When I was a young boy, I distinctly remember sitting in the living rooms of various families of the churches we attended–watching VHS tapes of Dr. R.C. Sproul. At this time, that was an innovative way to be fed spiritually–to say the least. To have one of the great theologians of the 20th Century on your television in your living room was a big deal back then. Dr. Sproul was one of the first Reformed ministers to use VHS tapes when they were still somewhat untested and experimental mediums. Add to this the numerous R.C. Sproul cassette tapes that lay around our home. R.C. Sproul’s name and ministry was far from foreign in our family in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Tabletalk Magazine was also a common sight in the Batzig home. I would frequently see my mom carrying out her morning devotions with a Bible, Tabletalk Magazine and a cup of coffee. These are some of the early memories of the formative influence that R.C. Sproul had on me as a young boy.
When I was converted at 24, I would drive an hour everyday to build or renovate homes. A radio station out of Greenville. SC would play the Renewing Your Mind broadcast, followed by the Grace to You broadcast. I would listen intently to both of these programs as I drove to work. I would try to fill up spiritually as much as I could on Dr. Sproul’s teaching before going to my thoroughly unenjoyable job. It was on those drives that I was first introduced to the sermons of Jonathan Edwards. In some significant way, listening to Dr. Sproul exposit Edwards’ sermon, “A Divine and Supernatural Light,” fueled my interest in Edwards. After work, I would go home and pour through the works of Edwards. In God’s providence, I now host a podcast about the biblical and systematic theology of Edwards, have spoken at numerous Edwards’ Conferences and have essay’s published in a several Edwards’ volumes. I owe so much to Dr. Sproul for helping to cultivate my interest in Edwards. There was something contagious about the excitement with which he spoke about Edwards as a theologian–as well as about how he spoke about Reformed Theology in general.
There has also always been a simplicity to Dr. Sproul’s teaching that is a model for young men pursuing ministry. J.C. Ryle once wrote a short work pressing the dire need for young ministers to learn this quality. There is always the danger of Reformed ministers staying in the stratosphere and not being able to communicate the deep truths of Scripture in a clear and simple manner. Dr. Sproul has consistently held these two things together–the depths of Scripture and a clear and simple way of communicating them. I am sure that I have failed in many ways to model that approach, but continue to view Dr. Sproul as one of the best examples to seek to follow.
Additionally, Dr. Sproul has never shied away from the difficult theological questions. For instance, he is one of the only theologians that I have heard answer–in such a straightforward and biblically faithful manner–the question, “Can We Enjoy Heaven Knowing of Loved Ones in Hell?” Dr. Sproul has encouraged countless ministers to press on to learn the profound answers of Scripture to some of life’s hardest questions. This is a virtue of the utmost degree. Far too many throw up the white flag of surrender too quickly on any number of theological subjects and thereby, inadvertently, do harm to the cause of biblical truth. I, for one, am exceedingly thankful for the way in which he has consistently tackled the hard questions.
Dr. Sproul has exhibited a remarkable humility over the years. Recently, he has admited to having changed his view on the days of creation. In Truths We Confess, he explained:
For most of my teaching career, I considered the framework hypothesis to be a possibility. But I have now changed my mind. I now hold to a literal six-day creation…Genesis says that God created the Universe and everything in it in six twenty-four hour periods.1
Whatever one thinks about the days of creation, we should all be able to agree that it takes enormous humility to be teachable enough to be convinced of a position–and a highly unpopular one at that–after so many years of being one of the most respected teachers in the church. This also is a model to ministers and theologians in the church.
In a Century of broad Evangelicalism, Dr. Sproul winsomely and persuasively promoted the truth of the sovereignty of God in the spheres of salvation and providence. The way in which God used Dr. Sproul to help multitudes understand the biblical teaching about His sovereignty is perhaps the greatest part of his legacy. Calvinism was highly unpopular in the 20th Century in America. Dr. Sproul–together with Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John MacArthur, J.I. Packer and John Piper–is to be thanked for his contributions in replanting this all-important truth back into the church in America and throughout the world. It is incalculable how many believers have been convinced of biblical Calvinism by his book Chosen by God.
Another one of Dr. Sproul’s massively important contributions has been his emphasis on the holiness of God and reverent worship. As was true of the time in which he emphasized the sovereignty of God, so many in the church have had wrong views of the absolute holiness of God. The Holiness of God is on the list of most formative books of almost every minister I know in the Reformed church. Through this work, and other things that he has taught, Dr. Sproul has helped fuel a revival of interest in Reformed worship that captures a sense of the majesty and holiness of God.
Dr. Sproul has helped provide solid theological resources for the well-being of the church for over 40 years. Ligonier Ministries has introduced us to many–if not most–of the great theologians of our day. The National Conference has been a staple in the lives of a myriad of ministers and congregants alike for decades. Add to this the impact of the Reformation Study Bible, the many Reformation Trust volumes, Ligonier Academy, RefNet, the Ligonier blog and, of course, the celebrated Tabletalk Magazine. Furthermore, the way in which the lives of men and women have been impacted through Ligonier’s partnership with various prison ministries is immeasurable.
When I began the work of planting New Covenant Presbyterian Church back in 2009, I was committed to having a book table full of theologically sound books. Not long after I began the work, Ligonier started their $5 Friday promotions. For years, I have been exclusively buying books on $5 Friday to stock our bookshelf with good books to give away. Not having much in the way of ministry development funds in the early years, Ligonier has, in this sense, helped support our church plant by making otherwise expensive resources affordable. I have watched hundreds of people introduced, for the first time, to good theology on account of this remarkable ministry.
While much more could be said about the influence and impact of Dr. R.C. Sproul, I for one want to express my heartfelt gratitude for his faithfulness to the Lord and service to the Church. I would not be where I am today if it were not for his teaching, preaching and the plethora of resources that he has sought to make available to the church throughout the world. May God continue to raise up and equip many in the church through the life, ministry and legacy of Robert Charles Sproul.
1. Sproul, R.C., Truths We Confess: A layman’s guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, Volume I: The Triune God (P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ, 2006), p. 127