyone of us is guilty of anger against some member of the Church because of bad blood. And the other person, being hurt by you, is no less. May you be admonished by Paul's words, yea, even Christ's. When Peter thought he as Chief Apostle had set the example of forgiving seven times, our Lord replied, "Seventy times seven." We must always forgive, unconditionally, because our God has so forgiven us. The only condition is unless we forgive others God will not forgive us. "And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us." 

A natural brother when he quarrels with his brother cannot be reconciled. But a spiritual brother can and must make up with his brother under the conviction of the Word by the persevering working of the Holy Spirit. At the John Sung Revival of 1935 in Singapore , feuding Elders in the Church confessed their faults one to another. The burden of anger they carried for years suddenly dropped. It can happen with you today. Amen.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Far Eastern Bible College is raising more and more Pharisees

Carey Hardy offers some practical advice for Christians seeking to be biblical parents. Brief excerpts of his 12 steps for raising a Pharisee are provided here, but you can read the full length article by following the link at the end of this summary.
Here are 12 easy steps for raising your children to become Pharisees:
1. Major on external instead of internal issues.
See the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–6).  This is majoring on controlling the child’s behavior without using Scripture and prayer to deal with his heart.
2. Exercise excessive control.
This is not balancing discipline with instruction.  This is manifested by the creation of TOO MANY rules and restrictions, rules that are POINTLESS, or rules that are HARSH AND TOO STRICT.
3. Overreact to failure.
This includes not allowing the freedom to fail. It’s treating failure as the end of the world. You must see failure as an opportunity for instruction. But many parents live in FEAR of failure—and thus they become excessive controllers. This may be manifested in calling attention to every mistake. It’s a performance-based love…expecting perfection.
4. Be unforgiving and impatient.
A grouchy/irritable parent, frustrated over everything that goes wrong.  Instead of a home that is filled with joy, there is an oppressive, negative atmosphere. Sinful choices by your children definitely need to be dealt with. But make sure there is a visible end to the consequences, with the home thus returning to a pleasant atmosphere of peace and tranquility.
5. Elevate preference over biblical principle.
Some parents are prone to emphasize rules that really don’t reflect the Bible at all. Instead, the rules reflect personal preferences.
6. Exercise unnecessary separatism.
This has become a huge problem with many home-schooling families. I believe it’s danger they must watch out for.  Frankly, this approach doesn’t work as the parents think it will. Frequent phone calls from parents of older children who are rebelling. And frequent discussions with pastors who are having this problem in their church.  As your children grow, they must be involved with other children; this is a testing ground and provides opportunities for training. And your teens must be allowed to be with other teens.
7. Judge others…other families.
This is being judgmental about other families, about things going on in the church; being critical of everything, constantly fault-finding, producing a constant rain of criticism.  When you do this in front of children, you’re developing that judgmental spirit in them.
8. Be “belligerent”—a fighter.
Pharisees fight. So, to this parent, every issue is a fighting issue.  As the child watches you take on every wrong thing in the church, every example of wrong thinking in others, they learn the lifestyle of a fighter.  Thus, they end up learning what to fight against and not necessarily what to fight for.
9. Show favoritism.
By this, I mean showing favoritism toward one child over another child.  This teaches a child to want to be only with people who are like you and who meet your standards. Then this can lead to the separatism we discussed earlier.
10. Exercise no humor.
No fun.  You need to know how to not take yourself so seriously and how to not take things in this world so seriously at times.
11. Build up their self-esteem.
A “high self-esteem” is not a biblical concept. Nor is the need to learn to love yourself.  Emphasis on self-esteem encourages individuals to become like Pharisees; they are encouraged to delve into self, to be focused on self, to build up self.
12. Lack genuine spirituality.
Living hypocritically teaches hypocrisy.  You won’t be perfect as a parent, but there must be a level of integrity visible to your children.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

True Fasting

Isaiah 58:1-12

1 The LORD says, “Shout as loud as you can! Tell my people Israel about their sins! 2 They worship me every day, claiming that they are eager to know my ways and obey my laws. They say they want me to give them just laws and that they take pleasure in worshipping me.”

3 The people ask, “Why should we fast if the LORD never notices? Why should we go without food if he pays no attention?”

The LORD says to them, “The truth is that at the same time as you fast, you pursue your own interests and oppress your workers. 4 Your fasting makes you violent, and you quarrel and fight. Do you think this kind of fasting will make me listen to your prayers? 5 When you fast, you make yourselves suffer; you bow your heads low like a blade of grass, and spread out sackcloth and ashes to lie on. Is that what you call fasting? Do you think I will be pleased with that?

6 “The kind of fasting I want is this: remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. 7 Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own relatives.

8 “Then my favour will shine on you like the morning sun, and your wounds will be quickly healed. I will always be with you to save you; my presence will protect you on every side. 9 When you pray, I will answer you. When you call to me, I will respond.

“If you put an end to oppression, to every gesture of contempt, and to every evil word; 10 if you give food to the hungry and satisfy those who are in need, then the darkness around you will turn to the brightness of noon. 11 And I will always guide you and satisfy you with good things. I will keep you strong and well. You will be like a garden that has plenty of water, like a spring of water that never runs dry. 12 Your people will rebuild what has long been in ruins, building again on the old foundations. You will be known as the people who rebuilt the walls, who restored the ruined houses.”

American Bible Society, The Holy Bible : The Good News Translation, 2nd ed. (New York: American Bible Society, 1992), 58:1-12.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hunting for the text of the New Testament

All right, so how might we explore the cumulative impact of all these differences? Actually, it is quite easy, though sensationalists avoid mentioning this. One reason why textual criticism is so complex is that we have so many manuscripts, in different scribal forms, from such a wide area, over a long period of time. One of the main theories (though this has recently been challenged) is that there are three main ‘families’ of manuscripts:
  1. The Western tradition, which consists of early manuscripts from a wide area, and was the basis of translations in the Western church, in particular Jerome’s Latin translation the Vulgate, which was the dominant biblical text in the Roman church.
  2. The Eastern tradition, or Byzantine text-type  , which consists of around 80% of all manuscripts, though none of them very early. Known as the Majority Text (MT), this was the dominant text used in the Eastern church, and was the basis of theTextus Receptus   (TR), a collation of manuscripts by Erasmus during the Reformation. When it was decided to make translations from original Greek texts rather then from the Latin Vulgate, this became the basis of early English translations up to and including the AV in 1611.
  3. The third player in the drama is what is known as the Alexandrian text type  ; this includes Codex Sinaiticus   and Codex Vaticanus   (used by Westcott and Hort   in 1881) and consists of a smaller number of much earlier manuscripts which take us much closer to the original texts. It is this group of manuscripts which are sensationalised as introducing the differences from earlier manuscripts, and these are the basis of all modern translations.

List of major textual variants in the New Testament

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This is an (incomplete) list of major textual variants in the New Testament, with a focus on differences between categories of New Testament manuscript.
For a more comprehensive list which includes many minor variants, see Textual variants in the New Testament.

Variations between Majority Text/Textus Receptus and critical text[edit]
The following list contains texts where the Majority Text is in agreement with the Textus Receptus, against the critical text.
MT = Majority Text. CT = Critical text
Matthew 5:44
MT: But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.
CT: But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.
Matthew 6:13
MT: And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
CT: And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.
Matthew 17:21
MT: However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.
CT: Verse omitted
Matthew 18:11
MT: For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.
CT: Verse omitted


Praise the Lord for FEBC. This semester FEBC has a total enrolment of 498 students: 92 day students (53 full-time and 39 part-time), 141 distance learning students, and 265 BTFE night class students. The residential students this semester come from a dozen countries: Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

We are grateful to the Lord for keeping us safe and sound despite the bullying we face from those who hate us for our faith in the verbal and plenary preservation (VPP) of the Holy Scriptures, our unequivocal stand for the traditional Hebrew Masoretic Text and the Greek Textus Receptus which we believe to be the inspired and authoritative Scriptures God has wonderfully preserved for His Church, and for our uncompromising defence of the good old Authorised Version (KJV).

We thank the Lord that Justice Judith Prakash finally visited the Church/College grounds at 9, 9A, 10 Gilstead Road on 23 January 2014. She spent about 1½ hours inspecting the premises. Please pray for her as she draws up a scheme to regulate the sharing and use of the premises. We pray for a scheme that will prevent future disputes.

Pray also for FEBC now facing a new lawsuit by Life BPC for utilities they claim we owe them since 1970. The mediation meeting on 29 January 2014 before two District Judges brought no resolution. They sued for $250,000 but are now asking for half a million to settle. Another meeting is scheduled for 19 February 2014. Pray for God to protect FEBC from those who seek to destroy her, this time financially.

Many others

During the past decade or two there has been a flood of new translations, too numerous to mention here. Some have endeavored to be literal renderings of the originals, while others are definitely paraphrases into what is considered to be more modern English usage. Still others are in the making and will, no doubt, be seen in the near future.
Conclusion: Does this flurry of “experts” to give us the exact language of the original autographs indicate that we cannot depend upon our present English Bible to declare the true message God would proclaim to Mankind? Perhaps the following quotation from Sir Frederic Kenyon, director of the British Museum, will answer the question best: “It is reassuring at the end to find that the general result of all these discoveries and all this study is to strengthen the proof of the authenticity of the Scriptures, and our conviction that we have in our hands, in substantial integrity, the veritable Word of God.”25[1]

25 Sir Frederick Kenyon, source unknown.
[1] Guy P. Duffield and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave, Foundations of Pentecostal Theology (Los Angeles, CA: L.I.F.E. Bible College, 1983), 44.

Monday, February 17, 2014

How to enjoy reading your bible

People who enjoy reading the Bible suggest these ideas to help those who are new to reading it:

First, appreciate how fortunate we are that it exists in a language we can understand.  Only a few decades before the King James Version was written it had been against the law to read a Bible in English.  Even today, owning a Bible is illegal or dangerous in parts of the world.

Second, recognise the benefits that come from reading the Bible.  It has insights into how to live well, how to cope with difficulties, how to forgive and be forgiven.   It can tell us about what God is like, what the human spirit is like, what it is like to be loved.  And it tells rattling good stories!

Third, start with the parts that you connect with.  The Bible contains a huge variety of writing – stories, legal documents, letters, poetry and songs.  Some parts are more relevant than others at particular stages of life.  Enjoyment comes from the familiarity of reading them again and again.  Starting with a single, appealing verse might open up the desire to study the whole Bible.

Fourth, don’t just read it like a textbook, but engage your heart and mind in what you read.  Try reading it as though it was written just for your benefit.  As you read each chapter work out what the main subject is, how it might impact on your life, and what your favourite phrase is.

Fifth, find a version that is easy to understand.  If you are a lover of beautiful words, enjoy the King James Version (sometimes called the Authorised Version).  But then consider whether you might also enjoy a version which uses the language of today.  These web pages use the New International Version, which is both reliable and readable.  If you are looking for a Bible in a bookshop, other translations that use straightforward language are the Good News Bible or the Contemporary English version.  You can try them out free

Lastly, get help.  Your enjoyment of the Bible will improve if you have something that will help you work out what the complicated parts mean.  The Christian Enquiry Agency would be happy to send you a short list of resources that we recommend if you click ‘Find out more’ below and write that you would like help reading the Bible in the 'I have a question' box.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Quotes from Joseph Ng

…everyone following this board will have seen through the smoke and mirrors of "perfect preservation" as defined by the VPP-KJBOs, you know, Bomberg-TR-Beza something, word-perfect, yada yada. which, of course, is all true--except for the exceptions, heh heh.

…well, as the saying goes, you can fool some people some of the time, but can you ever fool the Lord?

…it might be flattering to consider oneself among the Bible-believing and -defending remnant, but lying about the nature of preservation--not the least the numerous variants within the KJB and its underlying textual bases--isn't conclusive proof of spiritual authenticity.

…one interesting tidbit in the events leading up to the High Court and Appeals Court drama is VPP-believing FEBC's initiative to "go to court before the unrighteous, and not before the saints" (1 Cor. 6; as recorded in FEBC's own Jul 2012 Burning Bush):

…too bad they couldn't find their Salt Lake City for their bait-and-switch bibliology and had to play dog in the manger with Life BPC over the church's premises.

…50 yrs and still making VPP KJBO disciples out there.

…so much for "Yea hath God said." i guess it's okay that it's the VPP KJBOs themselves who are rumbling and levering to pry God's children from their faith in God's Words in the CUV Bible to a newfangled version of their preference.

…interestingly, when asking if the Bible is perfect today, the question should be when it was ever not perfect. did it have to wait for a school of Anglican scholars in 17th century England to attain perfection?

…while doctors take the Hippocratic Oath not to harm the vulnerable,

KJBOs seduce the vulnerable to take the Hypocritical Oath.

some piety.

...any movement that works against Christ and His Apostles' teaching n example can't be of God, regardless of claims of knowing Satan's strategems n protestations concerning an edifying motive.

…question of the season: is it okay to lie at Christmas to demonize modern versions and to exalt the KJB?

the damage has been done in the sowing of a false doctrine of the Scriptures, but like in all circumstances in life, our Lord is Sovereign. nor have we seen the work of the angels, one day, in separating the tares from the wheat.

…and so the heresy of VPP King James Onlyism continues to spread the world over, and so many of their Fundamentalist coreligionists continue to abet the contagion.

…it might be flattering to consider oneself among the Bible-believing and -defending remnant, but lying about the nature of preservation--not the least the numerous variants within the KJB and its underlying textual bases--isn't conclusive proof of spiritual authenticity.

Joseph Ng
"For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven."

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Question: "What is Verbal Plenary Preservation?"

Answer: “Verbal Plenary Preservation” is an argument from the discipline of study referred to as textual criticism, which is the study of what an ancient copy of an original manuscript says and from there determining what the author meant. Ultimately, biblical textual criticism seeks to determine what the original, divinely inspired autographs actually said. So to answer the question “which Bible translation is closest to the original?”, we must consider the texts from which the translation was rendered. 

Verbal Plenary Preservation (VPP) is an argument promoted by some (usually from the “King James Version Only” advocates), in support of the view that the Textus Receptus or TR, is the only New Testament text that is both divinely inspired and divinely preserved. Verbal Plenary Preservation (if true), would require generation after generation of handwritten copies to be produced without error of any kind from the original autographs in the first century, producing the later manuscripts known as the “majority text,” from which the TR was created. In doing so, VPP proponents incorrectly link the doctrine of inerrancy with inspiration and “providential preservation.” Their conclusion is that the Textus Receptus and the majority text (MT) from which the TR came are not only faithful, inerrant, identical, replicas of the original autographs, but that all other New Testament manuscripts from any location, language, or time period are not inspired of God and are therefore unworthy of use. 

The underlying problem with the doctrine of VPP is its basis in the false presupposition that God's inspiration of Scripture at a particular point in human history also requires His divine preservation of each and every jot and tittle ever written down by anyone who ever sought to do the work of a scribe. Further, that the majority text not only fits this description but must be the one preserved by virtue of the number of extant manuscripts—the majority rules—and is publicly accessible, which they say is evidence of its providential preservation. This idea, however, runs counter to the Bible’s own testimony, historical evidence, what constitutes a true “majority,” and the force of plain reason.

The Textus Receptus is a compilation/translation by Erasmus from manuscripts dating mostly from 900 A.D. to 1100 A. D. These manuscripts are referred to as the Majority Text (also referred to as the Byzantine Text). The name "Majority" however is a misnomer. Erasmus could have used manuscripts from numerous geographic locations to avoid any drifting in textual renderings inherent to a specific geography, people group, or scribal tradition. He also could have consulted manuscripts from varying time periods to identify any loss of scribal accuracy in copies over multiple generations, or considered the available Latin manuscripts which outnumbered the Greek two-to-one! Instead, he made use of none of these variables and instead used a very narrow group of texts. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Paul's Appeal

Christ Is not divided!
1 Corinthians 1:10

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. [1]
These eight verses (1 Cor. 1:10–17) introduce the basic concept Paul will drive home in the next four chapters (1:18–4:21) and indeed in the rest of the letter: Christ is not divided like the Corinthian community is. The way they are “choosing sides” is inappropriate. We can thus think of 1 Cor. 1:10 as the key result Paul wishes to achieve by writing, namely, unity in the church. Paul appropriately begins with a charge for the church to be united (1:10). This verse is arguably the “proposition” of 1 Corinthians, the key verse of the letter. If the Corinthians would put this charge into practice, Paul’s mission would be accomplished.[2] 1 Corinthians 1:10 is arguably the “proposition” of the letter, the basic point Paul was trying to make. If the church would only learn to be united in their attitudes, their problems would be solved.[3]

One of the characteristics of the ancient Greeks was their inability to get along with each other. The Greeks loved to be independent from one another. Cities fought against neighboring cities—Sparta, Troy, Athens, and others.
And so the individual citizens took on attitudes of super independence. The city of Corinth was no exception to this kind of thinking. Corinth was noted for its internal factions.
Aren’t we like that today? It is one thing to be a free people, but it is quite another thing to be an independent people. Americans have placed independence on their altars to worship. But no one can live in independence from others. There is a song that says, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”
Some animals can be born without any follow-up from their parents in upbringing. But no human being can survive after birth without the intimate, caring and involved input from other human beings. And we never outgrow that need for other humans. We not only need people who are close to us, we also need people who live on the other part of the globe that we have never seen and will never see.
Our children today are protected from diphtheria by what a Japanese and a German did. They are protected from smallpox by what an Englishman did. They are saved from rabies because of what a Frenchman did. And the list goes on and on.
The world has been bettered because of the spirits of individuals who never built fences between them and others who may have been different from them, but rather committed themselves to serve the welfare of mankind. These are the people who thought in terms of interdependence instead of independence.
But the Greeks had not caught on to that spirit. And so the spirit of the city of Corinth began to catch on in the church at Corinth. And that is a tragedy. For the church is not to catch the spirit of its community, but rather to correct the spirit of its community. The strength of God’s people is not seen in just having faith in God, but also in maintaining fellowship with Him by demonstrating fellowship with His people.
So Paul begins here to address the primary issue that could weaken and destroy them—disunity.
It is quite clear from the Greek language that in 1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul is introducing a contrast. It begins with the word, “but” (de). He is contrasting their calling—fellowship (1 Corinthians 1:9) with their conduct—factions. As an apostle, he could order them to demonstrate fellowship. But no one can demand fellowship and then stand back and watch it automatically take place.
So Paul uses a softer word than the word for command. He says, “I appeal.” This word literally means, “to call alongside.” Paul is not appealing to them as someone who is distant from them, but rather someone who is one of them. His heart beats for them. He appeals to them on the basis of his fellowship with them (“brothers”) and on their fellowship with Jesus (“in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”).
Paul then moves in a very general way to what is weakening their fellowship—disagreements that lead to divisions. When Paul says, “that all of you agree,” he is not suggesting that we cannot have differences of opinions or say things differently. He is not calling for total conformity. Paul recognizes that Christians are different from one another.
Each of us is unique. Each of us is in a different stage of growth. We come from different environments.
In fact, it is God’s design that there are varieties among us (1 Corinthians 12:4–6). However, the problems come when we allow our differences to become bigger than the Christ who has united us. Christians must be committed to not allowing differences to make a difference.
Literally, instead of saying that you “all agree,” the Greek says, “that you all speak the same thing.” But what is the “same thing” that Paul wants them to speak? Are we all to say exactly the same words, the same sentences? Of course not! But we all are to say that we have been “called … into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). We are to agree that we belong to Him and to one another. To fail to speak that way is to divide up into various cliques that can split the body apart. And that is precisely what the Corinthians have been doing.
It is not wrong to have differences of opinions, but when we allow those differences of opinions to judge our brother to be a non-brother—to begin to see him out of fellowship instead of in the fellowship, then the seed for division is among us.
The word for divisions is plural, which shows that there are many factions and not just one within that body. The word is the Greek word schimata, from which we get our word schism. The church will have diversity, but she is not to have schisms, which polarize around those diversities. One of the marks of maturity is that we can have diversity within the body without personal animosities. The church must demonstrate to the world how to handle differences differently. This word schism was used in Biblical days to refer to a torn garment that had not yet been separated into two pieces (Matthew 9:16).
The church at Corinth is probably meeting in homes throughout the city, but the members still see themselves as one united body. Their party spirit, however, has planted a seed for splitting the church and destroying that unity. In fact, there is the potential that out of that one congregation could come four different, distinct denominations (1 Corinthians 1:12).
So Paul appeals to them to get their act together, “that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” The words, “perfectly united,” was a Greek term used for patching up fishing nets that had holes in them. It was also used for setting broken bones. Both of those uses are so graphic for the church.
The church is called a body. But whenever disunity dominates, then members of that body become broken and thus cannot function for the support and good of other members. The body is weakened as if it has broken bones.
The church is also referred to as a net. But when disunity dominates the church, the net has holes in it that can cause people within the church to fall through the holes. The church as a net is to keep Christians (fish), together to function in fellowship. The word really means that something be “restored” to its originally intended design and function.
Paul is appealing to the Corinthians to restore the original intention of fellowship and to practice it within the body. Restoring fellowship begins with submitting our thinking (“mind”) and evaluations (“thought”; also translated “judgment”) to that of Christ. When Paul says that we should have the same mind and the same thought, he means that we are to have the same mind and the same judgment as Christ has.
Christ has a mind and a judgment of humility that reaches out to serve others (Philippians 2:5–11). In this context, Paul is speaking about a unity in thinking and evaluation concerning the differences that exist among the Corinthians. Paul picks this up again in 1 Corinthians 12, where he develops the theme that there is to be unity amid their diversity.[4]

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Co 1:10.
[2] Kenneth Schenck, 1 & 2 Corinthians: a Commentary for Bible Students (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2006), 39.
[3] Kenneth Schenck, 1 & 2 Corinthians: a Commentary for Bible Students, 39.
[4] Knofel Staton, First Corinthians: Unlocking the Scriptures for You, Standard Bible Studies (Cincinnati, OH: Standard, 1987), 29–32.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Teaching and Personhood

By Rev Dr Tan Soo-Inn 

In his memoir, Now and Then, Frederick Buechner writes about his time at Union seminary.
In terms of Union’s history, I couldn’t have gone there at a more auspicious time. It was its golden age. Reinhold Niebuhr was there, and Paul Tillich was there, these two great luminaries. Martin Buber came to lecture, looking like somebody out of a musical comedy with his stringy beard and a Yiddish accent so impenetrable that I found it impossible to understand more than a few words he said. Less famous but no less powerful as teacher there were, supremely, James Muilenberg in the Old Testament department, not to mention Samuel Terrien, and John Knox in the New Testament department. There was Paul Scherer to teach homiletics, Wilhelm Pauk and Cyril Richardson in Church History, and, in the Philosophy of Religion, Robert McAfee Brown . . . (Frederick Buechner, Now and Then [New York, NY: HarperOne, 1983], 8.)
The names that Buechner mentioned were all luminaries in their respective fields. Though not evangelicals, these were brilliant scholars and teachers. One would have learnt so much from them but strangely enough what Buechner remembers from his studies with these great people was not the content of what they taught, but the teachers themselves. Buechner writes:
In the last analysis, I have always believed, it is not so much their subjects that the great teachers teach as it is themselves. In some box in the attic, or up over the garage, I must still have notes on the lectures I heard given by Niebuhr, Tillich, and the rest of them. It would be possible to exhume them and summarize some of what struck me most. But though much of what these teachers said remains with me still and has become so much a part of my own way of thinking and speaking that often I sound like them without realizing it, it is they themselves who left the deeper mark. (Frederick Buechner, Now and Then, 12.)
Buechner’s observations about teachers ring true. I was privileged to be studying at Regent College (Vancouver) at what I consider a golden age in the life of the school. I sat at the feet of teachers that included Bruce Waltke, J I Packer, Klaus Bockmuehl, Ward Gasque, Carl Armerding, Loren Wilkinson, Roy Bell, Phil Collins, Sam Mikolaski, John Nolland, Peter Davids, Quek Swee Hua, William J Dumbrell, Sven Soderlund, and others. I have lost most of the notes I took in their classes. I believe, like Buechner, I have internalized the key lessons I learnt from my teachers. These insights emerge when I preach, teach and write, and in how I approach life and ministry. Indeed the most important lessons I learnt at Regent were not so much from what the lecturers said, but from who they were. Let me give an example.

I was privileged to study the book of James under Peter Davids, a key scholar in Jacobean studies. I can’t remember much of what he taught in class. (I am grateful that I have his commentaries and can refer to them.) What I remembered was his poor fashion sense. Peter would often come to class wearing clothes that were clearly not in fashion. When we asked him why he didn’t wear clothes that were more up to date, he replied that he didn’t see why he had to spend money to keep up with the dictates of fashion. If his clothes were still ok, he would continue to use them. In this way he could release more of his monies for mission and for the poor. The dangers of wealth and discriminating against the poor are some of the key themes in the book of James. Here was a teacher who testified to those truths through his scholarship and through his life. Besides, he said, given enough time a particular style would be fashionable again. As Buechner observed, “. . . it is not so much their subjects that the great teachers teach as it is themselves.”

Or perhaps it may be more accurate to say that the lives of the teachers are the living vehicles of the truths they seek to convey. Hence Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:10a: “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life . . . .”. His teaching and his way of life go together. Like his master Jesus, Paul models what he teaches. If this is true, that the most powerful and lasting way truth is taught is through a life, then we must continue to keep the personal dimension in education. In his book, The Skillful Teacher, Stephen D. Brookfield highlights the importance of personhood in teaching.
Students recognize personhood in teachers when these teachers move out from behind their formal identities and role descriptions to allow aspects of themselves to be revealed in the classroom . . . Personhood is more appropriately evident when teachers use autobiographical examples to illustrate concepts and theories they are trying to explain, when they talk about ways they apply specific skills and insights taught in the classroom to their work outside, and when they share stories of how they dealt with the same fears and struggles that their students are currently facing as they struggle with what to them is new learning. (Stephen D. Brookfield, The Skillful Teacher, 2nd Edition [San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2006], 72.)
This semester I am teaching two courses, “The Ministry of the Laity” for Trinity Theological College, and “Vocation, Work and Ministry” for the Biblical Graduate School of Theology. I am quite sure that my students will soon forget what I taught in class, though I hope they will remember some of the stories. But I do hope and pray that they will remember a man who, though very imperfectly, did struggle to understand what God was up to and tried his best to play his part in that divine endeavour. And when I work hard to teach in this way, I reflect the best I learnt from my teachers. Thank you, sirs.
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7 NIV)

A statement adopted by the General Presbytery of the Assemblies of God states:

Some, for example, teach that since the Bible speaks of a spirit of cowardly fear, any deliverance from fear must be by the casting out of an evil spirit or demon of fear. But an examination of the same passage (2 Timothy 1:7) shows it speaks also of a spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind or self-control. If people interpret fear to be an evil spirit needing to be cast out, to be consistent they would need to beseech three good spirits to come in. The fallacy of this reasoning is obvious. Love and self-control are fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives. By a spirit of love and of self-control is meant the attitudes that result from our cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Actually, the word “spirit” in many cases means an attitude or a disposition. David spoke of a broken spirit (Psalm 51:17); Solomon of a humble spirit (Proverbs 16:19); Paul wanted to come to Corinth, not with a rod, but with love and a meek or gentle spirit (1 Corinthians 4:21). Peter spoke of the adorning of the heart with the imperishable gift of a meek and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4), actually meaning a quiet disposition. This is in line with the frequent use of the word “spirit” for one’s own spirit and its expressions (Haggai 1:14; Acts 17:16; 1 Corinthians 2:11, etc.). Thus, unless the context shows that an independent spirit-being is meant, it seems best to take most phrases such as a haughty spirit, a hasty spirit, a spirit of slumber, a spirit of jealousy, etc., to be sins of the disposition or lusts of the flesh (Galatians 6), and not demons. A serious danger in considering all these sins of the disposition to be demons is that the individual may feel no responsibility for the actions and feel that the necessity for repentance is removed. Actually, the Bible calls men to repent of these things and to put off these attitudes. The great conflict within us is not between the Holy Spirit and demons, but between the indwelling Holy Spirit and the flesh (that is, all the sensory apparatus that tends toward sin).18[1]

Theologian, beware of the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of this world. 

18 Taken from a pamphlet published by the Gospel Publishing House, Springfield, MO, called “Can Born-Again Believers Be Demon Possessed?” This is the statement approved as the official statement of the Assemblies of God by the General Presbytery in May, 1972 (see pp.9, 10).
[1] Guy P. Duffield and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave, Foundations of Pentecostal Theology (Los Angeles, CA: L.I.F.E. Bible College, 1983), 495–496.