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Reformed theologian, pastor R.C. Sproul dies

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP) — Robert Charles “R.C.” Sproul, the Reformed theologian, pastor, teacher, and lecturer who founded and chaired Ligonier Ministries and authored close to 100 books, including “The Holiness of God,” died Thursday (Dec. 14). He was 78.

Sproul was known for delivering uncompromising messages on the holiness and sovereignty of God in his writing, video teaching series, and as a regular speaker at Ligonier’s national conferences in Orlando, Fla. Ligonier’s mission is “helping Christians know what they believe, why they believe it, how to live it and how to share it,” he once said.

Among Southern Baptist entity leaders that paid tribute to Sproul on social media upon learning of his death were Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Jason Allen, GuideStone Financial Resources’ O.S. Hawkins, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s Russell Moore and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Mohler, a teaching fellow at Ligonier Ministries, called Sproul “the greatest and most influential proponent of the recovery of Reformed theology in the last century.” Sproul’s tape-recorded lectures helped Mohler work through “big theological questions that had me by the throat” as a teenager in the 1970s, Mohler said.

“When [Sproul] taught about the holiness of God, a generation of evangelicals was rescued from the emaciated and desiccated theology of cultural Christianity,” Mohler wrote in a Dec. 14 commentary. “When he defended Reformed theology, he taught us all how to understand the Gospel in terms of God’s eternal purpose to save, consistent with His sovereignty. He was rigorously biblical and ruthlessly logical … with a smile.”

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson, who joined Sproul and some 200 other evangelical leaders in 1978 to help craft the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, told Baptist Press, “Any time the Christian community loses a faithful leader who has impacted untold numbers for Christ, Christians are poorer. Yet we can rejoice because we know where he is and the separation is only temporary. I rejoice today in the memory of Dr. R.C. Sproul — a great man of God.”

Born in Pittsburgh in 1939, Sproul graduated from Westminster College, which he attended on a football scholarship. A fellow student at Westminster nudged him on his path to discipleship. Sproul told Christianity Today in 2002 that one evening during his freshman year, the captain of the football team invited him to chat: “He was the first person I ever met in my life that talked about Christ as a reality.”

Sproul earned degrees from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and the Free University of Amsterdam. In 1971 he helped establish the Ligonier Valley Study Center in western Pennsylvania, which eventually became Ligonier Ministries and moved to Orlando in 1984.

“Whatever else we do with this Gospel, we must never, ever, ever, ever, ever mess with it,” he once said. Sproul, ordained as a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), also served as co-pastor at St. Andrew’s Chapel and chancellor of Reformation Bible College, both in Sanford, Fla.

His daily radio program, “Renewing Your Mind,” and his Tabletalk magazine column, “Right Now Counts Forever,” helped spread his message.

“Every single moment of life that we experience on this planet is tied to eternity,” Sproul said. “I find it not just comforting but a delight to be involved in this enterprise in which we are saying to the world, ‘You are not meaningless. God has printed upon you His worth.'”

Sproul’s wife Vesta, whom he had known since childhood, survives him, as do his daughter Sherrie Sproul Dick, his son Robert Craig Sproul, and their families.

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  • WORLD News Service and Baptist Press

    Baptist Press chief national correspondent David Roach contributed to this report. Laura Hendrickson writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine (www.worldmag.com) based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.

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