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Reformed Christians have lost one of their great theologians, pastors


(James Thompson/WikiCommons)

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, last week, as Americans and people around the world went about their Christmas preparations, a Christian theologian – a personal friend and a mentor of yours – slipped into eternity. R.C. Sproul, at the age of 78, passed away.

DR. REEDER: Just an absolute titan. We think of the great impact of a Billy Graham in the breadth of the church and his commitment to crusade evangelism.

For me, R.C. should be seen in the same way. His outreach commitment and impact was extraordinary as he took the great historic orthodox Gospel of Jesus Christ and all the theology attached to it, related to it, undergirding it, surrounding it, and he had this marvelous, wonderful -way of communicating it so that what was considered profound truth, he could communicate with such simplicity and attractiveness.

His commitment to reform theology is legendary. His commitment to the authority of the scriptures – their inerrancy, their infallibility – was truly church-shaking, church-encouraging, church-equipping, and that meant that it was world-shaking and world-impactful as well.

I had five mentors in ministry. Of those five mentors in ministry, one was R.C. Sproul and the other was James Boyce and both of those are with the Lord. Three of my mentors are still living, but now both of them are with the Lord.

By the way, interesting, James Boyce and R.C. were very close friends. If you’ve never read R.C.’s book, The Holiness of God, then you’re poverty stricken – it’s just so powerful.

In his book on the holiness of God, he gloriously describes this scene in Isaiah 6 where the seraphim were gathered around the throne and the angels and the seraphim were singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty,” and thresholds are trembling.

When they called me and told me about R.C. on the day he died, one of my first thoughts was, “I know R.C. will be so gloriously enraptured to see his Savior, but I also know he will love to see his mentor, Dr. John Gerstner. He will love to see Dr. Boyce, his dear friend for life. I know he’ll seek out Martin Luther – he loved to study the life of Martin Luther – and, in many ways, R.C. was a reflection of Martin Luther in terms of maintaining, maturing and growing the understanding of reformed reformation theology.

That glorious scene that he so wonderfully paints when he preaches and writes of the Isaiah 6 chapter, that he has now joined it and he is there with praise before the Lord and the trembling thresholds all around him as the glory of the Lord fills the presence of the Lord and R.C. is present in that presence.

And, by the way, R.C. was quite the sportsman. He loved baseball and played baseball. He loved golf –one time, a 2 handicapper – and he also tried to keep me away from making a reverse pivot on my backswing. He was always the coach, whether it was theology or golf. He loved to do trivia. I’d come up, we’d immediately go to three things: theology, Civil War, and baseball.

And, of course, he loved Pittsburgh and I actually played with a number of guys that were with the Pittsburgh Pirates and my dad was a scout in the front office of the Pittsburgh Pirates. That was another attraction that we had as well.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, it was back in the ‘60s and ‘70s when the Billy Graham Organization, Young Life Ministries, Campus Crusade for Christ, Youth for Christ, many of those were flourishing and many young people making commitments to Christ. R.C. came along and said, “You know, that’s good, but I really want to see people grow deeper in their relationship with Christ,” and he started Ligonier Ministries.

DR. REEDER: That’s right. And he also was an unabashed churchman. As you said, he was really breaking out in his ministry in the 1970s when I was at Covenant College. I had just graduated and I was a student pastor of a little struggling and new Bible church and he came and did a conference on the authority and sufficiency – inerrancy and sufficiency – of the Word of God – wonderful, wonderful time.

He comes into the PCA and I get to know him there and then, when I had my doctoral work, I had him for a number of classes with Reformed Theological Seminary. Of course, I always tell people, everybody thought that I loved R.C., which I do love R.C., but I loved Vesta more because she’s the one who graded all my papers. And it was wonderful: I got R.C. in the classroom and I got Vesta grading all my reports.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Of course, that was R.C.’s wife.

DR. REEDER: They did everything together. What a great model of loving your wife and what a great model she was for other wives, the way she loved her husband. And, of course, R.C. was an inveterate writer, and author and speaker.

R.C. was a big man with a big laugh – he loved a good joke, he loved good humor. One thing people don’t know is that, if you would talk to R.C. in the last 15 years of his life and ask him, “What has been the greatest joy of your life?” – of course Vesta would be there and there were many, many great things and he loved his children, his son and his daughter – but one of the things he would tell you, the greatest thing in his life was pastoral preaching.

When he became the pastor of St. Andrew’s Chapel, he would tell you that’s been the greatest experience of his life – his pastoral preaching Sunday after Sunday.

TOM LAMPRECHT: What do you think R.C. would want to leave as his legacy?

DR. REEDER: Theology matters because all of life is theology. The way you live reflects your theology. Your view of God, all of life is theology. My personal opinion is that would be what he would want people to understand so do your theology well.

R.C. was a stickler on this – he could not stand to hear people say, “God has an unconditional love for you.” He understood what they meant, but he said, “If God’s love is unconditional, then why is Jesus on that cross?”

God’s love is unmerited, God’s love is unstoppable, God’s love is relentless, God’s love is unconquerable, God’s love is glorious and triumphant, God’s love is overcoming and God’s grace is the outworking of His love into your life because of the unmerited favor of God, but it can’t be unconditional. God is holy and that’s the glorious thing about God’s love is He gave up His Son to satisfy the unimpeachable holiness of God.

He saw that statement, “unconditional,” as diminishing the majesty of God’s love and actually, ultimately, attacking the unmerited nature of God’s love. God’s love is not just a wink, “Well, I’m holy but it doesn’t matter.” No, God’s love is so glorious, He found a way when there was no way to make a way to save you and that way was the gift of His Son, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, there’s always a remnant – God always has a remnant. It’s sad to see someone like R.C. Sproul leave this earth and his gifts are no longer with us but, as we speak, God is raising up others.

DR. REEDER: I don’t even belong hardly in the same room with R.C. – I like the way Chris Larson says that he was omnicompetent – but guys like me are a remnant. There were ten of us that used to meet with R.C. every year. We’d go down to Orlando, play some golf, have a good meal, talk theology, challenge and encourage each other.

I think of all those guys – John Woods, Sandy Wilson, John Sartelle and a number of others, the guys at Ligonier – his dear compatriot, Burk Parsons and Chris Larsons, the Ligonier Ministry, which now has captured all of this material and now will be used of God for that, the Reformation Bible College and, of course, St. Andrew’s Chapel.

Let me just finish today by saying these two things: Pray for Vesta, pray for his son, R.C. Jr., and pray for his daughter, his grandchildren. He’s a big man and filled a big space so there is a big space. When you have somebody that loves you deep, and you love them deep, there is a deep loss so I’m praying for them.

Pray for Ligonier as it takes this next season. Chris and Burk have been preparing for this. Pray for St. Andrew’s Chapel as I’m sure Burk Parsons will continue that ministry, there.

And pray for the PCA – we’ve lost one of our great theologians. Pray for all of us that have been impacted that, somehow, we as that remnant, as you said, will be able to carry forward.

Pray that God will use this in just really glorious ways for the work of the kingdom because, if there was any time that we needed to know that theology matters and your theology is not from human imagination, but divine revelation, from God’s inerrant, infallible, sufficient Word of God, it is in this day.

That would be my second thing, my exhortation is: Take what R.C. has given us, use it, build on it and take it to the next generation.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin. Jessica is editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

4 hours ago

Aderholt named ranking member of appropriations subcommittee critical to north Alabama’s economy

On Tuesday, Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-4) was named ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, which funds NASA and the FBI, amongst other important economic engines.

In a statement, Aderholt said, “It is a great honor to be named the ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science. This subcommittee is certainly important to America, but even more so for North Alabama.”

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“This subcommittee is directly responsible for funding NASA and the FBI, along with the Department of Commerce,” Aderholt explained. “The FBI and NASA are two very important agencies to the economy of not only Huntsville, but also the northern portion of our state. NASA, of course, has a long history in this region and gave rise to Huntsville’s name as the Rocket City. And in just the past few years, the FBI has built a presence on Redstone Arsenal and is in the process of growing to a level of approximately 4,000 jobs.”

The congressman concluded, “With my leadership on this subcommittee, I will work to ensure that North Alabama continues to lead as we return to the moon, put boots on Mars and travel into deep space. And with the FBI’s Hazardous Devices School, and growing footprint in North Alabama, I will also be a voice to let my colleagues know that North Alabama is in a prime position to be a hub for matters concerning our national security.”

Aderholt also serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 hours ago

Is Doug Jones a foot soldier in the Democrat Civil War for taking a shot at liberal darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

If you are Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) right now, you probably know you have almost no chance of being elected to a full term as a United State senator.

This obviously could change. Roy Moore could continue to crave the spotlight and enter a Republican primary field in 2020, but this is obviously a long-shot for him.

Complicating Jones’ life right now is a number of new Democratic members of the House of Representatives. They are outspoken, silly and contrary to the carefully crafted image Jones wants to sell to Alabama. Jones wants to be Mr. Moderate, a conservative-ish Democrat in the mold of former Congressman Bud Cramer (D-Huntsville), but he can’t do that if he is constantly dealing with a 24-hour news cycle where his fellow Democrats are acting nuts.

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Jones seems to know this, and the clearest way to distinguish himself from members like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is to directly scold her to The Hill.

He said, “I think it skews what’s really there for the Democratic Party.”

Jones seems to want to differentiate himself from Ocasio-Cortez’s brand of non-stop Twitter trolling will endear her to the same media that can’t let a Trump tweet go without an analysis of its impact. But Jones didn’t stop there. He also thinks this style of bomb-throwing is ineffective politics.

“When it gets time to get things done, that’s what people are going to be looking at — they’re going to be looking at the middle-of-the-roaders because it’s the only way to get anything done,” Jones stated.

If recent history is any judge, Ocasio-Cortez will not let these comments slide without a response. The fight for the soul of the Democratic Party is on and Jones will likely find himself out-gunned and without many powerful allies.

In response to similar criticism from former Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Ocasio-Cortez responded with the following tweet:

Will Jones double-down or will he slink back to his backbench for fear of his party’s base if she hits back?

For now, Jones sounds like he thinks his voters want him to get stuff done, but considering that Jones’ main accomplishment at this point in his Senate career is his vote against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation it is likely most Alabama voters would prefer he enjoys his time in Washington D.C. as a spectator before being sent home in 2020.

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

6 hours ago

Trump AG nominee: Sessions ‘probably did the right thing’ in recusing himself from Russia probe

Attorney General-nominee William Barr on Tuesday said Jeff Sessions “probably did the right thing” in recusing himself from the investigation into alleged collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign, according to The Washington Post.

Barr previously served as attorney general from 1991-1993. During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr was asked by committee chair Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) about Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the probe because he was involved in the Trump campaign.

“I am not sure of all of the facts, but I think he probably did the right thing recusing himself,” Barr said.

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This came the day after Sessions attended Alabama’s Inaugural Day festivities, including the swearing-in ceremony for all statewide elected officials and reception for state Attorney General Steve Marshall.

During Marshall’s event in the attorney general’s office building, Sessions said, “Do the right thing every day and usually things will work out… [well,] not always.”

After the laughter of the room started to subside, he added, “At least in the United States, when they fire you, they don’t shoot you like they do in some countries.”

Sessions’ relationship with President Donald Trump was eroded by the recusal and the president’s public attacks on both that decision and Sessions personally. He resigned at the request of the president in November.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 hours ago

State Sen. Gerald Allen responds to judge striking down Alabama Memorial Preservation Act — ‘Judges are not kings’

On Tuesday afternoon, State Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), the sponsor of the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, criticized Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo’s ruling that the law is unconstitutional.

Graffeo made the ruling Monday.

“Under the Constitution, judges are to be neutral umpires who apply the rule of law fairly,” Allen said in a statement. “A judge’s personal beliefs, whether about politics, sociology, or history, have no bearing on how he is to apply the law.”

He continued, “Judge Graffeo has taken it upon himself to know and declare that it is ‘undisputed’ that the majority of residents of Birmingham are ‘repulsed’ by the Linn Park monument, and has thus ruled the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act void. But judges are not kings, and judicial activism is no substitute for the democratic process.”

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“The Memorial Preservation Act is meant to thoughtfully preserve the entire story of Alabama’s history for future generations. The law was vigorously debated for months by the people of Alabama’s duly-elected representatives in the State Legislature, and passed with overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate,” Allen advised.

He concluded, “The Attorney General’s Office is confident that the Memorial Preservation Act is constitutional, and I look forward to the Attorney General’s appeal of Judge Graffeo’s ruling.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

7 hours ago

Judge voids Alabama law protecting Confederate monuments

A judge has overturned an Alabama law meant to prevent the removal of Confederate monuments from public property, ruling the act infringed on the rights of citizens in a mostly black city who are “repulsed” by the memorial.

The 10-page ruling issued late Monday by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo said a 2017 state law barring the removal or alteration of historical monuments wrongly violated the free speech rights of local communities.

The law cannot be enforced, Graffeo ruled, but the state could still appeal.

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The attorney general’s comment had no immediate response to an email seeking comment Tuesday.

The state sued the city of Birmingham after officials tried to remove a 52-foot-tall (16-meter)-tall obelisk that was erected to honor Confederate veterans in a downtown park in 1905.

Rather than toppling the stone marker, the city built a 12-foot (3.6-meter)-tall wooden box around it.

Birmingham’s population of 210,000 is more than 70 percent black, and the judge said it was indisputable that most citizens are “repulsed” by the memorial.

He rejected the state’s claims that lawmakers had the power to protect historical monuments statewide.

The law includes a $25,000 penalty for removing or altering a historical monument, but the judge said the penalty was unconstitutional.

The city has not had to pay while the lawsuit worked its way through court.

The ruling came hours after the inauguration of Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, who signed the law and opened her campaign last year with a commercial that prominently showed Confederate monuments.

“We can’t change or erase our history, but here in Alabama we know something that Washington doesn’t. To get where we are going means understanding where we have been,” Ivey said in the ad.

Supporters of the law contend it protects not just Confederate memorials but historical markers of any kind, but rebel memorials have been an issue nationwide since a white supremacist gunman killed nine worshippers in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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