On December 14, 2017, we lost a true expositor and defender of the evangelical faith when R.C. Sproul died at the age of 78.
Tributes to the pastor, author, apologist, theologian and founder of Ligonier Ministries poured in from around the world sharing stories of Sproul’s influence, kindness and devotion to Jesus Christ.
Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote,
“R.C.’s voice was captivating. Honestly, I probably would have listened to him read the Farmer’s Almanac. But the power of his teaching was the vitality and virility of biblical Christianity, presented logically, forcefully, biblically and passionately.
My own pilgrimage as a theologian cannot be traced without the indelible influence of R.C. Sproul. Had I never met him in the flesh, I would have been in his debt and gifted with his influence. By God’s grace, I came to know R.C. Sproul as a teacher, colleague, encourager and friend.”
Dr. Augustus Nicodemus Lopes, senior pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Goiânia, Brazil, and vice president of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, said of Sproul, “Dr. Sproul impressed me with his clarity of thought, his power of synthesis, his ability to logically command complex themes, the simplicity of his language, and especially his commitment to the authority and infallibility of the Scriptures. I began to recommend his books to my students and to members of my church. At that time, more and more of his books were being translated into Portuguese, influencing generations of Brazilian pastors and their churches.”
John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, told the story of Sproul at a private meeting over the “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT) controversy from the late 1990s. Also in the meeting were D. James Kennedy, John Ankerburg, Chuck Colson, J.I. Packer and Bill Bright. Sproul was concerned with the ecumenical drift of the ECT document. “R.C. pointed out that the document’s discussion of justification by faith omitted the all-important word alone (the sola in sola fide). This was and always has been the central point of disagreement between Roman Catholics and Protestants, he said. By deliberately omitting that word and acting as if it were a non-issue, Protestants who helped draft the ECT document were deliberately capitulating to the main Roman Catholic error and undermining the gospel itself. At one point he became so passionate in making his argument that he literally climbed on the table, making the plea on his hands and knees from the tabletop until each person on the other side of the table had made direct eye contact with him. There wasn’t a hint of malice in the gesture, and everyone in the room understood that. The passion that motivated R.C. was his love of the gospel and his zeal for making sure that the message is proclaimed without compromise or confusion.”
Pastor John Piper wrote, “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.”
Many of the tributes came by way of Twitter:
“Compared to R.C. Sproul, all of us are at the kids’ pulpit.” – Pastor and author Jared C. Wilson
Early in my ministry I was discouraged, about to quit ministry. I went to a @Ligonier conf in Memphis, heard R.C. Sproul and @JohnPiper preach on God and providence. God used that to keep me in ministry. Changed my life.
— Russell Moore (@drmoore) December 14, 2017
Of the many quotes attributed to Sproul, this one certainly sums up his life: “We do not segment our lives, giving some time to God, some to our business or schooling, while keeping parts to ourselves. The idea is to live all of our lives in the presence of God, under the authority of God, and for the honor and glory of God. That is what the Christian life is all about.”