Chosen by God
By R.C. Sproul
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois: 1986
213 pages, paperback
For many, Chosen by God is considered to be a classic (though not exhaustive) introduction to Calvinism. It is one of the most popular books written by R.C. Sproul. Sproul has become somewhat of a celebrity in the Reformed and Calvinist world. He is highly respected and considered to be a competent theologian and teacher. He is known for his ability to write about supposedly “complex doctrines” in a very understandable way.
The following is a critical review of this exceedingly popular book. At the outset of this review, I must call the readers attention to the words of Jesus Christ regarding those who would love the glory of men more than the glory of God (John 12:43). Those who respect the face of men no matter what they teach, no matter if their teaching robs God of His redemptive glory, are those who love the glory of men. With this preface, let us begin our review.
Sproul’s opening chapter is entitled “The Struggle” in which he discusses man’s alleged inviolable freedom from the sovereign control of his Creator. Sproul writes how even the word “predestination” has an ominous ring to it and how it is linked to fatalism and suggests that men are reduced to meaningless puppets (p. 9). Of course, Sproul is simply showing here how many view this doctrine. As even a cursory reading of Isaiah 10:5-15 should demonstrate, a word like “fatalism” and a phrase such as “meaningless puppets” are MUCH TOO WEAK to describe the kind of control the Assyrians’ Creator had over them.
Sproul says that his struggle with predestination began “early in [his] Christian life” (p. 11). After much resistance to this doctrine, the combination of Gerstner, Edwards, his New Testament professor, and the apostle Paul’s ninth chapter to the Romans (which was the “clincher”) finally brought him to say this:
“Reluctantly, I sighed and surrendered, but with my head, not my heart. ‘OK, I believe this stuff, but I don’t have to like it!’” (p. 13).
Sproul’s unbiblical and antigospel head-heart distinction aside, he makes the huge assumption that the biblical doctrine of predestination is something that a true Christian struggles with. On the contrary, the apostle Paul strongly rebukes those who have such struggles (Romans 9:19-21). Thus, this struggle was not early in Sproul’s Christian life for Sproul here clearly shows that he was Paul’s unbelieving objector.
“The struggle about predestination is all the more confusing because the greatest minds in the history of the church have disagreed about it. Scholars and Christian leaders, past and present, have taken different stands. A brief glance at church history reveals that the debate over predestination is not between liberals and conservatives or between believers and unbelievers. It is a debate among believers, among godly and earnest Christians. It may be helpful to see how the great teachers of the past line up on the question (p. 14).
Sproul then sets up a list of “great teachers” who he thinks are “godly and earnest Christians.” Included in this list are Pelagius and Charles Finney (evidently for Sproul it’s “Saint Pelagius” and “Saint Finney”). So, by the standard of R.C. Sproul the great heresiarch of the 5th century is a “godly and earnest Christian.” If Pelagius is not a God-hating heretic, then there is no such thing as a God-hating heretic. If the Apostle Paul had employed Sproul’s standard of judgment, he would not have anathematized those in Galatia (Galatians 1:8-9), but would have referred to them as “godly and earnest Christians.”
Paul had written that the gospel is the power of God to salvation to everyone believing (Romans 1:16). Sproul believed that Pelagius and Finney were men to whom salvation belonged. Thus, logically, Sproul believed that both Pelagius and Finney believed the gospel. Now what does that say about what Sproul believes are the doctrines that are essential to the gospel? What does that say about what “gospel” Sproul thinks is the power of God to salvation? Clearly Sproul must think that the false gospel which Paul anathematized is the power of God unto salvation. Next Page (2)