Let’s talk about a book from the 1970s and its author. This book is titled The Symbol: A Contemporary Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed. Published in 1973, it was the very first book published by Dr. R.C. Sproul. It would certainly not be his last book.
Fifty years ago, in 1971, Dr. Sproul founded the Ligonier Valley Study Center. It was a place for learning. For R.C., it was a place for teaching. He would teach the students who would gather there, students of all ages. He would teach on subjects like philosophy and apologetics and theology and how to study the Bible. He also taught through writing, and many, many more books would come from the pen of Dr. R.C. Sproul.
First, a word on how he wrote. He would write out longhand using mostly a yellow pad, and then that would get typed up and sent off to the publisher. The material for this first book came from a doctrinal survey course that Dr. Sproul taught over the summer at Westminster College, about an hour north of Pittsburgh. He worked over that material, wrote up the drafts, and then submitted it. The book was dedicated to his wife, Vesta. In the preface, he writes that this book is directed to a reading public of college students and intellectually oriented laymen. He adds, “Consequently, I have sought to adopt a semi-popular literary style, avoiding academic technicalia as much as possible.”
Now he says that tongue in cheek. I know that because there is a little footnote appended to the expression “academic technicalia,” and when you go down to that footnote, you see the Latin phrase, semper ubi sub ubi. In Latin, semper means “always”; ubi is the preposition “where”; sub means “under”; and again, ubi, the preposition meaning “where.” But in English, it sounds like this: “Always wear underwear.” There it is: Dr. Sproul’s characteristic humor.
By the time we get to page 10 of this book, he’s been talking about ice-cream cones, Thomas Aquinas, and analogical language. He’s been talking about a subject that he loved to talk about, the doctrine of God. You recall the opening line from the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” As The Symbol unfolds, Dr. Sproul uses these phrases from the Apostles’ Creed as gateways into the rich theological horizons that lie ahead. He covers not only the doctrines of God, but also the doctrines of the person and work of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the church, and salvation.
In his discussion of the church, Dr. Sproul writes, “For this writer, the future of the visible church appears to be a grim one, but not one that allows for total despair. Fresh winds seem to be blowing a new concern for renovation and renewal, and looking to the New Testament is evident. Perhaps the greatest hope for the future lies in the present revolution of the laity. A new dimension of lay involvement, lay education, and lay mobilization is informing the major churches of America. Maybe a new Moses stands among them, a new Luther, a new Augustine, or Calvin who will lead us out of the impasse as we stand between Migdol and the Sea. To reform the church is difficult, perhaps impossible, but it is a task no Christian can afford to abandon. The church remains the communion of saints in the sense that we are being made holy by the Lord of our church, who will not let us fail.”