Monday, July 25, 2011

Sproul on Difficult Passages and Doctrines

In a post last week, On Apologizing for God, we affirmed DeYoung's wise correction on whether Christians may dislike Scriptural doctrine; specifically, the doctrine of Hell.

The answer, of course, is no! And that is a good answer, as far as it goes. But, what exactly are we to do when we confront scriptural a passage or doctrine that initially does not sit well with us?

Though it is not rocket-science, outlining a proven-method can be quite helpful. And we find one from R.C. Sproul in chapter 3 of The Soul's Quest for God.

Here are three excerpts (pp. 61-62) introduced by my questions:

How should we respond to passages and/or doctrines that we initially dislike?
A word of advice I often give my seminary students is this: As you study the Bible, take special care to mark the passages you find difficult to accept. That is, mark the passages you don't like. Then give special attention to them. Closer scrutiny may reveal that you simply failed to understand the meaning of the text.
But what if we find that our understanding is, in fact, correct?
If you don't like what the Bible says, there is either something wrong with the Word of God or something wrong with your thinking. By isolating these texts you have a quick and easy way of discovering where your thinking is out of sync with the mind of Christ. You know exactly where you need to repent.
How have you practiced this in your own life and ministry, R.C.?
While in seminary I had a card on my desk that read: You are required to believe, to teach, and to preach what the Bible says, not what you want it to say.

I consulted the card frequently, especially when I struggled with the doctrine of predestination. Over the years, a pattern developed. First I would be convinced of the truth of the biblical teaching I didn't like. Then I would see the sweetness of those truths so that I delighted in them rather than despised them.
Classic Sproul, fun, simple, and helpful. Fun, because it is hard to imagine an R.C. Sproul who "struggled with the doctrine of predestination" - oh, how I would love to go back and talk with that student!

But it is even more helpful because treating our difficulties with Scripture is quite simple:
  1. Study
  2. Repent
  3. Delight
If you regularly bristle at any particular passage or doctrine, then there is certainly a breakdown in #'s 1, 2, or 3 - or all of the above.

Admittedly, the journey from #1 to #3 is often times long and arduous - and we will probably spend our entire lives on that journey with more than one passage - but it is nonetheless a journey worth taking. Why? At the end is the joy of knowing and loving our triune God as He really is in Himself.

NB, The Soul's Quest for God is a lesser-known work of R.C. Sproul. However, during this recent Q&A, Sproul remarked that he particularly labored-over this book and "poured his soul" into it. Thus far we have not been disappointed, especially with the frequent application of one Jonathan Edwards!

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