NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, May 1st.
Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
Coming next on The World and Everything in It: the Classic Book of the Month for May.
Now, for those of you with a graduate in your family, listen up! Book reviewer Emily Whitten joins me with a gift book idea that may come in handy this month. Welcome, Emily.
EMILY WHITTEN, BOOK REVIEWER: Hey, Mary. Good to talk to you again.
Tell us more about your graduate-friendly selection today.
WHITTEN: Sure. This book came out in 1985, but I found out recently, the concept is definitely older than that. Here’s a clip of pastor and author R. C. Sproul explaining the background to this month’s book—The Holiness of God:
SPROUL: I’m embarrassed about that, try to avoid it, cause I stole that. I was at a conference… with John Guest… I heard John Guest give a sermon on Isaiah 6 that I thought was the most stirring sermon I ever heard in my life. It really was. Of course, he stole, too. He stole it from his professor back in England, Alec Metier…
So, Mary, a candid response there from Sproul. But he did eventually develop his own material on Isaiah 6. That would originally have been in the 1970s, close to the time he started the Ligonier study center. Sproul says the first time he presented his series, he was at a Young Life camp for teachers of high school seniors headed to college.
Some very interesting history there. So The Holiness of God began as a series of lectures?
WHITTEN: Yes, and you know, before his radio program got started, the rise of video and audio cassette tapes really impacted his ministry. I’m a child of the 80s, so I remember the first time my dad brought home a VCR…that magical moment when we put our first tape in and watched Bambi or whatever it was—not what was on TV! In that environment, Sproul’s audio and video recordings of his teaching made a huge impact. Something like a decade later when a publisher finally approached Sproul about a book, it was a no-brainer.
Let’s go now to the second Sproul quote you pulled for us. This, from one of his Holiness of God lecture series.
SPROUL: The Bible doesn’t say that God is mercy, mercy, mercy, or love, love, love, or justice justice justice, or wrath, wrath, wrath, but that He is holy, holy, holy. This is a dimension of God that consumes his very essence.
Long before I encountered Sproul’s version, I heard John MacArthur using that quote there. But I have to say, as I’ve gone back to Sproul’s book recently, I can understand why it became so popular. Sproul is such an engaging thinker–his background in philosophy and his storytelling ability make him riveting at times. Many of our listeners may know that R.C. Sproul died in December. I thought Christian vlogger Joseph Solomon’s video tribute hit the nail on the head:
SOLOMON: R.C. Sproul…A man who was able to take very, very lofty and deep Biblical concepts and make them so plain to me. But not just plain in their understanding, but also plain in how they are to be applied. Because a lot of times we can learn so many heavy things, but if there’s no application involved, what’s the point of knowing it? So he made theology applicable for me…
That is an important element of good teachers, to be able to make the complex understandable and relevant. What else makes this material so popular?
Ultimately, it’s the holy God Sproul brings near. Sproul himself describes meeting the God of the Bible as a life-changing experience. And he quotes John Calvin’s observation that the “uniform” teaching of Scripture is that when God draws near, even the best men and women feel terrified. We’re shattered. Our idols are shown to be what they are–useless, and we see the exceeding sinfulness of our sin. Sproul says we’re slain.
That sounds like powerful and maybe heavy reading.
WHITTEN: I hope that description doesn’t sound too depressing, because this really is a hopeful book. And although Sproul is known for his Reformed teaching, you don’t need to be a five-point Calvinist to read this. It’s practical for all believers:
SPROUL: For us to grow in grace, we have to grow in our knowledge of God. Not just so that we can puff up our intellect and become proud of our learning. But that we may know him. And the old saying goes, ‘the more we know him, the more we love him. And the more we love him, the greater our capacity is to serve him, to worship him, to honor him, and to obey him….
Hmm, a lot of good stuff to chew on there, Emily. Any final thoughts on the book?
WHITTEN: Well, I would just say, this is an Easter candy sort of book. I hope families will open the book and read a little before they give it away. I will also add, families with young children may want to check out R.C. Sproul’s picture books for kids. The Prince’s Poison Cup especially is an well-written allegory of the Bible’s redemption story. You can see Sproul’s understanding of the holiness of God at work.
Well, I like the idea of getting younger kids thinking about this subject, too…Thanks for joining us and thanks for these recommendations, Emily.
WHITTEN: Thank you, Mary! I always love talking books with you.
Again, our Classic Book of the Month for May is R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God and we also mentioned his picture book for children, The Prince’s Poison Cup.
Follow Emily Whitten on Twitter.