The first theology book from a Reformed perspective I ever read was R.C. Sproul’s, Chosen By God. It is a slender volume and I read it when I was sixteen or seventeen. I have never re-read or referred to that book since, and yet I vividly recall much of it. I recall the introduction where R.C. distinguishes between acknowledging the fact of God’s predestination and understanding how Christians are to derive comfort from the doctrine. That resonated with me. I was a member of a Baptist church at the time that had a high regard for the Bible. I was aware of the teaching of Ephesians 1 and Romans 9. I could see the fact of predestination. Yet this teaching perplexed me. At the time I viewed this teaching as standing in paradox with human free will. Like the Trinity or the two natures of Christ, here was another mystery of our faith. Furthermore, the whole matter seemed academic – an issue for seminary students; not for the average person in the pew.
R.C. exposed me to the broader Biblical teaching and set the doctrine of predestination in it’s wider context. This was my first exposure to the so-called “five points” of the doctrines of Grace. I began to see how these teachings were connected as a coherent whole. Fallen human nature, God’s call, the atonement, and Christian perseverance are all interdependent. I recall R.C’s appeal to Augustine and the four-fold state of man, his illustration from John Edwards and Carroll’s Cheshire Cat to teach on the freedom of the will, his Greek word study of John 6:44, and his unique (and persuasive) explanation of the perplexing passage in Hebrews 6. Although Chosen by God is a short book, R.C.’s argument was cogent, his appeal to Scripture relevant, his illustrations memorable and to the point, and the whole is easily understood by an average high school student.
This was R.C.’s genius. His gift was his ability to communicate complex ideas in simple ways. He lectured on Kierkegaard and Calvin and brought great thinkers out of the Philosophy and seminary classroom and into the family room and car radio. He communicated Confessional Presbyterian Christianity to a broad swath of diverse Christian traditions. He influenced Pentecostals, Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians and so many others. R.C. influenced me in my desire to be a teacher of the church. I was never tempted to become an academic theologian. My goal was always to communicate God’s truth simply. Yet I quickly realized how difficult simple and engaging communication can be. I am still learning from R.C. ways to communicate more effectively.