Who Was Charles Ryrie and Why Does He Matter?

RyrieCharles Ryrie died today.

I am guessing that many of the readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home have never heard of Charles Ryrie.  But any student of 20th-century evangelicalism needs to reckon with him and his legacy.

Ryrie was one of the twentieth century’s foremost defenders of  dispensationalism.  Along with C.I. Scofield, Clarence Larkin, Lewis Sperry Chafer, and John Walvoord, Ryrie helped to craft the theological system behind popular books such as Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth and Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’s Left Behind novels.

But Ryrie also popularized dispensationalism through the publication of his wildly successful Ryrie Study Bible.  This Bible, which included thousands of study notes written by Ryrie, sold over 2 million copies since it was published in 1978.

When I started attending an evangelical congregation in the early 1980s it seemed like everyone had a copy of the Bible with the brown cover and gold lettering.  I eventually bought a Ryrie Study Bible too.  (Or perhaps my parents bought if for me, I can’t remember).  It was the New American Standard hardback edition.  I still have it.

I think it is fair to say that Ryrie’s Bible replaced the Scofield Reference Bible among a new generation of dispensationalists.

Charles Ryrie is an important figure in the history of conservative evangelicalism in the United States.  Someone should do a study of his life and thought.

ADDENDUM:  Here is the Christianity Today obit.