A Tribute to Charles C. Ryrie (1925-2016)

Charles Ryrie

Earlier this week I heard the news that Charles Caldwell Ryrie, well-known evangelical and baptistic theologian and longtime faculty member at Dallas Theological Seminary, had passed from this life into the presence of Christ (Philippians 1:21ff.).

Ryrie was a key member of that great Dallas Seminary faculty that, in addition to Professor Ryrie, included Bruce K. Waltke, S. Lewis Johnson Jr., Haddon Robinson and Howard Hendricks, among others. Hearing the news of his death brought to mind shaping times and periods in my Christian and theological formation, reflections resulting in a grateful heart that wanted to say “thanks be to God for Charles Ryrie.”

During my junior year as a college student, I was encouraged by leaders of the campus parachurch organization at my university to attend an Institute for Biblical Studies during the summer months of 1973 before the next fall semester. Heeding their advice led to a multi-week period that changed the course of my life. In that setting, for the first time, I began to study the Bible in a serious way and to read my first theology books.

Upon returning to the university that fall, my newfound reading guide led me to “A Survey of Bible Doctrine” (Moody, 1972) by Charles C. Ryrie. This brilliant theologian, with a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh, had put together a very readable introduction to the basics of Christian teaching regarding the Trinitarian God, holy Scripture, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation and Christian life, the church, and last things, a book that was most appropriate in content and depth for that particular stage in my life. After completing this book, I was hooked. I wanted to read and learn more theology and Dr. Ryrie was to become one of my early teachers through his prolific writings.

I soon read “Basis of the Premillennial Faith” (Loizeaux, 1953), which introduced me to the subject of eschatology. The institution where I currently serve has a Statement of Faith that affirms premillennialism. While my own articulation of a premilllennial understanding of biblical interpretation now differs somewhat from what I initially learned from Professor Ryrie’s writings, I nevertheless remain a premillennialist in conversation with important concepts I learned from that 1953 publication.

Ryrie’s book led me to read his predecessors, Lewis Sperry Chafer and John Walvoord, along with Alvah J. McClain. Ryrie’s work paved the way for me to read Craig Blaising, Darrell Bock, George Ladd, Anthony Hoekema and many others who fine-tuned my thinking about theology in general and eschatology in particular. I appreciated learning that Ryrie reshaped and restated understandings of the “new covenant” and the “kingdom of God” from what J.N. Darby, C.I. Scofield, Chafer, Walvoord and other premillennial theologians had taught. Ryrie thus advanced the thinking of those who had gone before him, which paved the way for me to think afresh, to develop beyond and build upon Ryrie’s work.

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
David S. Dockery is president of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill. He was president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., from 1996-2014.