R.C. Sproul, the founder of Ligonier Ministries and Reformed Evangelical stalwart, died yesterday, December 14, 2017 at 78 years-old. The extent of his contribution to the Evangelical world, to teaching the whole counsel of God, to explaining the doctrines of the Christian faith and leading millions of Christians in a closer walk with Jesus cannot be adequately described. However, several have provided a glimpse into the impact of his character, ministry, and reach.
John Piper’s eulogy is perhaps one of the most moving and worth reading in full. He writes:
The impact of R.C. Sproul on my life and ministry is owing to an incomparable combination of his unashamed allegiance to the absolute sovereignty and centrality of God, his total devotion to the inerrancy and radical relevance of the Christian Scriptures, his serious and rigorous attention to the actual text of Scripture in shaping his views, and his jolting formulations of biblical truth in relation to contemporary reality.
Chris Larson at Ligonier Ministries aptly describes R.C.’s character:
Known to millions of Christians as simply “R.C.,” he was used of the Lord to proclaim, teach, and defend the holiness of God in all its fullness. Through his teaching ministry, many of us learned that God is bigger than we knew, our sin is more deeply rooted than we imagined, and the grace of God in Jesus Christ is overwhelming.
God called R.C. to proclaim the gospel to as many people as possible. R.C. did this knowing the Lord did not need him. In fact, he wanted people to know the enduring, faithful witness of God’s servants throughout church history. God powerfully used R.C.’s ministry in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to awaken people around the world to the truths of classical Christianity.
It belongs to others in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead to assess the impact of R.C.’s ministry in the history of the church. In this moment, we feel loss—immense sadness and profound loss—the loss of a pastor, a teacher, a leader, a brother-in-Christ, a friend.
R.C. now sees the object of his faith, the risen Christ, high and lifted up. He now hears the seraphim’s song before the throne, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
The Washington Post points out that Sproul reached Christians in a new way, using technology as a different approach to teaching. In addition to hosting and speaking at conferences, Sproul:
… offered his lectures and classes on cassette tapes for audio listening. He pioneered Bible teaching on VHS tapes for TV viewing. He was figuring out distance learning many years before people would take online classes or listen to podcasts.
He launched a popular radio program called “Renewing Your Mind.” Keeping up with new waves of technology, he took seminary education into homes, cars, churches and later on podcasts for walking and jogging.
Stephen Nichols at Ligonier Ministries adds to this:
R.C. Sproul was a theologian who served the church. He admired the Reformers not only for the content of their message, but for the way they took that message to the people. They were “battlefield theologians,” as he called them. Many first heard of the five solas of the Reformation through R.C. Sproul’s teaching. When R.C. taught about Martin Luther, it was as if he had met the sixteenth-century Reformer. R.C.’s commitment to sola Scriptura led him to play a key role in drafting and advocating for the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978). He also served as president of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. Because of his commitment to sola fide, justification by faith alone, R.C. took a bold stand of opposition to Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) in 1994. He later opposed the New Perspective on Paul and also the Federal Vision view. Like the Reformers, R.C. was willing to take bold stands for the central and essential doctrines of historic orthodox Christianity. He was a defender of the authority of God’s Word and of the gospel.
I had the fortunate opportunity of meeting Mr. Sproul and benefitting from this teaching, books, audio lessons, and his ministry overall. I am of the generation whom Sproul helped encounter God and the Bible.
In 1977 Sproul founded Tabletalk, a daily devotional magazine that distributes daily to 100,000 recipients, with more than 250,000 estimated readers. In 1982, Ligonier launched Sproul’s radio program, The R.C. Sproul Study Hour. In 1994, it began airing the daily program Renewing Your Mind, which continues to reach millions.
Sproul headed the Ligonier annual national conferences from 1971-2017, participating in regional, national, and international conferences, as well as study tours. He “produced teaching series, books, and other materials; and launched a website, blog, RefNet, and the Ligonier app.” Its ministry continues to reach more than two million people worldwide every week.
Sproul served as a board member for the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, Evangelism Explosion, Prison Fellowship, and Serve International. In 1980, he became a professor of theology and apologetics at Reformed Theological Seminary, which opened its Orlando campus in 1987. He served there as the John Dyer Trimble Sr. Chair of Systematic Theology from 1987–1995. From 1995-2004, he served as the Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale.
Sproul is now with the Lord in Heaven. A good and faithful servant, he will be missed, but those who knew him and have been influenced by him can only thank God for the short time he was here on earth. What an incredible contribution it is that he made though, in just a few short decades.