Tag Archives: Dallas Theological Seminary

Charles C. Ryrie and His Study Bible

I was not raised in the cradle of evangelicalism.

So, I was in for a confusing shock as a young person in college at a Bible study meeting. An engineering student next to me, wearing blue jeans, flannel shirt, and an old pair of sneakers, was puzzled over a passage of the Bible. To find an answer, he began to read from the notes of his new Charles Ryrie Study Bible. Across from the engineer sat a young brunette woman, dressed to the “nines,” propped up in her high heels and adorned with plenty of makeup. Though evidently they were friends, she nevertheless visibly glared at the engineer, as he spoke for about five minutes. Suddenly, this woman, who later told me, she was the daughter of an executive at Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), sat up straight in her chair and challenged the engineering student. “That is not what my Bible teaches! Who does this ,’Charles Ryrie,’ think he is?

The atmosphere in the room had become so thick, you could cut it with a knife.

After a few minutes of rigorous back and forth, the casual engineering student and the dolled up brunette finally made peace with one another, but I sat there stunned. I had no idea what kind of mess I just found myself in. I had no clue what these folks were talking about. I had no idea who this ‘Charles Ryrie’ even was. But I was determined now to find out.

Charles C. Ryrie taught for years at Dallas Theological Seminary, best known for his amazingly popular Ryrie Study Bible, first published in 1978. Ryrie died on February 16, 2016, at 90  years old.

The Ryrie Study Bible. One of the most influential aids for understanding the English Bible for decades.

The Ryrie Study Bible. One of the most influential (and, at times, controversial) aids for understanding the English Bible for almost four decades.

In the twentieth century, Charles Ryrie was among the most influential conservative evangelical Bible scholars on the American scene. I would consider him to be one of the last, great classic dispensationalist theologians. Before Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind novel series overtook the church by storm, there was the Ryrie Study Bible. Classic dispensationalism championed ideas still commonly taught in many evangelical circles today, particularly the importance of a literal, futuristic interpretation of Bible prophecy, and the distinction between Israel and the church, as one of the primary interpretive keys for understanding the unity of the Bible. Is there a common thread of logic that unites the Old and New Testaments together, and the Bible’s vision of the future? Ryrie sought to tackle these type of grand questions.

Among Charles Ryrie’s mentors, dispensationalists commonly held a hard and fast distinction between the term “kingdom of God” and the similar phrase used in the Gospel of Matthew, “kingdom of Heaven.” Some even refused to utter the Lord’s Prayer as a part of corporate worship, believing that the Lord’s Prayer belonged strictly to a future dispensation. Charles Ryrie began to question such rigid, hyper-systematic interpretations of the Bible, that were originally intended to combat the prevailing liberal Protestant theologies of the early 20th century. But classic dispensationalism also rubbed against the mindset of those older conservative evangelicals who embraced covenant theology. The “iron sharpening iron” effect of these different schools of theology eventually caused the more conciliatory Ryrie Study Bible to supersede (pun intended!) the older Scofield Reference Bible that dominated previous generations in many Bible-believing churches.

Though largely relegated now to the world of late night, cable TV programs and “bible prophecy” websites, classic dispensationalism is lagging in evangelical Bible colleges and seminaries today. By the time one of Ryrie’s students, popular pastor and writer, Chuck Swindoll, became seminary president in the 1990s, even stalwart institutions like Dallas Theological Seminary had given themselves over to a less combative, and less systematically demanding form of progressive dispensationalism. In progressive dispensationalism, the place of Israel in prophecy is still on people’s minds, but the doctrine of vastly separate covenants between Israel and the church is questioned now.

Though recognized as a champion of a classic, yet more irenic, dispensationalism, Ryrie still managed to be in the center of some controversies, such as over “Lordship salvation” and the charismatic movement. On a personal level, students of Charles Ryrie remember him as being firm, academically rigorous, yet exceptionally gracious, with an impressive zeal for evangelism, actively demonstrating a love for people that they might enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ. The warm piety and personal integrity of Charles Ryrie, and his love for the Bible, were always highly respected and stood out even among those who disagreed with certain details of his systematic theology.

Young Millennial Christians have never heard of Charles Ryrie, and thus the Ryrie Study Bible has lost its popularity for the new generation. Nevertheless, the influence of this forceful and yet gentle scholar of the Bible remains within the evangelical church, his legacy encouraging believers today to grow in their knowledge, love, and obedience towards the Scriptures.

Accessible Theology

The Lord Is My Shepherd

“The Lord Is My Shepherd” by Eastman Johnson, 1863

We enjoy sharing art on Veracity. Art inspires thinking in a way that connects with the soul.

After several months of workaday grind and spending way too much time in front of computers, Marion and I took an Easter weekend trip to DC for some rest and relaxation. We toured the Smithsonian museums and attended the Nationals opening day game. A particular highlight of the trip was our visit to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Among the wondrous paintings on permanent display is Eastman Johnson’s masterpiece, The Lord Is My Shepherd, painted just after the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation. Historians and art students have spent considerable energy interpreting this painting in the context of the struggle to abolish slavery in 19th century America. They cite Johnson’s sympathetic portrayal of slaves and Native Americans in many of his paintings, his abolitionist views, and his artistic, social, political, and Transcendentalist influences.

Regardless of the analysis, The Lord Is My Shepherd is an evocative portrayal of personal discipleship. However you interpret the historical and societal context, the painting depicts a man quietly reading the Bible. He is not reading the 23rd Psalm, as the title may suggest. He is at the beginning of the Bible—some have suggested in Exodus, given the theme of slavery. He is searching the Scriptures on his own. The title hints at his emotional frame of mind as he does so. Perhaps he is looking for comfort or reassurance in a time of great difficulty. Maybe there’s more to it than that. Maybe not. Either way, it’s personal discipleship.

In historical context, it used to be very difficult to study the Bible—even if you were among the privileged few who could read.

Accessible Theology

We have come a long way since 1863. Access to top-notch seminary classes is freely available—instantly. While a degree or certification may be out of reach for those who cannot afford the time or tuition costs, new Internet tools are available to help you if you just want to learn. For free.

Dallas Theological Seminary records an impressive volume of classroom teaching sessions by some of today’s best instructors and theologians. They serve the videos and transcripts of these classes in a large, online catalog that can be accessed from their mobile app. Entire courses on a wide variety of topics from Old and New Testament surveys, to Jewish history, to the Reformation, to just about every kind of doctrine and theological topic you can imagine. Want to study heaven or hell? How about inerrancy, the reliability of the manuscript documents and translations, eschatology, development of the canon of Scripture, apologetics, religious pluralism, world religions, and so forth? What are your thoughts on cessationism, annihilationism, creationism, evolution, Arminianism, Calvinism, sacramentalism, eschatology, covenant theology, dispensationalism, and Eastern Orthodoxy? How well formed are your doctrinal beliefs? Maybe you just have a simple but deep question, like “How did we get the Bible?” Thanks to Dallas Theological Seminary, you can now freely audit courses that will inspire and help shape your beliefs and thinking.

To get the app, click on the image below and follow the instructions. Play around with the menu and find some courses or presentations that interest you. This app is a prerequisite for our next post on how we got the Bible. There is a particularly good session from Darrell Bock, a Veracity Top Scorer Award winner, on the New Testament canon that I would like to share with you. But you’ll need this app first. Enjoy!

Dallas Theological Seminary App

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