Wednesday, March 07, 2007

R. C. Sproul's view of Faith Examined Critically

I thought I might throw this critique of R. C. Sproul's view of faith out. It is done by John Robbins of Trinity Foundation. I found Robbins' critique to be clear and concise and serve as a warning to us of being carefully defined in our understanding and communication of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have benefited greatly from Dr. Sproul's teaching, but would desire him to be more in the biblical text rather than philosophy apart from the text and I hope he will read this critique and repent. You can download it here. Let me know what you think.


Anonymous said...

I smell scholasticism and Sproul could have been more clearer

Tim said...

Hi anonymous,

Could you be a little clearer? scholasticism? Thanks

Gordan said...

Well, I want to give Dr. Sproul the benefit of the doubt here. The fact that he used the three Latin categories to define faith, to me, is no more heretical than any one of the common illustrations we hear for the Trinity.

The book that is being critiqued is not a theology book, and is not intended to do a lot of exposition. It is for the enquirer and the curious, hoping to give some simple answers in layman's terms.

Sproul has written in much greater detail on these topics, particularly "sola fide" and I am struck that none of these more detailed works are used to critique him.

Robbins then is guilty of some of the same stuff he accuses Sproul of, late in the essay. He is very strident, for instance, in his precise definition of what the "imago Dei" is. He takes it as clear, biblical fact that his definition is correct, but then produces zero scriptures to prove his definition. In fact, the reason for that is there are none which define it in the 2+2=4 way that he has.

He does much the same when speaking of the Scripture's use of the term "heart." He stridently asserts that the heart and the mind are the same thing, but produces no Scripture for this. He merely references someone else's work, which he takes as definitive, apparently.

Now, I'll give Robbins credit for doing a good job, nay, a better job than Sproul in this instance, of defining faith.

But frankly, off topic slightly, the strident and pugnacious tone of this critique is the singular reason I have left off reading anything at all from the Trinity Foundation: it is ALL like this. Anyone who disagrees is not merely wrong, but evil.

For me, life's too short, my friend.

Hank said...

I agree with Gordan

Clearly Sproul did not do a good job in his definitions, yet this is a book specifically designed for readers not on an academic level. The first book I read as a new Christian was Sproul's "Faith Alone", here he indeed went to great pains to distinguished between the protestant and the Catholic view of faith. He condemned the combined statement of agreement between Catholic and protestant leaders (I forget what the confrence was named) on the topic of faith.

He is an Aquinas protégé for sure. But we need to keep in mind that Aquinas himself served some 250 years before Luther came on the scene. I am not church historian but I would venture to guess that the dogmas of the Church of Rome were a little different than Luther's day.

-Vassal of the Great King-

Tim said...


I agree with you concerning Robbins' tone. It seems that most everything put out does come across like Gordan suggested. However, both of you have said that this was in laymen's terms. Some of that I see, but then there is all the Latin thrown out and other more technical terms, so I see Sproul going beyond those terms.

The point where I see Robbins going over the top is when he then jumps to the conlcusion that Sproul is putting out Roman propaganda. Please! That is just ridiculous.

Hank said...


Sproul wouldn't be Sproul with out his usage of Latin (w/ a little side of German as well).
That's just Sproul, whether layman's terms of not.
I suppose you can't take the academia out of the theologian.
That's why I like him, I learn more than just the topic at hand.
As for the criticisms, he is accused of combining the doctrines of Faith & Justification.
I can't imagine one doctrine without the other as brought out in Biblical theology.
He was not writing a systematic dogma.
I don't understand why Robbins' even mentions this.
How can he criticize that Sproul uses to much philosophy and not enough from the text of the Bible,
then turn around and accuse him of combining doctrines that are inseparable in the Bible?

Oh well, I suppose we all need a hobby!


-Vassal of the Great King-

Tim said...


I agree with you that Sproul wouldn't be Sproul without them. But hold on. We all like Sproul. I get it. Me too. But let's deal with the actual arguments. The ones that really concern me is the last "part" of faith (ie. personal trust), how James is taken out of context and then he is made to say one thing (that the devils believe the gospel) and not what James actually said (the devils believe in one God), and the lack of separating heart and mind.

Now quite frankly, I am taken aback. As reforming brothers here, we are quick to see problems with dispensationalists like this. We are quick to notice it in open theists. We are quick to notice it in other doctrines, but we cannot defend Sproul here just because we don't like the attitude of Robbins or because we simply like Sproul. I love R.C. Sproul and have said he has been a great encourager and teacher. But let's deal with the substance of the article.

True, Gordan did point out that Robbins didn't give Scriptural support for the mind/heart issue. However, I think the Scriptures are pretty clear on that. Maybe, if I could ever actually get around to posting myself, I could put some of those things out:) I do think he would have given himself some leverage if he would have actually quoted some of those texts.

Hank said...


I don't have a problem with criticizing Sproul when I disagree with him. That's not the issue at all. I have read enough of him to not judge him on this specific comment. That's all. We can isolate ourselves into heresy, more so than Sproul has done here. It is not just the tone of Robbins'. It is not how he said it, but what he said. I have no problem disagreeing with other issues I just see Robbins', in this instance, as the greater offender. Not because its Sproul, but because of Robbins.

As for the demons and their understanding of the Gospel, I think they understand quite well. The problem for them becomes the issue of obedience, not belief (IMHO).
Gotta run.


Gordan said...


I guess I am not terribly "taken aback" by Sproul's assertion that the demons know the gospel and are fully aware that it is true. Though I'd agree with you that this is not what James said. I'll grant that was sloppy.

I believe I have heard completely unregenerate men articulate the main facts of the Christian Gospel. Hank hit on a good point there: the Bible does speak of our relationship to the Gospel as one of obedience, and not merely of knowledge.

And, again, I'd grant that Robbins is not off in gross error here, but as has been pointed out, he does go too far when he accuses Sproul of advancing Catholicism by his admiration of Aquinas (which I personally could do without.)