R.C. Sproul, theologian, pastor, and founder of Ligonier Ministries, died on December 14, 2017, at the age of 78.
The autumn of 1977 was pivotal in my life and development. After 3 years at a Bible college, I had just transferred to Ashland University, a church-related but largely secular liberal arts college. I’d made that decision for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that I was undertaking an existential search for the reality of the claims of Christianity.
If it seems ironic that a young man, a believer in Christ since his youth, would leave the comfortable confines of a conservative Bible education to seek for certainty in his faith in secular pastures, then so be it. In God’s sovereign plan to lead me to that intellectual assurance, he took me on the scenic route.
I was a pretty typical, good Christian boy — grown up in the church, active in my youth group during my teenage years, planning on seminary after college. But by the end of my junior year at the Bible college, I was beginning to wonder if the truths I was so sure of could hold water when rubbed up against modern, secular thought. I hadn’t reached to the level of skepticism, but if I didn’t see for myself that Christian ideas held together when contrasted with other world views, then my uncertainty would only continue to grow.
So, I transferred. I took a minor in Philosophy only because a major wasn’t offered. I took religion as my major because all my credits from Bible college transferred. And I got what I’d hoped for — my thoughts and comments in class contrasted with hardened, non-believing hedonists and with High-Church, religious liberal neo-orthodoxy. And just like a muscle straining against the weight that will build it up, my intellectual senses began to sharpen.
Also ironically, I found that the most robust defense of historic Christianity came not from my professors in the Department of Religion but from the sole professor of the Philosophy Department, Dr. Bruce Stark. My first class with him was Philosophy of Religion, and his very first assignment introduced me to a theologian I’d not heard of before, Dr. R.C. Sproul.
We were assigned to listen to a tape of a lecture titled, “The Psychology of Atheism.” The fact that I can still recount the key points of this lecture without consulting my notes or his book of the same title speaks to the immense impact it had on me.
Sproul talked about how thinkers like Freud posited that God was an invention of man, and that religion was created as a coping mechanism to allay our fears, an opiate for the masses as it were. Freud was answering the question, “Since there is no God, why is there religion?”
Sproul asked one simple question, and that question rocked my world — “If there is a God, why are there atheists?” He went on to explain, especially drawing from Romans 1, that the reason there are atheists is not that God hasn’t shown Himself enough, but that men “suppress the truth in unrighteousness,” basically that because of our sin, people don’t want God. If humanity were to invent a god, it would certainly not be the God of the Bible, who is utterly holy and righteously judges sin.
“Death reminds us that we are creatures. Yet as fearsome as death is, it is nothing compared with meeting a holy God. When we encounter him, the totality of our creatureliness breaks upon us and shatters the myth that we have believed about ourselves, the myth that we are demigods, junior-grade deities who will try to live forever.”
R.C. Sproul provided me with the certainty and clarity I craved. That was my first exposure to “R.C.” but it was not my last. To this day, I still remember exactly where I was driving as I was listening to his series on the 5 Points of Calvinism when I “got it” on the doctrine of particular redemption (not that I fully comprehended this, but when I finally understood and embraced the doctrine). His book/video series, “The Holiness of God” is a must for any serious Christian. I’ve led small group discussions using his series “Objections Answered.” The sheer volume of resources he left behind is beyond imagination.
After hearing “The Psychology of Atheism,” I wrote a song based on those concepts. It was called “You Know Full Well.” Somewhere I have the lyrics. I always wanted to make a recording and send to R.C. to tell him how much that lecture meant to me. But you know how it is…life happens and I just never got around to it. Someday, I’ll get a chance to thank R.C. for what he did for me, as will countless other believers in glory.
For tonight, I’ll be thanking the Lord of the Harvest that He raised up his tireless worker in the faith, R.C. Sproul.
40 of the best quotes from R.C. Sproul