Skip to comments.R.C. SPROUL: Willing to Believe [The Door Interview]
Posted on 12/17/2004 12:50:41 PM PST by Alex Murphy
When it comes to historic Protestant orthodoxy, few late-20th-century writers have done as much to defend the faith as Dr. R.C. Sproul. In some quarters, the very mention of his name is enough to send Arminians, Papists, Fundamentalists, and bibliophobes running for cover. Not, however, at The Door. When we first interviewed Dr. Sproul in the early `80s, we made such a big deal of the fact that he had just abandoned his "wet-look" hairstyle for a much poofier, blow-dried do that now when we feel a rush of Sproul-awe coming on, we just look at an old Vitalis-era photo of the good Doctor and somehow he seems like a regular guy again.
R.C. Sproul is not a regular guy. First of all, regular guys don't go by their first two initials (the "C," by the way, stands for Charles). Second, regular guys don't author dozens of books with titles like Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology, Not a Chance: The Myth of Chance in Modern Science and Cosmology, and The Character of God: Discovering the Who God Who Is (obviously, Sproul is something of a colon man). Third, regular guys don't sprinkle their casual conversations with words like "soteriology" (the study of salvation), "Pelagianism" (the heretical doctrine that man does not possess a sinful nature), and "semi-Pelagianism" (uh, the doctrine that man sort of doesn't possess a sinful nature). Fourth, regular guys don't get thanked in the liner notes to the latest Van Halen album, Van Halen III (seriously). Alas, the album is the group's worst, making the odds that other hard rock bands will follow suit and thank Dr. Sproul in their liner notes rather long ones indeed.
When The Door's Arsenio Orteza called Dr. Sproul's office to conduct the following interview, he was placed on hold and forced to listen to a taped message that went: "Thank you for calling Ligonier Ministries, the home of Renewing Your Mind, the daily radio broadcast of Dr. R.C. Sproul. All of our resource consultants are serving other people right now, but your call is extremely important to us, so stay on the line, and the next available consultant will be with you as soon as possible." Ominously, in light of Dr. Sproul's Van Halen connection, the music accompanying the recording was classical.
Actually, classical music isn't so strange where Dr. Sproul is concerned. He calls himself, after all, a "classicist," even going so far as to refer to his fellow classicist St. Thomas Aquinas as "Thomas." Of course, because he also refers to Billy Graham as "Billy," R.C. (the "R" stands for Robert) may simply be that most rare of classicists - the casual kind. One thing he's definitely not casual about, however, is the Reformation. One could say, in fact, that his entire 25-year ministry - the books, the radio show, the Bible-study magazine (Tabletalk), the distinguished visiting professorships, the Renewing Your Hair line of shampoos and conditioners - has been one huge attempt to simultaneously defend and propagate the ideas of Martin and John (er, Luther and Calvin), especially their emphasis on "the three solas": sola fide (faith alone), sola scriptura (scripture alone), and sola gratia (grace alone). Hey, anyone who can even pronounce Italian has our vote!
Dr. Sproul's latest book is Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will (Baker). Even if you didn't know there was a controversy over free will, we think you'll find Dr. Sproul's comments insightful, provocative, and even a little humble - that is, when you can actually understand them.
Who is RC Sproul?
He is a Christian radio show host. Simply the best and my personal favorite.
Great article. I think I like Sproul more and more.
Always has been one of mine!!
By the way, what's with this Door Magazine? Where do their allegiances lie in respect to Calvin's teaching?
The interviewer was obviously quite abrasive at times...
The Door has changed hands a number of times in 20+ years; some of us knew it when it was called The Wittenberg Door. They are a Christian Satire magazine; at times I have to wonder what type of Christians their staff is. Several incarnations ago, they were sympathetic to the "social justice" Tony Campolo/Ron Sider camp IMO. I have no idea if they still are. Their interviews with theologians usually have an element of confrontation. Celebrities-claiming-to-be-Christians usually get a pass from them.
In regards to "allegiance to Calvin's teaching", I have NEVER come across a humor magazine/website that is specifically friendly to Calvinism (if you know of one, let me know!). Usually when they're taking shots, they're doing so across the doctrinal board. I'm sure the Baptists, Charismatics and Catholics take offense at some of the humor, too :D
His publication "Tabletalk" is one of the key resources I use in my studies. I also try to listen to his radio/internet broadcast Renewing Your Mind at least 4-5 times a week
This pretty much sums it up:
SPROUL: Because in this country there is that classical marriage or syncretistic blend between semi-Pelagian theology and American humanism.
DOOR: Uh, we've noticed that too.
SPROUL: It's downright un-American to think that we are really slaves to sin. Yet you have these polls that George Barna takes, and you see a majority of professing evangelicals saying that man is basically good. That's astonishing to me.
DOOR: Would that be the 19th-century revivalist Charles Grandison Finney?
SPROUL: Finney, yeah. I don't think Finney was even semi-Pelagian.
DOOR: Don't you mean "Charles"?
SPROUL: Finney was an unabashed Pelagian.
DOOR: Uh, "Grandison"?
SPROUL: Most evangelicals haven't read him, and they're shocked when they read Finney's own statements because he was vehemently pro-Pelagianism.
DOOR: He was almost flat-out heretical in a number of ways, wasn't he?
SPROUL: I'd take out the "almost." Not only that, but he categorically rejected substitutionary atonement and justification by faith alone.
DOOR: Was he theologically wacko or just not very bright?
SPROUL: He was no dummy. He was trained in law and more or less self-trained in theology.
Looks like they do, although there's no way to tell from this how extensive. Appears they have Calvin and Luther also
I'm sure there's a story there. I wonder who the Calvinist in Van Halen is/was. I know Gary Cheron is pro-life, but I don't know if he's a believer.