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In Memory of Dr. Charles Caldwell Ryrie

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I didn’t find out until Wednesday of this week that Dr. Charles Ryrie (b. 1925) had passed into the presence of his Lord and Savior. Continue reading . . . 

I didn’t find out until Wednesday of this week that Dr. Charles Ryrie (b. 1925) had passed into the presence of his Lord and Savior. He died on February 16th, just weeks short of his ninety-first birthday. Numerous tributes have been written in the wake of his death, but I would like to add my short one to the mix.

Many of those who’ve written of Dr. Ryrie’s influence on their lives testify that they never studied under him at Dallas Seminary but were greatly affected by his many books. Dr. Ryrie retired from teaching Systematic Theology at Dallas Seminary in 1983. As a 1977 graduate of DTS I am among those who did sit under his instruction. In fact, I took virtually all of my theology required courses at DTS from Dr. Ryrie.

As many have noted in their tributes, Dr. Ryrie was the consummate Christian gentleman, even when he found himself in disagreement with a student. I should know, as I was often in disagreement with him on a variety of issues, yet he at all times treated me with respect and never allowed my youthful and immature rantings to provoke in him an angry response.

I shared countless meals with Dr. Ryrie and spent numerous hours in his office, outside of class, discussing a wide range of theological issues. He was always generous with his time and never resented the sometimes arrogant questioning and disputation that came from students like me.

I will never forget the day that Dr. Ryrie approached me and asked if I would be willing to work on research for the notes on the OT in his study Bible. To this day I regret having to decline his invitation. It would have been a privilege to work with him on this project but my time as a student at DTS was already devoted to serving as an interim pastor at a local church, as well as my part-time employment at the DTS bookstore. That Dr. Ryrie would ask someone that he knew differed with him on substantial issues is a testimony to his grace and generous spirit.

Dr. Ryrie probably did more to advance the cause of Dispensationalism than anyone in the evangelical world. Even as I began to move away from that perspective during my final two years at DTS, Dr. Ryrie was patient and kind and always willing to engage in conversation (and even the occasional debate with me) on such matters. He was a bit frustrated at times with my five-point Calvinism. Although himself committed to the sovereignty of God in salvation, he and I often locked horns on the subject of the extent of the atonement. And his stance on the so-called Lordship debate put us once again on opposite sides of a contentious issue. I only wish that I had learned more from him when it comes to how a Christian conducts himself in a gentle, humble, but firm defense of his beliefs. Dr. Ryrie was a model of godliness in such matters and I thank God for what I learned from him in that regard.

After graduating from DTS, I rarely saw Dr. Ryrie, even though I continued to live in Dallas for an additional eight years. After I left the city I don’t recall ever seeing him in person again. He was not a physically imposing man, but his spiritual stature was well-known and his reputation for devotion to Christ and the inerrant Word of God was well-deserved.

Dr. Ryrie was often on the opposite side of certain issues from my primary theological mentor, Dr. S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. But watching them engage in serious dialogue and debate was highly instructive in itself. They had immense respect for each other and I rejoice in knowing that today and for eternity they celebrate together, in perfect theological unity (!), around the throne of the Lamb whom they both loved and served.

My principal regret is that I never followed up to apologize to him for the arrogant and argumentative ways in which I often responded to him in class. I also regret not being able to thank him for his kindness, his devotion to the Word of God, and his faithful perseverance in teaching me and so many hundreds of other students who passed under his leadership at DTS. I’m quite sure that when my time on earth ends, he and I will have an indescribably joyful time, together with Dr. Johnson, in reflecting on our years together at DTS.

Thank you, Dr. Charles Caldwell Ryrie (1925-2016).

2 Comments

Thanks, Sam. Well said.

Thank you for sharing these insightful comments into the character of Dr. Ryrie. I did not know him personally, but remember that one of his books was used for a class I took at Liberty. At the time, I was a new professing Christian and took everything taught as being true without exception. God has changed my thinking about a lot of things since, but learning how to be gracious and loving to a brother while being in disagreement is truly a God given grace and a wonderful goal to continue to press toward.

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