Early last month, on January 3, 2020, Richard Paul Belcher, 85, of Fort Mill, South Carolina, went to be with the Lord.
Belcher was a well-known author, authoring many books including Journey in Grace, Ministry Helps, and his biography of, and other books on, Arthur W. Pink. To the latter, the admins of The Arthur W. Pink Archive are particularly indebted.
Belcher was born on October 12, 1934 in St. Joseph, Missouri. He attended Hannibal-Lagrange college for two years and graduated from Wheaton College. He became an evangelist before he pastored Washington Park Baptist Church in Washington Park, Illinois from 1961 to 1976, and it was while pastoring that he pursued an M.Div. and Th.M. from Covenant Theological Seminary.
Presumably it was also during these years, that Belcher seemed to have taken particular interest in the ministry and life of Arthur W. Pink, receiving a Th.D. from Concordia Theological Seminary in 1981 on the topic Predestination: A Comparative Analysis of the Theology of A. W. Pink in Relation to the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Taking up a position at Columbia Bible College (now Columbia International University) in South Carolina in 1976, where he was to teach for twenty-nine years, Belcher was to also publish a biography on Pink (the first available in the U.S.) in 1982. He followed this up by releasing a book summarising his ThD, Pink—Predestination (1983), and two collections of Pink’s letters, Letters from Spartanburg, 1917-1920 (1993) and Letters of an Itinerant Preacher, 1920-1921 (1994).
Alongside Iain H. Murray, Belcher was instrumental in helping people come to know and appreciate A.W. Pink’s theological works as well as the very individual behind them.
Acknowledging the debt that their own research has to Belcher, the administrators of The Arthur W. Pink Archive wish to share how Belcher and his work encouraged and profited them. Sam Emadi writes:
I was first introduced to the writings of Richard Belcher in my late teens. While scouring the internet to find at least snippets of biographical information on Pink, I discovered Richard Belcher’s Born to Write. Given Pink’s reclusiveness, I was astounded by the amount of research Dr. Belcher had done to produce his biography. But I was also struck by how thoughtfully Dr. Belcher expressed both criticism and appreciation for Pink’s life and ministry. That emotional maturity on the part of Dr. Belcher and his ability to show both charity and discernment is a model for how Christians can both engage the discipline of church history and how we can engage with one another.
More than that, Belcher’s criticisms of Pink’s isolation and his analysis of his shortcomings greatly helped my own understanding of Reformed doctrine and helped fuel my commitment to ecclesiology. Dr. Belcher’s writings also led me to discover the ministry of his son at Reformed Theological Seminary. I distinctly remember devouring Dr. Richard Belcher Jr.’s lectures on Old Testament history books on iTunesU during my junior year of college.
I never had the privilege of meeting Dr. Belcher Sr. But we corresponded on occasion. He was always willing to help, generous with his time, and happy to suggest ways I could improve my research. I’m enormously thankful even for the brief and distant correspondence we shared and his faithfulness to Christ.
Brett Lee-Price adds:
Being in Australia, my first introduction to A.W. Pink was through Iain Murray’s Life of Arthur W. Pink. However, when I went to look for more information, Belcher’s name kept popping up repeatedly. The sheer amount of extensive research that he had done in not only writing about Pink’s life, compiling his letters, but also comprehensively analysing his theology was simply incredible. The deep insight yet immense charity he employed in his reading and writing was clearly evident and appreciated.
More so than any other individual, any academic or theological work on Pink will, by consequence of Belcher’s meticulous research, be deeply indebted to him. He should be acknowledged not only as the first-rate researcher he was, but, perhaps, too the patron of Pink Studies.
Richard P. Belcher is to be also acknowledged for his heart for missions, having went on numerous mission trips to India, Africa, and other parts of the world. He also pastored Covenant Baptist Church, Columbia, South Carolina in the years after his retirement from teaching in 2005, retiring in 2012. The last years of his life he lived in Fort Mill, South Carolina.
He is survived by a son, Dr. Rev. Richard Paul Belcher, Jr. (Lu), who serves as the John D. and Frances M. Gwin Professor Old Testament Lecturer at RTS, and daughter, Ann Jeanette Gottman (Tom) of Springfield, Missouri; a brother Delbert Belcher of Scotts, Michigan, a sister Joan Teachout of Trenton, Michigan; five grandchildren and twelve great grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his mother and father, and his wife Mary Anne Belcher.
I met Dr. Belcher shortly after I was called to preach back in 1973. I loved his preaching and heard him many times at different churches, including my home church in Mattoon, IL. May God bless his memory until we meet again on the other side.