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July 24, 2012

Yesterday I shared the first part of my recent interview with Dr. R.C. Sproul. We discussed his new book, his teaching style, his view on Creation, how he determines where to place boundaries in cooperating with other Christians, and a few other topics. Today the interview continues…

This matter of “Christian celebrity” has come up in the past few years. How have you dealt with the pull toward pride and ego-inflation, and has this been a particular challenge for you?

RC SproulWell, everybody has to fight the sin of pride. I remember reading Benjamin Franklin’s resolutions when I was in college, where he, at one point in his life, was very committed to improving his moral conduct. He wrote a big list of virtues, and every day he checked off the virtues as to whether he achieved them or not. One of the things that he considered a great virtue was humility. He said he was careful to maintain a humble attitude toward things, so at the end of the day, he would write a check for humility, and then the next day, write a check for humility, and the next day write a check for humility. He said after a while he realized he was getting proud of his humility. Pride can come at you from so many different ways, and get you just when you think you’ve overcome it. It’s always there. 

This business about Christian celebrity, I don’t know what that means, really. If you talk about celebrities, you’re talking about people who are extremely well known, usually through national media such as television, movies, or professional sports. Everybody’s heard of Arnold Palmer and Elizabeth Taylor or people in the political arena. 

But to be a minister and to have a certain visibility because of lesser media such as radio and book writing, these are two different worlds. There’s the Christian publishing world and then there’s the New York Times bestseller world, and those two hardly ever cross over. So when you talk about Christian celebrity, you’re talking about a very small universe. I’ve had people introduce me to their friends and say: “This is R.C. Sproul. He’s famous.” I laugh because I say, “If I’m famous, you don’t have to tell people that.” So this whole celebrity thing is really overblown, I think. I don’t pay much attention to it.

Looking back over your life so far, and I emphasize “so far,” what are some of your personal regrets? What do the words “well done, good and faithful servant” mean to you at this time in your life?

I can remember—I’m going to take the second part first—that when my mentor, Dr. Gerstner, was getting older, into his later 70s and into his 80s, he seemed to take a second wind. He took on more and more and more labor when most men were retired at that age. I asked him about it, and he said he knew that he didn’t have much time left. He wanted to fill his days with as much productivity for the sake of Christ as could muster. That left a profound impact on me. 

July 23, 2012

I’ve often spoken of my love and respect for Dr. R.C. Sproul and the ministry he founded. I was recently given the opportunity to interview Dr. Sproul and turned to the readers of this site to see what they would like to ask him. Over the next two days I will share a transcript of the interview I conducted. In today’s installment I ask Dr. Sproul about his new book, his teaching style, his view on Creation, how he determines where to place boundaries in cooperating with other Christians, and a lot more.

What motivated you to write The Work of Christ? Was it an area in which you perceived a lack of theological understanding among Christians? Was it motivated by pastoral concern?

The Work of ChristWell, the very first series that I did in the field of adult education was in 1969 at a church in Philadelphia, and the series was on the work of Christ. That was such an exciting time for me. It really was pivotal because I acquired a taste, indeed a passion, for adult education as a result of that experience of working with the laity in the church. I saw how they responded when they gained a deeper understanding of all the things that Jesus did in His ministry. So that passion was born in 1969. It’s never really left me.

Recently we did that series in a new setting with a new audience, and out of that grew the inspiration for this book. I think it’s extremely important, because at the heart of the Christian faith is Christ—who He is and what He has done. This is so often overlooked in the church. It’s amazing to me, but yet it’s of critical importance for us as Christians to come to a deeper understanding of what Jesus has done.

[You can read my review of The Work of Christ here]

From the beginning of your ministry, your teaching style has always included pacing around the lectern and across the platform, as well as regularly writing key terms on a chalkboard. Can you tell us how your teaching style developed and share your insights on the nature of presentation in teaching others?

When we talk about teaching style, I guess some people think about a carefully choreographed style for communication. I’ve never done that. My teaching style is just an expression of who I am. My concern is always to get my message across. The idea of walking around and using a blackboard started in my teaching of philosophy and Bible as a professor in a college.

July 19, 2012

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to interview John Piper. I promptly solicited questions from you, the readers of this site, and Pastor John was kind enough to answer them. Because the focus of this year’s Desiring God National Conference is sanctification, I asked him questions related to that subject. In this interview he discusses why sanctification is not an instantaneous act, how we can emphasize personal toil in holiness without diminishing the goodness and sovereignty of God, why we need to continue to confess our sins to God, and how we can know if we are growing in sanctification. If you read only one of the answers, be sure it is the final one!

What is God’s purpose in making sanctification a lifelong pursuit rather than an instantaneous act at the moment of conversion?

John PiperFirst, I agree with the assumption that this is true. God does do this. That is, he intentionally does not conquer all our sins in an instant, though he could. He could perfect us now. We know this because he is going to do it when we die. We will not sin in heaven. We will be among “the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Heb. 12:23).

And we know that God will finally throw Satan into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10) and take away his influence in the new world entirely. If he will do it then, he could do it now. But he doesn’t. He gives Satan leash. So why is Satan allowed to rage, and why does God let us go on stumbling toward holiness?

I am not aware of any text in the Bible that answers this question explicitly. So we answer with inferences from God’s broader statements of purpose. The largest answer is that God does all things for the greater display of his glory, and so this too must be for his glory.

One clue to make this more specific comes from Romans 9:22–23. Paul asks rhetorically, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy?”

June 25, 2012

John PiperJohn Piper does not do a lot of interviews, so it’s rather a thrill for me to be able to do just that. Since I have this opportunity, I thought it might be fun to open it up to the readers of this site (as I did recently with R.C. Sproul—that interview will be ready to go shortly). Here’s your opportunity to ask John Piper a question.

Obviously there are millions of things we could ask him, so before I solicit your questions, I want to put a boundary in place: Let’s keep the questions focused on the subject of sanctification. This year’s Desiring God National Conference is titled “Act the Miracle: God’s Work and Ours in the Mystery of Sanctification.” Let’s anticipate that conference by confining ourselves to that subject. There should be lots we can learn!

With that stipulation in place, go ahead and leave a comment with your question about sanctification. I’ll choose some of the best ones and send them through to pastor John.

May 29, 2012

RC SproulIn a couple of weeks I am going to have an opportunity to interview R.C. Sproul. This isn’t something that comes along every day! I thought it would be interesting to have an open mic, so to speak, allowing those of you who read this site to suggest questions I may like to ask him.

So here is your chance to ask Dr. Sproul anything at all (anything at all within reason, of course). Let’s try to focus the questions on Sproul, his books, his ministry and perhaps some contemporary events. I don’t see this as an opportunity to ask him the general theological questions that have been bothering you. Let’s talk about him, his years of ministry, the books he has written, and maybe especially his most recent book, The Work of Christ, which I reviewed this morning. So go ahead and leave a comment with your question. To make things just a bit more interesting, I’ll try to find some copies of The Work of Christ for some of you whose questions end up being chosen.

Suggest a Question

May 23, 2012

I have been able to conduct a lot of interviews in the many years I’ve been running this blog. A couple of weeks ago I drew up a list of interviews featuring Christian artists. Today I’ve got a second round-up for you, this one showcasing interviews about, well, everything else.

About Everything

10 Questions with John MacArthur” and “5 More Questions with John MacArthur

About Books They’ve Written

Spiritual Healing in the Midst of a Husband’s Addiction to Pornography” about Vicki Tiede’s forthcoming book When Your Husband Is Addicted to Pornography.

5 Questions with Josh Harris” about his book Dug Down Deep.

Who Made God? An Interview with Edgar Andrews,” about his book Who Made God?

The Gospel: The Key to Parenting” about Bill Farley’s book Gospel-Powered Parenting.

The Soul in Cyberspace: An Interview with Douglas Groothuis” about his book The Soul in Cyberspace.

An Interview with Os Guinness” about his book The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It.

About Faith in Real Life

The Most Unlikely of Heroes,” an interview with Lee Dyck about adopting a special needs child.

The God Who Gives Strength as Needed: An Interview with Terry Stauffer” about the power of the gospel in dealing with the murder of his daughter.

Memorizing Scripture - An Interview” with Ryan Ferguson about the discipline of memorizing scripture.

An Interview with Ben Zobrist” about being a Christian and a major league baseball player.

Interviewing the ProBlogger,” an interview with Darren Rowse about being a Christian and a blogger.

About Theology

“Continuationism and Cessationism: An Interview with Dr. Wayne Grudem,” Part 1 and Part 2

“Tongues! Signs! Wonders! An Interview with Dr. Sam Waldron,” Part 1 and Part 2

May 08, 2012

I have been able to conduct quite a few interviews in the many years I’ve been running this blog. Recently I ran through those interviews and noted how many of them featured Christian artists, ranging from musicians to photographers to illustrators. Here are a few of my favorites:




Performance Art


May 03, 2012

When I was in Louisville for Together for the Gospel I bumped into Russell Moore and had a few minutes to speak about reading fiction. I quickly saw that he has done a lot of thinking about fiction, about the morality and responsibility of reading it. I was eager to learn more and he was kind enough to answer my questions.

In recent months I have been reading and listening to more novels than is typical for me. I’ve enjoyed this a lot, but have found that many of the good, popular novels contain some measure of what I would deem immoral or sinful—profanity, sex outside of marriage or violence, for example. How much or what types of profanity or sexuality can be in a novel and it still be spiritually edifying? What guidelines do you use in your own reading?

Russell MooreYes, this is especially true when it comes to the writings of contemporary artists such as John Updike or Phillip Roth and so on. When it comes to novels, I have a similar rubric that I have with music or film. Violence and profanity and shocking content in Schindler’s List is different than violence or profanity or shocking themes in American Pie or Faces of Death (I’ve seen neither of those, in case someone wonders, but I can get the gist from a distance). In some films, there is a context to dealing with dark themes that doesn’t seek to enflame dark tendencies within the viewer, but rather to show reality for what it is.

The Bible does the same thing. The Bible depicts such dark material as murder, incest, adultery, and so on, but never in such a way as to glorify or arouse such tendencies.

Someone who is a converted and reformed ex-Nazi Party member shouldn’t watch Schindler’s List, if such would prompt in him a vulnerability to his violent idolatrous old ideology. And, for that matter, a former pantheist might not be able to watch Disney’s Pocahantus for the same reasons. There are certain things no one should watch or read, but then there are other things that wisdom and prudence would decree different sets of standards based on different sets of vulnerabilities.

Two questions come to mind. First, what are those things that no one should watch or read?

When I say some things would be out of bounds for any Christian, I am thinking of, for example, the kind of literary pornography that now abounds, especially in e-book form (because it allows for the privacy to read it). The top selling e-book in the country right now, according to the New York Times, is Fifty Shades of Grey (which, I’m quick to note that I haven’t read!), which is a pornographic fantasy about sadism and masochism.

April 10, 2012

I’ve made it no secret that I enjoy Christian rap music (and I’m not above poking fun at myself, as I did with The Middle-Aged White Guy’s Guide to Christian Rap). Near the forefront of the Christian rap or holy hip-hop movement is Trip Lee. His new album, The Good Life, releases today and last week I was able to catch up with Trip to ask him about life, ministry, and this new album.

The Good LifeYou have a new album releasing in April. Who do you see as the primary audience for this album?

The Good Life is my fourth album and I couldn’t be more excited about its release. As I put together the songs for this record, I tried to write them in a way that would impact both believers and skeptics. I’m hoping that the songs will reach all different kinds of people who’ve been impacted by hip hop culture. Because I do hip hop, it gives me opportunities to speak to folks who wouldn’t usually listen to what I have to say. I want to take advantage of that and steward the platform well.

So what is it that you want the listener to take away from this album? What do you hope it will accomplish in the listener?

I want the listener to think deeply about the kind of life they desire to live. We’re fed so many lies about what “the good life” is and I set out to challenge those lies on this album. Too often, especially within hip hop, we’ve been told that the good life is a life with money, cars, and girls. Or maybe we think the good life is a life free from worry and responsibility. Or maybe a life where God gives us everything we ask Him for. Whatever it may be, I wanted to challenge those lies and paint a new picture of the good life using a biblical lens. What is the best kind of life we can live according to God? I think the good life is a life spent believing God and embracing everything He has for us in Christ.

Who or what influenced the content of this new album? Were there books you were reading or Scriptures you were preaching that provided inspiration?

The main thing that made me choose this theme was heartbreak. I’m always heartbroken when I see people build their lives around lies. So I wanted to encourage the listeners to build their lives around God’s words. Whenever I read Romans 8, I’m reminded of the riches God has given us in Christ. There is nothing that can separate us from His omnipotent love, and the good life is wrapped up in that truth. That truth from Romans 8 is at the heart of this album.

As I read books and preached sermons during the album process, God continued to show me new things I could encourage my listeners in. It’s a broad topic, so everything I’ve been reading has contributed and inspired me in some way.

March 28, 2012

I happen to know two people who have read the complete written works of D.A. Carson—at least everything that is publicly available. This takes some dedication, considering that Carson’s bibliography includes 62 books, 257 articles and 115 reviews.

I recently interviewed the two of them, trusting that they would be able to give us an introduction to Carson’s works and help bridge the rest of us into the ones that are most important and most accessible. Andy Naselli is a former student of Dr. Carson’s who lives in South Carolina and now serves as Dr. Carson’s Research Manager. John Bell lives in Toronto, Ontario and is pastor of New City Baptist Church.

How has reading the works of D.A. Carson benefited you on a personal level?

Andy: He has helped me love God and my neighbor better by understanding his Word better. His example motivates me to consecrate my life to God by using the theological disciplines as a good steward of God’s manifold grace (1 Pet 4:10).


  1. Through my reading of Carson the Lord has blessed me with a more biblical understanding of who God is and what he accomplished in the death and resurrection of his Son. This glorious knowledge has spread to every area of my life and ministry.
  2. Having read the works of Carson, I more clearly see the sinfulness of sin, the holiness of God, and the salvation-historical necessity of the propitiatory cross work of Jesus. Sin angers God. The bible tells us God responds to sin with personal wrath because sin is rebellion against him; it’s cosmic anarchy; it’s an outrageous display of creaturely autonomy; our sin is an attempt to de-god God, to kick over his royal throne; sin is idolatry. Through Carson, the Lord has taught me that sin is first and foremost vertical—it is against the Holy One himself. God is the most offended party by my sin, not other humans (whom I sin against on a horizontal level). And because he is holy, God must punish sin. This controls how I understand and preach the cross.
  3. Through Carson, I have a much clearer understanding the christological, salvation-historical unity of the bible’s storyline, which means as a preacher I more accurately handle the word of truth. 
  4. One of the functional non-negotiables of my Christian life and ministry is the inerrancy of scripture. The Lord used Carson’s writings to answer the many, many skeptical questions I had on this front. As a result, the members of New City Baptist have the very highest view of scripture: that’s what they are hearing from their pastor.
  5. Finally, I have a biblical understanding of suffering and evil, though I am young enough not to have experienced much of it for myself. Evil, suffering and death is consistent with a biblical worldview, and as a Christian that worldview is to be my own. The Lord has used Carson to prepare me for evil, suffering, and death by opening up the scriptures and explaining to me what they say. In turn, I am able to preach these truths to my people.

What do you see as D.A. Carson’s most important contributions to contemporary evangelicalism?