Book Reviews

Book Reviews

Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth by John H. Gerstner; 1991, 275 pp., Wolgemuth & Hyatt Reviewed by Ernest Reisinger

The long awaited, long-expected, and much-needed work on Dispensationalism has arrived.

I am most happy to write this little review, one reason being that I was held in the jaws of this warped system of theology for the first ten years of my Christian life. During that period I wore out three Scofield Bibles and was working on my fourth! For years I taught it with charts and maps.

Dr. J. I. Packer commends Gerstner’s work in the following way: “In this book a clear-headed classical Calvinist challenges contemporary Dispensational Theology. Pussyfooting is not Dr. Gerstner’s style; he values controversy as a way of clearing the air, and conducts it with bracing vigor. With skill and thorough knowledge he maps the geography of the gulf that lies between the two positions, and invites the reader to agree that Dispensationalism is seriously astray. All readers will be grateful to the author for clarifying the issues more precisely than any previous book has done. He sets out to show that Calvinism and Dispensationalism are radically opposed, and he proves his point.”

Dr. Gerstner points out how Dispensationalism infiltrated the United Presbyterian Church of the North. Indeed this seems incredible because the Dispensational warped system of theology is diametrically opposed to covenant theology. He clearly points out the grave dangers of this system that has so many fine Christians and teachers deceived.

The Southern Presbyterian Church was not affected as much. Men like Robert Dabney wrote against this theology (See Dabney’s Discussions, Vol. 1, p. 214, Banner of Truth Trust).

One of the many facets that Dr. Gerstner clears up is the claim of many, if not all, Dispensational teachers who tell us that they are four-point Calvinists. This book will prove beyond any reasonable doubt that they are not Calvinistic at all — not even on one point — rather they are Arminian to the core on every point.

The author addresses the contemporary Lordship controversy. He gives the historical context of the controversy and clarifies the terms of the debate. He crumbles the Dispensational house on this point. I think it is fair to say that, by reading the whole book, one must conclude that “non-Lordship salvation” is only a child of two dangerous parents — the father is Arminianism and the mother is Dispensational Antinomianism.

When the open-minded reader finishes this book he will agree with Charles Ryrie’s statement in his Balancing the Christian Life: “The importance of this question cannot be overestimated in relation to both salvation and sanctification. The message of faith only and the message of faith plus commitment of life cannot both be the gospel; therefore, one of them is false and comes under the curse of perverting the gospel or preaching another gospel” (Gal. 1:6-9). It is another gospel. The question is, Which one is the biblical gospel? Which one is the apostolic gospel?

Many Calvinists will not agree with Dr. Gerstner on every point of his view of the atonement where he disagrees with some of the great men of the Westminster Theological Seminary.

I wish he would have given more pages to the doctrine of assurance and to the Dispensational perversions of it. I feel the same way in regard to the moral Law and Dispensationalism. What is said is very helpful but since these are two areas where Dispensationalism is in complete opposition to all the respected creeds and confessions, they could have warranted a bit more emphasis. This book is an absolute must for all serious Bible teachers and preachers.

This book may be secured from Cumberland Valley Bible Book Service, P.O. Box 613, Carlisle, PA 17013.

A Layman’s Guide to the Lordship Controversy by Richard P. Belcher; 1990, 106 pp., Crowne Publications, $6.95

Reviewed by Ted Manby

Are you too busy to keep up with the current debate in American Christianity? Scores of Christian radio stations have dropped programs that stand on one side of this issue. Certain Christian conference centers have replaced the speakers they invite because of their views on this matter. Church boards have shifted their support from one ministry to another in response to this contention: the place of the Lordship of Christ in the salvation of sinners. Indeed, Christians should be concerned. For, as Richard Belcher has stated, “the nature of the gospel itself is at stake.”

In this book, Dr. Belcher has simplified and defined this Lordship debate for busy pastors and laymen in the local church. This comes as no surprise, for he had also clarified and expounded the inerrancy issue in two of his earlier books back in the 1980′s. Because this debate affects the decisions they make and the ones that are made for them, Christians need readable accounts such as this in order to understand the current theological shuffling and realignment in Christian ministries, organizations, and churches.

This short book clarifies the two sides of the Lordship issue into basic principles taken from two books that kicked off the present controversy: John MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus which teaches Lordship salvation and Zane Hodges’ Absolutely Free which defends non-Lordship salvation. Each chapter ends with a summary of each side’s principles for an easy comparison by the reader. In a short time, the reader will understand the key differences between the two schools of thought. Furthermore, these two positions are compared in the areas of theology and in their handling of Scripture. In the remaining chapters, Dr. Belcher critiques the theological straw men built on logical fallacies, the theological weaknesses, and the Scripture-twisting of the non-Lordship position.

The structure of this work could hardly be improved. It is a well-written, fair, and gracious handling of a difficult issue. Nevertheless, this kind and fair approach does not prevent Dr. Belcher from clearly defending the historic Christian faith. Jesus is Lord and His Person cannot be divided to make salvation more attractive to men and women who are still in love with their sins. Likewise, the author’s fairness does not prevent his wit from surfacing at times, and this adds significantly to the flow of the book.

However, there is one warning in regards to this work. It will whet your appetite to read the aforementioned book by John MacArthur–an excellent work on this subject. The gospel is truly at stake. Make sure your gospel is the same as Christ’s, Peter’s, Paul’s and all those who have followed the Word of God for the last 2,000 years.

Jesus is Lord by Terry Alan Chrisope, 1982, 122 pp. Evangelical Press

Reviewed by Tony Mattia

In 1991 Southern Baptists focused their annual doctrinal study on the Lordship of Christ. Terry Alan Chrisope has written an excellent book on the subject, entitled Jesus Is Lord. The author is a Southern Baptist Professor of History at Missouri Baptist College in St. Louis.

Dr. Chrisope carefully examines all the important scripture references on this most vital subject. Then, as calmly and cleanly as a surgeon, he diagnoses the situation and defines the meaning of biblical words in their contextual usage. He meets the subject squarely and with clarity, dispensing with the arguments that would make Christ’s Lordship optional.

Jesus is Lord. The fact that the new believer does not understand all of the ramifications of this doctrine at the time of regeneration does not nullify its truth. The author explains how the new heart, as the believer yields to Christ, is made more aware of the demands of Christ. As he submits himself to the Lordship of Christ and as the Scriptures are opened up to him, he will become more conformed to the image of Christ. The relationship of experience to biblical truth is dealt with clearly and concisely.

The book is divided into four chapters. In the opening chapter, the author presents a thorough word study of kyrois. In Chapter Two, six major Scripture passages are examined pertaining to Christ’s resurrection and exaltation as Lord.

In Chapter Three, the author shows the prominence of this doctrine in the teaching of the early church, as exemplified in the Book of Acts. He then relates that the implications of the early confession acknowledges four related but distinguishable elements: 1) Jesus’ position as exalted Lord, 2) The rightful authority of Jesus Christ over the believer, 3) The deity of Christ, 4) Personal trust in Jesus Christ. Finally, objections are considered.

Chapter Four, “The Practical Significance of the Confession of Jesus as Lord,” is worth the price of the book. The author lists the results of ignoring the Lordship of Jesus in preaching and evangelism, and suggests corrective measures for more evangelical proclamation.

In a day of pragmatism, where methodology is more important than theology, this book is a must for every Christian. In the face of “easy believism,” the author’s careful exegesis reveals to the reader the seriousness of this issue. To err at this point is to err in the gospel itself. Jesus IS Lord!