Ask R.C. Live (January 2017)

From the Ligonier website:

Ask R.C. Live (January 2017):

Answering theological questions from his students has been a continual commitment throughout Dr. R.C. Sproul’s ministry. Originally called “gabfests” by his early students and later, “Ask R.C.,” these sessions continue to take place at our conferences, on Renewing Your Mind, and online.

Thank you to the thousands of Ministry Partners and friends who called in or watched on Facebook Live to participate in our most recent Ask R.C. event on January 31, 2017.

Topics included the role of the civil magistrate, election, assurance of salvation, and many others. Like our official Facebook Page to be notified of future Facebook Live opportunities.

At this link


In Psalm 18, David said, “The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.” Was David there making the case for salvation by works? (01:50)
I heard you take exception to the bumper sticker saying, “God says it, I believe it, that settles it.” Can you explain what is wrong with this? (02:30)
What does God want most from us? (2:54)
Are faith and belief the same thing? (3:09)
Since God is omnipresent, does He manifest His presence in Hell or does He keep His presence from there? (3:35)
What is the gospel in one sentence? (4:20)
Should a Christian pursue a philosophy degree? (30:05)
What happened to the Steelers? (4:37)
How are we to think of the imputed righteousness of the Lord? (5:20)
How are you feeling these days? (6:55)
Tell us about the insignia (Mallet of Luther) on your jacket? (7:45)
Tell us a bit about Ligonier’s plans for the 500th anniversary? (8:50)
Is there still space available on the tours in Prague? (9:55)
Why such a big deal about the Reformation and anniversary this year? (10:33)
In evangelism, how would you respond to someone who claims that they aren’t elect? (11:25)
How do we as faithful ministers address the danger of antipathy toward the full counsel of the Word of God? (13:35)
How important are creeds and confessions? (15:03)
What are some encouraging words for young men pursuing missions? (17:10)
What’s the difference between regeneration and conversion? (18:50)
What is the one teaching from Dr. Sproul that impacted your thinking the most? (20:23)
What is the reformed perspective concerning the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament Saints? (23:09)
Can a person be 100% sure of his or her salvation? (27:50)
What are the different ways we reach our audience at Ligonier? (30:00)
What did you learn from others like, Francis Schaeffer, about teaching and reaching students? (31:00)
What was it that gave you the vision to pursue this season of Ligonier with RBC, etc. (33:15)
What is the biggest issue we face in the church today? (35:10)
In light of a postmodern society where truth is “relative”, is evangelism more difficult? (36:31)
Do the Pittsburgh Pirates prove predestination? (39:07)
How do you respond to someone who claims to be a Christian but asserts that there is no such thing as Hell? (40:55)
What is the role of the civil magistrate? (43:40)
How would you recommend one share the truth about the errors in Catholic doctrine without being rude or argumentative? (45:20)
What would you say in response to the doctrine of baptismal regeneration? (46:45)
How do we respond to the hyper-grace movement? (49:00)
Why should a Christian study history? (50:35)
I’m a Christian, but I don’t feel any different. I hear all these stories and testimonies who talk about how they feel different. Do I have to develop feelings that I don’t feel right now? (52:25)

Theology Questions

Theology in Dialogue with R.C. Sproul and Derek Thomas

On Friday, January 15, Dr. Sproul was joined by Ligonier teaching fellow Dr. Derek Thomas for a relaxed and informative evening of theology and dialogue. These notable theologians and pastors answered questions submitted through social media and from a live audience at Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, FL. The topics addressed included God’s nature, Islam, finding a local church, Scripture, and more.

1. Does God choose not to lie, or does His nature dictate that He cannot lie? (02:58)
2. What’s the greatest challenge to biblical Christianity today? (03:19)
3. Can Christians truly have assurance of salvation? (03:51)
4. Were Adam and Eve saved? (04:31)
5. Why does the church argue against head coverings using first-century culture when Paul argues from Genesis? (05:06)
6. What is your favorite hymn and why? (07:13)
7. How did they determine approximate dates for various books in the Bible? (08:00)
8. Was the average Old Testament Jew able to gain a complete understanding of the Trinity? (10:35)
9. Do you believe that we are headed to a point in which the government will require churches to perform “same-sex” marriages? (13:10)
10. Why is wisdom personified as female? (16:10)
11. Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? (16:50)
12. Do you believe that Christians need to do a better job of defending their faith (especially as it relates to Islam)? (19:00)
13. Is there any support for complementarianism in the creation account prior to the fall? (20:23)
14. Did Jesus, during His earthly ministry, have the ability to sin? (22:40)
15. Does Scripture provide hope for a child who turns away from Christ as a young college student? (25:24)
16. If the reformers like Calvin and Luther didn’t state explicitly their end times views, what would be their presumed view in your eyes? (28:38)
17. Have either of you changed your eschatological views? (31:45)
18. If you had a moment with one of today’s prosperity preachers, what would you say? (32:40)
19. What doctrine in the Bible do you find the most difficult to accept and why? (33:31)
20. Are both of you hopeful for another awakening in our age? (35:36)
21 In Acts 2:38 it says that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins. What do you believe about this and why? (37:49)
22. What makes a church good and how do you find one? (39:36)
23. Does the incarnation mean that God has changed in space and time from that point on? If not, why and how do we respond to the question? (43:59)
24. Did the death of Jesus accomplish anything for the non-elect? (46:31)
25. What would you say to a Christian who doesn’t believe in the inerrancy of Scripture? (48:14)
26. What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? (49:43)
27. Can good theology and sound doctrine become an idol? (52:53)
28. How have the truths from your series “Surprised by Suffering” been a comfort for you as you have dealt with health issues? (56:19)

Questions From Various Parts of the World

Dr. Ravi Zacharias

Why should one religion have the right to declare what is right and what is wrong?

Aren’t all religions the same? And isn’t Jesus just one of many prophets?

The Bible never mentions original sin; Jesus never mentioned the trinity. So why believe?

Questions from students in the Middle East:

Questions from students in Europe:

Questions from students in the United States:

When it comes to women teaching men, how far is too far?

questionmarkredstandingDr. Sam Storms introduces the following article on his blog with these words: “This article by Mary Kassian is one of the best treatments of this thorny question as I’ve ever read. I encourage you to study it closely and in its entirety. It is a model of careful and judicious reasoning in an effort to answer questions not explicitly addressed in Scripture.”

Women Teaching Men — How Far Is Too Far? by Mary A. Kassian (original source but not fifteen? Lip kiss but not French kiss? How far is too far?
Well, the Bible doesn’t exactly specify.

Trying to put together a list of rules about permitted behaviors would be both misleading and ridiculous. But we’re not left without a rudder. The Bible does provide a clear boundary. Sexual intercourse prior to marriage crosses the line.

God reveals for us the principle of purity, gives a clear this-goes-over-the-line boundary, and to help us figure out the rest, provides us with the gift of his indwelling Spirit in the community of the saints. And thankfully when we mess up, he stands ready to extend his lavish and costly forgiveness and grace.

Asking the Right Question

Pre-marital sexual intercourse crosses the line. But let me ask you this: Can a couple physically honor the boundary and still violate the principle of purity? Of course they can.
So a woman who only considers the boundary and asks, “How far is too far?” is really asking the wrong question. A better question would be, “Do I love what God loves?” “Do I treasure what he treasures?” “Does what I do with my body indicate that I treasure purity?” And, “How can I best honor Christ in how I physically interact with my boyfriend?”

By now you may be muttering, “I thought she was going to talk about women teaching men in the church.”

I am. But I think the question of how I — as a woman with a spiritual gift of teaching — ought to honor male headship in the church has many similarities with the question of how a young woman ought to honor the principle of purity. In the former situation as well as the latter, God hasn’t given us a detailed how-far-is-too-far list. He’s given us a broad principle, a clear this-goes-over-the-line boundary, and the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit to help us figure out the rest in the wisdom of community.

Loving What God Loves

God wants us to honor his divine design by honoring the principle of male headship in our homes and church families. The church is God’s family and household (1 Timothy 3:15, Hebrews 3:6, Galatians 6:10). Continue reading

Arminianism, Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism – What’s the Difference?

questionmarkredstandingArticle: What’s the Difference Between Arminianism, Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism? by Tom Ascol (original source the following summary reveals the basic differences between Arminianism, Calvinism, and hyper-Calvinism.

In one sense, hyper-Calvinism, like Arminianism, is a rationalistic perversion of true Calvinism. Whereas Arminianism undermines divine sovereignty, hyper-Calvinism undermines human responsibility. The irony is that both Arminianism and hyper-Calvinism start from the same, erroneous rationalistic presupposition, namely that human ability and responsibility are coextensive. That is, they must match up exactly or else it is irrational. If a man is to be held responsible for something, then he must have the ability to do it. On the other hand, if a man does not have the ability to perform it, he cannot be obligated to do it.

The Arminian looks at this premise and says, “Agreed! We know that the Bible holds all people responsible to repent and believe [which is true]. Therefore we must conclude that all men have the ability in themselves to repent and believe [which is false, according to the Bible].” Thus, Arminians teach that unconverted people have within themselves the spiritual ability to repent and believe, albeit such ability must be aided by grace.

The hyper-Calvinist takes the same premise (that man’s ability and responsibility are coextensive) and says, “Agreed! We know that the Bible teaches that in and of themselves all men are without spiritual ability to repent and believe [which is true]. Therefore we must conclude that unconverted people are not under obligation to repent and believe the gospel [which is false, according to the Bible].”

In contrast to both of these, the Calvinist looks at the premise and says, “Wrong! While it looks reasonable, it is not biblical. The Bible teaches both that fallen man is without spiritual ability and that he is obligated to repent and believe. Only by the powerful, regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is man given the ability to fulfill his duty to repent and believe.” And though this may seem unreasonable to rationalistic minds, there is no contradiction, and it is precisely the position the Bible teaches. The Calvinist view may appear irrational but in reality is supra-rational—it is revealed.

Can a True Christian Be Blotted from the Book of Life?

Piper11Can I Be Blotted from the Book of Life?

John Piper answers – original source the Bible mentions the phrase ‘the book of life’ about fourteen times, and quite a few of those passages mention getting blotted out of the book of life. How does this NOT mean losing your salvation?” What would you say Pastor John?

When it comes to the doctrine of eternal security or perseverance of the saints, we need to speak with precision. And I think it is not quite precise to say, as Charles does, in quite a few of the Scriptures it mentions you can be blotted out of the book of life. I don’t think it ever says you can be blotted out, at least not in the sense that sometimes God does it. It says we will be blotted out if we fail to meet certain conditions. Now whether that ever happens or in God’s sovereignty can happen is another question. I don’t think so and let me try to show why.

The book of Revelation is the book that refers to this most often and it is the book that has the text that sounds most problematical, I think. Revelation 3:5 says, “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.”

Now some say: Well, that is a foolproof text against the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints or eternal security. They assume that when Revelation 3:5 says that God will not erase a person’s name from the book of life, it implies that he does erase some people from the book of life, and that these people would once be born again, justified, saved, and, nevertheless, in the end condemned, lost, and perish. In other words, they lose their salvation on that reading of the verse.

But is that a true assumption?

The promise: “I will not erase his name from the book of life” does not necessarily imply that some do have their names erased. It simply says, to the one who is in the book, and who conquers in faith: I will never wipe your name out. In other words, being erased is a fearful prospect, which I will not allow to happen to those who persevere. In fact, there are two other passages in Revelation that teach that to have your name in the book of life means that you will most definitely persevere and conquer and thus meet the condition not to be blotted out.

Revelation 13:8 says: “And all who dwell on the earth will worship [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” Now that verse teaches that those whose names are written in the book of life definitely will not worship the beast. That is what it says. In other words, having your name in the book of life from the foundation of the world means God will keep you from folly. He will cause you to persevere in allegiance to God. Being in the book means you will not apostatize. You won’t forsake the faith.

Revelation 17:8 says: “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.” Now that means having your name in the book of life means you will be kept from marveling at the beast. Those whose names are not written in the book will marvel at the beast, and those whose names are in the book will not marvel. It is infallible as far as the way this author is arguing. To have your name in the book means you won’t marvel, you won’t worship.

So the point is that having one’s name written in the book is effective. It keeps you from making shipwreck of your faith. John does not say: If you worship the beast, your name is erased. He says: If your name is in the book, you will not worship the beast. Now back to Revelation 3:5: “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life.”

Does that mean God erases some people?


The conquering that keeps you from being erased is guaranteed by being in the book. That is the point of Revelation 13:8 and 17:8. Being in the book keeps you from doing what would get you erased from the book if you did it.

Let me say that again. Being in the book, having your name in the book, keeps you from doing — like worshiping the beast — keeps you from doing what would get you erased from the book if you did it. And that is not a contradiction any more than the way Paul is a contradiction when he says: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13).

It is not nonsense to state the condition: if you conquer, God will not erase your name, and then to state the assurance, if your name is in the book, you will conquer. That is not a contradiction. God’s written down ones really must conquer, really will conquer. They must and they will. One side highlights responsibility, you must. And one side highlights God’s sovereignty, you will.

So the message for us is this: Never, never, never be cavalier or trifling about your perseverance. God uses real warnings to keep us vigilant and to keep us persevering. We are safe. But we are not careless. That is the point. Press on to make salvation your own, as Paul says, because Christ has made you his own (Philippians 3:12).

Explaining the First Sin

questionmarkredstandingFrom the Rob writes in to ask: “Pastor John (Piper), as someone who is reformed/Calvinist, I highly appreciate Jonathan Edwards who claims that (1) free will is doing what we desire but that (2) God gives us the desire to do good. With that being said, and keeping James 1:13 in mind, I’m having trouble understanding where Lucifer received his first desire to sin. Norman Geisler says ‘the unmistakable logical conclusion for the extreme Calvinist [is that] both Lucifer and Adam sinned because God gave them the desire to sin’ [Chosen But Free, page 36]. I would imagine that Adam received his desire to sin from Eve who received it from the serpent/Satan, but if God is sovereign over all things — including our desires — would that make him the initial author of the first desire to sin?” How do you answer this mystery?

For as many years as I can remember, I have said that among the mysteries in my theology for which I do not have an adequate answer, one of them is the question how — “how” is a key word here — how did the first sin come about?

And by the first sin, I don’t mean Adam’s first sin, I mean Satan’s first sin, the very first sin in the universe. The Bible opens not with the beginning of evil, but with the presence of unexplained evil. Man is created innocent and the serpent is already there, deceitful, manifestly opposed to the God of creation, and that is where the Bible begins. And as far as I can see, no explanation is offered in the Bible for how Satan became evil. I know there are hints that he was a perfect angel created by God.

Jude refers to angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, whom God has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day (Jude 6). And I don’t doubt that Satan was created good and fell from his proper place like Jude says, because I don’t think that evil and God are both eternal and ultimate realities. I am not a dualist. God and his goodness and wisdom and power are the only ultimate eternal realities. And evil is somehow derivative, secondary without God being a sinner. And all of that virtually all Christians agree on.

How did Satan become evil? I do not know. And it is plain to me that those who believe in ultimate self-determination of God’s creatures, like angels and humans, don’t know either. To say that Satan had free will — that is ultimate self determination — to say that Satan had free will is not an explanation for why he committed his first sin. It is a label. It is not an explanation. It is a label of a mystery. How could a perfectly good being with a perfectly good will and a perfectly good heart ever experience any imperfect impulse that would cause the will to move in the direction of sin? And the answer is, nobody knows, including those who say: Oh, it is free will. That is not an explanation. It is a name for a mystery.

john-piperSo we don’t know. The Bible doesn’t explain the how of it. So Rob quotes Norman Geisler who says, “The unmistakable, logical conclusion for the extreme Calvinist for both Lucifer and Adam that they sinned is because God gave them the desire to sin.” Now I am not sure whether I qualify for Geisler’s extreme Calvinist, but I strongly suspect that I do. But just at this point I am disagreeing with that description of me and I am saying: No, I am not driven to say God gave Lucifer his first desire to sin. That is an oversimplification of virtually everybody’s viewpoint. I do not know how Lucifer came to feel his first inclination to rebel against God.

But here is what I do know. God is sovereign. Nothing comes to pass apart from his plan, which includes things he more or less causes directly, and things he more or less permits indirectly, and there is no doubt in my mind that Satan’s fall and all of the redemptive plan of God for the glory of his grace afterwards was according to God’s eternal plan. But it is precisely at this point that the how of the causality of Satan’s first sin worked we do not know.

I have a category in my thinking, in other words, for the fact that God can see to it that something come to pass which he hates. This is what he did, for example, when he planned the crucifixion of Jesus according to Acts 4:27–28. The murder of Jesus was sinful and it was planned down to the detail by God. You can read it in the Psalms and you can read it in the New Testament. Precisely how God does that, maintaining his sinlessness and the sin of the things that comes about and the moral accountability of those who do those sins, the how of that, I do not know. But I think the Bible leads us to believe that he is sovereign over all sin and that he never sins. That is what I believe the Bible teaches. Continue reading

Concerning Continuationist/Charismatic Teachers

questionmarkredstanding“Pastor John, can you recommend any teachers, about it books, websites, blogs or such that you consider theologically sound in the area of the gifts/leading of the Holy Spirit from a Continuationist perspective? And the earnest pursuit thereof?”

My short answer would be “no.” I no longer consider the continuationist perspective a sound one theologically and so cannot recommend a teacher who would promote it. Of course, all of us have our blind spots theologically (me being no exception) and I am happy to affirm many teachers and ministries in the areas I believe them to be sound.

If I was asked a different question such as “John, what material would you recommend to those who have been influenced by continuationist or charismatic theology?” I would point them to the following three teachings by Phil Johnson as a starting point, and would be praying that the Lord would open their eyes to His truth:

1. Is there a baby in the charismatic bathwater? (video) (audio)

2. Providence is Remarkable (audio)

3. Is that Voice in my Head Really the Holy Spirit? (audio)

There’s more that could and should be said, but these three teachings would be a good starting point, as I say.

Theological Questions

Sinclair Ferguson, Steven Lawson, Russell Moore, and R.C. Sproul answer questions on topics such as why Adam sinned, the importance of creeds and confessions in the church, how we can know if our worship music is pleasing to God, and more.


1. If Adam was born free from evil and sin, why did he sin? (00:05)
2. If God is sovereign, what is the purpose of intercessory prayer? (02:20)
3. Is it important that a church subscribe to a confession (such as the Westminster Confession of Faith)? Why or why not? (04:39)
4. What parts of the law are still relevant to us today? (06:57)
5. Why are people so hostile to the doctrine of election? (11:48)
6. Is it a sin to be angry with God? (15:37)
7. Can you still be a Christian if you do not believe that Scripture is the inerrant and infallible Word? (17:39)
8. How can we objectively determine if our worship music is pleasing to God? (22:50)
9. How does one react to being declared homophobic before being able to show love to friends or family who have “come out” as homosexual? (34:29)
10. What has been the best work you have found on the subject of theodicy, if any? (45:15)
11. What is the gospel? (51:54)