Over 18 months starting in July 2016, R.C. Sproul Jr.'s life fell apart in a very public way.
His name came up on a website that promoted extramarital affairs, costing him his position with Florida-based Ligonier Ministries, and he was arrested on charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated with two of his minor children in the car. Then his father, a nationally known minister who founded Ligonier Ministries, passed away Dec. 14, 2017.
There was nowhere to hide – which turned out to be a blessing.
“In some ways, the scariest thing about my relationship with my father was that he was so perceptive and it was so important for me for him to be proud of me, that I also knew he had to know how terrible I was,” Sproul says. “It's the same thing with God. He knows everything about me, and I'm not fooling him, but he still loves me.”
Sproul, 53, who moved to Fort Wayne in February 2017 after marrying his wife, Lisa, in October 2016, used his new perspective to write his 12th book, “Growing Up (with) R.C.: Truths I Learned About Grace, Redemption and the Holiness of God.” The book was published May 14.
With his sins exposed, Sproul fully understood the grace his father showed him during those difficult times. He wrote the book to talk about the personal relationship with his father and to share some of those teachings.
“This man in real life really believed the gospel applied to real life, it applied to my real life and it applies to your real life, too,” he says. “I want to show people a more personal side of my father, and I'm also trying to teach because what he taught me, I believe, and I want to share.”
Sproul has faced criticism from many for his arrest and resignation from Ligonier Ministries. According to published reports, Ligonier Ministries suspended Sproul in 2015 because of his admission that he visited the adultery matchmaking website Ashley Madison. He was then arrested in Allen County in 2016 on several charges, including drunk driving, and entered into a plea agreement. He later resigned from Ligonier Ministries.
The book opens with a full confession of, as Sproul says, his being “wiped off the face of the earth with his own failures.” There was no reason to dodge them or do anything but be open about them, which also provided motivation to find a way to possibly use his own mistakes to teach others about God's redemption.
Part of that came from his own father's encouragement.
“One thing I talk about in the book is being in the weight of my father's shadow, which is really not a terrible thing at all,” he said.
“My perspective is that my father and I did the same thing, in the same way that a paper airplane and a space shuttle are both man-made flying machines. Knowing my father's brilliance, I have thought, 'what can I bring to the table that he doesn't?' What I chose was openness and vulnerability.”
Each chapter centers on conversations and things he learned from his father. The goal was to bring his father's teachings of the Gospel into real-life situations as examples, even if he himself was the person being corrected during those lessons. Sproul calls it “stewarding my failures to make good use of them.”
With help from his wife, he said, the process was therapeutic, cathartic and a blessing. They prayed together before and during the writing of the book.
“I wanted to be able to go to all those people out there whose sin they know and no one else knows and to be able to say to them: As our sin gets exposed and we repent of it, it is covered and gone,” he says.
“One of the hardships is that everybody who knew me before and knows that this all happened, they all felt like they have stock in me and that they were owed a personal apology, and they want that personal apology to be as intense as it might have been the day after. I repented a long time ago, and God forgave me, and I am not carrying that burden around anymore.”
The legacy his father left him, Sproul says, is the message of the Gospel, which is forgiveness. God is the one who rebuilds even from the worst of sins. He's writing his next book, tentatively titled, “The Grace of Scandal, and the Scandal of Grace.”
“When you have a scandal and that is made public, there's no more reason to pretend,” Sproul says. “There's no more reason to go out there and act like you are something you are not. Part of the message is that not just people sin, but believers also sin.
“Like everyone else, every one of our weaknesses can be turned into a strength, and our strengths can be turned into weaknesses,” he says.
If you go
What: Book signing
When: 1 to 4 p.m. June 29
Where: Barnes and Noble, Jefferson Pointe, 4140 W. Jefferson Blvd.