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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Friday, December 22, 2017

The Problem With Eulogies

After a friend of mine told me about her experiences from attending a memorial service for her mother, it got me thinking about the problem with such services and the eulogies given in them. For while listening to what was said in the memorial service, my friend kept asking herself: 'Are they talking about my mother'? 

The problem revolves around the need to be comforting with the need to speak the truth to those who have suffered tremendously from the loss of a loved one. The truth, of course, is that we are all sinners who are desperately in need of God's mercy and grace. Eulogies sometimes appear to deny that truth. It's not that we should  publicly empty the deceased person's closet of skeletons during a memorial service. At the same time, eulogies should not be constructed so that the person being described is portrayed as having lived without sin. 

And so we come to two articles that express well-earned appreciation for the life of R.C. Sproul Sr. For those who never listened to nor read him, Sproul gave an intellectual credibility to the Christian faith. He enriched the lives of many people. In many ways, he is the predecessor to Tim Keller whose ministry Redeemer Church in NYC and work with the Gospel Coalition has blessed many. Sproul did much of what Keller is doing now. And his passing is a cause of great grief to many who knew him personally or were familiar with his work.

There are two articles from the Mortification of Spin blog that eulogized Sproul. The one article is entitled Lion In Our Midst: A Eulogy For R.C. Sproul (click here for the article) by Richard Phillips. The other article is called  R.C. Sproul: An Appreciation (click here for the article) by Todd Pruitt. Both men were greatly influenced by Sproul. For Phillips, that influence came from listening to Sproul preach in person and then becoming personal friends with him. In contrast, Pruitt's experiences came from reading his books. Both learned to follow the Reformed Faith's understanding of the Gospel and they admire Sproul's defense of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. My condolences go other to both men and others who knew him or were positively affected by his ministry as well as to his family members.

My experiences with Sproul leaned toward being bipolar. When I first read or listened to him,  I was greatly moved though I cannot remember the specifics at this time. I just appreciated someone who made the necessary distinctions that Sproul made when talking about issues--the making of such distinctions appears to be a lost art today. This ability to make distinctions in his teaching contributed to Sproul giving intellectual credibility to the Gospel.

But I am no longer enamored with Sproul. That isn't because I don't appreciate his abilities and passion, I very much do. But some of the things I've heard  him teach do trouble me. His teaching on some issues seem somewhat legalistic. An example here would be what he has said about tithing and those Christians who don't believe it is necessary. 

Regarding practical theology issues like politics and economics, Sproul was a homer. That is he pretty much supported those political and economic views that were mainstay to Republican American views and he used his understanding of Christianity to justify those views. He seemed unable to step back and look at traditionally conservative views on American politics and economics from the outside. Thus, he somewhat conflated what Christianity teaches with what conservative politics support. The kind of support he gave for the 2003 invasion of Iraq as well as for capitalism indicated a conservative insularity in terms of the reference materials he used to form his opinions on those issues. In addition, when talking about some of the Jesus's teachings on how we should treat others, he left out some of what the Apostles taught and practiced which seem to have not been as rigorous as what Jesus taught.

We should note that it is important that these disagreements and statements showing Sproul's possible mistakes be made at this time. Why? It is not because we want to denigrate Sproul's contributions to the Christian faith or to add to the sorrow of those grieving his loss. But it is to show that we Christians can make mistakes and errors in our understanding of the Bible and still be Christians and be saved. And that is where Sproul stands today. He contributed greatly to the Christian faith and the Church in America. He probably contributed greatly to the faith of many from other nations. At the same time, he was wrong on some issues both in his conclusions and in how he came to those conclusions. And being wrong on the issues on which he was wrong never took away from his standing before God.

R.C. Sproul will rightfully be missed very much by many for his contributions to their lives and to the Christian faith in general. And he didn't have to be perfect to deserve to be sorely missed.


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