by Stephen J. Nichols
2021 / 400 pages
Stephen J. Nichols has produced the first biography of Sproul since his death in December of 2017. The author, teacher, and pastor truly appears here as a man after God’s own heart: a man in pursuit of his Maker’s holiness – eager to understand it, to mirror and communicate it as faithfully as he might.
Following his conversion very early in his college years, Sproul’s zeal drive him and his wife, Vesta, to hunt after vital educational and ministry opportunities, both formal and informal. As a result, they relocated almost annually during the first decade of marriage. Very soon Sproul’s winning personality, warmth, seriousness, and authenticity as a “battlefield theologian” make him a magnet for those determined to grow in – and publicly defend – the faith. We see the launching of the Ligonier Study Center in 1971 in rural Western Pennsylvania, the writing of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, and Sproul’s costly stand against reductive ecumenicism. Nichols gives ample space, as well, to the substance and impact of Sproul’s many books and the Renewing Your Mind radio program. Finally come the stories of his Florida pastorate, the building of Saint Andrew’s Chapel, and the founding of Reformation Bible College (RBC).
Nichols succeeded Sproul as president of RBC in 2014, and his writing is aided by close acquaintance with Sproul and his family, colleagues, and friends. One can hardly imagine major detractions to Sproul’s legacy and certainly will find no ammunition for that here – though glancing notice is made to R.C. Junior’s sudden resignation from the board of Ligonier and RBC in 2016. The Sproul we meet in these pages is the gentle lion so many of us felt we knew, at least distantly and casually, through the books and radio program.
Nichols has chosen to write an everyman biography, an accessible book with a tone popular rather than scholarly. And here we rediscover several Sproul family anecdotes which many have encountered previously in his teaching. Sometimes the stories are expanded, sometimes the reader can anticipate and supply added detail. Yes, we meet again an old friend, and a true one. Without a doubt, Sproul loved the church, and he immersed himself in the vocation of shepherd. Nichols’s book is both deeply encouraging and even convicting as we view the whole-life portrait of this dedicated, faithful teacher unfolded before us. The church in the 21st century, as much as any time before, greatly needs the stories of such brothers and fellow saints.