Archive for the ‘R.C. Sproul Sr.’ Category
I highly recommend you to get a free copy of The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul for the Kindle. This book is a wonderful book that explores the depths of the cross. It is a book that each disciple should read in preparing for Resurrection Sunday as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, before we can celebrate the empty tomb, we should tremble at the cross as we recognize what our Savior did for our salvation (Galatians 1:4).
This deal will not last long.
I want to point out that Dr. R.C. Sproul’s excellent book, Abortion: A Rational Look at An Emotional Issue, is free from Amazon.com currently. I encourage you to get this book for your Kindle and allow Dr. Sproul to build a strong case from Scripture not only about life and it being precious to God but also why abortion is sinful and wrong.
You can find the book here.
Some Calvinists such as R.C. Sproul asserts that one must be regenerated before faith because of the nature of total depravity. Since mankind is dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1) and unable to please God in such a state (Romans 8:7-8) then God must regenerate people in order for them to come to faith and be saved from sin (John 3:3; 1 John 5:1). A dead person is simply dead and can do nothing unless God first breathes life into them by His Spirit (Titus 3:5-7) and then they can come to faith and be justified before God (Romans 5:1). It is reasoned that those elected by God will be regenerated to believe.
One major problem with this is that it is based on an assumption and that being unconditional election combined with the Calvinist view of total depravity. When Paul writes in Ephesians 2:1 that we are dead in our sins, he is speaking of our status in sin and without the life of God. No doubt the wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23) and we are dead without the Spirit of God living within but I find nothing in the passage to speak of an inability to hear or believe the gospel. In fact, two examples from the Old Testament that demonstrate that unbelievers can hear the voice of God before regeneration are both found in the early chapters of Genesis.
In Genesis 3 we find the fall of mankind. If there was a time for the Bible to present the Calvinist view of being “dead in our sins” it would be here. Surely we should find God having to first regenerate Adam and Eve before He could converse with them since they are dead. Yet what do we find? We find Adam hearing from God in Genesis 3:9. Adam had sinned and was now dead spiritually (Romans 5:12) and he demonstrates this by his actions in Genesis 3:8 yet we find that he could still hear from God? How is this possible if in fact he is dead in his sins and must be born again to come to faith?
Another example is found in Genesis 4. Here Cain hears the voice of God yet again like his father Adam. If anyone was to inherit original sin and be born dead in his sins, it should be Cain. Yet what do we find? Again, we find Cain hearing the voice of God in Genesis 4:6. God even warns this dead sinner to turn from his sins in Genesis 4:7. How could he possibly do this without regeneration? How could he hear the voice of God or even obey God without God first causing him to be born again?
Both of these passages run contrary to the Calvinistic assumption that dead in sins must equal dead completely. To be dead in our sins means that we are without the life of God in us. We are dead apart from His Spirit abiding in us. We must be born again to receive the Spirit of God (Galatians 3:14; 4:6-7). I don’t deny that we are total unable to please God in our flesh but this does not mean that an unbeliever can not hear the gospel and either reject the gospel or receive the gospel (John 1:11-13). Faith comes by hearing the message of Christ (Romans 10:17). God saves sinners who believe (Acts 5:32; 15:9-11; 16:30-34; 22:16; 26:20; Romans 3:25-27; 4:24-5:1; 1 Corinthians 1:21). Those who believe become the elect of God (1 Timothy 4:10).
Yes folks it is true. I your beloved reformed Arminian went to hear Dr. R.C. Sproul Sr. preach at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC this past Friday. I must say that I enjoyed myself. I had to sit on the floor as the building (which is over 200 years old probably but incredibly beautiful; see picture here) but was thrilled that on a Friday night, hundreds of people came out to hear Dr. Sproul preach. I went get to his sermon in a moment.
Dr. Sinclair Ferguson is the preacher at First Pres (as most call it around here). I actually have a few books from Ferguson and knew of him before he came to Columbia. He is from Scotland and I enjoy his accent. While a bit boring to me, Ferguson is an expository preacher through and through and I appreciate that. His passion is for the truth. Myself and a good brother of mine often spend time praying for Ferguson and other Bible teachers in our city. I pray that he burns with zeal for Jesus, a passion for the lost, and a hunger to communicate the Word of God to the people of God.
The meeting itself was part of a spiritual life conference that First Pres does each year at this time with various Reformed speakers. When I heard that Dr. Sproul was going to be the keynote speaker, I wanted to go. The conference itself was boring to me. I enjoy more “charismatic” type of singing though I do loathe some new “worship” songs. At First Pres, the songs were no doubt from the 17th century. Not that this is bad. The theology in these songs were far more in-depth than modern songs. Yet they were sung almost like we were at a funeral and not seeking to worship the King. Even if you wanted to lift your hands to praise God, you had to hold the bulletin to know the lines of the songs. Half the words I had trouble pronouncing. But worship is not about what we sing as much as our hearts seeking our Savior (John 4:23-24).
The preaching itself was solid. Sproul took his text from Hosea 4:1-6 and the famine of the Word of God in the land. Sproul took aim at preachers who avoid preaching doctrine while trying to entertain the masses. He noted that when we speak for God, we are speaking doctrinally about Him. He noted that religious studies at secular universities are not theological in nature but sociology and anthropology studies where religion is studied to how it effects human behavior but theology proper is the study of God Himself. The highest calling of the disciple of Jesus is to know God and love Him (John 17:3). Our passion should be that we always are seeking to love God with all our hearts, strength, and mind (Mark 12:30). Sproul said that the study of God is his one fear that when he dies he will have wasted time not seeking to know God more.
Sproul noted from Hosea 4:1-5 the ramifications of not knowing God. Romans 1:24 says that God gives up people who reject His revelation (Romans 1:18-23) to a debased mind. People then become wicked beyond measure. Sproul pointed out from Hosea 4:4-5 that Yahweh’s major contention is with His own people. Hosea is serving as God’s chief prosecutor in this case. The problem is not just that the people have rejected Yahweh and His laws but the priests who claim to serve Him are abandoning His laws. Is not the case today? Sproul pointed out that the number one question they receive at Ligonier Ministries is always, “Where can I find a church in my area that is faithfully preaching the Word of God?” Sproul said that such questions so the nature of the modern church and it breaks his heart that people are out there, hungry for God, and yet no churches are seeking to feed the people of God the manna of heaven (1 Peter 3:1-3).
What are my impressions of Sproul? First, I expected him to be polished as a speaker and he was. He clearly has experience speaking before large audiences and keeping their attention. He did a good job. He was also faithful to his text and taught it correctly in my estimation. He is a very intelligent man.
Secondly, I half expected a swipe toward Arminians. He never did. He touched briefly on modern evangelism and the cry of “unconditional love” toward all people by God and Sproul noted that such teaching was not true. God’s love is conditioned upon people being repenting of their sins. Sproul noted that God does love people but not in a saving way. I had no problem with what he said. I agree that apart from salvation, people are under the wrath of God (Ephesians 2:1-3). Sproul and I would disagree, I am sure, over whether God actually loves people enough to desire to save them all.
Lastly, what Sproul said was all true. We are lacking so much biblical content in the Western Church. Where is the knowledge of God? Where is the study of God? Where is the longing to know God not just as a Person but in truth? As he was preaching I kept pondering 2 Thessalonians 2:10 where Paul states that people are perishing because they refuse to “love the truth.” I pray that I always love the truth. Doctrine and worship go hand in hand.
One final note and I may blog on this in the future but Sproul said in passing that Christians are what we read. He noted that sadly most Christians don’t read. We don’t take time to study our Bible nor to pick up great books that can help us to know God more. I would to God that the Church would be full of readers. I pray that we would read our Bibles foremost but also take time to read all kinds of great Christian books even if you don’t fully agree with them all. I appreciate Dr. Sproul even if he and I don’t see eye-to-eye on all issues. His passion for God was felt that night as he preached. I pray that he is a man of holiness and prayer. I pray that God will glorify His name through Sproul and his ministry.
While Arminianism affirms justification by faith and affirms that salvation is a work of God and not of man (John 1:12-13) and we affirm that salvation is all of grace (Acts 15:11; Ephesians 2:8-9) yet because we affirm that we believe that people are responsible to believe the gospel once they hear the gospel preached to them (Romans 10:9-17) that this leads to justification by works. Faith, in this case, is seen as a work since we are telling people that they must believe the gospel to be saved (Acts 2:21).
The problem with this view is that while Arminians do believe that people must believe the gospel to be saved and they must exercise their free will to follow Jesus (Luke 14:25-35), we believe that this is the work of the Spirit. Apart from the Holy Spirit, no one could be saved. The Holy Spirit is the one who woos the sinner’s heart to salvation. He anoints the preaching (Acts 1:8), opens ears to the gospel (Acts 16:14), and He takes the gospel and applies it to the sinner’s heart (Acts 15:9). When a person then believes the gospel through faith and repentance (1 Corinthians 1:21), the Spirit of God regenerates them (Titus 3:5-7). Being regenerated by the Spirit is absolutely essential to eternal life (John 3:3-7).
Now at this point Calvinists would agree with much of what I just wrote. They too would affirm all that I said but would add that once a person does believe it is because the Spirit of God must deposit faith into them by His sovereign grace or they would not be saved. Because of their view of complete and total depravity of the person, how can a dead person believe the gospel and be saved (Ephesians 2:1)? Since a dead person cannot respond to the gospel, the Spirit of God must regenerate them to believe the gospel.
The problem with such a view abounds. First, there is simply no biblical basis for this view. This is an assumption that Calvinists carry over to the Scriptures and make fit. I have seen Calvinist theologians strain to make 1 John 5:1 fit their theology. No where in the New Testament does it teach that regeneration precedes faith. Faith is always seen as the way to salvation.
Secondly, the view that regeneration must precede faith, in my estimation, would naturally lead to double-predestination. John Calvin seemed to embrace this view as did many other Calvinists after him including theologians such as Jonathan Edwards or even modern theologians such as John Frame. Calvin called this doctrine, “the horrible decree” because it viewed God as choosing before time whom He would save and whom He would damn. The person bound for hell is bound there no matter what. The gift of faith will never be given to them even if they seem to believe for a while. If the gift of faith is required in order for someone to be saved, why doesn’t God just give this gift to all people? Why limit this “for His glory?” If God has the power to save all, why doesn’t He? Arminianism affirms that His desire is to save all who would believe the gospel (John 3:16; 1 John 2:1-2). We affirm a universal atonement that is so powerful that it can save all who come to God through faith just as Moses and the snake in the wilderness could heal all who looked upon the serpent on the poll (John 3:14-15).
A few passages do seem to present faith as a gift. Let’s look at a couple. First is the Ephesians 2:8-9. I have read this verse thousands of times and yet to see how Calvinists see the phrase “this is not your own doing” as being the gift of faith and not salvation apart from works? Verses 9 and 10 both are emphasizing works yet we are to believe that the gift of faith is the issue in verse 8? We affirm that salvation is by God’s grace through faith and have no problem proclaiming that truth but to read into verse 8 as the gift of faith, I believe, is not an accurate exegesis of the passage. By the way, John Calvin was noted for not always being consistent in his views and he wrote this about Ephesians 2:8-9:
“He does not mean that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift of God.” (Commentaries, vol. 11, 145).
Another common cited passage is Philippians 1:29. However, we Arminians affirm that faith is a gift from God in the sense that the Spirit helps us to believe. We believe the gospel but the work of salvation is all of God and not of us and even our believing comes because the Holy Spirit used the gospel to save our souls. There is not boasting from a biblical Arminian about “saving ourselves” through our free will. We believe that because of sin, we are lost without the aid of the Holy Spirit drawing us to salvation in the Savior (John 6:44). However, I do want to point out that few speak much about the gift of suffering that Paul has in mind in Philippians 1:29. Many want to debate the issue of believing but not the suffering to which we are also called (Romans 8:18).
A final problem I want to point out about the issue of regeneration before faith is found in F. Leroy Forlines book Classical Arminianism in which he writes about the problem of justification and regeneration in Calvinism. If regeneration takes place before faith then this would mean that the elect are justified before faith but this would logically go against passages such as Romans 5:1 and would ignore the need of sanctification. If the elect are eternally justified then sanctification is meaningless. They are not sinners. The elect are born justified and from all eternity have been so. Justification comes through the work of Jesus Christ. Jesus obtained our justification on the cross. Yet if regeneration takes place before faith then this would mean that the elect are justified already before faith since they are regenerated and their sins are gone. This would mean that all the elect are born sinless. They are seen as justified before God. Forlines points out that some Calvinist theologians such as Louis Berkhof saw this problem in his systematic theology text. R.C. Sproul, however, does not. In his book, Chosen By God, Sproul defends the view that regeneration must precede faith. He ignores the issue of eternal justification.
I believe that the Arminian view that justification is by faith is the correct one. This was the major focus of Paul the Apostle in the book of Romans and no where in Romans does he say that regeneration takes place before faith. He makes faith the condition. Romans 3:25-26 are strong verses that show that justification is by faith in Jesus Christ.
One final point from Forlines that I believe is worth repeating is that he makes the point that faith is the condition for salvation and not the grounds for it. Forlines points out that when we speak often of justification by faith and focus on faith and not Christ as the grounds for our salvation, we then get caught in examining our faith and not the person and work of Jesus Christ. As I have pointed out many times before, Jesus is our salvation. We can debate faith and regeneration and sanctification but Jesus is our salvation. We are saved by a Person and not a theory. Certainly I agree that we are justified by faith but my focus must be on Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). Jesus is the one who died for me and His blood alone cleanses me from all sin (Ephesians 1:7). In eternity, the praise and glory will not be for the elect or the gift of faith but upon Jesus who gave His life for the Church (Revelation 5:9-10). Jesus alone is the one that our faith needs to focus on and not our theological assumptions which are so often wrong.
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