Museum of the Bible
On November 17, 2017, in Washington, D.C., the museum capital of the world, another museum opened its doors. Only three blocks from the Capitol Building, the state-of-the-art Museum of the Bible will showcase over 40,000 objects in a 430,000-square-foot building, including first editions of the King James Bible, fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, biblical papyri and manuscripts, and the largest collection of Torah scrolls. The purpose? According to its website, “To invite all people to engage with the Bible.”1
The founder of Museum of the Bible is Steve Green, CEO of the popular retailer Hobby Lobby. In an interview with Christianity Today, Steve Green explains how the idea for the museum originally came about:
Our family has been very blessed, and we try to give resources to things that align with our biblical principles that will have lasting value for our world. So when someone brought the idea of a Bible museum to us many years ago, we gathered as a family and decided that this was an idea worth pursuing, given our family’s love for the Bible and the impact this great book has had on all of us.
In 2009, we began to acquire a variety of biblical texts and artifacts in order to tell the Bible’s story. Our aim was, and still is, to give everyone access to them by placing them on display in a museum or in a traveling exhibit so they could be learned from and enjoyed.
We did a study to determine the best city that would have the greatest potential that would draw guests, and we discovered it was Washington, D.C.2
The Museum of the Bible includes three main exhibition floors, each with a theme: the 2nd floor focuses on the impact that the Bible has had throughout both world history and U.S. history; the 3rd floor focuses on the history contained in the Bible itself, with exhibits that showcase the geography and culture of Bible times; and the 4th floor concentrates on the history of the Bible as a book, showcasing many manuscripts and rare copies of the Bible. The 5th floor includes a high-tech theatre, along with a two-story atrium glass galley that overlooks the National Mall and U.S. Capitol. The museum also boasts having the largest children’s area of any museum in Washington, D.C.
In a write-up for Answers magazine, Melissa Webb explains one way in which the Museum of the Bible aims to be the most technologically advanced museum in the world, and also aims to give an engaging experience for every member of the family:
Museum of the Bible isn’t a typical museum where you aimlessly walk around until you’re ready to leave….
Each guest receives a personal digital guide, which makes it easy to plot their entire experience. The device’s navigation and supplementary content serve as a tour guide through the museum, providing each person the chance to customize what interests them most in the time available for their visit and the flow of crowds that day.
In addition, the system allows for 3-D interactivity with biblical artifacts, as well as virtual and augmented reality. For example, you can turn the pages of a beautiful medieval manuscript or explore the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. The digital guide also contains audio content, designed to help guests dive deeper into the narrative, history, and impact of the Bible.
Based on its humble beginnings as a private collection, you might expect the museum to display row after row of Green’s artifacts.
But the designers wanted a museum that appeals to everyone, not just history buffs. They wanted to combine technology and visual pizzazz in a way that moves people to understand the Bible’s history and ongoing relevance today.3
The cost involved in building this museum? Over half-a-billion dollars.
The estimated time it would take to read every placard and take in every activity? 9 days at 8 hours per day.
The number of biblical gardens in the museum? One.
The cost of admission? Free, with a suggested $15 donation.
Dr. R.C. Sproul (1939-2017)
On December 14, 2017, noted Reformed teacher, professor, pastor, and author, Dr. Robert Charles Sproul finished his race on earth, and was called to be with his Lord in glory. He was 78 years old.
Who was R.C. Sproul? To quote the words of one of the many tributes written after his death, “It is fair to say that R.C. was the greatest and most influential proponent of the recovery of Reformed theology in the last century.”4 To quote the words of another tribute, “No one has done more to put the knowledge of the Holy One front and center in thinking and living of Christians today [than R.C. Sproul].”5 I could share my own personal stories of how God used Sproul as a spiritual influence in my life as a young adult.
One of Sproul’s great strengths that made him such a powerful teacher was his ability to put profound teachings of Scripture into plain language. In a write-up for The Gospel Coalition on the life of R.C. Sproul, Justin Taylor puts it this way:
One of the great distinctions of R.C.’s teaching style was his use of a chalkboard, even when technology had advanced far beyond this classroom tool. It enabled laypeople to feel as if they were in a classroom by Professor Sproul, who refused to talk down to them, peppering his lectures with Latin phrases, but doing so in such an engaging way that listeners were more likely to lean in than to tune out. A master pedagogue, he combined an earnest seriousness with an evident joy over the material and the act of convincing his audience to follow his line of argument.”6
Indeed, it was from the chalkboard of Sproul that I first learned Luther’s phrase “Simul justus et peccator” (“Simultaneously righteous and a sinner!”).
Two of Sproul’s main emphases in his teaching were the sovereignty of God over all things and the holiness of God. Those are certainly two emphases every Christian can appreciate! Sproul also emphasized the inerrancy of the Scriptures, penning the Ligonier Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which was further refined and developed, culminating in the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.
After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in 1961 from Westminster College, a progressive Presbyterian school an hour north of Pittsburgh, Sproul went on to earn degrees from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and the Free University of Amsterdam. It was during his time at the progressive Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, that his conservative Calvinistic church history professor John Gerstner had a positive influence on Sproul, leading him to embrace Reformed theology.7 Through Gerstner’s influence, Sproul also did doctoral work at the Free University of Amsterdam under the famed Dutch reformer, G.C. Berkouwer.
Sproul was ordained as a minister in the United Presbyterian Church in the USA in 1965, but would later join the PCA in 1975. From 1969-1971, Sproul served as associate minister of theology and evangelism at College Hill Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was during this time that plans were made to establish the Ligonier Valley Study Center in the Ligonier Valley, an hour east of Pittsburgh. The purpose of this Study Center was to give lay people an opportunity to receive the benefits of seminary-level teaching without having to attend seminary. “Sproul saw his work as a filling a gap between Sunday School and seminary, helping Christian laypeople renew their minds as they learned Christian doctrine, ethics, and apologetics….”8 Sproul’s recorded lectures would be spread throughout the world. In 1984 the Study Center was renamed Ligonier Ministries and relocated to Orlando, Florida. In 1989, Sproul, who also taught at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi four months of the year, became the first academic dean at the RTS Orlando Campus. In 1997, the new, small congregation of Saint Andrew’s Chapel called Sproul to serve as their senior minister of preaching and teaching.
In his write-up on the life of R.C. Sproul, Justin Taylor notes the following about Sproul’s experience of serving as a pastor: “The great regret of [Sproul’s] life was that he waited until he was 58 years old to proclaim God’s Word from the pulpit week in and week out.”9
As I reflect on the many tributes given to R.C. Sproul in the past few weeks, I too thank God for gifted men like him who are able to communicate and teach the truths of God’s Word in a powerful and effective way. Sproul’s influence should impress upon us just how important it is to have men in the ministry who are apt to teach and preach, for it is the teaching and preaching of God’s Word that God’s people truly crave. Sproul’s regrets also cause me to appreciate again the emphasis we place as a denomination on the pastoral ministry. How precious is the weekly preaching of the gospel in our local congregations! May God continue to raise up also among us precious preachers and teachers of the Word!
For a more detailed account of Sproul’s life, I encourage the reader to read Justin Taylor’s blog entry, R.C. Sproul (1939-2017), at thegospelcoalition.org.
2 Martyn Wendell Jones, “Steve Green Leaves His Mark on Washington,” Christianity Today, November 2017:42.
3 Melissa Webb, “The Bible Finds a Home in the Capital,” Answers, November-December 2017: 67-68.
4 Albert Mohler, “A Bright and Burning Light: Robert Charles Sproul, February 13, 1939-December 14, 2017,” December 14, 2017 (albertmohler.com).
5 Sinclair Ferguson, “Have You Heard of R.C. Sproul?”, Tabletalk, December 15, 2017 (tabletalkmagazine.com).
6 Justin Taylor, “R.C. Sproul (1939-2017),” The Gospel Coalition, December 14, 2017 (thegospelcoalition.com).
7 If you have a copy of Prof. Engelsma’s Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel, you will find in the front of that book a “Foreword” by John Gerstner.
8 Taylor, “R.C. Sproul (1939-2017).”
9 Taylor, “R.C. Sproul (1939-2017).”