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apologist john whitcomb

By DR. JOHN C. WHITCOMB
President, Whitcomb Ministries, Inc.

 

The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead with a glorified body is a foundational truth of the New Testament. In fact, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Cor. 15:17-19).

 

But how can we be absolutely sure that He rose from the dead three days after He died on the cross for our sins? Even one of the 12 apostles denied His resurrection: “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Eight days later, Thomas saw Him in the upper room, and exclaimed: “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28).

 

But how can we say what doubting Thomas finally confessed if we have not seen Christ as Thomas did? Our Lord gave the answer to him and to all men everywhere: “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (v. 29).

 

This is an amazing statement! How can we believe in something so stupendous about someone who we have not seen? The answer may come as a surprise even to many Christians. It is the same dynamic by which we can know how the world was created by God a few thousand years ago – not billions of years ago by chance through evolution. “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen [i.e., sun, moon, stars, plants, animals and people] were not made of things which are visible” (Heb. 11:3).

 

Many people who believe in supernatural creation by an Intelligent Designer would question this. They are convinced that the theory of evolution has been disproven by the Second Law of Thermodynamics – which teaches that everything in the universe is deteriorating in quality – and by the obvious irreducible complexity of all living things. Therefore, they say, we do not need to accept creation “by faith.” (See John C. Whitcomb, Jesus Christ: Our Intelligent Designer [Waxhaw, NC: Kainos Books, 2012].)

 

But this involves a profound misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches. We are not told to take by faith what anyone says – but only what God has said. That is why “faith [in what He has said] is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb.11:1).

 

How do we know for sure that God is speaking to us? The first chapter of the Bible provides the answer: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’” (Gen. 1:26). Human beings are infinitely different from animals. We have a mind, a soul/spirit and a conscience. We have a unique capacity among all living beings on this Earth to hear God speak to us. “Gentiles… show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them” (Rom. 2:14, 15). When God spoke to our first parents, they did not say, “Who are you?” (See Rom. 1:18-23.)

 

One of the special ministries of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the triune Godhead, is to illumine our minds concerning divine realities. The Lord Jesus said of Him, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26). Furthermore, “He will convict the world… of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more” (16:8, 10). And, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (16:13).

 

That is how some Greek politicians in Athens, hearing the preaching of Paul, were able to believe in the resurrection of Christ, likely without ever having been to the land of Israel – more than 500 miles away. “When they heard of the resurrection of the dead… some men joined him and believed” (Acts 17:32, 34).

 

Friend, do you believe that “Christ died for our sins… and that He rose again” (1 Cor. 15:3, 4)? Through the inspired words of the Bible, we are told that He was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom.1:4).

 

Do not wait until you see Him – like doubting Thomas. Believe in Him now – because your God, who created you, has told you to!

 

May every Christian in the world today trust the Holy Spirit to make us effective light reflectors for the resurrected and glorified Christ until He comes again.

 

Copyright © 2014 by Whitcomb Ministries, Inc.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

 

Dr. John C. Whitcomb is heard weekly as the Bible teacher on Encounter God’s Truth, a radio and Internet broadcast outreach of Whitcomb Ministries, Inc. He has been a professor of Old Testament and theology for more than 60 years and is widely recognized as a leading Biblical scholar. The book he coauthored with the late Dr. Henry Morris in 1961, The Genesis Flood, has been credited as one of the major catalysts for the modern Biblical creationism movement. Dr. Whitcomb’s broadcasts, sermons, lectures and writings are available at SermonAudio.com/Whitcomb. To receive the very latest on his ministry, like Facebook.com/WhitcombMinistries or myWorldview.com/WhitcombMinistries.

 

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Kevin D. Zuber

 

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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apologist john whitcomb

John Whitcomb is a prolific Christian teacher, apologist and former Old Testament Professor whose materials and resources we have shared in the past on our blog.  In light of the holiday season he has several Christmas devotionals related to Christ’s birth.  Below is one of them that his ministry has allowed us to post on our page.

Sermons by the Greatest ‘Christmas Prophet’

By DR. JOHN C. WHITCOMB
President, Whitcomb Ministries, Inc.

The prophet Isaiah was surely the greatest “Christmas Prophet” of the Old Testament. Let us briefly consider two of his most famous Christmas sermons.

Isaiah Chapter 7

One of the great marvels surrounding Jesus’ birth was the fact of His virgin conception.

But how could a virgin be with child and bear a son? Luke explains: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you [Mary], and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Was this impossible? No, “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

Not only was it not impossible, it was predicted 700 years before by Isaiah. He received the message that Christ, the Messiah, would be one Person with two natures – divine and human.

At a time of great crisis for Israel, the house of David was given a great promise. “Then he said, ‘Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son [i.e., fully human], and shall call His name Immanuel [i.e., “God with us,” fully divine]’” (Isa. 7:13, 14). In the very next chapter, the prophet is told that the God of Israel is “Immanuel” (Isa. 8:8; cf. v. 10).

Notice that God told Israel that He would give them a great sign. The coming of the Messiah/Christ would be so great that “the depth” of Sheol or “the height” of heaven could not compare (Isa. 7:11.)! That is a measure of God’s love for the world.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is called Immanuel. What does that mean? It means that Jesus is not merely a man – He is also God. Otherwise, He could not have paid for all of our sins on the cross. What a Person, and what a gift!

Without Immanuel, Israel could never have survived. To all of her enemies, God said:

“Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing;
Speak the word, but it will not stand,
For God is with us [Hebrew, “Immanuel”]” (Isa. 8:10).

That is still true for Israel today.

Sadly, Ahaz, the ancient king of Israel, refused to believe in Immanuel, the Savior. And when He finally came, the vast majority of Jews rejected Him – and still do. But someday soon, thank God, the nation of Israel will acknowledge Him, and will “be grafted into their own olive tree” (Rom. 11:24) of divine blessing. God is merciful!

Isaiah Chapter 9

The dual nature of our Savior was also revealed to Isaiah in Isaiah 9:6:

“For unto us a Child is born [i.e., human nature],
Unto us a Son is given [i.e., divine nature];
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Where would Jesus, the Light of the world, perform His first miracle? “In Galilee of the Gentiles” (Isa. 9:1; cf. John 2:11) – despised by Judean Jews! Thus, Nathaniel asked Philip, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). But Isaiah had long since written:

‘The people who walked in darkness [i.e., Galileans]
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined” (Isa. 9:2).

Who was this great Light?

“Unto us a Child is born [His true human nature],
Unto us a Son is given [His divine nature]” (Isa. 9:6).

The Second Person of the eternal Godhead – Who added a sinless human nature to His divine nature – is now and forever one Person with two distinct natures, in order that He, Jesus Christ, might be able to die for our sins.

Does Christ truly possess the qualities that would be essential to be our Savior? God, the Holy Spirit, who is the ultimate author of the Bible (cf. 2 Pet. 1:21), lists His qualifications:

“And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father [see Isa. 63:16], Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6).

What more could sinful humanity ask for?

The Lord Jesus is not only our Savior, He is also our coming King. Yes,

‘The government [of the entire world] will be upon His shoulder” (Isa. 9:6).

He will rule the world all by Himself? Yes!

“For the LORD is our Judge [i.e., Supreme Court],
The LORD is our Lawgiver [i.e., Congress],
The LORD is our King [i.e., executive branch];
He will save us” (Isa. 33:22).

When our Savior becomes our King, He will be so forever!

“Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end” (Isa. 9:7a).

For He will,

“Order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever” (Isa. 9:7b).

But how can this occur? May all mankind hear the answer:

“The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isa. 9:7c).

Merry Christmas! May you be blessed this day by the hearing of the great “Christmas Prophet.” He reminds us that, indeed, God’s Word is true from the beginning to the end.

Copyright © 2013 by Whitcomb Ministries, Inc.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Us

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apologist john whitcomb

 

John Whitcomb, who is often called one of the “Fathers of the Modern Creationist Movement” with the launch of his book titled “The Genesis Flood” more than 50 years ago, has also been identified as a Presuppositionalists by other VanTillians in addition to being a former Old Testament Professor.

Here is a video by Dr. Whitcomb on Miracles and the Modern mind.

Lord willing we plan to get an interview with him concerning Presuppositional apologetics as part of our series on Calvinistic Dispensational Presuppositionalists.

 

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As it was previously announced, beginning today on September 17th, 2012 is the kickoff for our blog’s marathon series focusing on Calvinistic Dispensationalists who are Presuppositional in their apologetics.  The desire for this marathon series began when I noticed that there is a stream of Dispensationalists who subscribed to Van Til’s apologetics, though it seems that very little is mentioned about this camp of Presuppositionalists by others who are more Covenantal in their theology.  The only exception to this that I have been able to find in the literature is from John Frame, who in his chapter on “Van Til’s Successors,” in his work Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of his Thoughts he wrote the following:

Van Til’s influence has been felt beyond his basic Reformed constituency.  Some dispensational theologians have been attracted to his ideas. John C. Whitcomb taught Van Tillian apologetics for many years at Grace Theological Seminary.  At Dallas Theological Seminary, Stephen Spencer taught from a Van Tillian perspective courses that were taught by Norman Geilser, an evangelical Thomist. (Page 394-395)

That statement was published in 1995 which was 17 years ago.  I think that much more can be said about Dispensational Van Tillians after all these years with more than one paragraph.  Nevertheless I am thankful that John Frame has brought the attention to his readers that there is some kind of Van Tillian influence among some circles of Dispensationalists.  Lord willing, I hope in the future that either I or someone else would write some kind of brief historical theology delineating how Van Til’s idea made it’s impact within Dispensational circles.  But for now, I think this marathon series would suffice for the time being!

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Saw this over at Answers in Genesis website.

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Thought these links were good stuff to look out from this past week.  They might interests those who are interested in Presuppositional apologetics.  Some links might not be on Presuppositional apologetics per se, but of interests for those in this circle.

1.) Going Meatless and Spouseless- A good post on medical ethics by Paul Manata, sharing his personal experience as a Navy Corpsmen.  As a Marine myself, Navy Corpsmen are about the few things in the Navy not made fun of =).  This post touches on Randal’s comment about the Robertson statement concerning divorcing your Alzheimer’s spouse.

2.) Book Review: The Doctrine of the Word of God by John Frame– A reviewed by Mike Robinson on the latest work by Dr. Frame.

3.) Praxis Presup: Episode 17– Chris Bolt’s podcast focusing on the practical side of things in Presuppositional apologetics, this episode critiques some atheists that Sye TenBruggencate had some interaction with.

4.)Penultimate Thoughts on the Licona Controversy– Steve Hays over at Triablogue has some food for thought concerning the recent controversy with Michael Licona.

5.) Dr. John Whitcomb Honored for ‘Genesis Flood’ 50 Years Milestone-  A short page about this over at Answers in Genesis.

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