J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

How RC Sproul Helped Patch Up a Fight Between Me and Sam

ImageThis is one of my favorite stories about my Dad.  Enjoy this excerpt about how RC Sproul helped us patch up one of rare rough spots…

Sam and I rarely fought.  Even as a kid, I don’t remember any face to face screaming matches with Sam.  As adults, we were respectable, and we dealt with our few disagreements peaceably.

Except one time.  I was probably thirty-five at the time.

We had a family member struggling with alcoholism.  Sam and I disagreed about how we should approach that family member.  I saw it as a Gospel issue, as in, “The Gospel teaches us to do this.”  Sam saw it as a law issue, “We need to teach this lesson.”

I don’t cast it that way to say I was right and Sam was wrong.  That was just the way we were approaching the situation, and looking back, I think we both had valid points.

But for the first time in our lives, we were barely speaking, and when we did, it was Mom saying, “Hey, don’t you want to speak to your father?”  She would then hand the phone to Sam and force us to talk.

Well, I was off at my denomination’s General Assembly.  This is when the teaching and ruling elders from across the country gather for worship, information, and some manner of business.  Within my denomination is a pastor named, RC Sproul.

As Sam was doing research to interact with me over areas of theological disagreement in seminary, he began to read Dr. Sproul.  Sproul made a huge impact on Sam, and in areas where I could not articulate certain theological positions well, Dr. Sproul could.  In fact, any changes of conviction on Sam’s part were much more due to Sproul than to me.

So at General Assembly, I was walking around the vendor floor where a million books are sold.  Standing in the middle of the walk way was Dr. Sproul.  He was surrounded by about ten guys who were lapping up every word that he spoke.  I took my place among the circle and waited.  Eventually, the business of General Assembly renewed, and one by one, the sycophants all left.

Dr. Sproul turned to me as I was the last man standing.
Sproul has this amazingly gravel, smoke-tinged voice that helps give his wise words authorative weight.  He realized that I had been standing for a long time and had said nothing.

So he asked, “Can I help you, young man?”

I told him that he could.  I told him that my father, Dr. Thom Duncan, was an avid reader of his book and greatly enjoyed his writings.  I then asked Dr. Sproul my favor.

“If I called my father, would you be willing to speak to him for a moment?  It would mean a lot.”

He agreed, and I immediately called Sam on my cell phone.  Surprised at my call, Sam asked if everything was okay.  I said, “Yeah, everything is fine, but there is someone here who would like to speak to you.”

I handed the phone to Sproul, and he said, “Dr. Duncan, my name is RC Sproul.  You must be really proud of your son here.”  They spoke for maybe five minutes, and Dr.  Sproul handed me back my phone.

When I returned to speaking with Sam, he had an excitement in his voice similar to a kid who got to meet their favorite football player.  When I got home, we talked about the incident, and our tension was gone.  We brought up the conversation about interacting with the sick family member, but this time, all of the tension was gone.  We were able to speak in a way where care for the person was more important than winning the day.

Thanks, Dr. Sproul.

You can purchase this book at

Amazon in Paperback



PDF Download

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

About the Cover for “I am my father’s son”

Image The cover of this book makes me stupidly happy for several reasons.

The original piece was a self-portrait my father did years ago.  It was a painting of a picture from his senior piano recital.  In his passing, I uncovered and recovered the photo with which Sam used to paint himself.  Both that photo and the first version of that painting were intensely black, dark and mysterious.

The painting came to me around my junior year of college.  Sam was cleaning out his office and asked me if I wanted it.  I of course did.  But Sam warned that it was in bad shape and to be careful with it.

So here I was in my dorm room with this moody, dark painting of my father. My good friend, Jonathan Grauel, was also interest in it, and when he learned it needed restoring, he offered to adapt it, change it, reinterpret it.  I jumped at the opportunity.

What resulted is this deep, rich portrait of my father that has been cared for and transformed through the deeply talented eye and hand of my friend.

I couldn’t imagine a better cover for this book.

Then I had another idea.  I am a terrible graphic artist, so Jonny as I call him often works on my book covers for me.  But this time, I wanted to surprise and honor him as well, but I lacked the ability to design a proper cover using this portrait.

Enter my other good friend John Brenton Phillips.  John is also an artist and a friend from ECU like Jon Grauel.  John and I were friends in our freshman dorm, but as life would have it, we lost touch for nearly twenty years.  Then one day, John gives me a call out of the blue, we grab dinner together, and our friendship is rekindled.

When I ask John to take on the cover photo, he jumped at the task, and the result is nothing less than amazing.

So as you approach this book, the cover gives honor to my dad, the eye-popping color is due to my friend Jonathan Grauel, the graphics are the work of my friend John Brenton Philips, and the words are mine.

Sam brought together friends from across various backgrounds and a bunch of years on this one.  I hope you enjoy the visual art as much as the art of words.

If you would like to explore Jonathan’s art more, you can find his online studio at http://www.bluestudioonline.com/, and if you would like to learn more about John’s graphics’ business, you can find them at http://waxingdigital.com/

Thanks to the so many who inspire and encourage me.


You can purchase this book at



PDF Download

March 6, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chapter Excerpt “My Father’s Amazing Musical Life”

ImageAt the age of five, my father sat down to a piano and picked out a piece of music by ear.  He naturally had a gift and immediately became a child prodigy.  We have a copy of his Senior Recital.  It is insane to hear how talented he was at age eighteen.  

Insanely talented.  So talented that he eventually headed off to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.  He stayed there two years but returned because he wanted to get married to Mom.

Going forward, Sam could play any piece of music you put in front of him, he could pick anything out by ear, and he took great joy in teaching.  Throughout my entire childhood, Sam taught piano.  

He eventually designed his own method, created two piano books, and taught a host of kids how to play.  And out of his five kids, you know how many learned to play?  


One became a talented singer, two of us play drums, and I primarily play the guitar.  But none of us learned to read and play music.  

When I was seventeen, Sam gave me a very nice electric keyboard.  At that point, I was playing drums and guitar.  He said, “Listen, I know you aren’t going to take lessons, but can I show you just a few things on piano, and I bet you can play.”

With that simple approach, Sam showed me how to make majors, minors, and sevenths.  He taught me how to do that with sharps and flats, and even taught me how to create chords.  An hour later, he left the room, and I figured out how to plunk my way through the keyboard.

Looking back, that event amazes me.  I’m sure he wanted me to know the piano as he did, but Sam also knew my interests were different.  So he appealed to my personality, made both a financial and time investment, and taught me just enough to get me going.

I will never be a piano player like my Dad, but I can find what I need and muddle through if necessary.

Years later, when I brought my beautiful wife, Amy, to the house, Sam discovered that Amy was a brilliant pianist with over twelve years of experience.  Sam’s arthritis was setting in pretty badly then, but Amy and Sam sat down and played the piano together many times.

It gave me great joy.
It gave Sam greater joy.
Amy felt assured in the family and grew in affection for Sam.

Sam’s talent today, and the avenues available for making and performing music would more than likely lead him down the road of recording and being a popular musician.

Instead, he played, performed, and taught in anonymity.  But those who knew his talent were always amazed.

These and other stories can be found at



PDF Download

March 5, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment