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Remembering R.C. Sproul (1939-2017)

December 19, 2017

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NASHVILLE—Last Thursday (December 14), theologian and author R.C. Sproul passed away at the age of 78.

As a young believer in my teens and early twenties, I read Sproul’s books and listened to his radio show. Sproul’s influence on my theology and ministry is difficult to overstate, but it can be summed up in two phrases.

Renewing Your Mind. This was the title of Sproul’s radio show. In each show, Sproul would engage a particular theological or philosophical topic like the doctrine of imputation, Calvin’s ecclesiology, or the philosophical inheritance of Kierkegaard. For twenty-four minutes, Sproul would make complex ideas simple and, at the same time, stretch his listeners to think more deeply about God and world. His radio show was a constant reminder that in order to love God with our minds, we need to renew our minds. As a young disciple, who soon found himself in vocational ministry, I learned from Sproul the necessity of continually renewing my mind and never being satisfied with where I was in my theological understanding. We can always go deeper. Today, Sproul’s radio show is now a podcast, and I still often listen to it on the way to work.

The Holiness of God. This was the title of one of Sproul’s most famous books. I read it when it first came out in 1985, and it changed my life. Though Sproul was popularizing a larger Reformed tradition and was himself influenced by the works of Edwards, Luther, and Calvin, he was the first person who helped me begin to understand the heights of God’s holiness and the depths of man’s sinfulness. The centrality of God’s holiness in Sproul’s theology has deeply shaped the way I read the Bible, the way I preach, and the way I walk with God. My original marked-up copy of The Holiness of God is still in my study. I have read it probably a dozen times over the last thirty years.

When I think of Sproul’s influence on my life, I am reminded of a quote from The Holiness of God that nicely summarizes his life’s pursuit:

It’s dangerous to assume that because a person is drawn to holiness in his study that he is thereby a holy man. There is irony here. I am sure that the reason I have a deep hunger to learn of the holiness of God is precisely because I am not holy. I am a profane man—a man who spends more time out of the temple than in it. But I have had just enough of a taste of the majesty of God to want more. I know what it means to be a forgiven man and what it means to be sent on a mission. My soul cries for more. My soul needs more.

Though I will miss hearing his raspy voice on the “Renewing Your Mind” podcast, I am glad for Sproul that today he is experiencing what he most longed for in life. I am glad that he is now before the throne of God, joining with the angels singing “Holy, holy, holy.”

To learn more about R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries, visit the Ligonier Ministries’ website

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