A Layman's Guide to the Lordship Controversy

By Richard P. Belcher
Southbridge, Mass. : Crowne (1990). 1990 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Richard Mayhue
1.2 (Fall 1990) : 0-0

Dr. Richard Belcher, teacher of Bible, Theology and Greek at Columbia Bible College serves the interest of Christian laymen by analyzing the most visible and important theological issue of our day: the true biblical explanation of authentic saving faith. In his introduction, he correctly notes that the debate on salvation has replaced the debate on inerrancy in the evangelical community. He points to John MacArthur and Zane Hodges as the most articulate spokesmen for the lordship and non-lordship positions respectively. He opts for Hodges rather than Charles Ryrie, believing that Hodges has the strongest and most persuasive presentation of the nonlordship side. For those who believe the debate is about little more than semantics, Belcher presents a convincing case otherwise.

The author fairly represents both parties, deals with issues and not personalities, evidences clear thinking, writes well, and is thorough and well organized. The book has three sections: (1) a presentation of both sides, (2) a comparison of the sides, and (3) a critique of the non-lordship side. In the final section, he points out six straw-men used by Hodges in representing the lordship position, six major exegetical errors of Hodges, and six telling theological errors in Hodges's work.

Belcher strives for objectivity throughout and achieves his goal commendably. Yet with intellectual honesty, he does not shun major conclusions, based on a thorough biblical evaluation.

To the best of this reviewer's knowledge, Professor Belcher has no personal axe to grind, so his conclusion is very significant. About Hodges's position, Belcher says, "Yet as this author has studied the logic, the exegesis, the arguments and statements of Hodges in his book, it has been concluded that the non-lordship position he presents is based on straw-men, exegetical inaccuracies, flawed theological thinking, and some illogical and unbelievable statements" (p. 71).

In contrast, about MacArthur's view he writes, "This writer wants to go on record that though he is in strong agreement with MacArthur in the basic tenets of his book, that does not necessarily mean he agrees with every statement that MacArthur makes or a level of emphasis he gives each issue in his book. . . . It is a valuable and well written and challenging book, but certainly not infallible" (pp. 105-6).

While Belcher has not commended MacArthur for perfection, he has clearly concluded that MacArthur is biblically on target and Hodges has missed the mark widely. Belcher by his incisive survey has contributed significantly to the theological literature written for laymen. He understands that few untrained Christians will even read MacArthur or Hodges and fewer will understand the issues. This reviewer recommends Belcher's book to all who are confused by the issues or have yet to grapple with them.