Friday, May 17, 2002

Posts are in reverse chronological order.

Idolizing Theologians

Have you ever fallen into the trap of spending too much time reading a favorite theologian, at the expense reading the Bible? I did. It took someone else making the same error to snap me out of it. My weakness is R. C. Sproul. I love both the substance of his teachings and the style with which he delivers them: scholarly with a dash of (often self-deprecating) humor. (Plus we shared a Pittsburgh heritage and were both Pittsburgh Steelers' fans). On one of his tapes he talks about debating with a physics professor at Carnegie Mellon University, probably at the time I was a physics student there. I didn’t attend, which is fortuitous: at that time I would have been cheering for the wrong side.

At some point during my walk I began reading all the R. C. Sproul books I could find. And watching his tapes. And listening to his radio broadcasts.

At some point a fairly large group at my (previous, in another state) church became enamored (to say the least) with Douglas Wilson of Credenda Agenda fame who, for my tastes, is very unSproulian. I find him to be condescending (and, forgive me, arrogant) where Sproul is nurturing, humble, and yet just as uncompromising.

As I said, he became a bit hit at our church. (I don’t know if it were so with the pastor, himself a great teacher – he often warned us not to look for too much in Christian theology literature– I should have listened to him sooner!) The church even launched a school using Wilson’s model (Which I think is flawed, but that, as they say, is for another day.) I began hearing more-and-more of “Wilson says…” or “Did you read in Credenda Agenda were it said…” It reached critical mass at a morning Bible study on eschatology when I heard: “Wilson says he doesn’t see how anyone can be Reformed if they aren’t post-millennial.”

I went home from that feeling incensed. But then I started thinking about how many times I began sentences with “R.C. Sproul says….” And if someone else started a sentence that way, I probably smiled rather than cringed. I realized that I was spending too much of my devotion time on books by Christians rather than The Book For Christians.

I still love to read Sproul, I just read him in “controlled doses”. Slap me on the wrist if I refer to him too often.

Poor R.C.

There is one thing about R. C. Sproul that makes me feel a little bit sorry for him: that the spelling of his name is so close to that of Spong (as in “Bishop” John Shelby Spong). It seems an especially onerous lexicographical thorn to have in one’s side. In the mega-bookstores I will cautiously wend my way past the Wiccans in the New Age section (lest I spill my cappuccino and be turned into a newt) to see the offerings on the Christian shelves. As my eyes wander to the “S” section I am dismayed to find Spong but not Sproul. I would not recommend even browsing one of Spong’s books—especially if you just had lunch. (Sample: Among other hideous, bilious notions, Spong regurgitates the supposition that Paul and Timothy were gay.)

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