R.C. Sproul: A Life by Stephen Nichols. Crossway. 402 pages. 2021
R.C. Sproul, who went home to be with the Lord in December, 2017, was a spiritual mentor for me. Though I only met him when he signed books for me at Ligonier conferences over the years, he taught me Reformed theology through his books, teaching series and conferences. I was excited when I heard that Stephen Nichols was writing this first biography of Dr. Sproul, and purposely read it slowly, not wanting it to end. Nichols used the access he had – interviews with Sproul specifically for the biography, interviews with Sproul’s wife Vesta, access to Sproul’s personal library and personal notebooks, as well as access to people who knew him for decades and knew him best – to write a thorough a loving biography of Sproul.
Nichols’ biography takes us through Sproul’s life – from being called Sonny from the day he came home from the hospital, to drawing his final breath in a Florida hospital surrounded by family as the last notes of his “Highland Hymn” played on a CD player.
Nichols writes of Sproul, who thought of himself as a “battlefield theologian”, founding the Ligonier Valley Study Center in 1971 near Pittsburgh before moving Ligonier Ministries to Orlando, of meeting and marrying Vesta and being mentored by John Gerstner. He spends time quoting from some of Sproul’s more than one hundred books, including his classic The Holiness of God. He writes about Sproul’s work on the subject of the inerrancy of the Bible and the controversy over the doctrine of justification that arose with ECT (“Evangelicals and Catholics Together”) in 1994, the latter of which cost him friendships with J.I. Packer and Charles Colson. Sproul would say that ECT was the most painful part of his whole career.
The heart of Sproul’s ministry was teaching people who God is. Martin Luther was a mentor for him as much as John Gerstner, and as much a friend to him as was James Boice and John MacArthur.
Nichols looks at Sproul’s legacy and contributions. For me, the thing that I most appreciate about Sproul was his ability to take difficult theological topics and present them in a way in which I could understand them. Nichols writes that Sproul took the complex and made it clear and understandable, without distortion. He made it compelling. He was persuasive.
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In addition to his books, conferences, teaching series, Tabletalk magazine and Renewing Your Mind radio program, other highlights were his time at Saint Andrew’s Chapel, where he pastored from 1997-2017, the founding of Reformation Bible College, and editing the Reformation Study Bible.
Nichols also writes about Sproul’s significant health problems that he battled from the mid-2000s until the time of his death in 2017.
The book includes the following helpful appendices:
Appendix 1: R. C. Sproul’s Final Two Sermons
Appendix 2: R. C. Sproul Timeline
Appendix 3: Books by R. C. Sproul
Appendix 4: Crucial Questions Booklet Series Titles by R. C. Sproul
Appendix 5: Ligonier National Conference Themes and R. C. Sproul Lecture Titles
Appendix 6: Representative Teaching Series by R. C. Sproul
Appendix 7: Selected Sermon Series Titles Preached by R. C. Sproul at Saint Andrew’s Chapel
This was my favorite book of 2021, and I recommend it for anyone who would like to learn more about the life and work of R.C. Sproul. I’m also looking forward to Nate Pickowicz’s book R.C. Sproul: Defender of the Reformed Faith, published this month.
- Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold. My wife Tammy recently published a book about HOW to study the Bible. The book is available on Amazon in both a Kindle and paperback edition. She writes “Maybe you’ve read the Bible but want to dig deeper and know God and know yourself better. Throughout the book I use the analogy of making a quilt to show how the Bible is telling one big story about what God is doing in the world through Christ. Quilting takes much patience and precision, just like studying the Bible, but the end result is well worth it.”
- A Special Audio Excerpt from R. C. Sproul: A Life by Stephen Nichols. In honor of the four-year anniversary of R. C. Sproul’s passing on in 2017, Crossway is pleased to share a special one-hour audio excerpt from R. C. Sproul: A Life by Stephen J. Nichols, focusing on the final days of Sproul’s life and the lasting legacy of his ministry.
- 40+ Books Releasing in 2022. Kevin Halloran whets our appetite for upcoming books scheduled to be released in 2022.
- What Book Has Influenced You Most? In this short video, Steve Lawson talks about what book, outside of the Bible, has influenced him most.
BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?
The providence of God is his purposeful sovereignty by which he will be completely successful in the achievement of his ultimate goal for the universe. God’s providence carries his plans into action, guides all things toward his ultimate goal, and leads to the final consummation.
John Piper draws on a lifetime of theological reflection, biblical study, and practical ministry to lead readers on a stunning tour of the sightings of God’s providence—from Genesis to Revelation—to discover the all-encompassing reality of God’s purposeful sovereignty over all of creation and all of history.
Exploring the goal, nature, and extent of God’s purposes for the world, Piper offers an invitation to know the God who holds all things in his hands yet remains intimately involved in the lives of his people.
You can download the PDF of the book free from Desiring God.
Watch this six-minute video as John Piper talks about the book, and this interview with Dr. Joe Rigney of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
This week we look at Chapter 22: To Know and Rejoice That the Most High Rules. Here are a few takeaways from the chapter:
- So, whether it is Paul under the wicked Nero or Jesus under self-serving Pilate, the testimony of God’s providence over evil rulers stands: no authority but from God.
- The Most High gives the kingdom to whom he will.
- Pride is the height of treason and the end of human happiness. It is opposition to the ultimate purpose of providence.
- The ultimate aim of providence is the exaltation of the worth and beauty of God in the soul-satisfying praises of God’s people. Where pride exists, this purpose is not yet fulfilled. Therefore, pride-opposing providence is love.
- All of God’s works of providence over kings and nations are perfectly righteous. They are true to the highest standard in existence—namely, God himself.