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R.C. Sproul, Jr.
Teacher, Writer, and Preacher
Teacher, Writer, and Preacher

R.C.'s posts

Ask RC: Is Social Security an old age insurance program?

No. While we are often encouraged to see it this way, the truth is that Social Security is a wealth transfer program, an entitlement program. Money is taken from one person, and then given to another. To help us understand this it might be wise to go back to the beginning.

Social Security was a creation of FDR’s New Deal. On the income side it began with a payroll tax on employers, which was in turn matched by employees. This money, however, was not set aside, invested, hidden under a mattress. No, it went right into the out-go side. A farmer can’t harvest his crop until after he grows it. With Social Security the aged harvested what they did not plant. My grandparent’s taxes, went, after Washington’s administrative cut, to checks written for their ancestors. The promise to them wasn’t that they would receive their savings back when they reached the appropriate age. Instead the federal government promised to tax the next generation, ad infinitum.

Washington showed its true colors when it, during the many years that it spent more money that it brought in, kept a budget for Social Security apart from the federal budget. When Social Security, because of the baby boom, began to run a surplus, Social Security’s income was brought into the federal budget. (Keep this in mind the next time someone suggests that for several years President Clinton ran a surplus. He did, in a manner of speaking. More money came in for several years than went out. The promises to pay, however, far exceeded what was brought in. This would be as if I spent $5,000 on new furniture, while bringing in $3000. If my payments were delayed a year, and I spent only $2500 on my other expenses that month I could, though I shouldn’t, claim a surplus.)

That great big aardvark-in-a-python baby-boom bubble, however, is coming home to roost, as that generation approaches retirement. The cash they put in went to their parents, and to the annual budget. Washington did put IOU’s into a bank somewhere. Trouble is, what Washington means by IOU is, I Own You. That is, it is a promise to tax other people. Remember Washington has nothing that it did not first take from someone else.

Social Security has run headlong into three demographic walls. First is the baby boom already mentioned. Second is the pleasant reality that people are living much longer than they once did. And thus, as in a Ponzi scheme, most Social Security recipients receive much more than they put in. Third, not needing actual children to care for them, thanks to the federal government, families radically decreased in size. And so we have fewer people paying for the needs of more people. Bankruptcy is inevitable.

What do we do? If push came to shove I would argue that we cannot accept Social Security. It is asking the state to take the wealth of others for our own gain. On the other hand, people were lead to believe, wrongly, that this was an old age insurance program. So I have no fervent beef with older people who depend on Social Security. I wish it were not so, but the greater wrong-doer here is the federal government.

If you are relatively young, however, you will not have to wrestle with the moral dilemma over whether to take Social Security. It won’t be there for you. When politicians insist that they will protect Social Security what they really mean is, “We’re going to keep taking your money, but we won’t have any to pay out to you.” No one ever wants to be in a position where they must trust Washington for anything. It is no insurance program. It’s a shakedown. Plan on being taken, but do not plan to receive. The Bible calls this going the extra mile, turning the other cheek. It’s what homeschoolers do every year, paying school taxes for schools they don’t use. The God of heaven and earth sees. And He, not Washington, it is who gives us our daily bread.

The Kingdom Notes: Why can’t we all just get along?
by RC Sproul Jr.

The story is told of the man who was rescued from a desert island twenty years after being shipwrecked. As he proudly showed his rescuers around the island they came to three grass huts. Our Robinson Crusoe pointed out that one of the huts was his home, and the other his church. When asked what the third hut was he replied, with a note of disdain, “That’s where I used to go to church.”

We can’t get along, and the reason is simple enough- we are sinners. Now let’s break that simple answer down a bit, working back to front. What do we mean by sinners? I don’t, of course, mean unsaved. Of course believers, in the eyes of God, are just. That’s what we mean by “justified,” to be declared just. But Luther himself affirmed that Christians are simul justis et peccator, at the same time just and sinner. That sin causes us to believe things that are false. It means we have appetites and desires that are dishonorable. It impacts what we think, feel, say and do.

“Are” of course, reminds us that this is presently true of us. Sin is not behind us yet. We still struggle with it. A day is coming when we will no longer be sinners, but for now, while here, we are.

But what do I mean by “we?” Because we are sinners we are tempted to conclude that the reason we can’t get along is because people are sinners, and by people we mean, other people. “I” could get along with “you” if you would stop doing what you are doing. This process, stay with me as we get grammatical here, happens in the plural as well. That is, “we” could get along with “you” plural if “you” plural would quit doing what “you” plural are doing.

Now the truth is that the other guys, whether we are talking to or about them, are sinners. There are heretics in the land, wild elephants let loose in God’s vineyard. There are also sheep who think it wiser to calm the elephants down, rather than drive them out of the vineyard. To be more clear, one reason “we” can’t get along is because sometimes we’re not we together. Wheat doesn’t and can’t get along with tares. To profess the name of Christ is not to possess the name of Christ. Because they are sinners, wisdom means recognizing that. It means some appropriate level of skepticism, some fruitful usage of shibboleths.

But we must not lose sight of the hard truth that I am a part of we. I too am a sinner. I need to be skeptical most of all about myself, and my motives. My moral indignation over your error, or your refusal to confront evil just may be a smokescreen to keep me from having to confront my own evil. A necessary consequent of “We are sinners” is “I am a sinner.” And as a sinner my desire is, if I must confess my sinfulness, to forget that confession as quickly and as deeply as I can.

There is a right perspective on the Elephant Room 2. I’m happy to confess that host, questioner and answerer all badly dropped the ball. The problem is that I’m happy to confess this is because it distracts from all the balls falling on my own feet. Because they are sinners, we need to call out sin. Because I am a sinner, I must always confess my own sin, to be on guard against proclaiming before our Lord, “I thank you Lord that I am not like other men. I roundly condemn heresy wherever I see it, and in turn condemn those who won’t condemn heresy. I read all the orthodox blogs. And tithe only to the purest coalitions.” Instead, may we, those who name the name of Christ, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, cry out, “Lord, be merciful to us, sinners.”

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The Kingdom Notes: Treasure In, Treasure Out
By RC Sproul Jr.

My beautiful wife loved nothing more than to beautify. She devoted herself to creating a beautiful home. She planted flowers, bushes and trees outside. Inside she hung, placed, painted and etched. Even when she was not well, this was where her heart was. Over the course of the last nine months of her life, most of it spent in sundry hospitals, she watched, I suspect, more Home and Garden Television than all of HGTV’s executives combined.

Her pursuit of beauty, however, did not have its end in a pretty house, but in a godly home. She worked to beautify me, and our children. This morning while I shaved I looked to the shelf she placed between our sinks. There she had placed two small plaques. One reads- “Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you” (I Peter 5:7). The other reads, “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him” (Lamentations 3:25). I cried in gratitude to hear her voice, and to hear His gospel.

As the tears dried, and I began to mentally work on this brief piece, I thought about the simplicity of it all. My eyes passed over God’s Word, and everything changed. I thought in turn about what usually enters not just my eye gate, but ear gate. Like most Christians I live in a decadent culture, and consume far too much of its “wisdom.” My eyes are filled with images made in Hollywood, my ears filled with the wisdom of Nashville. My soul is a veritable sluice gate through which pours more filth than my ancestors could have dreamed of. It should not surprise me then that I don’t speak with the wisdom, the grace, the discretion, the honor with which my ancestors spoke.

Nor should it surprise me that my wife spoke into my life such graces. She adorned her home with God’s Word, and so adorned her life with the words of life. A godly woman builds up her house. She did not know, when she placed those plaques on the shelf, that one day I would be anxious about living without her. She did not know that the loss of her light would dim my hopes. She did not intend to whisper to me this morning from a better country. But she did. She whispered the gospel to me.

The next time you are alone in your car, turn on the oldies station. Sing along with as many songs as you can. Then turn off the radio, and begin to sing the Psalms. Then ask yourself what I ask, having failed the test so miserably- who has the words of eternal life, the Beatles, or Jesus?

Uptight evangelicals, which might just be a synonym for fundamentalists, are quick to decry the baleful influence of the broader culture. It’s all too terribly true. Better, however, that we should celebrate the influence of God’s Word. Treasure in, treasure out. Hope in Him. He cares for you.

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The Kingdom Notes: Be Reasonable
by RC Sproul Jr.

In the great war launched in Genesis 3 between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent there are two other great battles. On one side of the battlefield stands the enemy. The seed of the serpent hate God, would kill Him if they could. They hate His people, and all that they stand for. But they have a battle waging inside themselves because, for all their sin, all their fallenness and depravity they still bear the remains of the image of God. Their great dilemma is that because they are made in God’s image they want to live in a world that makes sense, that is understandable, and coherent. Because, however, the objective reality is that they are under God’s wrath, they must construct a world with no God, or at least, no judgment. It is impossible, irrational.

The other great battle is the mirror of this one. We are the seed of the woman, reborn, remade, reflecting the image of the Son, the express image of His glory. But we still sin. We have an old man with which to do battle. We want to serve God, to manifest His reign, to become like Jesus. But, we also want to be loved, to be respected, and, perhaps most dangerous of all, to be normal. Which weakness the devil is rather adept at exploiting.

Consider, as an example, politics. Because Jesus is our King, because He has set us free, we don’t, generally speaking, want bloated government. Because we aspire to honesty, we want a government of law, that will stay within its Constitutional bounds. Because we honor our fathers in the faith who labored through such issues with great care, we understand that just war is defensive war. Trouble is, the broader culture has veered so far from these basic ideals that to espouse them is not to be considered wrong, but to be considered unsophisticated, ignorant, crazy, unreasonable.

And so we retreat. We back down. We begin to scout out a new line of defense. We move leftward. Oh we’re careful to steer clear of the convictions of the seed of the serpent. We don’t go over to the dark side. We just get close enough that they won’t laugh at us. We do all that we can to maintain loyalty to Christ, while looking sane to the world. And we fail.

Entitlement programs, all of them, even the ones we like, are unconstitutional, unbiblical and indefensible. We cannot defend stealing from our neighbors and burdening our children with crushing debt for these programs, while politely arguing that we shouldn’t for those programs. Preventative assassinations, bombings and wars are also unconstitutional, unbiblical and indefensible. We cannot defend spending billions of dollars and thousands of lives for this strategic objective, but object to doing the same for that strategic objective. Abortions, all of them, even the ones that hide our shame, keep the numbers down among the underprivileged, or take down the human result of rape or incest are unconstitutional, unbiblical and indefensible. We cannot support candidates or legislation that seek to slow, limit, regulate murder.

My point, ultimately, isn’t about politics, but about our unbelief, our fear. We are willing to confess Christ before men, as long as the Christ we confess is palatable, normal, reasonable. We are willing to be Abraham’s kin, as long as we can pitch our tents close to Sodom. I fear, however, that while we think we are Lots, the truth is we are Lost.

We live in a post-Christian west. It will become Christian again not when we can gently reason the world back home, but when we are again willing to be fed to the beasts in their stadia. Our faith is eminently rational. It is not in the least reasonable.

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Ask RC: Does God really decide, and care who wins a football game?

I began asking this question myself long before Tim Tebow was even born. I was a little boy, deeply committed to the Pittsburgh Steelers. I remember praying that they would beat the Oakland Raiders in an upcoming playoff game. When my prayer ended fear set in- what if there were a little boy just like me, somewhere in Oakland, praying that the Raiders would beat the Steelers? My father comforted me by explaining that no real Christian would ever pray for the Raiders.

The truth is God does decide, and He does care. He not only decides who will win the Super Bowl, He decides who will win the game of hearts I play with my children. He decides, or rather decided, everything. There are no places, let alone no playing fields, where God stays on the sidelines.

We need to remember that everything that happens must have a sufficient cause. And we must remember that every sufficient cause eventually traces its way back to God before time. This happens because that happened. That happened because this other thing happened. Eventually this takes us to “God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light.’”

Of course God works in and through secondary means. He gives the gifts. He creates the weather. The one who numbers the hairs on our heads softens the ground where a defensive back slips, and a playoff game ends on an eighty yard touchdown pass. There is no thing, no cause, over which He is not sovereign.

Isn’t it, though, somehow beneath His dignity to be concerned with such things? Yes, of course it is. God has only one concern- the manifestation of His glory. And that is how He determines what will happen in a football game, and what will happen in an election, and what will happen in a cancer ward. His goal isn’t ultimately to make little boys in Pittsburgh happy, or little boys in Denver happy. His goal, which cannot be thwarted, is to show forth who He is.

Does that mean He plays favorites for the likes of outspoken Christians like Tim Tebow or Drew Brees? Of course. Because God loves those who are His, even as He loves His own Son, God is certain to favor them. That favor, however, isn’t a path to winning a football game, but is instead the path to true victory, becoming more like Jesus. God isn’t glorified in giving Tim Tebow unlikely victories that somehow redound to God’s glory. No, God is glorified in making His children, including Tim Tebow, more like His Son. Sometimes that means leading them to the thrill of victory. Sometimes it means leading them through the agony of defeat.

The more difficult and pertinent question for me isn’t does God care, but should I? I don’t pray for Steeler victories. I do pray that I, along with my parents and my children, will make memories together. And I pray that we would have grace to accept His providence, even when the Steelers lose.

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My deepest gratitude to all of you who have walked with me through my grief. Your prayers and encouragement have buoyed me up in the long and dark hours. It is possible that the below will be my last piece committed to this difficult journey. Rest assured, however, that the deep wound will not fully heal on this side of glory, and even then my scar, like His, and yours, will beautify eternity.

The Kingdom Notes: Forty Days of Mourning
by RC Sproul Jr.

Because we are modernists and Gnostics we love to pretend that symbols and rituals have no meaning, that all that matters is what is in our hearts. Because we are humans, and image bearers, we find we cannot escape symbols and rituals. When my wife and I were married almost twenty years ago there were precious few surprises. Black tux for me, white dress for her. Traditional hymns were sung, traditional vows were taken. She processed with her father, and recessed with me. And in between, we exchanged rings- simple, traditional, gold rings. The only twist remained within the tradition, inside the ritual. Inside our rings we had inscribed Joshua 24:15- As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Too many pundits tell us that if we want to have a successful marriage we need to make Jesus the center of it. He is the glue, the center, the guide. There is wisdom here, but also danger. Is Jesus a means to a happy marriage? No, He is the end. Jesus does not exist for our marriages. Rather, our marriages exist for Him. Denise and I married not for ourselves, but that we might serve the Lord. We committed from the beginning not that I would die to self for her sake, nor that she would die to self for mine. Instead we would both strive to die to self for Him. We would pursue not our own happiness, but His glory. And in losing our individual lives, we found our one life together.

Jesus did not, forty days ago, take Denise from me. She was never mine to begin with. He placed her under my care. He blessed me with her wisdom, with her example, with her love. But she was then what she is now, and will always be, His.

I too belong to Him. I asked Him to give me forty days to mourn- to devote time, space, energy to entering into my loss. Those forty days have drawn to a close. Crossing this barrier, stepping out of the ash-pile, however, hasn’t changed my heart. Indeed despite recognizing the objective wisdom of my friend who suggested that I give myself over to mourning for forty days, I find myself not wanting to let go. I know, as I knew from the beginning that moving past this forty days will not end my sadness. I fear, however foolishly however, that it will end her, that she will pull further away from me. I fear that I would be giving up the ghost, which seems to be all I have left of her. The dust of her death has become my familiar familiar.

The irony is the matching fears. That is, in putting that ring on Denise’s finger, in that ritual pregnant with promise and meaning, I was afraid. Could I be the kind of godly husband she deserved? Would I be faithful in leading her? It is the same fear that haunts me now. Will I honor her memory by being the man she helped make? Will I be faithful to her memory, and our pledge? And the mirror of that fear is in the mirror of the ritual. On this, my fortieth day of mourning my beloved, I remove the ring she put on my finger. I cried through putting her ring on, even as I cry in taking mine off.

The ring reminded me not that my life was committed to Denise, but that our lives were committed to the Lord. Its absence, I pray, will remind me still of the message inside. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. God called me to be a husband for almost twenty years. He has called me to be a servant, a soldier, a disciple and a friend for always. Pray that I would be faithful.

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