In case anyone is confused, R. C. Sproul Jr. is not the same person as R. C. Sproul. R. C. Jr. is pastor of a church in Tennessee and is son of R. C., as you might guess.
Sproul Jr. has written a book called Bound for Glory: God’s Promise for Your Family. It is short (119pp.), an easy read and very stimulating. Sproul writes as a presbyterian committed to covenant theology and all that that means for family life. So serious is he about this that he is a strong advocate of home-schooling, a growing trend in the US. He is also a paedo-communionist (i.e. he believes baptised children of believers should take communion) , a point over which he differs from his father.
The book covers a big topic: what the covenant means for family life. Therefore, it is not a complete treatment by any means. Indeed, it is much more of an exhortation for those basically convinced to take seriously biblical implications for family life.
Sproul starts by examining the fragmented nature of modern family life. Though some families live under the same roof, at a very early stage each member begins living separated lives, each with their own space or room, entertainments, social connections. Christian families are affected too. Family suffers. As he observes,
Even if we could get them together in the one room, it would only be to watch the blue-eyed glowing idol in their living room. (p. 25).
Sproul argues further that the segregation within the family is seen also in church life: youth groups, men’s meetings, women’s meetings, segregated worship, and so on. This is all extremely challenging, but strikes a chord.
Sproul goes on to look at the family in the Bible, starting with Adam and Eve. He goes in a direction I found surprising. They were to exercise dominion over the earth, and they were to raise children to do the same. This serves as a paradigm for covenant families, to make manifest the reign of Jesus Christ over the earth. It seems clear therefore why family life is is the most important activity a man or a woman can be involved in, far more important than secular career. Christ’s reign on earth begins with his reign in your family. My observation on this is that it does seem one-sided. Perhaps this is necessary at times to highlight a point. But there is a strong hint of covenant-sucession being more important that free and open gospel proclamation to all who will hear.
Nevertheless, the book moves on to consider the role of the husband, the wife and the child, with its focus on the exhortations of Ephesians 5. These sections are very helpful and practical.
The penultimate chapter deals with the role of the church as a wider family. In particular Sproul has in mind the care and nurture of single people and single parents. In these cases, many of the functions that a family would provide are to be taken up by the church. A particular example was instructive. There was a family in Sproul’s church that was damaged when the husband left. As a result the wife and children were left destitute. The church stepped in. One of the married elders who lived nearby became an ‘uncle’ to the children to serve as a father figure in order to support the abandoned wife’s nurturing and discipline. Then, perhaps the most radical step taken was for the church to agree to support the family financially rather than have it cast upon the State. This challenged me because I realised that one of the ways the State corrodes the life of the church is to remove the need to care for its people and to share what the members have with one another. I wondered in how many other ways we allow State involvement in our lives such that true church life is throttled.
The final chapter consists of a transcript of a radio interview between R.C. Jr. and R. C. about family life. Though they have their differences, through it all you get this strong sense that R. C. Jr.’s greatest (earthly) hero was his dad, and that R. C. was proud of his son and how he had turned out!
This book was extremely interesting and challenging. Aside from some theological questions noted above, I would thoroughly recommend it.