Dr. Charles Ryrie – 1925-2016

Dr. Charles Ryrie was promoted to Glory last week. His influence on evangelicalism and fundamentalism was highly significant. He did not claim to be a fundamentalist, but his position on dispensationalism was the common one for most of the fundamentalist movement during that last half of the twentieth century and had an impact on the evangelical movement, as well.

A well-written eulogy can be found at http://www.dts.edu/read/dr-charles-c-ryrie-1925-2016-tribute/. We will not repeat what was written there. We will, however, note one item that was not mentioned. Near the end of the article, written by the editor-in-chief of the Dallas Theological Seminary DTS Magazine, is a short list of his more significant books – his study Bible, The Miracles of our Lord, So Great Salvation, and Balancing the Christian Life. What is significantly missing is Ryrie’s Dispensationalism Today, now in its third edition and renamed Dispensationalism: Revised and Expanded.

While the writings mentioned in the eulogy are important, Dispensationalism Today continued the emphasis in conservative Christianity on a means of interpreting the Bible that maintains a consistently literal interpretation. Made popular by Scofield’s Reference Bible, dispensationalism was the hermeneutical method espoused by the majority of early fundamentalism. Ryrie expanded on the early dispensationalism of Scofield, Walvoord, Chafer and others and established an “essentialist” approach to systematizing dispensational thought. While Ryrie was a student and then professor at Dallas, the seminary held to a traditional view of dispensationalism.

That Dallas would ignore this key work says much about how Dallas has shifted in the past twenty years. Ryrie retired as Dean of Doctoral Studies in 1983 and a decade later, two Dallas professors, Darrell Bock and Craig Blaising began to promote the new progressive dispensationalism with a hermeneutic that sees more continuity between Israel and the church. This new position is closer to covenant theology than Ryrie or more traditional dispensationalists are willing to accept.

Charles Ryrie is home. His work in dispensational interpretation lives on.