Best Books: The Holiness of God, by R.C. Sproul

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Our “best books” series spotlights essential reading for Christian leaders. This week’s pick is The Holiness of God, by R.C. Sproul.

 R.C. Sproul has devoted his life to taking complex theological concepts and communicating them into clear and understandable teaching that is not shallow or simplistic in any way. One of the first books I read from him as a new Christian was The Holiness of God. To this day, it remains a classic.

Who God is is a bedrock essential for every believer to rightly understand.

The truth about God is not newly invented in every generation, but rather must be newly instructed to every generation. Apart from Bible teaching, we do not know who God is and cannot make sense of the experiences in our life. Who God is, subsequently, is a bedrock essential for every believer to rightly understand.

Theologians are fond of speaking of God’s attributes, the aspects of his person that help us understand who God is and how God is. Whenever any of God’s attributes are significantly elevated over the others, what we are left with is an inaccurate picture of God. For example, when God’s transcendent sovereignty is overly stressed at the expense of God’s immanent presence, the result is deism, where God is an “absentee landlord,” as Al Pacino once declared in a film. Conversely, when the order is reversed, the result is monism in the forms of pantheism and panentheism where God is creation or is housed in creation.

The attribute of God that is most often mentioned in the Bible is God’s holiness

In our day, the biblical teaching that God is love has been flipped so that love is God. Subsequently, when God’s love is wrongly understood, concepts such as sin, wrath, repentance, and hell are said to no longer be necessary, as God’s love covers all for all—even apart from faith in Jesus Christ.

God is a loving God, but the attribute of God that is most often mentioned in the Bible is God’s holiness. And that is the theme of Sproul’s great book. What does it mean that God is holy? With rich biblical insight, The Holiness of God seeks to answer that incredibly important question.

The implications of God’s holiness are numerous. If God is holy, then he is not the author of sin. If God is holy, then sin is a problem. If God is holy, then he must put an end to sin, which is the point of the gospel.

The Holiness of God is not too long or too complicated but is nonetheless a deep well from which to draw fresh water.

As an aside, for the nerds like me who like to chase down rabbit trails, Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy is a dense, earlier work on a similar theme from a different perspective that nonetheless shares some concepts with Sproul’s later work.