An Abridgement of an Abridgement

John Calvin (1509-64), is known as the theologian par excellence of the 16th Century Reformation. He is most renowned for his voluminous Institutes of the Christian Religion. He was only 26 years old when he completed the first edition of the Institutes. The final edition was completed in 1559. Since then, the Institutes have been translated into various languages, and have remained a mainstay in Reformed Theological Studies.

It is thus most pleasing, that the Adult Bible Study commenced on a study of Calvin’s Institutes yesterday. The ABS has proposed a five-part study, that will take the fellowship group through to the end of the year.

Some may wonder, why study Calvin? Are we not following a man? To this we direct one to 1 Corinthians 11:1, where Paul says, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1) We follow Calvin in as much as he is faithful in following Christ and His Holy Word. What we have in Calvin’s Institutes is his attempt to organise all the doctrines of the Apostle Paul. Rev. Timothy Tow, the founding principal of the Far Eastern Bible College said, “Calvinism is Paulinism systematised”. I heartily agree.

However, as stated earlier, Calvin’s magnus opus is rather voluminous, very much “like going through a ten-course Chinese dinner” (Tow). Thus, Rev. Timothy completed the Abridgement of the Institutes in 1997 to make the Institutes “more assimilable” to students. We are using this work as our base for study in ABS. Nevertheless, the study of this work normally requires two semesters and two credit hours each, in the Far Eastern Bible College. Having gone through that course myself, I can say that it still feels insufficient to cover the full depth of the Institutes.

An Abridgement of Calvin’s Institutes Book I-IV by Timothy Tow

Now, we are tasked to complete the study of the Institutes in five lessons. It is truly an abridgement of an abridgement! Is there any value in such a study? Very much so! When one studies a voluminous work, he is made to engage in details and intricacies, akin to studying the vein patterns of leaves. However, when one engages in summary, he is made to think of how the various parts fit as a whole and to extract the essence out of it. This is what the ABS is attempting to do in her five-part study of the Calvin Institutes. We pray that this study will make us more precise in our understanding of theology. And better understanding of doctrine leads to better practice, to the praise and glory of Christ Jesus. For the weeks to come, I will attempt to summarise the key teachings in the five books of the Institutes. Should there be a need for further details, we will possibly cover them via a series of podcasts or short videos. May the Lord bless the ABS in her study of Calvin’s Institutes.

The Fundamental Christian Ministry

The Fundamental Christian Ministry is a ministry of Calvary Pandan to tertiary students in Singapore. I was privileged to be invited to speak on the history of the Fundamental Christian Ministry (FCM) this week, at her annual camp.

Some of you may ask, “Why FCM?” To understand this, allow me to reproduce the words of Dr. Tow Siang Hwa in the 25th Anniversary Magazine of the FCM.

“When I first entered the portals of the King Edward VII College of Medicine in 1947, seeking to learn “Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynaecology,” I heard of the Student Christian Movement (SCM). One Thursday afternoon, I joined some other student going to a meeting of the SCM.

“For two weeks running, the substance of the meeting was social, without any spiritual or Biblical content. Therefore I made enquiry, if there was an alternative Christian group. Receiving a negative answer, I shared with some other evangelical Christian students, whether we should start an evangelical fellowship of Christian students.

“Out of this discussion came the formation of the VCF (Varsity Christian Fellowship). We found some help from the OMF (Overseas Missionary Fellowship) missionaries, and a weekly gathering of some 7-10 students met for fellowship and Bible Study. About the same time, a similar movement “sprang up in the Arts and Science Department” at Raffles College in the Bukit Timah Campus, some three miles away.

“In the course of time, the two groups fused. About the year 1952, the combined group came to be recognised by the authorities . . . under the name of Varsity Christian Fellowship. It was organised along the lines of the IVCF movement of America, a conservative, Bible-based evangelical Christian Fellowship.

“In 1953, having completed my medical studies, I left the University. Some 25 years later, I was      invited to speak at a meeting of the VCF. By then the group had grown to about 150, and a charismatic spirit had crept in. Further enquiry revealed that the VCF had grown “social and modernistic.”

“The matter was brought before the BOE (Board of Elders) of Calvary Pandan Bible-Presbyterian Church. Our Bible-Presbyterian Church would have a few dozen of our young people in the various tertiary institutions of learning. Thereupon, a decision was taken to form a conservative, fundamental, Bible-based students’ group, to be named Fundamental Christian Ministry (FCM).

“FCM fulfils a vital role in its Biblical and Fundamental tertiary students’ ministry in a day of accelerating apostasy and falling away from the historic New Testament Christianity. It will encourage other Christian groups to remain true to the faith of the Gospel. As a “student voice” in the tertiary institutions of learning, FCM has immense potential to reach out into Singapore society with the end time message of revival and return to the “faith of our fathers” – the voice of true evangelical Christianity.

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:13).

The young people in our midst should strongly consider attending the FCM. It is not only for their spiritual growth, but also an avenue to serve the Lord by bearing a pure and separatist witness in the various institutions of learning. Young men and women of Ebenezer, will you not consider?

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew