I don’t remember when I first encountered the writings of R.C. Sproul, but I suspect it wasn’t until grad school in the neighborhood of 2005. But long before then, Sproul was influencing the course of Evangelical thought. With the publication of works like The Holiness of God and Chosen by God, as well as his involvement with the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Sproul was a major voice in the shaping of how we think as believers. This makes Stephen Nichols’s new biography R.C. Sproul: A Life a useful and timely book.
It is also a well-written and interesting book, interesting not least because I went into it knowing nothing about Pittsburg or Orlando, and very little about the life of R.C. Sproul. But I suspect this book will also be of interest to those who encountered Sproul’s writings before I did and who were already familiar with his work at Ligonier and Reformation Bible College. Nichols is thorough in his exploration of Sproul’s theological development, academic work, and public life. He gives context to the growth of Sproul’s thought that includes both physical setting and intellectual influences. And Nichols manages this without either glossing over difficult ideas or getting bogged down in overly dense language. Sproul’s life unfolds in Nichols’s book in crisp, readable prose that will be accessible to the layman and of interest to academics.
I suppose an important disclaimer here is that this book is as much a hagiography as it is a biography (much akin to Iain Murray’s works). There is no subtitle stating that this is a “critical biography”, and whatever warts Sproul had in real life are largely passed over (to say nothing of his sins). And that’s fine; there will be time for those sorts of works later (as well as the revisionist interpretations that are undoubtedly in the pipeline already). For now, we have a careful and thoughtful reflection on the life of a Godly man. And that should be enough for all of us.