Not long after I became a Christian, I vividly remember sitting in my parents’ hearth room reading What is Reformed Theology? by R.C. Sproul. I remember pausing in the middle of a paragraph and wondering what was going to happen when the day came in which the formative influences in my theological life were no longer around. The whole, “Well, someone else will take their place as defenders of the faith” line seemed rather unsatisfying to me, and more than that, I shrugged off that harrowing thought as symbolic of a day that would never come, or at the very least a day that was so far away that I need not concern myself with it.
Fast forward about 6 years, and I find myself spending time with some friends from seminary, many of whom will go on to fill the shoes of those very formative influences of mine (and, in some ways, they already have). Fast forward about 6 years, and to a certain extent, that day has come. R.C. Sproul, the very man who wrote that very book I was reading when I first had that thought, has passed away. An unassuming man from Pittsburgh who was to be a massive influence in the popularization of Reformed theology, has gone on to glory.
This moment of R.C. Sproul’s passing makes me feel exceedingly thankful for the hope of glory Christians have in Christ. One of the things that struck me (and apparently Justin Taylor as well) about Sproul when I first came across him was the candor and frequency with which he talked about death and suffering. He once said, "I recently heard a young Christian remark, “I have no fear of dying.” When I heard this comment I thought to myself, “I wish I could say that.” I am not afraid of death. I believe that death for the Christian is a glorious transition to heaven. I am not afraid of going to heaven. It’s the process that frightens me. I don’t know by what means I will die. It may be via a process of suffering, and that frightens me. I know that even this shouldn’t frighten me. There are lots of things that frighten me that I shouldn’t let frighten me. The Scripture declares that perfect love casts out fear. But love is still imperfect, and fear hangs around.” Now, R.C. Sproul is experiencing that perfect love, and for that we should all be thankful.
R.C. Sproul’s passing also evokes within me feelings of thankfulness also for the way God used him in my life and in the lives of many others. R.C. Sproul’s writing helped teach me that God is holy and I am not, that God is sovereign over the entire earth, and that God’s holy, inspired, and inerrant Word is to govern our whole lives. Perhaps what was most special about Sproul’s influence in my life is that his writing was never an end in itself, but rather always pointed me back to God’s Word. For that, and for so many other things about R.C. Sproul’s life, I am thankful. Praise God.