We want to thank Dr. Kevin D. Zuber from his busy schedule of the pastoral ministry and being a professor to take part in this interview!
1.) Describe your current ministry to the Lord and your educational background.
I graduated from Grace College, Winona Lake, IN (BA 1977) and Grace Theological Seminary (MDiv 1981; ThM 1985) and from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (PhD 1996). I’ve been a pastor for over 25 years (Indiana, Iowa, Arizona, Illinois). Currently, I’m Professor of Theology at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL and Pastor of Grace Bible Church Northwest in Schaumburg, IL and I’m also an Adjunct Professor with Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, Chang Mai, Thailand. At Moody, my full time job, I teach Systematic Theology classes and electives, some Bible classes (Romans, Life of Christ), and some classes in philosophy. The church where I serve is small and we meet only on Sunday mornings in a rented facility—it’s mostly just me preaching (expository) for an hour, with some prayer time, and q & a once a month (www.gracebiblechurchnorthwest.com — don’t expect much, our website rather minimal – don’t everybody go there at once!). ABTS is an extension of Cornerstone University (Grand Rapids) and I teach one class a year in various SE Asian countries (e.g. Theological Issues in Asian Ministry).
At Moody I teach an elective class called, simply enough, Presuppositional Apologetics. More on that later.
2.) How did you became a Presuppositionalist?
Backing up a bit, I became a believer after high school. The girl I dated on and off in those years was a Christian and I wasn’t; so after high school she broke it off. That led to me reading the New Testament a couple of times through (I understood none of it!). On a later occasion I had a chance to see that girl again and she took the opportunity to share the gospel (again) and this time the Spirit worked and I became a Christian and we got married (I’m shortening the story!)
I knew nothing about the Bible or biblical theology so we headed to Grace College so I could get an advanced course in being discipled. Everything was new to me; when I took NT intro I had no idea who this fellow Paul was! I read voraciously (and out of desperation) everything anyone recommended. Someone hooked me up with the tape ministry of Believer’s Chapel in Dallas and the teaching of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. He was expository and his tapes on Systematic Theology (ST) were foundational to all my thinking as a young believer. Later I was introduced to the writings of Francis Schaeffer and was overwhelmed. All through my college years I felt like I was playing “intellectual catch-up”; everything was new! I wanted to know how these men came to such knowledge so I read what they said to read. Dr. Johnson, in the tapes on ST said to read Berkof’s ST, Berkof’s notes referenced “Dutch Reformed” men (I had no idea what that meant at the time.) Schaeffer referenced a lot of philosophy; my college didn’t have a lot of that to offer so I tried to read stuff like Descartes and Spinoza with no net! The apologetics I was exposed to in college was evidentialist / rationalist (again, I didn’t know what that meant at the time) but Schaeffer’s writings seemed to point in another direction. Some research led me to where Schaeffer might be getting his ideas—and that led me to some badly-copied mimeograph notes from one Cornelius Van Til. I didn’t really understand much of it . . . BUT it seemed to match up better with the theology (a just “what the Bible says” type of theology) I heard preached by S. Lewis Johnson. I read “Why I Believe in God” and tried to wade through “Apologetics” and “Introduction to Systematic Theology” by Van Til. I’m not sure how much stuck.
When I moved up to Grace Seminary I took apologetics from John C. Whitcomb, Jr. and he actually assigned some (easier) writings from Van Til. That’s when I heard the term “presuppositional apologetics” and things began to “click.” I’d come across some more badly-copied mimeograph notes from one John Frame and that along, with yet more preaching (via cassette tapes) from Dr. Johnson, and John MacArthur, grounded me – that’s how I became a presuppositionalist. I started to “get” the theology, hence the worldview, of the Bible and presuppositionalism “fit” better.
3.) You have been teaching at Moody Bible Institute for over a decade now, what are some frequent challenges students might have in grasping Presuppositional apologetics?
First, it used to be that the term “presuppositional” was new to the students – now, often, the term “apologetics” is a new term as well. As with most Christians who live in “two world-views” (one in church / in private devotions [Christian Mind] and the other out there with the work-a-day world [Worldly Mind]) students have never thought about “how they think” (epistemology is another new term for them.) The “evidentialist / rationalist” way of thinking makes most sense to them because they spend most of their time / lives out there where everyone else lives. It also seems “logical” that we must try to win the unbeliever on his/her terms, with arguments that make sense to him/her. At least, that’s what they’ve been exposed to if they’ve been exposed to “apologetics” at all. “Evidence that demands a verdict!” “The Case for This,” “The Case for That” and all that—this is what they’ve heard and it makes sense to them on the “Worldly Mind” level. This is the method of “You should trust the last smartest person you’ve talked to”; and I ask the students if they recognize that—and they do. And I ask them if they know anyone who left their youth group and went to university and lost their faith—and they all know examples of that—and I explain it’s because we have taught them to “trust the last smartest person they’ve talked to”—and if that’s a pagan university prof, well, what else would we expect?
So in short, the biggest challenge has been that students don’t think Scripturally; as Harry Blamires said years ago, “There is no Christian mind.” Hence they don’t think apologetically at all. On the other hand, I’ve had students who do like apologetics but by the time they get to my class they are most often already committed to a “brainy apologetics” that tries to be that “last smartest person” (e.g. as in so-called debates between high-powered Christian apologists and hapless atheists who accept the invitation to such dog-and-pony shows.) I see my main task to get students (Christians) to think with the world-view of Scripture (I do that with good theology and exposition) and then to do apologetics with that worldview! I think this is exactly what Paul is arguing for in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2.
4.) Some people believe that Dispensationalism and Presuppositional apologetics are incompatible. Do you believe this is so? Why or why not?
Well, I think this actually relates to a more basic question and that is the relationship between dispensationalism and reformed (small “r”) theology. For reasons I can’t get into here, I don’t think someone can be a consistent presuppositionalist and an Arminian. I see dispensationalism and the “doctrines of grace” as fully compatible (Michael Vlach at The Master’s Seminary has addressed that issue along with others.) But to the point, I don’t see any place where dispensationalism and presuppositionalism intersect in a contradictory way. I think it may be the Reformed (big “R”) guys who want to preserve presuppositionalism for covenant theology who argue that but I’m not seeing it. (I think Fred Butler’s answer on this point was a good one, so I’d defer to his analysis—link to his interview here.)
5.) Seeing how you have many years of faithful ministry to the Lord, what would you caution, encourage and exhort to a young man interested in apologetics?
If I can go back to my brief testimony above—I came to my “Calvinism,” my “dispensationalism,” and my “presuppositionalism” in the most un-dramatic but (I think honest) way possible. In my college and seminary years I just listened to S. Lewis Johnson preach the Word. All through my pastoral years I’ve listened to John MacArthur preach the Word. I still can’t get enough of listening to the Word preached. I read the sermons of preachers—Calvin, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones. I came to read the Puritans after seminary and wish I’d read them before and during those years—especially Thomas Watson. I got “into philosophy” but never as a “primary study”—it was only to try and understand theology. But my theology was driven by exposition.
I explain to my students that I don’t see apologetics, or evangelism, or preaching to a congregation, or even counseling as fundamentally different activities. I think it was John Frame who defined apologetics as “the application of Scripture to unbelief.” Well, in my mind expository preaching is the application of Scripture to the needs—spiritual, practical, ecclesiological—of a local church. Counseling is the application of Scripture to an individual—spiritual, practical, personal, matters / issues. Evangelism is the application of the gospel (The Word) to sinners. Even “personal devotions” are the application of Scripture to . . . me!
So, I’d say that a young man or woman who wants to do “apologetics” well, should master . . . or better, be mastered by Scripture. Know the Word! The worldview of Scripture needs to be so ingrained that the worldview of the world looks “odd.”
6.) Any resources on apologetics, worldview or theology that you recommend?
The textbook I use in class is Greg Bahsen’s massive volume on Van Til. We just jump in—it’s the “sink or swim” method—perhaps not the best but most students don’t drown (!). Actually, I use the links provided here at this website pretty often to supplement that text. Otherwise, the recommendations made by others in this series of interviews are the one’s I’d offer as well.
Read lots of good theology—listen to lots of good exposition—then one’s apologetics should flow naturally from that.
7.) What is the role of resurrection?
Very briefly, when I read the Book of Acts I never see anyone arguing for the veracity, historicity, reality of the Resurrection of Christ but they did argue from the Resurrection. Or, to put it better, the Resurrection was not something to “be proven” but something that “proves”—it was deployed to prove that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed, the Lord and Christ! (See the end of Peter’s Acts 2 and Paul’s Acts 17 sermons) Here I’m just following Van Til – we cannot separate the historical and theological facts about the Resurrection – if we do we may find folks willing to accept the historical fact (“So He was raised from the dead, wow, that’s weird.”) but not willing to accept the theological fact (“Raised? Maybe—but it doesn’t mean anything.”) Actually, the apologetic question or issue here is not the Resurrection but the credibility of the Bible—and on that I hold that the Bible must be self-authenticating. But that’s another question.
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