WHI-1212 | An Interview with R.C. Sproul

Sunday, 29 Jun 2014

This week on the White Horse Inn, Michael Horton talks with special guest and friend R. C. Sproul, who is the chairman of Ligonier Ministries and author of several books, including the classic The Holiness of God, and recently Everyone’s A Theologian. Join the conversation as they discuss important topics through various questions…. “As you’ve looked across the ecclesiastical landscape for many years, have you seen a shift from a concern for Christ and the Scriptures, to a sort of foggy, hazy moralism, and distractions? Should we be getting rid of the language of the church, sort of translating it into terminology of today? Is it overstretching to say that we are seeing a revival of Pelagianism and Gnosticism?”

“There are buzzwords that people have a negative reaction to as soon as they hear it. I might prefer to speak about your ‘personal redemption’ rather than your ‘salvation’ because of how that term ‘salvation’ has died the death of a thousand qualifications – in so far, as it is important to not get into a rut with your vocabulary – but I think a much more salutary thing to do, is to take those very vitally important biblical terms and explain them to people, so that they are not put off or intimidated by words like ‘justification’ or ‘imputation.’ Those words are so pregnant with content… Find me a better word for imputation!”
– R. C. Sproul
From the Latin verb concurrere, ‘to run together,’ the idea of concursus, or concurrence, in theology refers to the simultaneity of divine and human agency in specific actions and events. Sometimes God acts immediately and directly, but ordinarily he works through natural means. Aquinas employed the Aristotelian category of primary and secondary causes to make this point.
The concurrence that is necessary for a biblical doctrine of providence is not merely a general oversight but a direction of all events to their appointed ends. We can have confidence that God works all things together for our good only because all things are decreed by his wise counsels. It is only when we recognize God’s hand in everyday providence, through means, that we are able to attribute everything ultimately for his glory. If it were not for his providence and use of ordinary means, we would have no ground for praising God when good things are received through free human agents and natural means. This doctrine of concursus is likewise true in relation to the means of grace and prayer. God has ordained the use of preaching, as well as prayer, for more marvelous ends then we ourselves could cause, things pertaining to salvation. Prayer, therefore, is more than a therapeutic catharsis – venting our fears and frustrations or expressing our hopes and dreams to one who cares but is incapable of overruling in the affairs of free creatures. Prayer presupposes that God is sovereign over every contingency of nature and history.
This doctrine of concursus allows us to say that God works all things together for the salvation of his elect – even their material circumstances. Ordinary daily occurrences – trials, disasters, tragedies, personal encounters, formative events – become occasions for God’s saving hand to reach into our lives, whether we recognize it or not. This doctrine is vividly seen in the life of Joseph in Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
(Adapted from Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way, pp 356-58).

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