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R.C. Sproul: Defender of the Reformed Faith by Nate Pickowicz. H&E Publishing. 140 pages. 2022 

In this warmly written and concise biography of R.C. Sproul, pastor and author Nate Pickowicz shares an appreciation that many of us have for the life and ministry of R.C. Sproul, who went home to be with the Lord in December, 2017. He writes that Sproul’s five decades of ministry loosely reflected the five solas of the Reformation.
The author focuses primarily on Sproul’s public ministry, quoting liberally from Sproul’s books and on his defense of the faith. Each chapter begins with a quote from Sproul.
The author’s fast-moving biography tells us that Sproul knew at 13 years of age that he would marry Vesta Voorhis. They would marry in 1960. He writes of Sproul’s father’s multiple strokes and death, telling us that it would be his father’s suffering that would drive him into the arms of the Suffering Savior, writing about his conversion in his dormitory room in 1957.

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BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper

We read about Sproul’s mentors, Dr. Thomas Gregory and Dr. John Gerstner, the latter of which he would meet at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. It would take five years of personal struggle before Sproul came to understand and embrace the doctrines of grace.
Gerstner convinced Sproul to study at the Free University of Amsterdam, even though Sproul did not know the Dutch language. In 1965, Sproul was ordained at his childhood church, Pleasant Hills Community Presbyterian Church, into the United Presbyterian Church in the USA (UPCUSA) in 1965. Later that year, he would teach at his alma mater, Westminster College, before being appointed to the position of assistant professor of philosophical theology at Conwell Theological Seminary, located on the campus of Temple University. In 1969, Sproul accepted a call for pastoral ministry to College Hill Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati.
In 1971, Sproul began the Ligonier Valley Study Center on fifty-two acres of wooded land, donated by Mrs. Dora Hillman. The Study Center was modeled loosely after Francis Schaeffer’s L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland. Christian students traveled to the Study Center from all over the world, oftentimes in groups. Early on, Sproul’s lectures were recorded on audio tape, and began circulating around the country. In 1974 the lectures began being videotaped.
The author writes about R.C.’s many books, beginning with his 1973 book The Symbol: An Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed. Tabletalk magazine was first published in 1977.
With the UPCUSA becoming more and more liberal, Sproul would end his affiliation with that denomination and begin his affiliation with the new Presbyterian Church in American (PCA).
The author takes us through Sproul’s work in the battle for the inerrancy of the Bible, which included the launching of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) and the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.”
The author tells us that more than anything else, Sproul wanted people to understand who God is, and would give his life to that end.
The Ligonier Valley Study Center would become Ligonier Ministries and move from Pennsylvania to Orlando in 1984. The author writes that from the beginning of his work at Ligonier, Sproul believed that one major purpose of the ministry was to help Christians know what they believe and why they believe it. Of all theological topics, the study of God seemed to captivate his mind the most.
We read that Sproul first taught on the holiness of God while he was pastoring in Cincinnati. He refined the lectures at the Study Center, putting it in a video series, and eventually in book form in 1985, under the title of The Holiness of God. The book would go on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies and serve as a marker of Sproul’s ministry.
Sproul would teach at Reformed Theological Seminary for fifteen years, and Ligonier would host their first National Conference in 1988. The Renewing Your Mind radio program was launched in 1994, and the New Geneva Study Bible (now known as the Reformation Study Bible), was published in 1995.
The author spends a good deal of time writing about the “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT) document, which two of Sproul’s close friends in ministry – Chuck Colson and J.I. Packer were involved with. Sproul wrote “I cannot think of anything that has come remotely close to distressing to the depths of my soul as much as this document has distressed me.” Sproul’s friendship with Colson and Packer suffered, never to be fully restored to their pre-ECT state, and neither ever spoke at a Ligonier conference again. In 1995, Sproul would publish Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification as a response to ECT.
In 1997, several friends asked R.C. if he would consider starting a church and serving as the pastor. After much prayer, Sproul accepted the call, and Saint Andrews Chapel was founded in Sanford, Florida. In twenty years of pulpit ministry, Sproul preached through eleven complete books of the New Testament.
In 2011, Reformation Bible College opened with fifty students in the inaugural class. Sproul would later partner with composer Jeff Lippencott for two albums of hymns – Glory to the Holy One in 2015 and Saints of Zion in 2017.
Succession planning for Ligonier resulted in the appointment of Teaching Fellows, who have carried on the ministry of Dr. Sproul, who died on December 14, 2017.
In writing of Sproul’s legacy, the author tells us that he had a John Calvin mind with a Billy Graham reach. In sharing three virtues which characterized R.C. as a defender of the Reformed faith, the author tells us that Sproul:

  1. Was committed to theological precision and accuracy.
  2. Demonstrated grace and kindness to others.
  3. Was bold and courageous.

R.C. Sproul: Defender of the Reformed Faith is a well-researched and written introduction to the life and ministry of R.C. Sproul, and a good companion to Stephen Nichols’ 2021 book R.C. Sproul: A Life. I highly recommend both books.

  • Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold. My wife Tammy has 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.”

BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?

Providence by John Piper

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 31: Deception and Dullness of Heart. Here are a few helpful quotes from the chapter:

  • All of us are sinful and guilty and deserve judgment. No one deserves the truth from God.
  • God does regret, but he does not regret in such a way that his divine foreknowledge is compromised.
  • God does send a lying spirit and deceive a prophet and send a delusion, but he does not do this in such a way that his divine veracity or truthfulness is compromised.
  • We are not told how God prevents his providence in deceit from being sinful. Only that his glory is such that his providence, in judging people by means of deception, guides his action in complete freedom from sin.
  • With God, there is a kind of regretting, and a kind of deceiving, that is not like man’s regretting and man’s deceiving. It is not prompted or guided by finiteness or sin. It is rooted, rather, in infinite wisdom. It is guided by perfect justice.

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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