Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Richard Belcher an Unsung Hero of the "Calvinist Comeback"

Back in September Christianity Today published a cover story entitled "Young, Restless, Reformed: Calvinism is making a comeback—and shaking up the church."

I am somewhat late in responding to this article, but perhaps this is fitting given that Christianity Today is pretty late in publishing such an article. The resurgence of the Doctrines of Grace among Baptists, for example, has been underway for quite some time, although admittedly of much greater notice with the rise to prominence of men such as John Piper, John MacArthur, and Albert Mohler.

But I would like to mention an unsung hero of the resurgence of Calvinism among Baptists, in particular. That man is Dr.Richard Belcher, who has influenced many men both within and without his home denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. He taught at Columbia Bible College (now Columbia International University) for many years and has authored the influential Journey series of "theological novels." The first of that series is a book entitled A Journey in Grace, which tells the story of a young man who comes to embrace the Doctrines of Grace as he studies Scripture. Along the way he deals with the many objections and arguments concerning these Biblical doctrines. I have found this book to be an excellent resource for helping believers discover these doctrines in all their beauty.

But Dr. Belcher's teaching and writing are only as influential and powerful as they are because of the man himself, who has not just ably taught and defended these crucial teachings of Scripture, but has lived them out in his own life. He has especially been a wonderful example - by the grace of God - of the way in which these doctrines provide such a great and inexhaustible motive for holy living and sharing the Gospel. He has tirelessly devoted himself to the evangelizing of the lost, most notably of the many yet unreached people of India.

I remember when I was a student of his back in the late '80's that I once heard Doc say that he was a "seven point Calvinist," a "TULIPER," as he put it. The 'E' denotes a commitment to evangelism, which he saw as Biblical and as flowing out of the other doctrines. And the 'R' stands for responsibility, the responsibility of the believer to live a life of holiness and obedience. Dr. Belcher is no hyper-Calvinist! Instead, his is a Calvinism that correctly and beautifully exemplifies Paul's instruction to each believer to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12a-13).

I just wanted to share with gratitude about a man who has done so much to bring about the resurgence of the Doctrines of Grace among so many, especially among Baptists, and who has personally helped to shape my own theology and ministry.

P.S. A good review of the Christianity Today article may be found at the Founders Ministries Blog. The article is written by Tom Ascol and is entitled Calvinism's "Comeback" and the reformation we need .


  1. Keith:

    Thanks for this post. Richard Belcher is a great gift to the church. Through his writings, preaching, teaching and example, he has pointed many to Christ and helped a whole generation of ministers and church leaders to understand the Gospel much better.

  2. And thank you, Tom, for your role in the "Calvinist comeback" among Baptists. Your efforts are much appreciated, brother!

  3. Thanks Keith for your post concerning Dr. Belcher's article in Christianity Today. Dr.Belcher is a man of steel that keeps right on going for the Lord. He points you to the truth of God's Word and directs you to trust God's grace as truly a gift from God. He helps a person to understand what God's sovereignty truly means. He travels around the world to carry the message of God's grace. He is indeed a great man of faith and deserves to be noticed for his many efforts for the Lord.
    Lena Ayer Kittrell

  4. I'm coming late to this and don't know if anyone is going to read this, but....

    I supply preached at Dr. Belcher's church in Washington Park, IL back in the mid-70's. His friend, Roger Ellsworth, was my pastor while I was attending SIU-Edwardsville at the time. Roger has been a great influence in my life. He was the one who introduced me to the doctrines of grace and I am grateful.

    I'm happy to see that Dr. Belcher is still serving the LORD. He is a mighty warrior for the LORD. I thank God for him.

  5. Thank you for taking time too comment. It's never too late.

    It is nice to hear from another person in the circle of influence of my favorite teacher. The Reformed Baptist world is still a pretty small one, but we are growing!