R.C. at the Beach: Right Now Counts Forever with Chris Larson

Steve Nichols:
August 1, 2021, is a special date at Ligonier Ministries. Joining me to celebrate this moment is Ligonier President and CEO, Chris Larson. Mr. Larson, it’s a pleasure to have you on Five Minutes in Church History.

Chris Larson:
I think this is the first time for me to join you on this podcast.

Nichols:
It is indeed. You know, Chris, I found an archival picture postcard that I believe was sent out as promotional material from Ligonier. It said, “Take R.C. to the beach with you.” It is a picture of R.C. in a vintage bathing suit with a book in his hand, teaching at the beach.

Larson:
That’s right, Steve. You were able to go through a lot of the Ligonier archives when you were working on the biography for Dr. Sproul and resurface some of these treasures. And I know that you’re eager to talk about what’s happening this month as Ligonier’s anniversary. This is our fiftieth anniversary month. And when you go back to those early documents, you see that the Ligonier Valley Study Center began in Western Pennsylvania in August of 1971.

Nichols:
That’s right. The fiftieth anniversary is very exciting. As part of the fiftieth anniversary, Ligonier has made available Dr. Sproul’s columns that were published in Tabletalk magazine going all the way back to 1977. These have been published as a four-volume box set called Right Now Counts Forever by R.C. Sproul. Tell us more about what this is and why Ligonier published it.

Larson:
This is a beautiful set that helps to preserve Dr. Sproul’s timeless teaching. And that column, Right Now Counts Forever, so encapsulates much of what we’re about at Ligonier Ministries. What Dr. Sproul did over those forty years parallels a lot of what’s happening in the broader Christian community. In his own inimitable way, Dr. Sproul seeks to apply timeless theological principles to current thinking.

Nichols:
These are just some of the titles: “Roots in the Pepsi Generation,” “The Sex Revolution and The Christian,” “The American Dream,” “God, Violence, Pro Football,” “God and The Johnstown Flood,” “The Press: Profits or Cynics?” He ends 1977 with “The Elvis Phenomenon.” Now, is what we have here a theologian offering cultural commentary?

Larson:
Yes, but there is far more going on here. We don’t see R.C. just commenting on headlines. What Dr. Sproul has done is help the church think theologically about the issues that confront us. I’m looking here at the very first issue from May 1977, where he speaks of the Pepsi Generation, as you just mentioned, but then within the space of several hundred words, he touches on the televised drama Roots by Alex Haley. That was quite a phenomenon.

Nichols:
It was huge in the 1970s.

Larson:
And then he also addresses Rocky.

Nichols:
Philadelphia’s own. You know, what we have here is forty years of theological reflection.

Larson:
I think that’s what we love about R.C. and his methodology and the gifts that God gave to him to rise above the moment. But he also spoke in a way that was enduringly relevant. The way that he would pull you in through what he was teaching and then help you to understand how to live for the glory of God was gripping. Let’s go back to that first column: “This column’s title, ‘Right Now—Counts Forever’ is designed to focus attention on the relevancy of our present lives to the eternal destinies we all face. We live in a culture that places the stress on ‘Right Now.’ It’s called the ‘Pepsi Generation’—we are told to live life with ‘gusto’ because we ‘only go around once.’ Short range goals, pragmatic methods of problem solving, a quiet hysteria to make it happen ‘now,’ all point to modern man’s despair regarding the future.”

And then Dr. Sproul brings it home. He says, “Our Christian assertion is that there is more to our lives than ‘now.’ And if there is not, then even the now is meaningless. But we say now counts. Why? Now counts because we are creatures who have an origin and a destiny which is rooted and grounded in God.”

Nichols:
Thank you, Chris, for introducing these volumes to us and spending some time celebrating this moment of Ligonier’s fiftieth anniversary. We’re going to spend the next four weeks in August going volume by volume through this beautiful box set, Right Now Counts Forever by R.C. Sproul.