an article from the Interview column of the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 6: Number 5, 1993.
The Editor of the Christian Research Newsletter is Ron Rhodes.
R.C.Sproul is a theologian, pastor, teacher, and chairman of the board of Ligonier Ministries. He is also the author of a recent book entitled "Essential Truths of the Christian Faith" (Tyndale House Publishers). In this issue of the "Newsletter," Dr. Sproul is interviewed on a variety of issues related to this book.
Newsletter: Dr. Sproul, what was your purpose in writing "The Essential Truths of the Christian Faith?"
Sproul: My goal was to present essential Christian doctrine in an easy-to-assimilate way for the average layperson. The book explains various doctrines in bite-size pieces. That was tough to do. Condensing the material the way we did in this book was a Herculean task.
Newsletter: You point out in the preface of the book that no Christian can really avoid theology.
Sproul: That's exactly right. Theology is unavoidable. Every Christian has a theology. Every Christian is involved in learning about the things of God. The issue, then, is not "Do we want to have a theology?" That's a given. The real issue is, "Do we have a sound theology?"
Even for the person who's not interested in theology, that person nevertheless has a theology. It may be entirely negative, but he or she has a view of God. And how we understand God informs how we understand everything else. So theology is important.
Newsletter: In your book you mention that one of the problems you see in our culture is the concept of relativism.
Sproul: You have that right. Allan Bloom, in his book "The Closing of the American Mind", says that ninety-some percent of students who enter into the university today are already convinced of relativism as a way of thinking. The fact is, however, that no one is truley a relativist unless they are totally irrational. The statement "All truth is relative" would itself be relative and have no truth value.
Relativism stops when you drive your car to an intersection and see a truck coming down the road. You know that the truck can't be there and not be there at the same time. All of the sudden you get objective in your approach to reality. But people today are relativistic when it's convenient to be relativistic -- particularly with regard to ethical questions. People are selective relativist.
Newsletter: One important aspect of your book is its discussion of the various elements that work against the Christian goal of spiritual maturity. One of these elements is the "childlike faith error." What are you talking about here?
Sproul: I run into people all the time that don't want to be bothered with a serious study of theology. They say, "I believe the Bible teaches us to have a childlike faith." And what they mean by that is that just as a child has no maturity of understanding, so the Christian is not supposed to seek a mature understanding of the content of his or her faith.
But what the New Testament says with respect to "childlikeness" is that we are to have a trust of God analogous to a child's trust of his parents, and that we are called to be babes with regard to evil. In 1 Corinthians 14:20 the apostle Paul said, "Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults." That is, we are not supposed to be sophisticated in our criminality, but we are called specifically to be mature in our understanding. And so, the childlike faith that rejects a mature understanding is really a childish unbelief of a mandate given by Christ.
Newsletter: It seems that many Christians today are not familiar enough with essential doctrine that they can discern truth from error.
Sproul: I think nothing illustrates that more clearly than the situation with Christian television. The theologians of America have become the Robert Tiltons and the Kenneth Copelands and people like that. And it's not just that their theology is a distortion of classical, orthodox Christianity; what is particularly alarming is that there's a manifest ignorance of theology. Yet people look to these folks as their teachers of doctrine and theology.
Newsletter: Another element you say works against the goal of spiritual maturity is the "fear of theological skepticism." Unravel that for us.
Sproul: The loudest voices of skepticism against classical Christianity have not come from the secular philosopher so much as from theologians within the church. It was theologians, for example, that declared the death of God.
And so, the layperson says "if the theology professors are skeptics and cynics, I don't want to learn theology -- not if that's how one ends up." The reasoning seems to be: since you become a skeptic as soon as you become intellectually engaged in a pursuit of theological understanding, you're better off not pursuing a theological understanding.
It's true that there is a lot of skeptical theology in institutions of higher learning. But to reject all theology in order to avoid bad theology is to commit spiritual suicide. We must remember that to reject theology is to reject knowledge of God. That is not an option for the Christian.
Newsletter: You have some interesting comments on the "fear of controversy." Is it ever right for Christians to be involved in controversy?
Sproul: As Christians we are not to be argumentative people, or divisive people, or intolerant people. The fruit of the Spirit includes charity, patience, gentleness, kindness, and long-suffering (Gal. 5:22-23). And so, we ought to manifest a patient love towards people that avoids unnecessary controversy.
Nevertheless, theological commitment seems to breed controversy. There are many examples of this in Scripture. Jesus' life was characterized by controversy. The apostles and the prophets before them could hardly go a day without controversy. The apostle Paul debated and defended the truth daily in the marketplace (Acts 17:17).
If we're going to take a stand for truth, a certain amount of controversy will be unavoidable. And let me add that the more one masters the study of theology, the more one is able to discern what issues are negotiable and tolerable, and what issues demand that we contend with all of our might. Christians should not fear this type of controversy.
Newsletter: In your book you point out the folly of thinking that one can plumb the depths of Scripture by a simple regimen of fifteen minutes a day.
Sproul: Reading Scripture for fifteen minutes a day is better than nothing. And it's a nice start. But it's not enough for serious study.
I have a friend who wants to learn how to play the piano. So I gave him a book of instructions that I put together over the years containing fifteen lessons. I sat down with him and said, "Now, if you will master these fifteen lessons, you're going to be off and running in your desire to play the piano." And I said, "These are the basics. These are the fundamentals. You're going to have to spend time mastering these things if you're going to learn how to play the piano."
Now, my friend can gain great strides if he practices religiously for fifteen minutes a day. He'll definitely make some progress. But to understand the whole scope of music, he's never going to be an accomplished musician on fifteen minutes a day. No one's ever done that. Likewise, you can't be accomplished in your understanding of the riches of the things of God in five, or ten, or fifteen minutes a day.
Newsletter: What about the person who says, "I just don't have the time. I'm busy. I have a job. I'm not a professional theologian"?
Sproul: To begin, that person has the same amount of time that I do, the same amount of time that you do, and the same amount of time as the President of the United States. We all get 24 hours in every day. The question is how we allocate it.
Of course, one of the great benefits of my life is that I get paid for spending a lot of time studying theology. I mean, that's almost criminal. It's wonderful. Other people study theology as a sideline activity.
Certainly I don't think the layperson in the pew is required to spend anywhere near as much time studying theology as a teacher of theology. Nevertheless, I want to emphasize that five, ten, or fifteen minutes a day isn't going to do it. That may be enough for a quick devotion, but it's not enough for serious Bible study.
To grow into a mature understanding of God's Word requires a more concerted effort than that gained by short periods of devotional reading. Devotional reading is a great complement to serious study but is not an adequate substitute for it.
Newsletter: Serious study ought to be a life-long habit for us because it helps us get to know the God we're going to spend all eternity with.
Sproul: Exactly! That's the payoff.
If you would like to contact R. C. Sproul, you can write him at: Ligonier Ministries, P.O. Box 547500, Orlando, FL 32854.
End of document, CRN0060A.TXT (original CRI file name), "Essential Truths of the Christian Faith" release A, July 15, 1994 R. Poll, CRI
A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.
Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute.
If you desire to reproduce less than 500 words of this data file
for resale or the enhancement of any other product for resale,
please give the following source credit: Copyright 1994 by the
Christian Research Institute, P.O. Box 7000, Rancho Santa
Margarita, CA 92688-7000.
This data file is the sole property of the Christian Research Institute. It may not be altered or edited in any way. It may be reproduced only in its entirety for circulation as "freeware," without charge. All reproductions of this data file must contain the copyright notice (i.e., "Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute"). This data file may not be used without the permission of the Christian Research Institute for resale or the enhancement of any other product sold. This includes all of its content with the exception of a few brief quotations not to exceed more than 500 words.
If you desire to reproduce less than 500 words of this data file for resale or the enhancement of any other product for resale, please give the following source credit: Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute, P.O. Box 7000, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688-7000.
P.O. Box 7000
Rancho Santa Margarita
Visit CRI International Official Web Site: