1 Stars Out Of 5
Young, reckless, and reformed
November 25, 2013
Every Christian should read this book. Not for its sound theology, but as a cautionary tale of how far one can slip into heresy through blind commitment to dogma. Heresy is about the strongest possible word one could use to describe a belief of a fellow Christian, and I do NOT use it lightly. In fact there are many interpretations of Scripture with which I profoundly disagree and believe to be of vital consequence to the church, but I would still no go so far as to call them heretical. For me R. C. Sproul Jr. has crossed that line. I bought this book to determine for myself if it could possibly be as outrageous as I had heard. I was amazed to discover that it is, and more so.
That Sproul Jr.'s approach is thoroughly dogmatic is revealed by the fact that he relies little if any on Scripture to prove his points. Selected verses are occasionally thrown in, but without exegesis and more to lend secondary support to the dogma which he presupposes is the real authority. He presents a view that is primarily based on the metaphysical philosophy of Jonathan Edwards. If Sproul Jr has any point in his favor it is the consistency with which he presses this philosophy to its most extreme logical theological conclusion. The greatest weakness of this philosophy as theology is that it is entirely one dimensional. God's only overriding purpose is self-glorification, and his one means of achieving it is the raw power which He wields to do absolutely anything that achieves that purpose. There are no holds barred in this insatiable quest. Love and goodness get scarcely any mention. In fact, God's moral attributes such as they are, are bent to the purpose of self-glorification.
This one dimensional view of God leads Sproul Jr. to a number of conclusions that are problematic. But in chapter 3 he takes Edwards philosophy and drives it straight over the cliff that Edwards himself and indeed almost every reformed theologian from Calvin to R. C. Sproul Sr. clearly foresaw and strenuously warned against. (I say "almost every reformed theologian", since there appear to be some others among the new "young, reckless, and reformed" who are following the same path that their wiser brothers have feared to tread.) In this chapter Sproul Jr. concludes that God Himself is the single monergistic cause of evil. Neither Adam nor Eve nor Satan could have possibly done any evil had not God implanted in them the irresistible desire to do evil. This may be a logically consistent compliment to the theory of irresistible grace, but it is a heresy that has been universally and most soundly condemned throughout the history of the church and as far back as the book of Job.
How does Sproul defend this view? First he defends it metaphysically based on Edwards' theory of the determinism. Everything is the effect of a prior cause, with God as the only first cause of all effects. From this Sproul Jr. concludes that since evil is an effect, it has its first cause in God. Next he attempts to defend it morally. First, he makes the highly dubious observation that while God forbids evil, he never forbids CREATING evil. On page 54 he says, "Where, I must ask, does the law of God forbid the creation of evil? I would suggest that it just isn't there." Further, on page 56 he puts these words in the mouth of the Apostle Paul, "Shut up! He's God, he can do what he wants." Realizing that this approach is a bit weak, Sproul justifies God in creating evil by pointing out that it is for a good cause. Beginning of page 52 he laid the groundwork for this by picturing God taking stock of His attributes and the pleasure He derives from them. All is well until He gets to wrath. He can't take any delight and glory in His wrath without an object. It is from this observation that Sproul Jr. develops God's good purpose, i.e. His own pleasure and glory derived from his wrath. This end justifies the means.
So wherein is the heresy?
First, wrath in itself is not an essential attribute of God. It is an appropriate action called forth by the attribute of justice when evil is encountered, but it is not an end in itself. To assert that God inherently has rage because it pleases Him to have it is heresy.
Second, it denies God's self-sufficiency, since it makes him utterly dependent on the existence of something outside Himself, namely evil. This is heresy.
Third, it affirms that God is the source of evil and derives pleasure from it because it adds to His glory. This denies His benevolence, which is heresy. This is possibly the worst heresy, because it defames God's moral character.
It is shocking that Sproul Jr can come to these conclusions.
It is more shocking that he can not only accept such ideas, but do so without a qualm, in fact with pleasure. "We ought to jump up and down praising God" when we consider how He caused the fall. We are chided that we should be every bit as joyful at the thought of the death and punishment of an unbeliever as we are at their salvation.
Finally, it is also shocking that his reformed brethren can turn a blind eye, especially since the dangers have long been identified and warned against within their own camp. If such ideas had come from the mind of an Arminian or a Wesleyan, the entire reformed community would rise up in outrage, but coming from Sproul Jr. they are passed over with hardly a peep. Is this because they are simply embarrassed or because he is saying what they believe but are afraid to say so bluntly? For most I believe it is the former, but for a few I suspect it is the latter. They both need to heed the Westminster Confession which states unequivocally that "sinfulness_ proceeds only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin." And also, "God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined good, or evil_ Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom, and power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God; but yet, mutably, so that he might fall from it." This does not sound like God creating evil out of His own necessity. It is time for reformed theologians to defend their own confession.