On Tuesday, February 16, 2016, Dr. Charles C. Ryrie was ushered into Heaven, into the presence of the Savior he dearly loved. Dr. Ryrie, perhaps more than any other modern figure, was the face of dispensationalism for modern times. Having written more than 50 books, the Ryrie name will forever stand as a good name, and a testimony to literal, historical, grammatical interpretation of God’s holy Word. Over the next few days, Dispensational Publishing House will honor this incredible legacy by sharing testimonies of gratitude from his friends, those whom he mentored, and dispensational leaders from across the country. As you read these testimonies, celebrate the legacy that Dr. Ryrie left behind.
–Randy White, CEO, Dispensational Publishing House, Inc.
I first heard the name of Dr. Charles Ryrie more than 30 years ago in connection with the Ryrie Study Bible. I have two copies of that volume, which was so incredibly far ahead of its time (as study Bibles go) when it was first published in 1976. I received my first one—a King James Version in the original brown hardcover—as a treasured remembrance from my grandparents. The second one is the “Expanded Edition,” and I hope to make it the object of a Bible rebinding project someday soon.
During Bible college, it was my opportunity to study Bible doctrine using Ryrie’s Basic Theology as the textbook (a text that I also later taught myself). In seminary, I met Dr. Ryrie and learned directly from a generation of his theological descendants. I last heard him speak in 2007. Recently, I had attempted to make inquiries into interviewing him, but was unable to complete that task. I was always hoping to interact with him just one more time.
It would be difficult to overstate the impact that Dr. Ryrie had in defining dispensational theology for several generations of Bible students. His influence will continue to be felt until the Lord’s return for His church—an event that marks Ryrie’s theology as much as anything does.
Although Dispensational Publishing House was begun too late to feature the work of Dr. Ryrie, we honor him as our own and rejoice in an incredible legacy of Biblical teaching that is left to us. We have invited numerous people, all impacted by Dr. Ryrie to one degree or another, to offer words of tribute to him at this time following his death on Feb. 16, 2016. It is our privilege to interrupt our blog for the next several days as we share these tributes with you. May they cause us to look to our Savior for strength and ever-increasing faith.
First, he stood strongly for the prophetic portions of God’s Word. He applied the same literal interpretation to these Biblical sections that is also commonly applied to other areas of Biblical truth. Consequently, he was a brave critic of some of the newer theologies to gain influence in our day that stray from consistent literalism, such as replacement theology, preterism and progressive dispensationalism.
Second, he stood for the clarity of the gospel. He refused to add conditions that were necessary to be justified before God other than simply faith alone, which is the only Biblical requirement. Thus, he was a faithful critic of works-oriented gospels, which are really no gospels at all, such as Lordship salvation.
Third, he was committed to the totality of God’s Word and not just part of it. Thus, among his many academic works, he produced a well-known study Bible which included explanatory notes on almost every verse of the Bible. He also produced a systematic theology that touched upon every area of Biblical doctrine.
Fourth, he had an easy-to-follow communication and writing style, which allowed him to take grandiose theological subjects and “put the cookies on the bottom shelf” for all of God’s people to enjoy.
Fifth, he had a pastoral heart and thus a love for all of God’s people.
Yes, Ryrie was the complete package. He is simply irreplaceable. His passing makes heaven richer and earth poorer.
We just received the news of Dr. Ryrie’s homegoing to God. He was a godly student, teacher and writer of God’s written Word. My wife babysat his daughter at times when he was the president of Philadelphia College of Bible. And we had the privilege of ministering together with him at a Bible conference for American troops stationed in Europe.
I would encourage everyone to read his publications.
I think I first stumbled across Charles Ryrie at, of all places, the SPCK Bookshop near St. Paul’s Cathedral in London back in 1995. He had just released his book Dispensationalism, which was a revision of Dispensationalism Today. Prior to that time I had heard of him, but my reading in dispensational authors was confined to Walvoord, Pentecost, Chafer and several British authors like William Kelly and Frederick Tatford. At the time, I was a student at the very Reformed London Theological Seminary, and I remember wondering whether Ryrie’s book could hold its own against the many works of covenant theology that I had been reading for the previous few years. I was not, let it be said, an adherent of covenant theology; my sympathies lay closer to dispensationalism. But Ryrie’s book was so well conceived, so clear and cogent, yet gentlemanly, that I was persuaded that this way of doing theology was superior to the alternative I was studying.
Basic Theology is one of the few systematics books you can hand to a person without recommending a pot of coffee to go with it. Meanwhile, his book Balancing the Christian Life is one of the best on the subject, and So Great Salvation is a thoughtful via media between what appear to me to be two extremes on the question of the marks of true conversion and assurance.
I only met Ryrie once. He was articulate and careful. He was also dignified. I thought he was a gentleman of the old school. The sort you do not see much of today. I always hoped he would write that detailed dispensational theology text he was clearly capable of producing. But what he has left us is valuable. His work is logical, judicious and always clear: qualities not given to every theologian. Now he sees it all even more clearly. Now he sees face to face.
Several years ago I was speaking at and antiquarian Bible display when I was invited to lunch. To my surprise, Dr. Charles Ryrie joined us. What a blessing! His writings helped me immensely as I developed in my Christian life. Three of his books stand out in my mind—Basic Theology, Balancing the Christian Life and Dispensationalism.
But there was another aspect of Dr. Ryrie’s life that interested me—his massive antiquarian Bible collection. It is one of the best private collections that I know of. I wrote to him and he graciously shared a book and a CD about his collection. This information proved very helpful as I put together my own antiquarian Bible collection to share with Bible-believing churches around the country.
While Dr. Ryrie has graduated to glory, his writings live on for future generations. He stuck by the stuff, despite the challenges he faced.
Due to the schools I attended, my theological and ministerial training involved the embracing of Dispensationalism Today, which taught me how to approach the text. This seminal work, along with Dr. Ryrie’s other writings including his study Bible, were personal reminders of the honor due this man.
In recent years, having the distinct privilege of sharing conference platforms with him and fellowshipping informally also reminded me of his gracious humility. Teaching truth honorably from a humble heart of grace was the hallmark of this man. It is intriguing that his homegoing was just a few days after the passing of one of this country’s historical figures—a Supreme Court justice who has been called one of the greatest jurists of our time, and a man who was an originalist and literalist when it came to interpreting the text of the Constitution. Dr. Ryrie was certainly one of the greatest theologians of our time. He was a man who was also an originalist and literalist when it came to interpreting the text of the Word of God.
With a gift of taking the complex and explaining it in systematic simplicity, he did not project theology into the text, as we see too many doing today. He simply allowed the theology to grow out of a literal, contextual, grammatical, historical interpretation of the text.
Thank you, Dr. Ryrie, for teaching us how to “rightly divide the Word of truth,” for defending so capably dispensational premillennialism and for sharing so boldly the gospel of free grace!
Dr. Charles Ryrie’s greatest legacy to the church—a legacy that will continue long past his promotion to heaven—was his ability to synthesize and crystallize theological truth. He was able to make complex issues understandable.
His Ryrie Study Bible and his writings on eschatology, including Dispensationalism Today, will continue to bless those who never had the privilege of sitting under him in class.
Please comment below with your own tribute to Dr. Ryrie!
Read more tributes to Dr. Ryrie, including words from Dr. Rolland McCune, Dr. Myron Houghton, Dr. Tim LaHaye and Dr. John Whitcomb. In the photo at right, Dr. Whitcomb holds his treasured copy of the Ryrie Study Bible. He has filled nearly every page of this Bible with notes and has used it in his teaching ministry for decades. Dr. Whitcomb tells the story of why this Bible is so meaningful to him in tomorrow’s blog.
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