Dr. R. C. Sproul, a great man of faith, pastor, theologian and philisopher
I would be remiss if I didn’t introduce you to one of the great men of the Christian faith, Dr. R. C. Sproul.
I remember the first time I came across his name was when I read one of his books in the late 1990s, The Invisible Hand, Do All Things Really Work for Good?’ I really enjoyed his writings and his way of relating to the Christian laity. In this book he discussed the sovereignty of God and how all things are overseen and ordered by God.
Even now, more than 20 years later I can peruse this book and there isn’t a page that I haven’t underlined something he wrote. Eventually I began attending his annual national conferences which were held in Orlando, FL. It was there that I met up with ‘Sproul-ie fans!’ It seemed they ate, drank and read everything ‘Sproul.’
But what was his beginning, how did he become so razor sharp in his defense of the gospel and an internationally known theologian/seminary professor?
He was born in Pittsburgh, PA just before WWII broke out on February 13, 1939. His parents were Robert Cecil Sproul and Marye Ann Sproul. His parents named him Robert Charles.
In high school he was hardly one known for his academic work. He was much more comfortable on the athletic field than doing any studying. He eventually was accepted at Westminster College on an athletic scholarship. It was here during his freshman year that he heard about the Christian faith and decided he needed God in his life, so he accepted Christ then and there. Before he left college, he also had found himself converted to the ‘doctrine of God’. He discusses this in his book, ‘The Holiness of God’ where he writes of the incredible, powerful holy God that he served.
He married his childhood sweetheart, Vesta before beginning his studies at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. It was here that he came across Professor John Gerstner, one of his mentors. Once he finished seminary he decided to go onto receiving a doctorate at the Free University in Amsterdam, where he had to learn Dutch.
Even though he received his doctorate from the Free University, he wasn’t done with his education. He went onto receive a second one from Whitfield Theological Seminary. During his educational years he had come across Martin Luther, the great Reformer of the Christian faith, who is known for hanging his ‘95 Theses’ on the Wittenberg Church door in 1517. It was this action which started the Presbyterian Reformation.
R. C. Sproul was a firm believer in sola scripture, which to him meant you lived and built your life of faith on scripture alone. He was a major contributor and spoke often of classical apologetics.
Early in his theological career he was a pastor of several churches. Eventually he accepted a professorship at Reformed Theological Seminary. Then in 1971 he founded the Ligonier Study Center in the hills of western Pennsylvania. Thirteen years later it moved to Orlando, FL, where it exists to this day.
The ministry of Ligoniers was founded to teach the Christian laity what he called ‘battlefield theology.’ At heart, R.C. was a teacher and taught all of his audiences the basis for their beliefs, how to defend the Christian faith and how to live it out on a daily basis. He taught as though he was speaking to his best friend, one on one.
The ministry of Ligonier’s reaches over 2 million people weekly with teaching materials, videos, CDs, children’s ministry materials, etc. They have a radio broadcast and podcast. Much of what is shared, printed was written by R. C. Sproul who authored more than 100 books in his lifetime. The ministry website is: http://www.ligonier.org
Personally, I’ve attended the national conference probably around 6-8 times total. Every time I’ve attended I’ve come away encouraged, uplifted, and felt like I just attended four days of seminary lectures which I eagerly devoured. Each year there would be 4-5 other national/international well known seminarians, authors and speakers at these conferences who would share gospel verses and their applications with everyone in the audience. Typically about 6-8K Christian laity would attend each conference.
Dr. Sproul suffered a stroke in 2015, at the age of 76. In December, 2017 he died from COPD. After his death, accolades from numerous pastors, seminarians came flooding into the Ligonier ministry office, I’ve posted one below from Alistair Begg.