Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Prince’s Poison Cup – R. C. Sproul

©2008 Reformation Trust Publishing, Lake Mary, FL

R. C. Sproul, Bible teacher, prolific author, and founder of Ligonier Ministries, has turned his hand to children’s books on several occasions. And I must say that I was pleased with his 2006 story The Lightlings which allegorized the Christmas story. So when I had an opportunity to examine this new children’s story by Sproul I was expecting great things.

As with the previous children’s book I read from Sproul, he teamed up with artist Justin Gerard to create an ornamental, keepsake book for parents to read with their children and then pass on as veritable heirlooms for their grandchildren, and their grandchildren beyond. The artwork in The Prince’s Poison Cup, while relatively nice, is not consistently spectacular as readers encountered in The Lightlings.

Sproul also takes the approach of a story within a story to retell the message of salvation. Ella Ruth’s grandfather comes to visit while she is ill. She wants to know why medicine has to taste so bad if it is good for you. The story that Grandpa relates tells of a great King who provides a cure for the ailment of the people of his kingdom by sending his son, the Prince, to drink deadly poison.

The allegory bears a striking resemblance to the story of the fall of mankind found in the book of Genesis. In the story, instead of a forbidden tree, the reader finds a forbidden fountain. A place from which the King’s subjects are forbidden to drink or something terrible will happen. The King, known as the King of Life because he had the ability to create things, loved his people (who he created) very much, but he knew that they would one day disobey him and drink from the fountain. They are tempted into doing just that by the King’s archenemy—a dark figure whose appearance into the story brings with it a sense of foreboding.

The Prince’s Poison Cup is a good way to broach the subject of sin and God’s plan to forgive sin. The author includes a parent’s guide in the back of the book for just this purpose. The allegory is pleasing and starts out well, but breaks down during the reading. There are “friends” who travel with the Prince until he becomes disheartened and then they drift away. The friends are not explained and if their purpose is to show the utter aloneness with which the Prince faces his task, they lack luster to do so. The same message could have been painted without the introduction of these friends. The question that the Bible student in me wants to ask is, “Are they angels or the disciples?”

The surrounding story is rather inadequate in this case as well. The conclusion that medicine tastes bad because some things are bitter, and then multiplying the bitterness to remind us of the price that was paid for the people, is a stretch. Grandpa doesn’t seem to address Ella’s question in this book. To keep the audience from missing the main point of the book (which has little really to do with how bad medicine tastes) we hear Ella say, “I know of another Prince who died for his people.”

My advice to the general public is that you will have a hard time enjoying this book. For members of the church community, this book will be a good reinforcement of what you are teaching your children at home. I give The Prince’s Poison Cup three reading glasses.

—Benjamin Potter, September 30, 2008

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