We are in the dog days of summer with week three of R.C. Sproul at the Beach. We’ve been walking through the volumes of the Right Now Counts Forever columns, and we are up to volume 3, the years 1997 to 2006. As I combed through these various columns, I came across a number that have to do with books. That will be our focus. One of these columns is from June 2000, and it’s titled “The Matter of Art.” Dr. Sproul begins by saying, “Every form is an art form, and every art form communicates something.” He talks about music, painting, sculpture, film, and drama, but he focuses on literature. He goes on to say, “One of the most powerful of all art forms is literature. The written word is a medium that is verbal. We understand that nonverbal communication is real and powerful, but it is the verbal that communicates in a particularly cognitive manner. Literature has been a powerful tool used to chisel the forms of Western civilization.”
He talks about great literature that expresses great themes in a great way. He says such literature “pierces to the core of the human predicament and shines a verbal light on truth. In great literature, even that which chronicles misery, evil, oppression and darkness, there is a loveliness to the bare truth that is expressed. From the power of Poe to the joy of Bunyan, we are moved by an art form that is obscured and in eclipse by the popular and tawdry literature that reflects our current culture.”
Two more columns in this volume reflect that great literature of classics and the tawdry and the popular that is, well, not so great. One of the greats is Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. Dr. Sproul talks about the joy of Bunyan. In January 2006, he wrote the column “Christian Loses His Burden.” He’s talking, of course, about Christian realizing that he has a great weight of sin. In fact, Dr. Sproul points out how countercultural it is that Bunyan recognizes the great weight of sin. Dr. Sproul writes, “If we turn our attention to the insights of Bunyan set forth in the Christian classic Pilgrim’s Progress, we see a story that focuses on the groaning pressure of a man who was weighed down to the depths of his soul with a burden of which he is unable to rid himself. It is like the apostle Paul’s description in Romans 7 of the body of death that crushes the spirit.”
He goes on to talk about how Bunyan felt the weight of his sin: “The story of Christian is the story of a man who is burdened by the weight of sin. His conscience was smitten by the Law, but where the Law is eliminated in the church, no one needs to fear divine judgment. Without the Law there is no knowledge of sin, and without a knowledge of sin, there is no sense of burden.”
On the subject of no knowledge of sin and no knowledge of burden, in May 2006, Dr. Sproul published a column on the DaVinci conspiracy. That is a reference to the runaway bestseller, The DaVinci Code, which presented itself as some kind of historical evaluation of New Testament documents and the way they portrayed Jesus of Nazareth. Dr. Sproul cuts right to the chase to show all of that book’s flaws and weaknesses.
Many of these columns deal with books that influenced Dr. Sproul and influenced American culture.
He also has a very touching column in this volume that he wrote after the passing of his mentor, John Gerstner. It is simply titled “The Gerstner I Remember.” Not only do books influence us, but people influence us as well. And you can read about those influences in volume 3 of the Right Now Counts Forever set.