R.C. Sproul's Blog, page 4

July 9, 2014

Answering theological questions from his students has been a continual commitment throughout Dr. R.C. Sproul's ministry. Originally called "gabfests" by his early students and later, "Ask R.C.," these sessions continue to take place at our conferences, on Renewing Your Mind, and online.

Have a theological question for Dr. Sproul? Submit your questions on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ using the official #AskRC hashtag. We'll compile those questions and Dr. Sproul will answer a selection live next Tuesday, July 15 at 7:30pm ET.

Note: We will update this post soon with details of how you will be able to watch the event live.

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Published on July 09, 2014 17:37 • 5 views

July 8, 2014

Here's an excerpt from The Holy Love of God, R.C. Sproul's contribution to the July issue of Tabletalk:

Long ago, Augustine of Hippo pointed out that the desire of every human heart is to experience a love that is transcendent. Regrettably for us today, however, I don't think there's any word in the English language that's been more stripped of the depth of its meaning than the word love. Due to the shallow romanticism of secular culture, we tend to view the love of God in the same way popular music, art, and literature view love. Yet the Bible says God's love is far different—and greater.

Continue reading The Holy Love of God, or begin receiving Tabletalk magazine by signing up for a free 3 month trial.

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Published on July 08, 2014 10:13 • 1 view

In a questions and answers session at our 2010 National Conference, Alistair Begg and R.C. Sproul answered the question, "Why don't Christians care that they sin?"


R.C. Sproul: "R.C. Sproul Jr. stated that the bigger question is that Christians don't care about the fact that they are sinning. What is the answer to that question? Why don't Christians care that they are sinning?" Obviously implied in this is why don't they care enough?

Alistair Begg: I think the answer actually lies in the gospel. That an understanding of what has happened in the gospel—that if we don't preach the gospel to ourselves all day, everyday, then we will fail in some arena. And one of the areas of failure is a fast slide into antinomianism. So people then, under the disguise of a super-abundant concept of the grace of God answer the question with which Romans 6 begins and answer it wrongly: Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Answer: yes. And so off they go.

You know, shall I take my body and join it to a prostitute? What kind of question is that? That's a question for a Christian because the Christian has been united with Christ. The Christian is in union with Christ.

Now I've got the answer to my own question, I'm finally getting the answer. The reason is that the believer does not understand the notion of union with Christ. And when we don't understand what it means to be united with Christ then all we'll be left with is either legalism on the one hand, or lawlessness on the other hand. It is "Since then" you have been raised with Christ, you seek those things that are above. And it is because of who you are in Christ, because your nature has been changed, because your status has been changed, because you've been raised to the heavenly places that these things are not impossible, but they are now incongruent. And I think part of the problem is that people do not know who they are in Christ.

R.C. Sproul: I think also that there is a hidden premise in the question that can be very distorting when we ask the question, "Why don't Christians care about their continuing sin? It is absolutely impossible for a person to be regenerate by the Holy Spirit and not care at all about sin.

In that sense, there's no such thing as the "carnal Christian" who can receive Christ and be regenerate and have no repentance. That's impossible, that's as unbiblical as it gets. I think what's implied in the question is why don't we care to the degree we ought to care? We care, but we don't care enough. It's because our hearts are still less than fully sanctified, and God the Holy Spirit in his convicting power has not fully revealed to us the sinfulness of our sin—thank God.

Exhibit A is David after his ghastly act of adultery and proxy murder of Uriah. He was trying to cover it up and was at ease in Zion. He was a believing man and he was down in the dregs of evil and yet he doesn't really show a whole lot of concern until God sends that prophet to him and tells him the story; and when the light dawns, when Nathan says, "Thou art the man!" Wow, David sees the evil of his sin, and writes Psalm 51. Psalm 51 could never have been written by a human being who did not care about his sin.

But here's the blessing, if God revealed to me right now the full measure of the continuing sin in my life, it would destroy me. God is gracious and gentle in correcting us gradually. That's one of the things that's nice about progressive sanctification, because if He gave it all at one time, we'd be dead.

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Published on July 08, 2014 10:13 • 2 views

July 7, 2014

Here are highlights from our various Facebook and Twitter accounts over the past week.

How can King David, who accomplished great things but was also deeply flawed, be called a man after God's own heart? http://t.co/ZbI3trvT8q

— Ligonier Ministries (@Ligonier) June 30, 2014

Idolatry worships God not as He is but as we imagine and think Him to be (Luther).

— Tabletalk Magazine (@Tabletalk) July 1, 2014

Our children need to see broken and contrite spirits in us. They must see us confess our sins and grieve over our iniquities. —@JoelBeeke

— Reformation Trust (@RefTrust) July 2, 2014

When I see Thee as Thou art, I'll praise Thee as I ought (John Newton).

— Tabletalk Magazine (@Tabletalk) July 5, 2014


Facebook Post by Ligonier Ministries.

The world is filled with God's glory. You can't turn without bumping into it. —RC Sproul #reformed #reformedtheology pic.twitter.com/WLsEBnpYcD

— Ligonier Ministries (@Ligonier) July 3, 2014


Facebook Post by Tabletalk Magazine.

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Published on July 07, 2014 06:59 • 5 views

Building on the covenantal foundation set down in the Pentateuch, the pre-exilic prophets lamented that Israel was breaking God's covenant and called on them to repent. They warned the people that if they did not repent God would pour out upon them the curses of the covenant, including the ultimate curse of exile. Yet even in the midst of their dire warnings, judgment is not their final word. Although they anticipate that their warnings will not be heeded and that exile will be the result, they also look beyond the exile with hope toward a period of restoration.

The exilic prophets were given the task of explaining to the people why such a disaster had befallen God's chosen ones. The exilic prophets point to the repeated violations of the covenant. The exile occurred because Israel sinned against God. Yet judgment is not the final word for the exilic prophets either. Hope remains. The exilic prophets also look forward to restoration beyond the exile. Finally, the post-exilic prophets also have to explain to the people why restoration has not come in its fullness. They too call the people to covenant faithfulness, reminding Israel that continued disobedience will result in judgment rather than blessing. They continue to look forward to further restoration, to the coming of the Messiah, and to the establishment of his kingdom in its fullness.

In this post, we will look at several passages from the prophets that provide great insight into the person and work of the coming Messiah—the Christ.

Isaiah 6–12

The unifying theme of Isaiah 6–12 is the coming Messianic king. Chapters 6 and 12 frame the entire subsection, with chapter 6 telling of the call and cleansing of Isaiah and chapter 12 recording the song of salvation sung by the saved community. The subsection begins with the death of King Uzziah, the embodiment of the Davidic house. Chapters 7–11 then center on the coming of a holy and divine monarch. The two kingships, the divine and the Davidic, will ultimately merge in a Messianic King from the house of David (cf. 7:14; 9:6–7; 11:1–10).

The historical context of chapters 7–12 is the threat to Judah caused by the alliance of Syria and Israel in 735 B.C. This anti-Assyrian coalition invaded Judah, but was unable to overpower it (2 Kgs. 16:5; cf. 2 Chron. 28:5–8). In their second invasion of Judah, Syria and Israel determined to replace Judah's king, Ahaz, with a king of their own choosing (7:6; cf. 2 Chron. 28:17). Because Ahaz is tempted to turn to Assyria for assistance (cf. 2 Kgs. 16:7–9), Isaiah comes to him telling him that he need not fear Israel and Syria and that he must trust in God (7:3–9). The issue, as Alec Motyer explains, is clear: "will Ahaz seek salvation by works (politics, alliances) or by simple trust in divine promises?"

It is in this context that the Lord offers to give Ahaz a sign of his trustworthiness (7:10–11). Ahaz feigns piety and refuses the sign (vv. 12–13). Apparently, he has already decided to place his trust in Assyria, but the Lord promises a sign anyway in verses 14–17.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. Yahweh will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father's house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria.

Because of Ahaz's refusal to trust God, the sign is no longer a sign inviting faith. It is a sign confirming God's displeasure.

The "you" to whom the sign is to be given is plural, suggesting that the sign is to be given to the house of David (cf. v. 13). It should also be observed that the time of the birth of Immanuel is not explicitly stated in this text. What Isaiah's words do indicate is that however soon Immanuel is born, the existing threat posed by Israel and Syria will have passed before the child is even able to be aware of it. According to Matthew 1:18–23, the birth of Jesus to Mary fulfilled this prophecy.

After declaring that the nation in whom Judah trusted for deliverance would turn against Judah (8:5–10), and after calling upon Judah to trust in God (8:11–22), Isaiah again points forward to the coming Messiah (9:1–7). Verses 2–3 describe the unbounded joy of the people. This joy is due to their deliverance from oppression (v. 4), and their deliverance from oppression is due to the end of all war (v. 5). But how will God end war? He will accomplish this through the birth of a child (vv. 6–7).

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of Yahweh of hosts will do this.

This prophecy looks forward to the fulfillment of the Immanuel sign with the coming of Jesus (cf. Matt. 1:18–23). As Motyer explains, "The perfection of this King is seen in his qualifications for ruling (Wonderful Counselor), his person and power (Mighty God), his relationship to his subjects (Everlasting Father) and the security his rule creates (Prince of Peace)." The reign of this Messianic king will have no end. He will be the final king who will once and for all replace unfaithful kings like Ahaz. God's purpose to establish his kingdom on earth will be accomplished through this Messianic King.

Isaiah 52:13–53:12

Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12 is the fourth so-called "Servant Song" in the Book of Isaiah (The first three are found in 42:1–4; 49:1–6; and 50:4–9.) Suffering, which had been hinted at in the previous Servant Songs, is revealed to be the means by which this servant of God will deliver his people from sin. This song is divided into five stanzas of three verses each.

The first stanza (52:13–15) begins with God's threefold exaltation of the servant. He shall be "high" and "lifted up" and "exalted" (v. 13). This points to one who has great dignity and honor, but the exaltation in this first verse is immediately followed by a description of astonishment at the servant caused by a degree of suffering so great that he is barely recognizable as human (v. 14). Somehow, the servant's suffering will have universal effects. He will "sprinkle many nations" and kings will submit to him, for they will finally know and understand the truth (v. 15).

The second stanza (53:1–3) is the first of three describing in more detail the suffering and humiliation of the servant. He is the "arm of Yahweh," the one who is the salvation of God personified (v. 1; cf. 52:10). But who can believe this (v. 1)? He is born and raised as any other human child, and he is unimpressive to look at (v. 2). He is a man of sorrows who is despised and rejected by men (v. 3). The reason for his sorrow is explained in the third stanza (43:4–6), which explains the nature and purpose of the servant's suffering.

In the first place, his suffering is something that is uniquely his. He is alone. He bears our grief and carries our sorrows (v. 4). Upon him is laid the iniquity of us all (v. 6). Secondly, his suffering is substitutionary in nature. He is wounded for our transgressions and is crushed for our iniquities, and it is by his stripes that we are healed (v. 5). Thirdly, his suffering is the will of God. It is God who places upon the servant all of our iniquity and sin (v. 6).

The fourth stanza (53:7–9) describes the servant's voluntary acceptance of death. He is compared to a lamb led to slaughter or a sheep led to its shearers (v. 7), but what distinguishes him from a lamb or a sheep and thus from any animal sacrifices is that he goes knowingly and willingly to his death. He is "cut off out of the land of the living" (v. 8). In other words, he is executed. And his death is "for the transgression of my people" (v. 8). In other words, his death is a substitutionary sacrifice. From his death, Isaiah moves to a description of his burial (v. 9). This verse concludes by emphasizing the fact that the servant's suffering is not due to any sin on his own part. The servant himself is without sin.

The final stanza (53:10–12) describes the triumph of the servant. The one who suffered, died, and was buried is now described as one who is alive. It was the will of the Lord to crush his servant, whose suffering is described in terms of a "guilt offering" (v. 10ab). Now it is the will of the Lord to prosper him (v. 10c). The guilt offering of the righteous servant removes the iniquities of his people and extends his own righteousness to them (v. 11). The servant shall "make many to be accounted righteous."

The great victory of the servant is summed up in verse 12. He is the one who pours out his soul to death and bears the sin of many. In short, the problem of sin will be dealt with through the substitutionary death of a sinless servant of God. This is a glorious prophecy of the redemptive work of Jesus.

Daniel 7

The vision recorded in the seventh chapter of Daniel is central to the book, and understanding it is crucial to grasping the meaning of a number of otherwise obscure passages in the New Testament. Daniel received this vision in the first year of Belshazzar (v. 1), so it occurred sometime after the events of chapter 4 but before the events of chapter 5. In the vision, Daniel sees the winds of heaven stirring up the sea (v. 2). From the sea, he witnesses four great beasts arise, each different from the other (v. 3). The first beast is like a lion with eagles' wings (v. 4). Its wings are removed and it is made to stand on two feet like a man. The second beast is like a bear (v. 5). It is raised up on one side and has three ribs in its mouth. The third beast is like a leopard (v. 6), but it has four wings and four heads. The fourth beast is almost indescribable (v. 7). It is terrifying and strong. It devours with its iron teeth and crushes what is left with its feet. It also has ten horns. As Daniel considers the horns, he sees a little horn arise among the ten (v. 8). The little horn has the eyes of a man and a mouth speaking great things.

In the remainder of the vision, Daniel witnesses a scene of divine judgment at the very throne of God. As he looks on, the Ancient of days takes his seat on his throne (v. 9). As tens of thousands stand before God, the books are opened and the court sits in judgment (v. 10). As the little horn is speaking, the fourth beast is killed and its body given over to be burned with fire (v. 11). The dominion of the remaining beasts is taken away, but their lives are spared for a time (v. 12). Daniel then sees "one like a son of man" coming with the clouds of heaven to the Ancient of days (v. 13). The one like a son of man is presented before the Ancient of days and to him is given "dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him" (v. 14a). His is "an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed" (v. 14b). In the remainder of the chapter, an angelic being interprets Daniel's vision giving particular attention to the fourth beast (vv. 15–28).

The parallels between the vision of chapter 7 and the dream in chapter 2 are obvious. In both cases, a symbolic image is used to reveal a succession of four earthly kingdoms, which are judged and followed by an everlasting kingdom established by God. There is much debate over the identity of the four kingdoms. The traditional view is represented by John Calvin, who identifies the four beasts as the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman Empires respectively. According to Calvin, then, the establishment of God's kingdom occurred at the first advent of Christ.

The coming of one like a son of man to the Ancient of days (vv. 13–14) is the climactic section of this vision, and it is of crucial importance. Much confusion has been caused by the assumption that this text is a prophecy of the Second Coming of Christ. The context precludes such an interpretation. The vision itself is a vision of the heavenly throne room. After God is seated at his throne, the court sits in judgment and the books are opened (v. 10). The fourth beast is then judged and destroyed, while the remaining beasts are given a temporary reprieve (vv. 11–12). This sets the stage for Daniel's vision of the one like a son of man.

In verse 13, Daniel witnesses "one like a son of man" come with the clouds of heaven to the Ancient of days (who is seated in the heavenly throne room) to be presented before him. The Aramaic phrase bar 'enash, literally translated "son of man," is a Semitism that simply means "human being." What Daniel sees, then, is one "like a human being," as opposed to another beast "like a bear" or "like a leopard." This one like a son of man comes to the Ancient of days and is presented before him (v. 13). The "coming" that is seen in this vision, then, is not a coming of God or a coming of the one like a son of man from heaven to earth. It is a coming of one like a son of man to God who himself is seated in heaven on his throne. The direction of the movement is not from heaven but towards heaven. It is for this reason that this vision is not a prophecy of the Second Coming of Jesus from heaven to earth. Rather, as Calvin long ago explained, it is better understood as a prophecy of Christ's ascension to the right hand of God after his resurrection (See Acts 1:9–11; 2:33; 5:31).

The one like a son of man is presented before the Ancient of days for the purpose of his investiture. When he is presented before the Ancient of days he is given a dominion and a kingdom that all should serve him (v. 14a). This kingdom given to one like a son of man is to be everlasting (v. 14b). As in the vision of Daniel 2, we see here a depiction of four human kingdoms followed by the establishment of God's eternal kingdom. Both texts seem to indicate that God's kingdom will be established at the time of the fourth human kingdom (Rome). This is, in fact, what the New Testament tells us happened at the first advent of Christ when He was given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18).


In our next post, we will look at some of the most important texts in the New Testament that reveal to us who the Messiah is and what He has accomplished for us and for our salvation.

See also:

An Introduction to Orthodox Christology: Why Christology Is Important
An Introduction to Orthodox Christology: The Pentateuch
An Introduction to Orthodox Christology: The Historical Books and Psalms
An Introduction to Orthodox Christology: The Prophets

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Published on July 07, 2014 06:59 • 6 views

July 5, 2014

Because God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4) and God is truth, it follows that truth is one. While we can talk about distinct propositions, the truth is that truth is monolithic, one piece, simple rather than parts. Such means, of course, that His revelation is not part cake and part icing, part substance and part sizzle. It's not as though justification by faith alone is the painting and election is the frame. We are called to believe all that God has revealed, and every error in our thinking is at least implicitly dangerous.

That said, we do err and our failures cannot rule out His success. Our goal with those to whom we preach Christ, just like with ourselves, can't be to get them perfectly sound on everything. Those of us who have a deep interest in theology, who are given to seeing the connections between our affirmations, are tempted to pray like the Pharisee, "I thank you Lord that I am not like other men. I affirm all five points of Calvinism. I can recite the Westminster Shorter Catechism and I not only know the ordo salutis, but know what ordo salutis means."

Our calling for ourselves, and for those we are witnessing to, is that we would reflect the wisdom of the publican who beat his breast and cried out, "Lord be merciful to me a sinner." What we all need to grasp first is that God is God. He is Lord over all reality, and has authority over us. Because we fail to submit to His law, we are rightly under His curse and judgment. Our only hope is to throw ourselves upon His mercy, to confess before Him not just our sins, but our standing as sinners.

The life, death, and resurrection of Christ is why we can have peace with God. He is the reason we can cry out for mercy with hope. And it is because of His ascension that we know that He is Lord even now. Thus the early church had as its first creed the eminently simple, Christos ho kurios, Christ is Lord. So our message is eminently simple—repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

A person brought to an understanding of their need for redemption and God's provision in Christ is now well prepared for more. We catechize converts quickly, but not before they are converts. Such a one, I would argue, needs to come to understand the glorious truths contained in the Apostles' Creed. And from there, the convert, like the rest of us, is called to learn the whole counsel of God. We are called, after all, not to make mere converts but disciples, teaching them to obey whatsoever He has commanded (Matthew 28:20).

One important caveat—to say we need not say everything in order to proclaim God's grace in Christ is not to say there are things we should not say. God's sovereignty in our salvation is not something we hide from those outside. Indeed there is nothing He has revealed to us that we should be ashamed of, or that we should mask in order to win souls.

R.C. Sproul Jr. is rector and chair of philosophy and theology at Reformation Bible College. Originally published at RCSproulJr.com

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Published on July 05, 2014 18:37 • 11 views

July 4, 2014

It's time for our weekly $5 Friday sale. This week's resources cover such topics as revival, the Reformation, the atonement, evangelism, Christology, the Apostles' Creed, parables, the church, and more.

Sale runs through 12:01 a.m. — 11:59 p.m. Friday ET.

View today's $5 Friday sale items.

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Published on July 04, 2014 18:31 • 3 views

"Life" and "Liberty" are terms that have powerful and positive connotative value to us. We are "pro-life" and "pro-liberty." Such emotionally-laden terms can be definitionally evasive, however, since they stir our passions as well as our reason. As we consider our expectations of the state and our role therein, it is important to be clear about our understanding of such terms.

"Life" has both a political and a religious definition. In the political arena, "life" is biologically defined; the state defends "life" by protecting people from acts and policies that would injure or take away their lives, biologically considered. The state may wage defensive war, for instance, to defend its citizens' lives. The state establishes police forces to "protect and serve" our physical well-being, and the state regulates pollutants that could poison the air we breathe. But religiously, "life" has a fuller meaning, such as Paul's usage when he says that an individual can be dead even while he lives (1 Tim. 5:6). Jesus recognized this distinction between mere biological life and the truest religious life when He cited Moses: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). Bread might very well sustain and promote our biological health, but our spiritual and religious life is sustained by the creative and redemptive word of God. No governmental power can promote or protect "life" in this full religious sense, since such life is the result of the Holy Spirit's blessing on the means of grace.

The civil magistrate, whom Paul called in Romans 13 a terror to evil conduct, was the Roman emperor, whose laws and definition of evil were informed neither by the laws of Moses, nor by the teachings of Christ. Evil, in such a context, was and is public evil — crimes against others or their property. It was not "evil" in its full-blown ethical-religious sense, which would include unbelief, idolatry, blasphemy, covetousness, and so on. The Roman emperor showed no concerns for these realities, yet Paul still considered him "God's servant for your good" (Rom. 13:4). The state defends "life" by protecting people from acts and policies that would take away their lives, biologically considered. In the civil arena, then, we expect the government to promote and protect biological life and to permit (but not necessarily to promote) spiritual life.

"Liberty," similarly, has both a political and a religious definition. Religiously speaking, the truest liberty is freedom from sin, and such freedom can even be described, paradoxically, as its own kind of slavery: "For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification" (Rom. 6:19). Political freedom, on the other hand, is freedom to be fully human, to be fully responsible for oneself, and therefore to follow one's conscience without interruption by the state, until or unless the exercise of one's liberty injures the person, liberty, or property of others.

Political liberty, in other words, includes the political "right" to sin, provided that one's sin does not harm others. My Baptist friends may consider it sinful, for instance, for me to baptize infants; politically, however, I am free, as a minister, to conduct the rite of baptism in a manner that conforms to my own conscientious study about the matter. It does no political harm to the child or the child's parents; baptism does not injure anyone's health, property, or liberty. I defend the political right of my Baptist brothers to conduct the rite as their consciences dictate, and they extend the same political liberty to me. 

We do not promote liberty because everyone will exercise it well or wisely, nor as an end in itself. In Christian theology, liberty is promoted as a means to an end: works of obedience offered to God sincerely. No religious act that is done out of mere coercion pleases God; God wishes our obedience to be offered to Him freely, from hearts moved by His remarkable grace: "The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim. 1:5). Paul was concerned that love come from right motives, that it be sincere and conscientious. Even when he dealt with the very real and practical issue of famine relief in the churches, he remained as concerned for the motivation as for the act itself: "Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7). If the giving is not "cheerful," God does not love it. Christians, therefore, ought to be the most vocal defenders of political liberty, because such liberty is so consistent with our concern for religious sincerity.

We also promote liberty because of its cultural advantages. Every culture wishes to benefit from the talents, insights, and other contributions of the largest number of individuals. If we create a political climate that suppresses their gifts and contributions, then they either do not make them at all, or they make them elsewhere. Marie Curie was not permitted to pursue her interests in radioactivity in her native Poland, so she moved to Paris to conduct her important work there. Mstislav Rostropovich spent much of his cello career in exile from his native Russia, only returning in his latter years after the fall of the Soviet Union. Albert Einstein departed his native Germany in 1932 to continue his work in the United States. In a free culture, these individuals would not have needed to leave their native homes. In each of their respective cases, their native countries forfeited their contributions. Virginia Presbyterians understood this matter in the late eighteenth century, when, on October 24, 1776, Hanover Presbytery petitioned the Virginia Legislature for religious liberty, arguing in part: "We beg leave farther to represent that religious establishments are highly injurious to the temporal interests of a community.…such establishments greatly retard population, and consequently the progress of arts, sciences, and manufactories…" (Cited in Appendix D of Charles F. James, Documentary History of the Struggle for Religious Liberty in Virginia. Lynchburg, VA: J.P. Bell Company, 1900).

Liberty and the so-called "culture war"

There need be no "culture war." Secular and religious forces have labored together since John Witherspoon and Thomas Jefferson collaborated in the founding of our Republic. The honest difference between a secular and a religious point of view need not be either a contest or a "war." Unlike the theocracies of Islam or the Christian Middle Ages, and unlike the state-enforced secularism of contemporary republics such as France (where Muslims are not permitted to wear the hijab to school), our Republic chose a middle ground. In our Republic, religion is permitted and protected by the government (unlike secularist France), but not promoted by the government (unlike Islam or medieval Catholicism).

What's in a word?

In warfare, things that would be intolerable in civil society are tolerated, such as killing other human beings, an act that would ordinarily be deemed somewhat uncivil. The language of "war," therefore, tends towards total war and a lack of restraint. If a person becomes persuaded, whether by a secular or a religious fear-mongerer, that "our very civilization is at stake," then all ordinary restraints and civilities are easily put aside for the sake of the great cause of winning the war and preserving the civilization. Ironically, civility is then sacrificed to civilization.

Why we cannot (and should not) win a culture war

Christians cannot win a culture war for two reasons: First, if we gained a majority and imposed our will on others by means of the coercive power of the sword, we would not have won; we would have lost. We would have lost the remote possibility that others would offer obedience to God sincerely from the heart. If an individual behaves externally according to certain Christian principles only to evade going to jail or being fined, he has not been "converted." He is still lost, still estranged from God, and the culture has been lost with him.

Second, by embracing coercion as our tool of influence, we reject the two tools by which progress might genuinely be made: moral suasion and example ("that they may see your good works…"). That is, we only resort to coercion when we have already failed by moral suasion and example. When we embrace coercion, we embrace the very tool the apostles refused to employ (The weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, 2 Cor. 10:4). We thereby concede not that we might lose the so-called culture war, but that we already have lost it. Far from converting others, they have converted us; they have converted us to using their totalitarianism, their coercion, and their disregard for conscientious faith or obedience.

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.

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Published on July 04, 2014 18:31

Military chaplains provide support for our armed forces at home and abroad. They are on the front lines both physically and spiritually. With your prayers and financial support, we have been honored to stand with them by providing resources packages that contain books, teaching series, and other resources from Dr. R.C. Sproul and our teaching fellows.

Today, on a special broadcast of Renewing Your Mind, we want to update you on this vital outreach. Listen as retired chaplain and Brigadier General Douglas Lee speaks with our president, Chris Larson and the host of Renewing Your Mind, Lee Webb for a conversation about the crucial role of military chaplains and how we can effectively pray for and support them.

Listen to today's conversation below or online at RenewingYourMind.org.

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Published on July 04, 2014 18:31

July 3, 2014

The #TruthAtTheCup outreach has been more than a year in its planning. Thank you for showing your support earlier this year and we've been so encouraged knowing that many of you have been praying for Ligonier and the teams of volunteers still serving in Brazil.

Now that our small team has returned from Brazil, we are looking back and give thanks for the way in which the Lord blessed our joint efforts and for the many continued reports of how well Dr. R.C. Sproul's booklets have been received.

One local pastor, Leonardo Sahium or "Pastor Leo," serves at Igreja Presbiteriana da Gávea (Presbyterian Church of Gávea) and was entrusted with the distribution of 50,000 of the total 140,000 booklets. Our team spent time at the three of the many distribution points he oversees in Rio: a local Lagoon park, Ipanema Beach, and a popular outdoor attraction known as "Sugar Loaf." It was not uncommon to see the recipients of these booklets stopping to begin reading them. By the time our small team left last week, Pastor Leo was already running short of the Portugese translations.

In the midst of giving thanks for the work being done in Brazil during the World Cup, we are now looking forward with prayerful expectation of being involved in similar outreach initiatives during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. The partnerships we have formed will be invaluable as we seek to reach even more people during what will be a major international event centralized in Rio.

Thank you for standing with us during the #TruthAtTheCup campaign. Please continue to pray for the people of Brazil, the many visitors to their country, and for the faithful witness of His church.

You can browse the #TruthAtTheCup hashtag on Instagram to see other photos.

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Published on July 03, 2014 18:08 • 3 views