RC Sproul Book Review

  I am going to spend the next few posts reviewing books that I have recently read or reread. I must admit that the emphasis of these current reviews are to generally show areas that some, if not many, Christians believe but I tend to disagree with. As always, even if as I disagree with these things I will respect your not seeing things the same way. It is not for me to judge you, God will do that to all of us in His time.

This post is a book by RC Sproul entitled “Essential Truths of the Christian Faith”. For brevity I will be using some terms (Calvinism, Arminianism, Pelagianism) some of you may not be familiar with. I apologize in advance for that. I’m sure I will be covering those topics in a future post but do not want to take the space to do that here. I would encourage you to look them up on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page .

 As usual, I am going to be the contrarian here and say this is a pretty good book but… I have read the book a couple of times and for the most part it is helpful. Generally the book is informative but there are exceptions to that. Mr. Sproul is indeed a gifted writer. As I read this book I had to keep reminding myself that Sproul is a good little Calvinist and there are other opinions on what God’s true theology might be. Mr. Sproul goes out of his way to mention that , yes, there are some who align with Calvinism who are “hyper-Calvinist” and therefore not representative of the true Calvinist doctrine but he never says the same thing of Arminian theology he puts them all in the same boat. That is patently Calvinist and patently unfair. I totally agree that “Open Theology” and Pelagianism is not from God and is, even if Sproul refuses to say it, “hyper-Arminism”.

One controversial section in the book is topic 58 about Predestination and Reprobation (unconditional election). It is part of the Calvinist 5 point mantra. Sproul says “the reprobate, who are passed over by God, are ultimately doomed and their damnation is as certain and sure as the ultimate salvation of the elect”. If a Calvinist, like Sproul, is true to his doctrine then when he approaches someone trying to exercise the Great Commission he should say “Maybe the Lord loves you and wants you to come to Him but maybe he didn’t choose you to be saved”. If God has already chosen some and rejected others then what is the purpose of the Trinity. It seems that God the Father has taken care of everything so the other two members of the trinity are really not necessary. That is a very troubling thought to me.
For an opposing view of this topic I would suggest reading “Why I am not a Calvinist” by Walls and Dongell. I will be putting out a review of this book in the next post. It is up to each of us to find the heart of God and not depend on any one theologian or doctrinal practice for all the answers.  

So, again this is a pretty good book but very aware of it’s author’s underlying foundation. Not all of his “Essential Truths” are what others believe.

5 thoughts on “RC Sproul Book Review

  1. I know I’m treading on an anthill here, RJ, but have you read Greg Boyd’s “God of the Possible?” I’m not so sure you should dismiss Open Theology as out-of-hand as you did in this post. Boyd addresses something that I had not put as fully into words, but which I saw in the Bible long before I had heard of him, and that is the times where it talks about God changing his mind, adapting to what humans do, etc. Frankly, the usual objections rely (IMHO) on a great deal of presupposition more than on sola scriptura. . .



  2. Dan, I must admit that I have not studied Open Theology as much as I intend to. So I am open to different arguments about this. In my mind Open Theology and Pelagianism are one and the same. To me Pelagianism is a belief that original sin did not taint human nature and therefore man is basically good in his nature and does not need God to pull him from his evil ways. I think world history and the Bible are pretty clear that man is basically inclined to do evil rather than good. It is only through the whispers of the Holy Spirit that turns us toward loving our brother.
    Thanks for the references to your posts. I looked them over briefly but will study them much more in the near future. I will also get the book by Greg Boyd as you suggested. But I have studied Calvinism somewhat thoroughly and don’t see me changing my attitude about that subject(ha). As a matter of fact my next post is on the book entitled “Why I am not a Calvinist”.

  3. OK well if that is the starting perspective I can see where you would be cautious. But I would definitely encourage you to pursue it further. Open Theology as I see it has to do (as you will see in my own writing) with the notion that God in his sovereignty has really and truly delegated certain decisions as to how things will play out, to his created beings. . .and that if he has well and fully delegated them, then God himself doesn’t fully know all of the dumb decisions we may make (he knows what they MIGHT be, but not what they WILL be till we do them). God still retains both authority and power to keep those decisions from foiling his ultimate plan, so in that way the end is still as God intends it, though the path may at times be more circuitous than it would have been had we really followed his intention.

    But that is a wholly different matter from the Pelagian notion that we have in ourselves the power to bootstrap ourselves out of our fallen condition. My own notion of open theology depends entirely on God’s sovereign choice to delegate some choices. . .not at all on our having any innate power and/or authority beyond that directly delegated to us by our creator.

  4. I am worried that a book on so called ‘essentials’ pushes a doctrinal distinctive like hyper calvinism rather than sticking to the early creeds. I am not a calvinist and actually was struck by quote you used: “the reprobate, who are PASSED OVER by God, are ultimately doomed and their damnation is as certain and sure as the ultimate salvation of the elect.” Interesting usage of the phrase: pass over. I think it is because the topic is still fresh on my mind because of a sermon i recently preached (you can see my recent post for mp3), but God’s passing over was an image that was salvific, not one of damnation. Anyway, not a deep thought, but just playing with the quote 🙂 Good post!

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