Wednesday, February 26, 2020

RC Sproul Jr's Steven Sitler Pedophile Coverup

Google "Steven Sitler" and you'll find the tale of years of harm inflicted on a small Idaho community by a serial pedophile and his pastor. Even for those who've followed the Steven Sitler scandal closely, what they don't realize is they've only heard half the story. It actually gets worse.  

For those already familiar with Doug Wilson's role in the Steven Sitler pedophilia scandal, feel free to skip to Part 2, below.

Part 1:
The little college town of Moscow, Idaho (pop. 25,146) features prominently in the Steven Sitler story. This isn't because pedophiles are rare in Moscow, or anywhere else for that matter. Child molesters exist in virtually every community. In Moscow alone there are 47 registered sex offenders, the majority of which are child molesters. Idaho State quantifies that as 1 in every 544 residents. With only one exception they've received very little local attention from bloggers and community activists. Steven Sitler, however, has received a great deal of that. This isn't because Sitler's crimes began and ended exclusively in Moscow. Nor is the spotlight on Sitler due only to the large number of children he molested. Other pedophiles in Idaho have committed the same or sometimes even worse (experts say the term "serial pedophile" is redundant).   

Steven Sitler began his criminal career molesting children in his home town of Colville, Washington. After graduating from high school in May 2003 he relocated to Virginia where he molested more children. Only later did Sitler move to Moscow, Idaho where he was ultimately caught and convicted. It isn't because of Sitler's arrest there that the town of Moscow, Idaho is so tightly coupled to the name "Steven Sitler." Rather, the reason is largely because of Steven Sitler's pastor, Douglas Wilson. Apart from Doug Wilson's meddling in the Steven Sitler affair, and his self-justifications for that meddling, it's unlikely the Steven Sitler case ever would have arisen to the acrimonious scandal it became.

From the earliest days of his pastoral career Doug Wilson earned a reputation in Moscow of having a demeanor quite opposite that of "pastoral." Wilson is known to his neighbors in Moscow as being smug, arrogant, bombastic, snarky, autocratic, unaccountable, egotistical,  and abrasive. Many in Moscow, and especially former "Kirk" members, refer to Christ Church as a cult and Douglas Wilson a cult leader. Like so many other cult leaders Wilson uses scripture as a weapon to assail anyone who dares challenge him. That includes fellow believers as well as unbelievers. From his pulpit and publications Wilson frequently targets his "enemies" with imprecatory Psalms and imprecatory prayers. He's dubbed this weaponized use of scripture "serrated edge theology." By it he's stumbled many believers and pushed away many unbelievers in disgust, from the Christian faith altogether.

This isn't to say, however, that Doug Wilson is unpastoral to all. As it concerns pedophiles Wilson has a reputation for, in his own words, covering up sin. "I am a pastor. And I cover up sin for a living." Given the magnitude of scandal Doug Wilson created in his mollycoddling of Steven Sitler he's well earned his reputation as Moscow's Most Hated Man. Ironic, isn't it, that a pastor would be even more disdained by a community than a serial pedophile? By his years-long advocacy and active support of Steven Silter, (not to mention his support of the convicted sex offender, Jamin Wight) Doug Wilson has forever destroyed his own reputation.

After enrolling in Wilson's New Saint Andrews College, Steven Sitler arrived in Moscow, Idaho in late August 2003. He also began attending Wilson's Christ Church. As is the case for a number of NSA students Sitler was boarded with a Christ Church family. He wasted no time preying on Christ Church children, beginning with the children of the family he was boarded with.

Wilson's church, and the confederation he founded (CREC), attracts many Quiverfull families. This could make "The Kirk" an attractive target for predators. Sitler ingratiated himself with multiple Kirk families. He sought ways of being alone with small children such as offering to babysit. Sitler's modus operandi was to target boys and girls 2-12 years of age. Sitler posted many photos on his web site of small children. In fact his web site was comprised of practically nothing but photos of small children. It's for good reason that some who saw Sitler's web site commented that it had the appearance of a "pedophile trophy site."

On March 5, 2005 the father of the family where Sitler was boarded discovered that Sitler had been in bed with one of his children. Sitler initially denied any wrongdoing, claiming he had only been "praying" for her. In reality he'd been preying on her. Upon further investigation the father determined Sitler had molested several of his own children, as well as several other children who'd been guests in his home. The father notified Sitler's parents, as well as Doug Wilson. The father filed a police report and Detective Margaret Lehmbecker also documented her interview with the father (TRIGGER WARNING: graphic descriptions of child molestation. All names have been redacted).

Wilson was notified that Sitler had molested multiple children, but he was in the dark about how long it'd been going on and with how many children he'd molested. Rather than letting the criminal justice system do their job unimpeded Wilson interposed himself under the guise of "counseling" Sitler. Sitler made confessions to Wilson and Wilson determined to interpret these confessions as "repentance." Wilson also decided that Sitler must be telling him the truth, that he was holding nothing back and making full disclosure, and that his memory was reliable. Wilson's only discipline of Sitler was to suspend him from The Lord's Table (communion) and to expel him from NSA. Sitler was free to continue attending church. The only statement made at the time was Sitler had been expelled "for a gross violation of the student code of conduct." Thus began Wilson's coverup, but it didn't end there.

The Sheriff's office made many attempts at interviewing the parents of child victims they'd positively identified. Their investigative efforts were hampered when confronted with the fortress psyche of a sociological cult. It was apparent Wilson was using the confessions he extracted from Sitler to make contact with parents of victim children and dissuade them from cooperating with the Sheriff's office. Wilson informed victim families Sitler would deny his earlier confessions and take the case to trial. Wilson conveyed that Sitler's defense attorney, Dean Wullenwaber (who was also NSA's attorney), would compel any child victims to take the stand in court and subject them to harsh cross-examination. In Wilson's words this would "re-victimize the victims." The fact is any child victims would not have been subjected to such intimidation tactics in court or anywhere else. Wilson well knew it but, as a direct result of his "Let's protect the victims" campaign, no parent, other than the father who originally reported Sitler, cooperated with the Sheriff's investigation. Phone calls to victim parents were never returned, letters were never answered, and interviews could never be conducted. Under Doug Wilson's duplicitous leadership Christ Church circled the wagons. Wilson used the victims as human shields, all under the guise of "protecting them." In reality Wilson was only protecting the child molester.

It was determined that Sitler had been molesting children at Christ Church for some 18 months. But Wilson delayed for another eight months before notifying his congregation. When Wilson did ultimately notify his church he diminished the magnitude of Sitler's offenses by equating his crimes of child molestation and child rape to breaking the 7th commandment, "You shall not commit adultery."

A morally responsible pastor would not delay in notifying his congregation. A morally responsible pastor would immediately call an emergency congregation meeting, passed out pictures of the pedophile, and given guidance, "Show this picture to your children and ask them, 'Have you ever been alone with this man?' If the answer is yes then you'll have to ask some difficult questions about inappropriate touching. But we'll be here for you. We'll get your kids the support and professional counseling they need." Wilson did none of that. He delayed 8 months, giving opportunity for memories to fade, leaving many to surmise that's exactly what he wanted. Even with his delayed announcement he offered no suggestions to his congregants in what to do for their children. Wilson's inexcusable 8 month delay only further confirmed that he'd circled the wagons and engaged in a cover up. 

As part of a criminal plea bargain Sitler was required to write letters of apology to the parents of every child he'd ever molested (or at least the ones he could remember molesting and that he personally defined as "inappropriate touching"). Sitler wrote dozens of letters, perhaps as many as 100, to parents in Idaho, Washington and Virginia. In some letters he had to confess to molesting more than just one child per family. On September 25, 2005 Sitler avoided going to trial by pleading guilty to one count of "Lewd Conduct with a minor under sixteen years of age." On October 12, 2005 Judge John Stegner handed down a sentence that "defendant be committed to the custody of the Idaho State Board of Correction for a period of LIFE. Pursuant to Idaho Code 19-2513, the defendant shall serve a minimum period of confinement of not less than FIVE (5) YEARS."

Wilson interposed himself again and pleaded with Judge John Stegner for leniency. Wilson claimed that Sitler was repentant -- a changed man.
"I would urge that the civil penalties applied would be measured and limited. I have a good hope that Steven has genuinely repented, and that he will continue to deal with this to become a productive and contributing member of society."
Stegner subsequently obliged Wilson, suspended Sitler's sentence, and placed Sitler on probation. Sitler served only 20 months in jail.

But even during that brief year and a half incarceration Sitler was treated far better than many other criminals who'd been convicted of far less loathsome crimes. Rather than serving time in the state penitentiary Sitler was remanded to the Latah County Jail, or what some Moscow residents call "The Latah Hilton." Sitler was also routinely let out of jail, driving himself around unsupervised to various appointments, such as "sex offender counseling," all with the active encouragement of Wilson. Even while Sitler was serving his jail sentence the residents of Moscow were on constant alert, never knowing when Sitler might be released, having to keep a vigilant eye out for their children. Now that Sitler is no longer incarcerated it's even worse for them.

Sitler's release from jail hasn't ended Doug Wilson's meddling. Wilson continues using Sitler as one of his principal causes for "covering sin." Wilson's sin covering has significantly diminished the quality of life for Moscow residents. The hostility they hold for Doug Wilson is palpable. He was already disliked as it was, but his meddling in the Steven Sitler case made him a pariah.

Were it not for Doug Wilson Steven Sitler would be where he belongs -- in the Idaho State Penitentiary locked up for the rest of his life. Contrary to Doug Wilson's flawed theology of forgiveness, Steven Sitler's sins have not been "covered," and certainly not from what comes by way of contrition, repentance and reconciliation with his victims and their parents. The only thing Wilson covered up are the just consequences for Sitler's sins -- the lengthy prison sentence his heinous crimes warrant.

Here the story gets even worse. 

Part 2: 
There is an additional "pastor" who helped ensure that the victims of this church-attending child predator would never receive the justice they deserve. Some of that pastor's own children are victims. Nevertheless he covered it all up. That "pastor" is RC Sproul Jr. We find it odd that Doug Wilson has gotten all the attention in the Steven Sitler pedophilia scandal while RC Sproul Jr has escaped virtually all scrutiny. In some respects the ramifications of RC Sproul Jr's Steven Sitler fiasco may be as or even more disturbing than Wilson's. The primary difference is Wilson interposed himself as a meddling busybody and "covered up the sins" of Sitler's crimes. Sproul on the other hand "covered up" everything. But credit should also be given where it is due -- as it concerns damage control Sproul was far more shrewd in how he managed his Steven Sitler debacle than did Wilson (not that we mean that as a complement). 

In early June 2003 Steven Sitler moved to Virginia to "study" at the Highlands Study Center (later renamed Highlands Ministries). As we've exposed previously HSC was a six-figure fundraising boondoggle to line RC Jr's pockets (and pay for his brewery) at the expense of naive donors. The money poured in year after year, largely due to his name, or rather his father's name. As a teenager RC Sproul Jr determined that he'd have a life of ease and prosperity. Rather than seeking an honest vocation he elected to ride dad's coattails. From the time of his birth his family and friends had always called Robert Craig Sproul "Craig," thus distinguishing him from his father Robert Charles Sproul, known to one and all as "RC Sproul." Recognizing the currency of his father's name, at age 16 Craig started calling himself "RC Sproul Jr." Having different middle names didn't qualify him for the "Jr." moniker. But when the objective is riding dad's coattails why let details get in your way?

By virtue of his purloined name "RC Sproul Jr." ultimately became a celebrity preacher, celebrity platform courtesy of his father's Ligonier Ministries, and the six-figure salary every celebrity preacher is entitled to. Unlike his father (or any of the rest of us for that matter), RC Jr never had to work for a living. Everything came easy, especially the money, much of which he literally stole. Even post-Ashley Madison and drunk driving conviction RC Jr is still riding the Ligonier Ministries gravy train.

The "study center" was RC Jr's office in his basement. The occasional "student" was boarded in a bedroom in that same basement. Several of RC Jr's children had bedrooms in the basement as well. This made his children tempting and easy prey for the pedophile(s) that RC Jr welcomed into his home. Never did RC Jr bother to vet his "students." Had he done so he would have discovered that Steven Sitler was under church discipline for molesting children in his home church of Colville, Washington.

While "studying" at HSC Sitler attended Sproul's St. Peter Presbyterian Church. Like Christ Church, St. Peter is comprised of mostly homeschool families, many of which are large "Quiverfull" families. Little boys and girls were abundant and easily accessible. Sitler ingratiated himself with St. Peter families, offering to watch their children. Sitler remained from early June until August 2003. He then moved to Moscow, Idaho to be a student at New Saint Andrews College.

In spring 2005 Sproul was notified by the Latah County Idaho Prosecutor that children under Sproul's charge had been molested by Sitler in the summer of 2003. As a requirement of Sitler's plea deal in Idaho, RC Sproul Jr had already received a personal letter of apology from Sitler, naming which of his children he'd molested. The implication was made even more clear by the repeated attempts of the Latah County Prosecutor to contact Sproul that Sitler hadn't just molested Sproul's children. Very likely Silter had also molested other St. Peter children. The Latah County Prosecutor attempted on multiple occasions to contact RC Jr and inform him, both in writing and via phone messages, that he could bring criminal charges against Sitler in Virginia. Sitler's plea deal was only binding in Idaho and had no bearing on crimes he'd committed in other states. Much to the dismay of the Latah County Prosecutor Sproul never responded to any of the Prosecutor's communiques.

By October 2005 things were heating up at St. Peter Presbyterian Church. Allegations of spiritual abuse, identity theft, tax fraud, financial malfeasance, theft of church funds, drunkenness, church keggers, plying young children with hard liquor, and much more, began piling up against RC Sproul Jr and his session of elders. In November formal written charges were submitted to Presbytery against RC Sproul Jr by St. Peter member Peter Kershaw. Word of those charges quickly spread to multiple former St. Peter members. A number in turn requested to submit their own charges, which they did. As evidence and testimony of RC Jr's abuses mounted against he and his session RC Jr pleaded to avoid an impending ecclesiastical trial by offering to Presbytery a letter of confession and repentance. Based on their plea of "guilty" RC Sproul Jr, Laurence Windham, Wayne Hays, and Jay Barfield were defrocked on January 26, 2006 from the ministry by the Westminster Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Assembly (RPCGA) by Declaratory Judgement

Even weeks prior to Sproul's defrocking Doug Wilson and his CREC had rolled out the red carpet to RC Jr. After conducting a sham "investigation" in which they interviewed not a single witness, Wilson and the CREC declared that Sproul, though defrocked from the ministry, "is recognized as ordained in the CREC." Only in Douglas Wilson's Alternate Universe would such a thing ever be possible.

In May 2006 it was brought to Kershaw's attention that Sitler had for several months in 2003 been a "student" at Highlands Study Center and attended St. Peter Presbyterian Church where he'd molested Sproul's children and, in all probability, other children in his church. Kershaw was also informed that Sproul well knew of it but had done nothing about it. Kershaw immediately began making attempts at contacting Sproul to explain Sproul's moral and legal obligations, including Sproul's obligation to inform all St. Peter church families, current and former, who'd been attending during June-August 2003. Sproul failed to respond. On June 30, 2006 *Kershaw mailed a letter to Sproul. In it he explained that if Sproul continued evading his legal and moral obligations Kershaw would have no option but to inform St. Peter families directly himself. Again Sproul didn't respond. However, Kershaw did receive a brief reply from *CREC Pastor Randy Booth. Much like Doug Wilson RC Sproul Jr had circled the wagons. 

Accordingly, *Kershaw sent a letter on July 12, 2006 to every St. Peter family he could identify that had been members of St. Peter Presbyterian Church during the summer of 2003, and whose children fell within Sitler's M.O. (boys and girls 2-12). Kershaw's letter sent shock waves through St. Peter church. Multiple families had already left St. Peter in the aftermath of the defrocking. Kershaw's disclosures about Sitler resulted in even more families leaving. As was RC Jr's custom to punish anyone who left without his permission, Sproul excommunicated them and ordered everyone to shun them in retaliation. "There are only three ways to leave St. Peter Presbyterian Church. You can be excommunicated, or you can die, or you can leave if the Session approves your transfer." It's for good reason St. Peter Presbyterian Church is known in SW Virginia as "The Hotel California of churches." You can check in any time you want, but you can never leave. This "Christian Mafia" form of spiritual abuse had been one of the more significant charges that resulted in Sproul's defrocking in the first place.

We quote here this instructive statement Mr. Kershaw directed to St. Peter members:

"Another problem that victim children suffer from is if they come to later understand that their parents haven’t done everything possible on their behalf to guard them and to punish the perpetrator. Anger and resentment against parents is the inevitable result. Most acts of child molestation go unreported. Many acts of predation go unreported even when the perpetrator is caught in the act. It’s not uncommon that parents don’t press criminal charges, motivated by desires to keep the details a secret. Parents often think that by not reporting it to the authorities they’re 'protecting the child' from additional shame and embarrassment. While their intentions may be good, not reporting often has devastating results later in life for the child. At some point they’ll come to understand that their parents did little or nothing to see that the pedophile was punished for his crimes, thereby giving the pedophile more opportunities to prey on other children. Such children carry the double-burden of having been molested, and feeling betrayed by parents who didn’t care enough about their child to punish the perpetrator. Please don’t make that mistake. If you discover that any of your children were Sitler’s victims take it to the authorities."
RC Jr was himself one of those parents who took no action against Steven Sitler, criminal or otherwise, though he was still well within Virginia's statute of limitations to do so. He also had the full support of the Latah County Prosecutor's office to have Sitler extradited. As head pastor of St. Peter Presbyterian Church he was legally obligated to notify both his congregants and the police. But he did nothing. His own children were forced to suffer in silence.  We can't help but think they must feel deeply betrayed by a father who valued them so little that he refused to seek justice on their behalf. 

The obvious question is why? There had to be a reason why RC Sproul Jr evaded pressing criminal charges against Steven Sitler. There also had to be a reason why he refused to notify his church members of the likelihood that some of their children had been molested. Why did RC Jr also evade the Latah County Prosecutor, refusing to take his calls and ignoring his correspondence? Some might say it was because RC Jr feared the loss of his reputation should it be exposed that he'd failed in protecting his children and church members. Yes, he certainly did fail in this, and he failed miserably so. However, we believe the real reason goes well beyond mere concern for loss of reputation. We believe the answer comes by way of analyzing Doug Wilson's motivations in his advocacy for Steven Sitler. 

In addition to running interference for Steven Sitler Doug Wilson supported another Christ Church sex offender, Jamin Wight. Both men were committing sex crimes over the same time frame. There are similarities in Wilson's support of the two, but it's also obvious that Wilson's defense of Sitler was more aggressive. There is also a significant difference in the magnitude of their respective crimes. Sitler is known to have molested dozens of 2-12 year old boys and girls. Jamin Wight molested one 14 year old girl. One would expect Wilson's support for Steven Sitler to have been less robust than what he expended for Jamin Wight; but the opposite is the case. Why? It appears to come down to an issue of family wealth and influence, something Steven Sitler had a great deal of and Jamin Wight had none.

It's known that Steven Sitler comes from a very wealthy family. The Sitlers had also been benefactors to New Saint Andrews College. Some in Moscow speculate the reason Doug Wilson was proactive in defending Sitler is he may have solicited and received a payoff for his "counseling" services. If that were true then it wouldn't be unreasonable to suspect that Doug Wilson might have also arranged a payoff for RC Sproul Jr for his cooperation, i.e. to buy his silence. Those of us who know RC Jr well know him to be a greedy and unscrupulous man. Would RC Jr accept a bribe, even if it meant selling out his own children? We wouldn't put it past him. 

Just as the extent of Sitler's predations at Christ Church weren't limited to the one family who caught and reported Sitler, it's improbable his predations at St. Peter were limited to just the Sproul household. Doug Wilson managed to intimidate any subsequent reporting and cooperation with law enforcement, even though it was known based on Sitler's own confessions there were many other victims. We believe it likely that RC Jr followed Doug Wilson's narrative of "Don't re-victimize the victims," effectively using St. Peter's child victims as human shields to protect their "pastor's" reputation. This is classic cult behavior.

Whether or not RC Sproul Jr accepted a bribe he sent a message loud and clear to his children that, at the very least, his personal reputation comes before anything else, including them. He sent exactly the same message to St. Peter church, thereby proving he's anything but a spiritual shepherd. Shepherds protect their sheep from wolves. Sproul welcomed a wolf into their midst to ravage their most vulnerable, the lambs. Once he found out about it he refused to pursue justice on their behalf. Like the cowardly "hireling" Jesus spoke of (John 10:12-13), RC Sproul Jr ran away.

One of the biblical requirements for being a pastor is, "He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. For if anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?" (1 Timothy 3:4-5) It should surprise no one that RC Sproul Jr managed his church in very much the same manner as he managed his family -- autocratically, abusively, neglectfully, and with reckless disregard for anyone's spiritual, emotional and physical safety and well being. Sproul has always put his personal interests ahead of everyone else's.

Year after year RC Sproul Jr has heaped scandal upon scandal, consistently proving he's unfit for any form of Christian ministry. Yet this has in no way dissuaded him from scheming his way back into ministry, making merchandise off his moral failures and the alleged "forgiveness" of his scandalous sins (sans any evidence of repentance, and much evidence to the contrary). This he uses as justification for his self-restoration and self-appointment back into ministry. He's even given himself the titles "Pastor" and "Rev." It's all too obvious RC Sproul Jr is taking his cues from his new best friend, fellow defrocked Presbyterian and unrepentant serial adulterer Tullian Tchividjian. Tullian also wrote the Foreward for Sproul's latest book (a book that Sproul's adult children actively boycott). Carl Trueman targeted these two men in a recent podcast:
"We’ve had a couple of these recently -- high profile guys who've been caught in pretty catastrophic sin, and then have used their sin, they've parlayed that into their Great Restoration Narrative. They’re now available for public speaking. I want to say to those guys: sit down, shut up, and go away. Get yourself a proper job, pay taxes; we don’t want to hear from you again. Be a good member of your local church. Serve on the toilet cleaning roster or something. We don’t want you as a public speaker, and we don’t want you parlaying your adultery or your drunkenness or whatever into the greatest comeback since the resurrection. We don’t want that. We don’t need that. And you call into question by doing that the genuineness of your repentance, because it doesn’t seem that you understand quite how far you fell... I absolutely believe in grace. But I do not believe that restoration to fellowship is the same as restoration to office or authority. They’re two distinct things. They’re distinct in Scripture. They’re distinct in the church today. Yes, the adulterer, the murderer, can be restored to fellowship in the church. But whether the adulterer should ever stand in a pulpit, or stand in any position of de facto teaching authority, is an entirely different question."

Carl Trueman, Mortification of Spin podcast, June 19, 2019 (@ 23:02)

Though Carl Trueman doesn't specifically mention the names RC Sproul Jr and Tullian Tchividjian, it's obvious that's who he's targeting. We fully agree with Carl Trueman that RC Jr (and Tullian) need to sit down, shut up, and go away. We believe there is no greater evidence of RC Sproul Jr's biblical disqualification from Christian ministry than his cover up of Steven Sitler's crimes.

RC Sproul Jr has a lot of explaining to do to his children, and the children of St. Peter church, for his cover up of the dastardly crimes committed against them. Though on a smaller scale, there is little difference between Sproul's coverup and the Roman Catholic church's pedophile coverups. Based on his conduct at Christ Church it's not unreasonable to assume Douglas Wilson played the part of Catholic Bishop with RC Sproul Jr, colluding to ensure Steven Sitler would never receive the punishment his crimes warranted.

RC Sproul Jr's inexcusable conduct meant that a serial pedophile was effectively let off the hook for his crimes committed in Virginia. Had Sproul sought justice Sitler would very likely be locked up in the Virginia State Penitentiary to this day. Had that happened it would have also served toward bringing some closure to victim families in Idaho, as well. To see Sitler escape justice not just once but twice must be a very bitter pill for every victim and the victims' parents to swallow. As it is every one of those Christ Church families, as well as St. Peter families, feels deeply betrayed and cheated. Worst of all they were betrayed by their own "pastors."

St. Peter children, and RC Jr's own children too, are now adults. It's reasonable to assume that few of them have any genuine sense of closure about what happened to them as children. An apology from RC Sproul Jr might help considerably in their healing. 

Supporting Documents and Sources: 

Analyzing Douglas Wilson’s Handling of the Steven Sitler and Jamin Wight Cases  
Steven Sitler Archive
Doug Wilson Archive
*Letters made available courtesy of Peter Kershaw.


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Monday, December 02, 2019

Ligonier Ministries Still Paying RC Sproul Jr Big Money

On December 12, 2016 Ligonier Ministries posted an announcement that RC Sproul Jr had resigned from Ligonier Ministries and Reformation Bible College. Ligonier was anything but forthcoming when they said he'd resigned "for personal reasons." Ligonier's Facebook announcement wasn't the least bit honest about it either.

Initially many Ligonier supporters and RC Jr well-wishers speculated the reason he'd resigned had something to do with RC Jr's 2015 Ashley Madison account scandal. Ligonier made no effort to correct those false assumptions. They left their supporters in the dark. Even on a practical level coverups are seldom a good idea. But coverups are especially stupid for donor-funded ministries. Indeed, Ligonier's plans to keep it hush-hush quickly evaporated.

The week following Ligonier's sketchy announcement the Christian press reported RC Jr had been arrested on November 29 for drunk driving This looked especially bad not only because of his exceedingly drunken condition (.175 BAC) but because he had two of his minor children in the car. Ligonier's coverup of the matter didn't help their reputation either. RC Jr pled not guilty but ultimately negotiated a plea bargain in which he pled guilty to one of four counts against him. He avoided the expense of a criminal trial he was bound to lose, as well as the 7 years of prison time and $21,000 in fines he was facing. But his plea deal forever marked him as a felon.

Ligonier Ministries has a long history of nepotism and rewarding family members with lavish salaries they never genuinely worked for or honestly earned. Worse yet Ligonier rewards family members for conduct that only warrants discipline. A prime example is RC Sproul Jr (not to mention former Ligonier President/CEO Tim Dick).

We were the first to expose that RC Sproul Jr's suspension from Ligonier Ministries over his Ashley Madison debacle wasn't punishment but a reward disguised as "discipline." RC Sproul Jr was suspended for a year with pay, all at the expense of Ligonier Ministry donors. RC Jr was given the equivalent of a one-year paid vacation for having caused a scandal. Ligonier quietly reinstated him July 1, 2016. RC Jr's drunk driving arrest came barely five months thereafter.

When RC Sproul Jr resigned "for personal reasons" we publicly speculated that he'd soon receive a severance package, and very likely a substantial one. With the release of Ligonier's 2016 tax returns one year later our suspicions were again proven valid.

Ligonier Ministries failed to disclose any details in their tax returns of what RC Jr's severance payment(s) amounted to, and as the law requires they do. Were the payment a modest one there would be no logical reason to conceal or evade reporting it. One is left to assume RC Jr's severance payment was quite substantial, likely in the six-figures.

We've also speculated in prior articles that Ligonier Ministries would continue throwing its donor money at RC Sproul Jr long after his resignation, but that they'd probably wait a year for the dust to settle so as to not precipitate another Sproul family scandal. For example we speculated Ligonier would hire RC Sproul Jr as an independent contractor to the tune of six-figures, but that they'd do so on the down-low. With the release of Ligonier Ministries' 2018 tax returns our suspicions have, once again, proven valid.

Ligonier Ministries' 2018 990 tax returns show that Ligonier paid RC Sproul Jr $106,017.00 in "Royalties a." In reviewing the rest of the tax return it's apparent this should read "Royalties and independent contractor payments." "Royalties a" appears to be a not-so clever way of disguising that the vast majority of the figure has nothing to do with royalties. Even prior to his scandals RC Sproul Jr has never received but scant royalties from Ligonier, and with his later scandals his book sales have diminished all the more:
2011: $1976
2012: $1959
2013: unreported
2014: $1,635
2015: $1,809
2016: $1380

With his drunk driving conviction RC Sproul Jr's book sales suffered a dramatic decline and his royalties along with it. In 2017 RC Sproul Jr received only $728 in "accrued royalties."

As such it's self-evident the vast majority of the $106,017 paid to RC Jr in 2018 were independent contractor payments which Ligonier Ministries has very creatively conflated with "royalty" payments rather than entering them independently on two separate lines on the tax return as transparency and the law dictate. Ligonier Ministries appears desirous of concealing all this from their donors. 

Why would Ligonier do this? For one thing disclosure might create yet another Ligonier Ministries scandal, such as the one they created over their lawsuit against "Frank Vance." Also, it's unlikely that RC Jr can substantiate over $100K in actual expended labor. Working that hard and putting in those kind of hours would be inconsistent with his work ethic. If RC Jr did perform $100K worth of actual labor and services he'd be able to readily document it, just as every one of Ligonier's other independent contractors has, no doubt, done.

There is even the possibility that Ligonier Ministries has committed tax fraud by concealing and misreporting independent contractor payments as "royalties." We hope that's not the case, or if it is the case that it was done unintentionally. However, after reviewing it a CPA friend told us, "At the very least it's highly irregular."

Vesta Sproul was also paid royalties in 2018, although in her case there was no attempt to conceal it by conflation as in RC Jr's case. Intellectual property rights can be bequested via will or trust. If that's the case here then our CPA friend informs us Ligonier still didn't report it correctly. Any bequested royalty payments would have been paid to the "R.C. Sproul Credit Shelter Trust." and should have been reported accordingly. Furthermore, there is still the matter of RC Jr's independent contractor compensation. Why is it being conflated with royalties? Again, this is highly irregular and potentially intended to conceal wrongdoing.

This all raises some important questions:
  • What specific documented tasks is RC Sproul Jr performing as an independent contractor for Ligonier Ministries?
  • What is the hourly rate or fee schedule that RC Sproul Jr charges Ligonier Ministries?
  • How many hours has RC Sproul Jr actually worked for Ligonier Ministries?
  • Has RC Sproul Jr submitted detailed and itemized invoices to Ligonier Ministries as the law requires and as Ligonier Ministries' other independent contractors do?
  • Are RC Jr's invoices available to Ligonier Ministry donors for review?
  • Is RC Sproul Jr performing services for Ligonier Ministries that even remotely approaches the dollar value of his invoices or is this just another RC Jr scam?
  • For how many more years will RC Sproul Jr enjoy the largesse that comes from his family connections and nepotism?  
  • How long will Ligonier donors be saddled with financially supporting RC Sproul Jr's gravy train?

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Saturday, October 19, 2019

RC Sproul Jr and Child Abuse Allegations

In 1989 RC Sproul Jr began working for his father's Ligonier Ministries in Orlando, Florida. Then in 1996, after moving to Meadowview, Virginia, Sproul Jr launched his pastoral career. There he founded The Highlands Study Center. Around the same time he also founded St. Peter Presbyterian Church. It all started as a study group in his home. The functions and activities of St. Peter and HSC were so conflated it was almost impossible for anyone to determine where the one ended and the other began. This was also true of the finances, the two being routinely co-mingled, ultimately winding up in Sproul's back pocket.

It's been alleged by some that because there was seldom any actual "study" or "students" at The Highlands Study Center (one of the few "student" exceptions being the serial pedophile Steven Sitler¹) the primary purpose of HSC was a fundraising boondoggle for RC Sproul Jr. Indeed, Sproul Jr profited handsomely off donations to HSC to the tune of six-figures annually. RC Jr's financial success never correlated with his work ethic (which bears no resemblance to his father's work ethic). Rather, donations poured in largely because of his name, or rather his father's name.

While pastoring St. Peter Presbyterian Church and heading up The Highlands Study Center (subsequently renamed Highlands Ministries), RC Sproul Jr was a practitioner and proponent of the "infant training" theories taught by Gary Ezzo.

On Becoming Babywise: More Than a Survival Guide, was published in 1993. Baby Wise gained popularity among authoritarian "full-quiver" homeschooling Christian Patriarchy leaders such as Bill Gothard, Michael Pearl, Doug Phillips, and RC Sproul Jr. Outside those circles, however, Gary Ezzo was widely condemned, especially among pediatricians and other baby experts.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warned against the book, stating that its advice could result in infant development problems such as dehydration, poor weight gain, slow growth, delayed development and failure to thrive, as well as lack of milk supply in the new mother and involuntary weaning of the infant. The Babywise series of books was observed to be in direct contradiction to the AAP's own policy statement, 'Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk,' which recommends 8–12 nursing sessions every 24 hours for newborns, feeding until the baby is sated. (On Becoming Baby Wise)
Gary Ezzo had no training in pediatrics, infant care, nursing, health care, or did he ever work in any capacity that could qualify him as having any baby expertise of any kind. Gary Ezzo is, however, a graduate of Talbot Theological Seminary. He subsequently worked on staff at John MacArthur's Grace Community Church, holding the position of "Pastor, Family Ministries" (1985-1993) and taught a Sunday school class for parents. Gary and his wife Anne Marie published several papers and books on parenting which initially received official support from GCC. The Ezzos soon began ridiculing mothers at church for comforting their children, allowing babies to "control their own feeding schedule," and mothers using baby sling carriers. The Ezzo's teachings ultimately caused such a rift in the church that by 1997 GCC reversed their position and banned the books. John MacArthur and the elders of Grace Community Church owned their mistake and repented to their congregation. A number of other prominent Christian leaders have likewise renounced Gary Ezzo and Babywise. However, RC Sproul Jr never did renounce Gary Ezzo's Baby Wise teachings.

As everyone who has ever had a baby knows, babies are a joy, but they can also prove quite inconvenient. For one thing babies can cost parents, and especially moms, lost sleep. The objective of Baby Wise is to eliminate those inconveniences and give parents a restful night's sleep. The program promises to have baby sleeping through the night within 8 weeks. Baby Wise also promised to keep babies "well-behaved" when out in public. Conditioning the baby in this way promises that as they grow into a toddler, an adolescent, and then a teenager, the child will remain docile, compliant and obedient. Given the challenges and difficult schedules of tending to little ones it's no wonder that what Gary Ezzo promised might be appealing to certain parents, especially those obsessed with control. However, the "training" comes at the emotional and psychological expense of the child. It's all about control through breaking the will of the child. In their view any form of willfulness is sinfulness.

Baby Wise ignores the fact that a baby's physical and emotional needs (eating, sleeping, diaper changes, comforting, etc.) often don't coincide with their parents' personal convenience. A developing child's sense of security comes from their parents. If the parents refuse to provide reassurance of security then that child is left with none.

There are multiple troubling aspects to Baby Wise, but two of the more disturbing are "blanket training" and "self-comfort." Many critics of Baby Wise have characterized it as child abuse dressed up in religious rhetoric. Blanket training is also promoted by Michael and Debbie Pearl in their book, To Train Up A Child (1994). It's often been alleged that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar practiced blanket training and that some of the Duggar kids who have since grown, married, and have children of their own, are now practicing blanket training themselves.

What follows is the eye-witness account of how blanket training and self-comfort was carried out in the Sproul home by RC Sproul Jr:
Ghirard Says:

We were there in the early years of St. Peter Presbyterian Church. RC would sometimes invite families to his home for a meal, not so much for the regular folks, but if you were big donors to the church and Highlands Study Center like we were. We saw at least three horrible things that night. The first was the “blanket training”. We’d never seen anything like it before and hope to never have to see it again. It involved RC placing his baby girl on a blanket and every time the baby crawled off the blanket RC would hit the baby with a wooden spoon. This happened repeatedly while we were in the living room with RC while Denise was in the kitchen making supper. All the baby was trying to do was get close to her siblings playing there in the living room. But RC just kept hitting her. RC explained that he was “breaking the will of the child.” He got his goal because the baby got exhausted from her own crying and fell asleep on the blanket. Not once did he ever comfort her after he hit her. He called it “self comforting” and explained that you shouldn’t comfort a crying child because children are manipulative and if you comfort them they’ll get the idea that they’re in charge.

The baby woke up about the same time as Denise called us to supper. RC laid the baby on her back on the blanket and put one of those baby gym entertainment things there over the baby for her to play with. While we were all at the dinner table the baby started screaming. Denise tried to go and comfort the baby but RC sternly told her, “Sit down Denise”. The baby screamed and screamed for the longest time. It was awful to have to listen to. Finally RC got up to check on the baby. He was very angry. Then we heard him say, “Oh, I see what’s wrong.” He came back and explained that the baby gym had fallen over onto her face and she couldn’t get it off her. The screams had been screams of terror, cries for help, but RC ignored them and stopped Denise from helping.

I don’t know what to call it but child abuse. He never comforted the baby and he wouldn’t allow Denise to either. Most people would look at the Sproul children and say, oh they’re so well behaved. If the only goal of blanket training and refusing to comfort your children is to get them to behave themselves then RC has done a great job as a father. I can’t believe that his children feel that their father loves them though. I’ve often thought about the severe psychological problems his children must suffer from today.
Ghirard's comment is backed up by an additional eye witness account from Lindt. In addition to the blanket training Ghirard and Lindt also speak of RC Sproul Jr spanking his first wife, Denise. This article will only address the blanket training (the wife spanking allegations were addressed by Spiritual Sounding Board. We may also address the wife spanking issue in a future article, but readers are welcome to comment on it themselves below).

Blanket training is sometimes called "playpen in a purse." In other words the "playpen" is a small blanket mom can carry in her purse when she takes baby out in public. There are varying degrees of severity used to enforce the "boundaries" of the "playpen." Some of them are downright loony. It starts with placing baby on a small blanket on the floor, verbally threatening baby while hitting the floor with a wooden kitchen spoon and yelling, "Stay on the blanket!" This communicates baby's "boundaries." Some babies will respect the boundaries by only being yelled at. However, many other babies will quickly forget their boundaries and wander off the blanket. For those babies more severe consequences are encouraged.

After initial success in blanket training your baby you take it to the next level by tempting baby off the blanket with a treat or toy. When baby crawls for the toy you yell "No!" and hit the floor with the wooden spoon. In other words you are encouraged to gaslight your baby.

Threats, yelling and tempting is the tamer version of blanket training. With RC Sproul Jr and many other practitioners of blanket training they go immediately to smacking baby with the wooden kitchen spoon when baby crawls off the blanket. In their view no age is too young to begin administering corporal punishment. Michael and Debbie Pearl even acknowledged in their book to switching their 4-month old baby, and they seem quite proud of it too.

Baby Wise also teaches "self-comfort." What this entails is anytime baby cries you don't pick baby up and comfort it. You just let baby cry and cry until it stops crying, usually falling asleep from exhaustion. You do the same if baby wakes up in the middle of the night crying, whether it be from hunger, needing a diaper change, or otherwise. You just ignore baby and let baby cry themselves back to sleep. "Self-comfort" wasn't invented by RC Jr but he was one of its Baby Wise practitioners. Self-comfort has also been routinely practiced by many other Gary Ezzo devotees.

On a purely practical level the blanket training and self-comfort "worked" for RC Sproul Jr. Any casual observer would look at RC Jr's children and see they were "good kids." Always well behaved, quiet, obedient and submissive. He was proud about how his well-behaved children made him look good in public. When other parents would comment and ask what he'd done to train them to be so well-behaved he'd let them know about Baby Wise. But all that "training" came at the expense of having their wills broken from the time they were babies. It's hard to imagine that any baby subjected to such emotional and physical abuse wouldn't be deeply traumatized by it.
In our view blanket training and self-comfort are, plainly put, child abuse. RC Sproul Jr has never repented to his children for physically and psychologically abusing them. Nor has RC Jr repented to the parents whom he instructed and encouraged, both in word and by his example, to likewise perpetrate blanket training and self-comfort against their own babies. It stands to reason that RC Jr hasn't repented of it because he has no remorse for it. That assumption seems all the more valid in light of recent allegations that RC Jr continues abusing his children.

In March of this year RC Sproul Jr and wife Lisa Sproul were publicly accused by Lisa's daughter of physical, verbal and emotional abuse against Sproul's three minor children:
Sarah Michelle Kelley "I am Lisa's second oldest daughter. They are currently under investigation with the Department of Child Services as well right now... trust me- there will be legal action... They are very physically abusive, and even more verbally/emotionally abusive. We have encouraged as many people as possible to please call the child abuse hotline , and we will not stop until alI 3 children in the home are gone.  * this is all coming from them, and we are their voices"
Sarah Kelley is the same daughter that also outed RC Jr for taking her mother's opioids, allegedly popping some the same night that he'd been arrested for drunk driving with two of his minor children in the car. He blew a .175 on the breathalyzer (more than twice the legal limit). But for a chronic daily abuser of alcohol like Sproul, even this high level doesn't account for the magnitude of his inebriated condition, as described in the police report. It seemed as though he was far more drunk than a .175 BAC would account for. Had the police drawn blood and checked for drugs they would have discovered that RC Sproul Jr wasn't merely drunk, he was also stoned on opioids.

In addition to the current allegations of child abuse going on in the Sproul home, RC Jr and Lisa Sproul are guilty of perpetrating another form of child abuse -- family alienation. RC Jr has cut himself off from all his adult children, all of whom are happily married with children of their own. This means he's also cut himself off from his own grandchildren, and this with his wife's encouragement. They also forbid any contact between RC's minor children and their older siblings, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, or other relatives (the comment thread in one of our previous articles prompted a great deal of discussion about that). 

Immediately prior to the release of RC Jr's latest book, his daughter Darby Sproul Stouffer posted the following on her Facebook:
 "This book is coming out in May. Please do not buy it. My father (RC Jr) is an unrepentant abusive narcissist who is estranged from everyone who used to be his friend and even all of his family outside of his wife and minor children. Just wanted to give a general heads up. Feel free to let others know as well if they mention being interested in it. There is so much more info than just what I’ve shared here, I’m just trying to be concise." 
All of RC Jr's adult children are members in good standing of Reformed Presbyterian churches. Considering all the trauma and abuse they've been subjected to they've remained remarkably restrained in their comments about their disgraced father. But the little they have said is troubling, and it's also consistent with other reports.

Family alienation, though tragic, isn't uncommon even among Christians. Were RC Sproul Jr merely your average church member and his vocation was an insurance salesman, a realtor, a used car salesman, etc. none of this would be worthy of blogging about. But RC Jr is far more than that. He holds himself out to be a "Pastor" and "Rev." He's therefore placed himself under a "stricter judgment" (James 3:1). How did he become a pastor? He declared it to be so. Oh, and his wife Lisa Sproul agrees with him about that. RC Sproul Jr fails every single biblical test for being a pastor (Titus 1:5-9, 1 Tim. 3:1-7, 1 Peter 5:1-4). Let's just take one of them: he "Must manage his own household well" (1 Tim. 3:4). Why is that important? "For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?" (1 Tim 3:5)

It should, therefore, surprise no one that RC Jr cared for his church, both before and after his defrocking, in very much the same manner as he cared for his household -- autocratically and abusively. From 1996-2006 he routinely threatened members with "discipline." Everyone understood that meant excommunication and shunning, and it could happen for nothing more than disagreeing with him, or for leaving his church and joining another church without his permission. The problem is he made it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to obtain that permission. St. Peter Presbyterian Church was routinely referred to as a "cult" by other churches in the area. It was referred to as "The Hotel California" -- You can check in anytime you want, but you can never leave. Ghirard too explicitly said that St. Peter church is a "CULT!" as have many former members who managed to escape.

By 2006 RC Jr's abusiveness caught up with him. Formal ecclesiastical charges were submitted against him to his Presbytery by more than a dozen former members. An investigation was made and resulted in his being defrocked from the ministry for spiritual abuse, tax ID fraud, identity theft, financial malfeasance and duplicity.
"The  consistent  pattern  of  actions  taken  by  these  men  are  duplicitous in nature, and demonstrate that they willingly and knowingly act in an arbitrary fashion in violation of their vows of ordination and in violation of our denomination’s Book of Church Order. Most importantly, their actions manifest that  they  lack  the  qualification  for  the  ministry  (1Timothy  3:1-7).  It  would  be  unwise to allow these men to continue to hold an office for which they are not qualified." Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly Declaratory Judgement
RC Sproul Jr, and his three yes-men elders, were deemed unfit and biblically disqualified for ministry in 2006. In more than a decade since that time has anything transpired demonstrating that RC Jr has made himself fit and biblically qualified for ministry? Quite the opposite. After his defrocking he refused to step down as pastor. Instead he orchestrated a congregational vote to have himself reinstated. His obsequious cult followers found themselves being rewarded by ever-increasing levels of tyrannical threats of church discipline. In the next few years Sproul excommunicated even far more families than he ever had previously. Eventually he'd kicked so many families to the curb there wasn't enough money coming in to maintain Sproul's six-figure salary. So in 2010 he left Virginia and went back to working for his father's Ligonier Ministries in Florida. Then in 2015 came the news of his Ashley Madison "Life is short, have an affair" scandal. By the following year he was arrested and criminally convicted for felony drunk driving (with two minor children in the car). In the ten years since his defrocking RC Sproul Jr only went from bad to worse.

RC Jr's 2006 defrocking proved that he uses confession and repentance for purely manipulative purposes. He's never repented to any of the St. Peter families he'd threatened, bullied and abused. The one "confession" he ever offered up was ultimately proven to be a sham intended to dupe his denomination into releasing him from their jurisdiction so he could avoid any further investigation and an impending ecclesiastical trial. He even duped his own father into believing that the charges against him were "fraudulent." Oddly enough those same charges were things RC Jr had only days prior "confessed" and "repented" of to his Presbytery. In doing so he played his father for the fool, deviously manipulating him so he could continue enjoying the perks and privileges that came to him via Ligonier Ministries.

RC Jr's Ashley Madison "confession" a decade later proves he still uses confession and repentance to manipulate and deceive. He's still playing the victim, and he's still telling lie upon lie to excuse himself.

From all the evidence of his life it would seem RC Sproul Jr is devoid of a conscience. It's for good reason so many have come to the conclusion that RC Sproul Jr is probably a sociopath. Our earnest prayer is that RC Jr will come to effectually experience the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in his life. His prideful egotistical heart needs to be humbled so he can confess and repent to the many people that he's bullied, abused, harmed and injured, starting with his own children.

Lastly RC Jr needs to come to his senses, cease masquerading as "Pastor" and "Rev" and seek honest employment for which he isn't biblically disqualified. We'll continue doing what we can through these exposés to dissuade him from his misguided ministry pursuits. However, we know RC Sproul Jr to be an exceedingly proud and stubborn man, so we're not hopeful of a happy outcome. What we are hopeful of accomplishing is convincing Christians to not lend any support to RC Sproul Jr. Our readers are encouraged to assist in that effort, as well as engage in further discussion, by linking this article, or any of our other articles, in their blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts.

¹The Steven Sitler pedophile scandal, and RC Sproul Jr's direct involvement in it, is just another example of RC Jr's gross incompetence, selfishness, and total lack of regard for his responsibilities as a father and a pastor. Space doesn't permit delving into it here. However should we deem it needful we may publish an expose´ on that topic in the future.

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Wednesday, June 05, 2019

RC Sproul Jr Accuses God Of Creating Sin, Weaponizes Calvinism

RC Sproul Jr God created sin

Evangelical Christians generally agree with one another on the fundamentals of the Christian faith. However, many Evangelicals also divide into two camps, Calvinist and Arminian. Those positions largely center on the sovereignty of God vs. the free will of man. Debates between Calvinists and Arminians have, for the most part, been cordial. Occasionally, however, along comes some combative guy eager to provoke a fight in the midst of otherwise civil discourse. Such is the case with RC Sproul Jr. Throughout his "ministry career" Sproul has been an agent provocateur. Sproul thrills in igniting a dispute  like a pyromaniac thrills in setting a building ablaze just to watch it burn to the ground. With his book Almighty Over All; Understanding the Sovereignty Of God, RC Sproul Jr managed to push the entire debate of God's sovereignty vs. man's free will over the cliff into what Arminians and Calvinists alike generally characterize as heresy.

If, as Arminians believe, man is a libertarian free-will agent how far does his freedom extend in light of an omnipotent God? Is fallen sinful man, in all his pride, even capable of seeing his need of a Savior? If, as Calvinists assert, God is sovereign and man and the entire universe is subject to God's will, how far does that sovereignty extend? Is God's sovereignty total and absolute or is His sovereignty limited in certain respects? How does the Calvinist lay claim to God's sovereignty in His creation and yet at the same time assert that man is fully accountable and responsible for his sins? If God is sovereign did He ordain the fall of man? If God did ordain the fall of man, is it not logical to assert God must have created the sin by which man fell?

Reformed theologians have universally agreed that God is not the author of sin and, therefore, God could not have created sin. However, there is one noteworthy exception, RC Sproul Jr:

"I am not accusing God of sinning; I am suggesting that He created sin."

RC Sproul Jr, Almighty Over All (p. 54) (1999)

As though it weren't  outrageous enough that RC Sproul Jr accuses God of creating sin, he goes on to tell us that he knows not just why God did it but also God's very motive for creating sin. In other words RC Sproul Jr believes he can read God's mind. How does Sproul divine the mind of God? Not by wise and competent application of God's Word. Any scriptural references in Almighty Over All are few and far between, and that's also the case here. Sproul presumes to know the mind of God by relying almost exclusively on his own seriously flawed reasoning. Amazingly enough he does this in spite of issuing the warning, "Beware of trying to read God's mind." (p. 94) No surprise there though -- RC Sproul Jr is renowned for ignoring his own advice.

In light of what scripture has to say we find it incredibly arrogant and presumptuous of Sproul to think himself qualified at reading God's mind: "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" (Romans 11:34), and "For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God." (1 Cor 2:11)

Given who his father is it's remarkable how RC Sproul Jr could have strayed so far from the doctrines of the Reformed faith. Reformed Calvinist scholar and theologian Dr. RC Sproul Sr stated the following:
"Herein lies the problem. Before a person can commit an act of sin he must first have a desire to perform that act. The Bible tells us that evil actions flow from evil desires. But the presence of an evil desire is already sin. We sin because we are sinners. We were born with a sin nature. We are fallen creatures. But Adam and Eve were not created fallen. They had no sin nature. They were good creatures with a free will. Yet they chose to sin. Why? I don’t know. Nor have I found anyone yet who does know." Chosen By God (p. 30, 1994)
These are complex issues and, we must admit, we feel ourselves less than qualified to address them as expertly as they deserve. The problem is that only a couple of scholars have directly confronted Almighty Over All and their efforts received limited attention. Few people took notice of RC Sproul Jr's book Almighty Over All when it came out some twenty years ago. Since that time Almighty Over All managed to largely avoid the critical review such a provocative publication otherwise warrants. We hope to change that. That said, this article isn't so much a book review as it is an exposé.

Wiser men, far more learned and formally schooled in theology than we are, have wrestled for centuries over these weighty issues. Their answers aren't always as satisfying as we might like. As J. Gresham Machen put it: "For both, the problem remains. How could a holy God, if he is all-powerful, have permitted the existence of sin? What shall we do with the problem? I am afraid we shall have to do with it something that is not very pleasing to our pride; I am afraid we shall just have to say that it is insoluble."

While Calvinists (and Arminians too, for that matter) don't argue that God permitted sin to enter the world, Calvinists flatly deny that God Himself was responsible for sin, let alone for creating sin. Calvinists claim God's absolute sovereignty while at the same time asserting He isn't responsible for sin. When demands are made to explain this seeming contradiction the standard reply is, "It's a mystery -- just another one of those topics that man in his finite knowledge can never fully comprehend or adequately explain about an infinite God." Arminians might call this a cop out, but the reality is Arminians are forced into giving the same explanation for the Trinity -- it's a mystery. Not everything about the nature of God can be explained by logic alone. Say what you will about Calvinists; one thing they're unwilling to do is accuse God of being the author of sin. They're willing to leave the issue a mystery.

However RC Sproul Jr isn't your stereotypical Calvinist. Nor is he his father's son. In his book Almighty Over All; Understanding the Sovereignty Of God RC Sproul Jr presumes to have solved the insoluble. In it Sproul makes some shocking claims, even abhorrent. Of those that have read it some have called Sproul's book heretical. Some even go so far as to label it blasphemous. Such criticism, however, has seldom been leveled by the Reformed, not because they agree with it but because they're probably embarrassed and would rather not draw attention to it.

In 2008 Paul Copan posted Taking Calvinism Too Far: R.C. Sproul Jr.’s Evil-Creating Deity. The article provoked some discussion, resulting in 245 reader comments. Unfortunately was subsequently abandoned and taken down. Then in 2010 Kenneth Keathley in his book Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach devoted several pages of critical examination to Almighty Over All. That examination, like this one, focused primarily on chapter 3, "Who Dunit," since it contains the most objectionable content of the entire book. 

Ironically enough Sproul received a smattering of praise from Arminians for Almighty Over All. Quite obviously they don't agree with Calvinism. What they do agree with is RC Sproul Jr's weaponized version of Calvinism. They commended Sproul for his eagerness to swing the pendulum of Calvinism to the extreme, something many Arminians have gleefully done themselves. RC Sproul Jr claims to be a Calvinist. Why would he use the same arguments for Calvinism that a good number of Arminians have used against Calvinism, arguments which Calvinist scholars argue is just reductio ad absurdum?

RC Sproul Jr makes God the author of sin, whereas scripture makes it abundantly clear that God is not the author of sin (James 1:13, 1 John 1:5). Sproul Jr's claims also contradict the Westminster Confession of Faith: "God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass (Rom 9:15, 18; 11:33; Eph 1:11; Heb 6:17); yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin (James 1:13, 17; 1 John 1:5), nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established (Prov 16:33; Mat 17:12; John 19:11; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28)." (WCF 3.1)

RC Sproul Jr's sin-creating deity conjecture also flies in the face of what his own father taught. In Chosen By God Dr. RC Sproul Sr wrote, "In spite of this excruciating problem we still must affirm that God is not the author of sin. The Bible does not reveal the answers to all our questions. It does reveal the nature and character of God. One thing is absolutely unthinkable, that God could be the author or doer of sin." (p 31)

How does RC Sproul Jr manage to go where angels fear to tread by accusing God of creating sin, making God the author of sin? To get there he first must set scripture aside. RC Jr's book is remarkably lacking in scriptural support, particularly in the creation account of Genesis. What little scripture he cites is often taken out of context. Instead of putting on a theologian's hat he puts on the hat of a crime detective as he attempts to deduce "Who Dunit?" Sproul Jr acknowledges he was heavily influenced by the Sherlock Holmes stories. "A crime is committed. A list of suspects is introduced, and then slowly that list is narrowed until the culprit is found. With careful logic Holmes investigates who had a motive, who had opportunity, and who had the means." (p. 43) Though inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, RC Jr falls far short of the sagacity of a Sherlock Holmes. Almighty Over All reads far more like a clumsily-written dime store crime fiction than a skillful work of theology.

In tackling such a heady subject RC Sproul Jr also relies on the 18th century philosopher and preacher Jonathan Edwards (1703 - 1758). "Edwards' most enduring and influential work was his lengthy essay, 'The Freedom of the Will.' The argument he makes in this essay can be used to prove conclusively that Eve could not be the culprit, for she had not the means. The argument is surprisingly simple, Edwards wrote that all men everywhere always act according to their strongest inclination at a given time... Edwards was right; we always choose according to our strongest inclination given our choices." (p. 46, 47)

Jonathan Edwards was anything but your run-of-the-mill Calvinist. He was heavily influenced by Enlightenment philosophers. Edwards' views were idiosyncratic. Edwards was a "causal determinist" and some might go as far as to say he showed indications of being a "logical determinist." Edwards is most famous for his sermon Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God. It would appear Edwards' causal determinism had a significant influence in shaping RC Sproul Jr's thinking.

There is nothing inherently problematic about determinism in itself. Calvinists are determinists. But there are varying degrees of determinism, everything from biblical worldview Calvinists to humanists whose worldview is rooted exclusively in the laws of nature and human logic. Logical determinism goes much further than simple determinism in that it places logical necessity and the laws of nature in the preeminent role of deciphering the issues of life. Logical determinists would say God (if they believe in a deity at all) cannot act contrary to logical necessity. In the practical outworking of logical determinism everything, including scripture, is subordinate to logical necessity. In logical determinism there is no mystery because logic always provides the answer, even if that answer appears contrary to what we know of the divine attributes of God as articulated in scripture.

In Almighty Over All Sproul takes up Edwards' causal determinism and dismisses Eve from the "suspect list" of who is responsible for sin and the fall. "Remember God had earlier made a declaration concerning Eve: 'Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good' (Gen. 1:31) If Eve was good, this must mean that her inclination was only good... To be good is to have only good inclination, to have a good nature. And can someone who is good do bad?... She could not have changed her own inclination any more than a leopard can change its spots or a good tree can bear bad fruit. We must excuse Eve from our investigation. Something outside of her must have been the agent of change, that which changed her inclinations from good to bad. Though she was the one who first to ate of the tree, she cannot be the one who introduced evil into the world." (pp. 47, 48, 49)

Using the same line of reasoning Sproul dismisses Adam as the culprit and "he slips quickly off the suspect list." But it gets even more interesting.

Sproul doesn't even blame Satan. "While it is true that he was at the scene of the crime and had opportunity and a motive, he cannot be the culprit. Though the devil, unlike the rocks and trees, is personal, he too hasn't the power to change the inclination of humans. Though incredibly powerful, he is yet a creature. Though he can and does tempt and seduce, he always does so by appealing to our already twisted inclinations." (p. 50) "Like Adam and Eve, the devil was created good. There was a time when his desires were only to obey God. Blaming the devil does not ultimately help us in solving the mystery. The devil, as an angel of light, before his fall, could not have had the inclination to do evil either." (p. 51)

Through this Holmesian process of elimination RC Sproul Jr crosses every creature off the list of suspects, leaving only the Creator as "the culprit." God first created sin. Then God changed the inclinations of Adam and Eve from good to evil so they desired to sin. Moreover they didn't just desire sin, their inclination to sin was irresistible. Adam and Eve had no real choice but to sin because they had to act according to their strongest inclination. God determined that man would fall into sin, God then created sin, and He then gave man the irresistible inclination to sin to ensure the fall would happen. Rather than relying on the Word of God, RC Sproul Jr uses causal determinism to make his case that God is "the culprit" and the cause, for all of it. 

The question necessarily arises why would God do such a thing? What might be God's motive? This is where RC Sproul Jr goes even further off the rails by attempting to read God's mind. He asserts that God did all this so He could demonstrate one of His most important character attributes -- wrath. "He is pleased with his wrath... God is as delighted with his wrath as he is with all of his attributes. Suppose he says, 'What I’ll do is create something worthy of my wrath, something on which I can exhibit the glory of my wrath'." (pp. 52, 53)

It's no exaggeration to say that RC Sproul Jr is enthralled with and obsessed by God's wrath, so much so that he calls it a thing of "beauty." "We don't recognize the beauty of his wrath and so miss the glory in the execution of his wrath." (p. 58) And how is this "beauty" manifested by God? By the torment of souls in hell: "We don't often think, for instance, of the glory God receives from the torment of souls in hell. We are willing to jump up and down praising God when he redeems a sinner, but when he damns one, we look away... Nevertheless, we ought to see the glory. We ought to jump up and down praising God for his strength, that he alone has the power and authority to change the inclination of moral agents." (p. 58)

If indeed God is as wrathful as Sproul makes Him out to be couldn't God have found some other way? According to Sproul God is incapable of restraining and containing his wrath. God has no choice but to manifest His wrath: "And like man, God always acts according to his strongest inclination." (p. 54) Furthermore, as Sproul asserts, wrath isn't something God could exhibit just within the Trinity. He had no other choice but to "create something worthy of my wrath." So God created Heaven and earth, populating Heaven with angels and the earth with man, making them all good with no inclination to sin. Some time later God created sin. Then God changed the inclinations of angels and man from good to evil. Following after their strongest inclination, they fell into sin. This was all done so God could pour out his wrath on them. Sproul believes this brings God "glory."

RC Sproul Jr's God has no genuine free will. He is powerless to act contrary to his strongest inclination  -- wrath. Sproul's God may be almighty over the works of His creation, but He is not almighty over all because He isn't almighty over Himself. He is a slave to His own inclinations. If He's feeling especially wrathful He has no choice but to put them on full blast.

In light of Edwards' Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God it becomes logically apparent why RC Sproul Jr came to these conclusions. The focus of Edwards' sermon is God's wrath and the torments of eternal hell fire. Edwards' God is characteristically wrathful.

Such a view is in stark contrast with the biblical account of a loving, forgiving, merciful and gracious Heavenly Father. It also contradicts RC Sproul Sr's position that God's most significant character attribute is holiness, a subject which he devoted much of his ministry to. In fact RC Sproul Sr, of his own admission, spoke on the subject of God's holiness far more often than he did any other topic. In the context of Isaiah's vision in the temple (Is 6) Dr. RC Sproul Sr says:
"The Bible doesn’t say that God is Holy. It doesn’t even say that God is holy, holy, but that He is holy, holy, holy. Scripture doesn’t say that he’s love, love, love, or mercy, mercy, mercy or wrath, wrath, wrath, but that he’s holy, holy, holy; exalting this character of God to the supreme degree. This is the song of the angels, adding to it that the whole earth is full of his glory."
However, according to RC Jr's view the seraphim might as well have been crying out, "Wrathful, wrathful, wrathful is the Lord of hosts." RC Sproul Jr's deity is best represented by Zeus, the mythological god of the Greeks who rages and hurls down his thunderbolts on those who displease him. RC Jr's deity is unjust, cruel, vindictive, tyrannical, and sadistic. Sproul Jr's God is not unlike a malicious little boy who delights in focusing his magnifying glass on ants in the hot summer sun so he can "glory" in seeing them burn up.

The creation plan of RC Jr's God wasn't to glorify and manifest Himself through His creation. Creation was merely a means to an end -- the end being that He have objects worthy of His wrath. After creating the world, and then resting on the seventh day, God couldn't just sit back and enjoy His creation, glorying in the beauty of His handiwork. What real glory could God receive in His fellowship with man and receiving man's adoration? Perhaps a little, but not much in comparison to the glory He could take in taking out His wrath on man. But how is God to pour out His wrath on good creatures? They'd first have to deserve His wrath, and that couldn't happen without their sinning. So God arranged everything to ensure they'd all merit His wrath. After having made everything good God decided to make it all bad.

Numerous Reformed Calvinist teachers and preachers have shared the podium with RC Jr at Ligonier Ministries conferences and elsewhere. RC Jr has even titled a few of his talks Almighty Over All (though he's never quoted from his own book the things we've exposed herein). More than likely a good portion of those Calvinist leaders have read Almighty Over All. Yet not one of them has ever publicly taken RC Jr to task for it. Would it be fair to assume they all privately agree with RC Sproul Jr but are too embarrassed to publicly admit it? Given what these men have all said about the sovereignty of God we're certain that would be a false assumption.

We're confident men such as John Piper, John MacArthur, Joel Beeke, Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, Robert Godfrey, Steven Lawson, Al Mohler, Burk Parsons, Derek Thomas et al disagree with many of the claims made by RC Sproul Jr's in his book. In John MacArthur's case he's specifically addressed God's sovereignty and the origin of sin, perhaps even in direct response to Sproul's book (although he, like the others, never makes specific mention of it). We can safely assume they all vehemently disagree with Sproul Jr's evil-creating deity theory. We might also safely assume they've all been too intimidated to take RC Jr to task for fear they won't be invited back to speak at Ligonier conferences and enjoy the privileges and perks that brings them. Now that RC Sproul Jr has become an Anabaptist they might feel emboldened to challenge him.

Some might now be thinking that by weaponizing Calvinism, as RC Sproul Jr effectively has done, it may have been Sproul's intention from the beginning to sabotage Calvinism. That of course would be purely speculative; but the fact of the matter is it would be hard to find any publication that has given as much ammunition to Arminians in attacking Calvinism as Almighty Over All has done. RC Sproul Jr makes for an extremely poor representative for Calvinism, and not just because of his criminal record and the numerous scandals he's caused throughout the course of his "ministry career." But honest Arminians must acknowledge there are multiple examples of disgraced Arminian pastors who've caused them much embarrassment, as well. The two doctrinal positions should not be judged by their most scandalized advocates, nor should they be judged by their advocates who have taken those doctrinal positions to absurd and heretical extremes. 

In our view Almighty Over All isn't just theologically errant. Almighty Over All is heretical. We would even go so far as to say Almighty Over All is slanderous. Slander of God is commonly referred to as "blasphemy." Blasphemy comes from the Greek blaptein, "to injure", and pheme, "reputation." By accusing God of the outrageous things he has RC Sproul Jr has slandered the righteous and perfect character of God.

Based on his track record we know RC Sproul Jr won't repent. Nevertheless scripture requires we call him to repentance (Matt 18:17), and so that is what we do here.

We call on RC Sproul Jr to repent of his heresy and slander against the Lord God. Your book is a matter of public record, RC, and so you are obligated to repent publicly.

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