After last year’s marathon series on Dispensational Presuppositionalists, I discovered that there were additional items that could be added to that series including interviews. Here is one of several more interviews I want to have featured here on Veritas Domain. Today’s interview is with Fred Butler which some of you will know as the blogger behind the blog Hip and Thigh.
1.) Describe to us your ministry with Grace To You, the church, etc.
I’ve been given the privilege of overseeing the volunteer ministry of
Grace to You. Every month we offer a free resource to our supporters
and when they respond, it is my job to pull together the material they
requested and prepare it to be mailed. We have about 125 volunteers
who come twice a week, spread out between Tuesdays and Thursday. They
are mostly retired members of Grace Church who wanted to spend their
new found free time serving the Lord.
Additionally, they allow me to preach at them during our lunch break,
so that keeps me in the Word and my sermon prep. skills sharpened.
Typically, I do a 20-30 minute devotional style message. A lot of
those sermons/lectures have been recorded and are available for free
download at http://www.fredsbibletalk.com, a website a friend put together
for me. It also hosts a lot of my articles and essays on various
At Grace, my wife and I are involved with Doulos, a fellowship group
aimed at young singles and married folks.
2.) How did you first become a Presuppositionalist?
I became a presuppositionalist in an unusual, round-about fashion.
God saved me the last week of my freshman year of college, so going
into the summer as a new believer was really exciting for me. I read
the NT through for the first time ever, I was introduced to solid
writers like A.W. Pink and John MacArthur, in fact, I was introduced
to John’s preaching ministry via cassette tape by a former member of
Grace Church who was then living in my college town in Arkansas.
When I returned to college in the fall for my sophomore year, I was
“on fire” for the Lord to say the least. I thought I could personally
take on all challengers to my faith. I was ready to scuffle with
Mormons, the JWs, and any other pseudo-Christian cult and I was cocky
enough to think I had the ability to convince them of their error and
covert them to Christ.
But God has his ways of sanctifying us. I became friends with a woman
who was a hard-core atheist. She was a non-traditional student, maybe
10 years older than most of her classmates, married and with a kid,
who had returned to school to finish up her degree. She was also the
first real atheist I had ever encountered. She was a lot like many of
the on-line atheists today, skeptical about everything. As we talked,
I would challenge her atheism with various Christian “evidences” I had
picked up in my reading or at my college youth group. Somehow I came
across a copy of Josh McDowell’s classic book, “Evidence that Demands
a Verdict.” I loaned it to her thinking she would be unable to refute
his material. She gave it back in a week. She told me she had read the
first three chapters or so and just couldn’t believe it. She then
offered up her spin on why McDowell was wrong and all the mistakes he
The time I knew this woman really shook me. I didn’t have a “crisis of
faith” or anything like that where I doubted Christianity or thought I
had been lied to or whatnot which is often reported these days among
many apostate young people leaving church. It was more like God
helped me to realize that bringing people to Christ is more than
having the right arguments or the most compelling evidences. Also, as
I matured in my own personal faith and I came to be convinced of the
doctrines of Grace, or Calvinism, I began to see that man’s problem is
not intellectual, but moral. He is blinded in his sin and is
suppressing what truth he has in unrighteousness as Romans 1:18ff
tells us. I began to fit together the “presuppositional” pieces, as it
were, because I started to understand that we engage worldviews, not
just specific lines of evidence.
When I came to The Master Seminary, I was formally introduced to
presuppositionalism, along with the other various kinds of apologetic
theologies and that is when the light came on for me. What I was
learning about presuppositional apologetics was what I was already
formulating in my heart and now I had some anchors I could use to
shore up my thinking.
3.) Knowing that you work with Grace To You, do you know what is John
MacArthur’s perspective on apologetics?
Those who know John know he shuns the idea of labels. Primarily
because labels will often come with baggage. For instance, John
probably would hesitate calling himself a “Calvinist,” but I know he
holds to Calvinism because he has preached messages on the Doctrines
of Grace. He would point out that the title “Calvinism” comes with
superfluous baggage like infant baptism and Covenant Theology that
only gets in the way of any meaningful discussion about what the Bible
tells us regarding God’s grace and election, so he just avoids the
That said, John would certainly consider himself a
presuppositoinalist, because the methodology reflects solid exegesis
and theology. He hasn’t, at least to my knowledge, preached
specifically on the subject of presuppositionalism, but he does model
the methodology in his preaching and various media interviews when he
is asked to give his opinion concerning some cultural issue.
For example, after 9/11 throughout the 2000s, John appeared
occasionally as a panelist on Larry King’s old CNN show. (You can
watch some of those interviews at GTY’s website here,
http://www.gty.org/video/Category/Interviews) From what I understand,
there were a few guys on King’s immediate personal staff who were
Christians and loved John. So when the opportunity came about back in
the fall of 2001 to address “Where was God on September 11th” those
guys suggested asking John to be a panelist. He agreed, and he was on
King’s show with some liberal Muslim guy, a Catholic priest, a Jewish
guy, Deep-pockets Chopra, and Kid Rock (I’m just kidding about the Kid
Rock part. LK always had oddball choices for these kinds of
discussions). Anyhow, during that show, John consistently brought his
convictions back to the Word of God. He challenged the other men who
claimed to speak for God yet misquoted the Bible and flat out spoke
In all of those interviews, John consistently brought everyone back to
the true foundation of our living Sovereign Creator and His written
Word. Surprisingly, Larry King liked John for it and got to where it
was he who wanted John to come back for these kind of “philosophical”
programs. That was because he knew what he would say and realized
John was the real deal, not some smarmy, wishy-washy celebrity
preacher who bounces around hard and difficult issues because he wants
to please a broad audience. Deep-pockets Chopra hated John for his
rock solid convictions and where as John would chat with the other
guys at the table during commercial breaks, Chopra refused to speak
with him, because John was a narrow-minded Bible thumper.
4.) Some see Presuppositional apologetics as being the apologetics
method of Covenantal theology only. Do you think Presuppositional
apologetics is compatible with Calvinistic Dispensationalism, and if
Before I answer, it may be helpful to provide other readers with a bit
of background to your question. There is a group of on-line bloggers
who are attempting to rename presuppositional apologetics as
“covenant” apologetics. They get this from K. Scott Oliphint who is
the professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster
Theological Seminary. He has argued that presuppositionalism is too
broad a description for the overall apologetic system and so there is
a need to change the terminology for the purpose of bringing our
apologetics into line with fundamentals of Reformed theology.
He has a book coming called “Covenant Apologetics” that will explain
in more detail for his redefinition, but in short, he builds his case
for the name change upon the 7th chapter of the Westminister
Confession that goes into describing God’s covenants with men,
particularly the “covenant of works.” The covenant of works, argues
Oliphint, establishes a relationship between God and all men, and the
obligations of obedience do not cease even after man fell. So, when we
engage unbelievers with “apologetics” we are confronting the fact they
are covenant breakers who need to come into a right covenant
relationship with God through what Jesus Christ did on the cross to
reconcile covenant breakers with their Covenant Creator.
As much as I have benefited from Dr. Oliphint’s other material in the
past, I think his novel redefinition is problematic. Primarily
because he has to “presupposes” that Covenant Theology truly reflects
biblical Christianity and systematic theology. Even more problematic
is the whole notion of all men being “covenant breakers” and building
his premise upon the concept of a “covenant of works.” That is
because the idea of a “covenant of works” is contrived, being read
into the Scripture. I realize reformed guys point to Genesis 1 and 2
when God commanded Adam not to eat from the tree in the garden, but
there is no covenant language noted in God’s command there. This is
especially clear in light of certain passages where covenant language
is used, like in Genesis 9 with Noah and Genesis 12, 15, 17 with
Abraham and his descendants. Thus, any attempts to sharpen our
apologetic theology must be done along biblical grounds utilizing
clear, biblical terminology.
Now, some may be asking, “But isn’t it true men are obligated to obey
God, their Creator?” Why of course; but not because of some covenant
of works. Our obligation has to do with the fact we are God’s
creatures and what He, our sovereign, has demanded from us in return.
All men are obligated to worship and glorify Him in righteousness. But
of course, no man desires to obey God because all men are sinners.
The Gospel is the message of good news that God has dealt with sin and
made a way for men to obey God and be in a relationship with Him on
account of Jesus Christ.
As one who understands that God’s purposes in Redemption unfold
through a series of eras, or Dispensations throughout Scripture, that
are defined through various covenants that build upon themselves
culminating in the New Covenant, I am entirely aware of God’s
Sovereignty overall the earth as well as Christ’s Lordship. I am also
fully aware that humanity is in rebellion against God’s authority as
sovereign. It is that truth of God’s Sovereignty all men know and
suppress in unrighteousness that I use as a weapon when engaging in
the warfare against the strongholds men have created with their
arguments and exalted philosophy lifted up against their Creator (2
5.) What would you caution and exhort to a young man interested in apologetics?
I think the primary thing I would remind folks is that our goal with
apologetics is not to merely win arguments, but to win souls. I see a
lot of young guys, bloggers in particular, in both classic
evidentialist camps, as well as presuppositional camps, approach
apologetics as a means to shut-up atheists and other skeptics.
Granted, there are times when such individuals need to have their
mouths stopped, but we must not lose our true focus, and that is
presenting the Gospel of salvation to a lost and dying world. When we
argue with cranks on the internet, we need to remember they are human
souls. I can be equally guilty with forgetting that objective, so it
is a mind-set I always wish to cultivate.
6.) Would there be any other Dispensationalists who are
Presuppositional that you recommend us to interview in the future?
I’d recommend Dan Phillips of Team Pyro fame as well as pastor of
Copperfield Bible Church in Houston, TX. Also Don Green who is
currently the pastor of Truth Community Fellowship Church. Michael
Vlach of TMS is a prof who teaches both Dispensationalism and
Apologetics at Master’s. I understand Dr. Jonathan Sarfati of
Creation Ministries is a presuppositionalist with Dispensational
And since you originally asked me to supply any other questions that
may be useful, I’ll throw out one extra,
7) What are some good introductory resources to the subject of
I’m glad you asked! There are a number of good works available, but
right now, the best book anyone can get that will provide a tremendous
overview of apologetic theology is Clifford McManis’s “Biblical
Apologetics: Advancing and Defending the Gospel of Christ.” I
reviewed the book here if anyone is interested,
book has been getting panned among a few Reformed reviewers because
they are annoyed he is a non-Covenant Reformed, Dispensational
oriented Calvinists. They also don’t care for his occasional
criticisms of Van Til and Bahnsen. It is almost like those two are
untouchable and any mention of them must be uncritical reverence. If
folks can ignore those reviews and get the book anyways, they will
have a work that I believe will provide them with a solid theological
foundation in apologetics. If you start with any book, I’d start with
I would also suggest Greg Bahnsen’s collection of articles under the
title “Always Ready.” It too is a solid read and one that will serve a
A third one I would recommend is John Byl’s “The Divine Challenge.” It
isn’t so much a “how to” apologetic book as it is an overview of
worldviews and how the top three worldviews in the world line-up with
telling us the truth to reality, particularly with how they explain
mind, math, matter, and meaning. It is a great philosophical read and
it’s lay friendly as well. That is always welcome in my book.
Lastly, both Bahnsen’s and John Frame’s biographies and analyses of
Van Til. Both men were students of Van Til and both men evaluate his
work from a slightly different perspective. Bahnsen’s analysis is
suppose to be the closest one that fairly represents Van Til’s life
work, and Frame’s as I understand it, deviates from what Van Til truly
taught, but I benefited from both of them greatly.
Then, seeing that I have this opportunity to plug my own work. Not
that I am a big shot like Bahnsen, Van Til, and even Oliphint, but I
have written on various facets of apologetic methodology and theology.
You can find past articles here: