In Protestant theology, verbal plenary preservation (VPP) is a doctrine concerning the nature of the Bible. While verbal plenary inspiration ("VPI") applies only to the original autographs of the Bible manuscript, VPP views that, "the whole of Scripture with all its words even to the jot and tittle is perfectly preserved by God in the apographs without any loss of the original words, prophecies, promises, commandments, doctrines, and truths, not only in the words of salvation, but also the words of history, geography and science; and every book, every chapter, every verse, every word, every syllable, every letter is infallibly preserved by the Lord Himself to the last iota so that the Bible is not only infallible and inerrant in the past (in the autographs), but also infallible and inerrant today (in the apographs)."
God's inspired words once given will be forever preserved: "The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever" (Psalm 12:6-7). Those who deny that the Bible teaches preservation say that verse 7 here refers to the preservation of God's people, not His words.
The late Dr Carl McIntire, the founding pastor of the historic Bible Presbyterian Church, understood verse 7 to mean preservation of the divinely inspired words of God as he had preached in 1992 a sermon entitled "Help, Lord!", from Psalm 12, saying:
"Now come verse 6, ‘The words of the LORD are pure words,’ not one of them is mistaken, ‘as silver tried in the furnace of earth, purified seven times.’ All the dregs are out. Here is a marvelous affirmation and vindication that God's Word is perfect. … Now, ‘The words of the LORD are pure words.’ And then verse 7, how I love this: ‘Thou shalt keep them O LORD,’ that is, keep His words; ‘thou shalt preserve them from this generation forever.’ No matter what happens, one generation come and another passes away, God is going to preserve His words … from one generation to another. The words of God will be preserved throughout all the generations.
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 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; so as, in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them (Chapter 1:8)
God, the supreme Judge, not only took care to have His Word, which is the ‘power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth’ (Rom 1:16), committed to writing by Moses, the prophets, and the apostles, but has also watched and cherished it with paternal care ever since it was written up to the present time, so that it could not be corrupted by craft of Satan or fraud of man. Therefore, the church justly ascribes it to His singular grace and goodness that she has, and will have to the end of the world, a ‘sure word of prophecy’ (2 Pet 1:19) and ‘holy Scriptures’ (2 Tim 3:15), from which, though heaven and earth perish, ‘one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass’ (Matt 5:18). (Canon I)
Like the Helvetic Consensus Formula, the Westminster Confession of Faith cites Matthew 5:18 as proof text of the special providential preservation of the divinely inspired Holy Scripture. The late Rev Dr Carl McIntire also understood Chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith to be teaching the special providential preservation of God's words when continuing from what was quoted above in his 1992 sermon entitled "Help, Lord!", from Psalm 12, he said with regard to verses 6 and 7:
Now I am very happy that in the great Confessions of the Christian world, our Confession—the Westminster Confession—has its Chapter 1 on the Word of God. … Now the Lord says, "I am going to keep my Word—it is like silver that has been tried. I am going to keep that to all generations, all generations." That means that no matter what the conditions are, God is going to have on this earth some churches and some pastors until the last generation were taken away who will maintain this Word like we are doing here and like we are seeking to do throughout the whole Christian world.
On VPI and VPP the late Rev Dr Timothy Tow, founding pastor of the Bible-Presbyterian Church and founding principal of Far Eastern Bible College ("FEBC"), wrote: "We believe the preservation of Holy Scripture and its Divine inspiration stand in the same position as providence and creation. If Deism teaches a Creator who goes to sleep after creating the world is absurd, to hold to the doctrine of inspiration without preservation is equally illogical. … Without preservation, all the inspiration, God-breathing into the Scriptures, would be lost. But we have a Bible so pure and powerful in every word and it is so because God has preserved it down through the ages."
On the same twin doctrines the late Rev Dr Ian Paisley, moderator of the Ulster Free Presbyterian Church for more than 57 years, said: "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 committed to verbal Inspiration. If there is no preserved Word of God today then the work of Divine Revelation and Divine Inspiration has perished."
The late Dr Edward F. Hills also penned: "If the doctrine of divine inspiration of the Old and New Testament Scriptures is a true doctrine, the doctrine of the providential preservation of these Scriptures must also be a true doctrine. It must be that down through the centuries God has exercised a special, providential control over the copying of the Scriptures and the preservation and use of the original text have been available to God's people in every age. God must have done this, for if He gave the Scriptures to His Church by inspiration as the perfect and final revelation of His will, then it is obvious that He would not allow this revelation to disappear or undergo any alteration of its fundamental character."
More views upholding the doctrine of perfect preservation or VPP can be found quoted in "The Historic Views of the Church Concerning Preservation" by Rev (Dr) P. S. Ferguson. These views include those of English puritan Thomas Cartwright (1535–1603), Professor William Whitaker (1548–1595), Bishop and Divine John Jewel (1522–1571), Cambridge-educated puritan preacher Nicholas Gibbens, German Lutheran dogmatician Johannes Andreas Quenstedt (1617–1688), English Presbyterian clergyman John Flavel (1627–1691), English puritan and theologian Edward Leigh (1602–1671), Puritan Thomas Watson (1620–1686), Puritan John Owen (1616–1683), first regent and first principal of the University of Edinburgh Robert Rollock (1555–1599), Swiss-Italian Reformed scholastic theologian Francis Turretin (1623–1687), Westminster divine Richard Capel (1586–1656), original member of the Westminster assembly John Lightfoot (1602–1675), Pastor Dr Jack Moorman, Professor Albert J. Hembd and the Rev N. Pffeifer.
The non-VPP or anti-VPP position of Life Bible-Presbyterian Church ("Life BPC") can be seen in the paper "Preserving Our Godly Path" issued by the Rev Charles Seet and the Rev Colin Wong and others. The copy of the paper currently on Life BPC's website is undated, and the copy accessed by the Rev Dr Jeffrey Khoo on 1 June 2006 had been amended from the original which was first distributed to the church's Sunday School on 1 December 2002 when the late Rev Dr Timothy Tow, who did not endorse the paper, was still the pastor of the church.
The Rev Seet and the Rev Wong and others quote Roland Ward of Knox Presbyterian Church in Australia in their interpretation of Matthew 5:18 in opposing VPP. The jot and tittle passage is interpreted by them as not referring to the transmission of the text of Scripture but to the authority of God's claims upon His people. However, the Rev Dr Jeffrey Khoo in "Can Verbal Plenary Inspiration Do Without Verbal Plenary Preservation?: The Achilles’ Heel of Princeton Bibliology" corrects Ward's fallacious or erratic claims by pointing, inter alia, to the Westminster Confession's employment of Matthew 5:18 as proof text for its statement on the special providential preservation of the Scriptures, highlighting in particular the Bible's authenticity ("correct copy" or "identical with the first text") and not merely its authority.
Similarly, the Rev Seet and the Rev Wong and others differ from VPP proponents in interpreting Psalm 12:6-7 as the preservation of God's people instead of the preservation of Gods words (see "Scripture" in "Basis" above on this). They (Rev Seet et al.) also view Matthew 24:35, as well as Mark 13:31 and Luke 21:33, differently to be the certainty and reliability of fulfillment of end-time prophecies and not the enduring nature of God's words which "shall not pass away" even as heaven and earth "shall pass away."
Although they disparaged all the above-cited verses quoted by VPP proponents to support the VPP doctrine, the Rev Charles Seet and the Rev Colin Wong and certain elders of Life BPC did not quote any Bible verses as the basis of their faith when they subsequently issued "Our Statement of Faith on the Preservation of God's Word" (the "Statement").
After stating that they "hold to the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible in the original texts (autographs) which are perfect in every way", they then go on to state that they "hold to an INERRANT and INFALLIBLE Bible and the FULL preservation of God's holy Word" before stating towards the end that they "believe that God has fully preserved His Word in the body of manuscripts (or texts or copies)" (underlined and capitalized in original).
The Statement currently on Life BPC's website, though dated 8 November 2005, was actually first released on 25 April 2004 at Life BPC's Annual Congregational Meeting (ACM) at which the congregation was asked to choose which group of elders should rule the church. The Board of Elders was divided as there were six (VPP) elders who had refused to accept the resignation of the Rev Dr Timothy Tow. (When a pastor resigns, Chapter 16 of the Form of Government of the Bible Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on "Resigning a Pastoral Charge" provides that when any minister shall desire leave to resign his pastoral charge, the congregation is required by the Presbytery to show cause why the resignation should not be accepted. The Form of Government is typically incorporated by reference in Article 11.1 of the constitution of a Bible-Presbyterian church in Singapore—see the constitution of Calvary Bible-Presbyterian Church since a copy of Life BPC's constitution is not available on its website.)
As the term of office of an elder, who is individually elected, is three years—per Article 15.2 of the constitution—and Life BPC last held its election in April 2014, this means that the Board of Elders elected in April 2002 (prior to the dispute between Life BPC and FEBC over VPP) had seven elders (the Rev Dr Timothy Tow, Han Soon Juan, Koh Kim Song, Eric Mahadevan, Geoffrey Tan, Tan Nee Keng and Wee Chin Kam) for the VPP stand and six elders (the Rev Charles Seet, the Rev Colin Wong, Khoo Peng Kiat, Lim Teck Chye, Sherman Ong and Sng Teck Leong) for the non or anti-VPP stand since Chin Hoong Chor, Ng Beng Kiong and Tan Yew Chong—listed as elders in "Our Statement of Faith on the Preservation of God's Word"—were only deacons when "Preserving Our Godly Path" was first distributed at the Sunday School of Life BPC on 1 December 2002 before the six VPP elders (who had remained on the Board of Elders after the Rev Dr Timothy Tow's resignation) were subsequently voted en bloc out of office (with no basis for such group voting or removal provided in the constitution) at the ACM on 25 April 2004 prior to their term ending at the next election / ACM in April 2005 when Chin, Ng and Tan were first elected as elders to add their names to the Board of Elders on the paper "Our Statement of Faith on the Preservation of God's Word" re-issued with a date of 8 November 2005.
While the issuers of the Statement state that they have no doubt that the KJV Bible "is the very Word of God, and is fully reliable," they "do not ascribe perfection" to the Hebrew and Greek texts (or copies) immediately underlying the KJV of the English Bible (i.e., 100% replica of the autographs) or say they are perfect. Although they avoid using the word "mistakes" for obvious reason (and especially at the Church's ACM held on 25 April 2004), it is clear that they take the view that there are mistakes in the Hebrew and Greek texts underlying the KJV English Bible.
Pastor Brutus Balan in a letter dated 30 January 2008, addressed to the Rev Charles Seet and the Board of Elders of Life BPC with a plea to them to avoid carrying out their legal threat to evict the College from the Gilstead Road premises, compared Life BPC's position (as stated in the Statement) with that of FEBC (as stated in the Editorial in The Burning Bush, Vol 12 Number 1, p. 2). He asked Life BPC elders "Does full [in "FULL preservation"] means not full?" before remarking "Deceptive words are not of the Holy Spirit!" and concluding "You [Life BPC leaders] have the most inconsistent and contradictory position over this matter and yet the charge of heresy is thrown at FEBC."
Despite Life BPC's announcement in its weekly of 13 July 2008 regarding "1 Cor 6 which teaches us not to take fellow Christians to court," Life BPC ignored Pastor Balan's plea and commenced Suit 648 in the High Court of Singapore on 15 September 2008 to evict FEBC from the Gilstead Road premises without waiting for the Attorney-General to respond to FEBC's request to him to either commence proceedings himself or to grant consent to FEBC's directors to apply to the High Court for a declaration that the registered proprietors of the Gilstead Road premises hold the properties on a charitable trust for the benefit and use of a Bible college administered by the Board of Directors of FEBC.
(Life BPC not only commenced Suit 648 in September 2008 but also sued FEBC again in 2013 by filing a new suit DC1956/2013R on 27 June 2013 in the Subordinate Courts of Singapore (later renamed the State Courts of Singapore) by claiming SGD250,000 to be owing by FEBC for utilities and maintenance from March 1970 to May 2008, despite returning on 28 January 2008 all cheques from FEBC totaling SGD225,000 for its contributions to utilities and maintenance and telling it not to tender any more cheques as Life BPC was prepared to let it occupy the land free of charge for "this extended period", only to propose an amicable settlement on 31 July 2014 after a 2-day open court trial on 24–25 July 2014 during which FEBC indicated at the end that it would submit a "no case to answer"—see details in "The Battle for the Bible: Chronology of Events II" in The Burning Bush, Vol 21, Number 2 (July 2015), pp. 92–99.)
(It is clear from the exchanges between Life BPC and FEBC in respect of the new suit that Life BPC had wanted more than SGD250,000 – which is the limit for claim in the Subordinate Courts. Life BPC apparently chose to commence the new suit in the Subordinate Courts as commencing an action in the High Court would require the consent of the Commissioner of Charities – see sections 31(2) and (8) of the Charities Act (Chapter 37). Consent, if sought, might not be given as the Commissioner – like the two District Court Judges who had mediated before the commencement of the trial for Suit DC1956/2013R – would naturally be concerned about expending charity funds for litigation. In a letter headed "The Higher Law of Christian Charity" dated 5 November 2013, FEBC – notwithstanding legal advice that it has strong grounds to resist Life BPC's suit – offered Life BPC a love gift of SGD350,000 in full and final settlement of any and all claims by Life BPC up to the date of commencement of the Scheme (to be established in Suit 648 on the sharing and maintenance of the Gilstead Road premises) but this was rejected. After a two-day trial on 24–25 July 2014 for Suit DC1956/2013R, with further legal costs incurred, FEBC despite underscoring that Life BPC's action was totally devoid of legal basis offered a reduced sum of SGD300,000 on 8 August 2014 out of Christian charity – in response to Life BPC's proposal of 31 July 2014 for amicable settlement and its threat of 4 August 2014 to transfer the suit to sue for SGD615,0000 – and the offer was accepted by Life BPC on 14 August 2014 after it had filed an application on 8 August 2014 to transfer the suit to the High Court.)
(It is also clear from the events that the conscience of the Session of Life BPC could not have been guided by 1 Cor 6 and there is no truth in the "Pastoral Announcement" of 14 July 2013 that Life BPC had made many requests "to accept the sum previously tendered" and that, notwithstanding its filing of the Writ of Summons, Life BPC was looking forward to the matter being resolved expeditiously and amicably without the need for adjudication by the Courts" as there was no indication from Life BPC in the letters sent to FEBC from January–March 2013 that had contained any unambiguous or amicable offer to "accept the sum previously tendered" or Life BPC was agreeable either before or during mediation, prior to the trial for DC1956/2013, to accept FEBC's offers which had exceeded the SGD250,000 claimed or the sum previously tendered of SGD225,000 and returned by Life BPC on 28 January 2008 to FEBC (see above).)
FEBC, which embraces the VPP doctrine based on the Westminster Confession of Faith which at Article 8 of Chapter 1 states that the inspired OT and NT Scriptures in the original languages are "by His [God's] singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages", teaches that God has supernaturally preserved each and every one of His inspired Hebrew/Aramaic OT words and Greek NT words to the last jot and tittle so that God's people will always have in their possession His infallible and inerrant Word kept intact without the loss of any word, and that the infallible and inerrant words of Scripture are found in the faithfully preserved Traditional/Byzantine/Majority manuscripts and fully represented in the Printed and Received Text (or Textus Receptus) that underlie the Reformation Bibles best represented by the KJV, and NOT in the corrupted and rejected texts of Westcott and Hort that underlie the many modern versions of the English Bible like the NIV, NASV, ESV, RSV, TEV, CEV, TLB, etc. The Board of Elders of Life BPC disagreed.
The Bible-Presbyterian churches (Singapore), which had their Synod dissolved in 1988 because of disagreements, were again split with one group aligned with the founding pastor Timothy Tow embracing VPP, and another group not aligned with him taking the non- or anti-VPP position.
The church and the college had shared premises at 9, 9A and 10 Gilstead Road (the "Premises"). In 2008, due to the disagreement on VPP, the church sued the college's directors, including Timothy Tow (the church's founding pastor), in Suit 648 in the High Court over allegedly "deviant Bible teachings" in an attempt to force FEBC to leave the Premises. However the church failed as the Court of Appeal of Singapore, the apex court in Singapore's legal system, held, inter alia, on 26 April 2011 that:
However, even after the Court of Appeal of Singapore had ruled that the VPP doctrine is not deviant, Life BPC continues to regard VPP as heresy since the paper "Mark Them Which Cause Divisions" issued by its Pastor and Elders dated January 2008—rebutted by the Rev Dr Jeffrey Khoo in "Making the Word of God of None Effect"—is still on its website more than five years after the apex court's ruling.