This post is to revisit an age old yet persisting issue concerning the image of the college: "Trinity Theological College (TTC) is liberal and filled with apostate lecturers."
Before I enrolled into TTC, I have personally being told by different individuals at various occasions that it as a liberal institution.
One such occasion was at one of my favorite Christian bookshop. When the manager, who is also a friend, found out that I'm going to TTC, he cautioned me to practice discernment in my studies because it is a liberal school.
After enrolling, I still hear the same impression about TTC.
A Dean of Biblical Studies from another school told me that the education philosophy of the Principal of TTC are (1) to expose or bombard the students to all kind of teachings, and (2) leave the students to learn for themselves what is to be believed, what are the orthodox doctrines. The dean also said that the faculty at TTC does not guide the students which doctrines to believe. I have previously responded to him.
In the course of my research on the theological scene in Singapore in the first half of the twentieth century, I came across this impression of TTC by a Vietnamese:
"I came to the Trinity Theological College (TTC) in July 1999, and after studying there for one month I decided to go back home due to her liberal and modernist teachings."Besides that, a friend made a few passionate remarks about the college too:
(Hien Gia Nguyen, 'Remembering the Late Rev Dr Timothy Tow' in Bible Witness, vol. 9, issue 2, ed. Prabhudas Koshy [Singapore: Bible Witness Media Ministry of Gethsemane Bible-Presbyterian Church, 2008], p. 27. Bible Witness website: http://biblewitness.com/resources/magazines/Vol09_Iss02.pdf [accessed 27 May 2011]).
"There are numerous seminaries today who are nothing but places of empty academia, where faculties hold to a very low view of Scripture and who espouse modernistic and humanistic theologies.[...] Many of these places started as God-honouring, Bible-believing and Christ-centred institutions but have succumbed to the appeal of academic respectability. Trinity Theological College in Singapore is one such damning institution. By trying to be academically respectable, it has compromised much in historic Christianity and the cherished doctrines of the Faith."In a recent post he expressed concern over my passion for God being "wax cold" after "attending classes led by apostate lecturers who don’t believe the very truths they profess to represent."
(Biblical Religion blog: Benjamin Chew, Questions to ask about a theological seminary, dated 7 May 2011, http://biblicalreligion.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/questions-to-ask-about-a-theological-seminary/ [accessed 27 May 2011].)
"Although Trinity Theological College (TTC) has one of the most stellar faculties in Singapore, it is an ecumenical institution that has succumbed to a fair amount of theological liberalism and modernism. If I remember correctly, it was in 2009 that they had a student exchange programme with Yale Divinity School. Yale?! It is an institution that is as apostate as any Word-Faith heretic."
(Biblical Religion blog: Benjamin Chew, Theological education in Singapore, dated 3 May 2011, http://biblicalreligion.wordpress.com/2011/05/03/theological-education-in-singapore/ [accessed 27 May 2011].)
(Biblical Religion blog: Benjamin Chew, Yes you can understand your bible, dated 25 May 2011, http://biblicalreligion.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/yes-you-can-understand-your-bible/ [accessed 27 May 2011].)
He got the impression that I am "wax cold" based solely on his reading of this post alone, without regard to all the works that I have been doing (one example), not least the other blog posts which simply point to the contrary.
Tragically this is the image of TTC among certain quarters in the Christian community in this part of the world: It is a liberal institution filled with apostate lecturers.
As I surveyed these and other similar hearsay about TTC, I found out that all who hold on to the impression that TTC is a liberal college and keep spreading such impression share two similar characteristics:
1) They adopt the liberal-conservative distinction.
2) They see the academia and the Churches under the liberal-conservative distinction.
These two characteristics are simply mistaken for the following reason.
Basically there is no unanimous agreement over the criteria for something to be considered "liberal" and "conservative." The same with the categorization of "left" and "right." To give an example, what is considered "left" in Canada is "right" in U.S.A., while what is "right" in the former is "left" in the latter.
We find this same discordance when we put U.S.A. and U.K. side by side. The "right" in U.S.A. is the "left" in U.K., and vice versa.
Similarly among the Churches, what is "liberal" to a local community is "conservative" to another. So which one is "liberal" and which one is "conservative"? And who decides?
For someone to use this distinction, one has to first list out the criteria for both categories. Yet it is precisely because there is no unanimous agreement on which criterion should belongs to which that devastatingly undermines the validity of such distinction.
Besides that, such label is useless to indicate the truthfulness of one position over another. Label simply doesn't say anything about the truthfulness of anything. That is the reason why F. F. Bruce, who "is known worldwide as the dean of evangelical biblical scholars," refuses such category:
"I cannot remember a time when I did not hold this [Jesus' saving works] to be the essence of the gospel, but questions which attached themselves to it in earlier days have apparently resolved themselves. It is for this reason that I am always happy to be called an evangelical, although I insist on being an unqualified evangelical. I do not willingly answer, for example, to such designations as ‘conservative evangelical’. (Many of my positions are indeed conservative; but I hold them not because they are conservative – still less because I myself am conservative – but because I believe they are the positions to which the evidence leads)."
(F. F. Bruce, In Retrospect: Remembrance of Things Past [USA: Baker, 1994], p. 309. Emphasis added.)
In other words, the "liberal" and "conservative" distinction is nothing but the product of an arbitrary will and does not attest to the truthfulness of anything.
Hence, to force such an arbitrary category on others solely on the basis that the others are different from us is utterly disrespectful. In fact, that is how racism works.
For instance, the distinction between the Tutsi and Hutu in Rwanda began as a class difference which later asserted as a 'race'. And the result is, as we all know, the Rwanda Genocide in 1994 where 800,000 people are massacred because of such arbitrary distinction.
As shown by the late historian Alison Liebhafsky Des Forges , who is recognized for her research on Rwanda history, the 'Tutsi' were actually pastoralists who were wealthy and influential while the 'Hutu' were the rest of the people who were less wealthy and so subject to the former.
The class distinction later being arbitrated as a race distinction where the Tutsi and Hutu are recognized by their physical features:
"Most people married within the occupational group in which they had been raised. This practice created a shared gene pool within each group, which meant that over generations pastoralists came to look more like other pastoralists—tall, thin and narrow-featured—and cultivators like other cultivators—shorter, stronger, and with broader features."
(Human Rights Watch website: Alison Liebhafsky Des Forges, Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda, http://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/1999/rwanda/Geno1-3-09.htm#P200_83746 [accessed 27 May 2011]. Thanks to Edmund Koh for this reference in his essay on Rwanda.)
Due to the imposition of the forced categories on the people, "During the genocide some persons who were legally Hutu were killed as Tutsi because they looked Tutsi. According to one witness, Hutu relatives of Col. Tharcisse Renzaho, the prefect of the city of Kigali, were killed at a barrier after having been mistaken for Tutsi." (Ibid. Emphasis added)
The same arbitrary mechanism that fuels racism is the same that fuels the liberal-conservative distinction.
Following the above reason, we can now understand better why most of those who believe and propagate the mythic image that "TTC is a liberal college filled with apostate lecturers" are so ready to give in to the gossip.
Given the flimsy adoption of the liberal-conservative category, their standing to attest to anything true is seriously suspect.
To see more of this point, most of those who blindly believe the gossip have not (1) taken up any full-time courses, or (2) participated in the community life of TTC, or (3) both. I said "most" because I think there are a few who still believe the gossip after being part of TTC. However this is besides the point.
In the end, whether one is "liberal" or "conservative" is purely subjective to individual's arbitrary assessment. Of course, the individual may say that his or her assessment is based on the Bible.
Yet it is not difficult for anyone who exercises some degree of self-reflection/critique would realize that there is no such thing as "based on the Bible." It's always based on our understanding of the Bible.
No doubt the person can claim that he/she received revelation or some kind of special guidance (illumination) from God to know what exactly the Bible says. Well, so can everyone else. So in the end, everyone is liberal and heretical to everyone.
So who is the real liberal and heretic?