Farewell Faithful Solider: A Tribute to Dr. Charles C. Ryrie
Allen Michael Rea | Pastor
Dunn Memorial Baptist Church, Baxley, GA
On the morning of February 16, 2016, the evangelical community woke up to realize that one of our beacons had gone out. A bright light that fought the strong and swift currents of liberal agendas faded into eternity. I learned so much from this man. A scholar that I had never met. However, he met me in his writings, and I am a better pastor because of his ministry. I have no personal stories to share about Ryrie, but only what his ministry has meant to my walk with Christ.
I still remember struggling out of the darkness and into the light. I began a serious study of the Bible at around sixteen years of age. I grew up in church, and I had always carried a Bible. In the search for answers and resources to find those answers, I was quickly pointed to the Ryrie Study Bible. His remarks to the reader at the beginning are highlighted and faded in my copy: “The Bible is the greatest of all books; to study it is the noblest of all pursuits; to understand it, the highest of all goals.” I have scribbled this quote in every copy of the Word of God that I own. College and seminary brought me closer to Ryrie, not just with his definitive texts on theology, but also in his other academic writings. Ryrie was the lighthouse as I was conversing with Grudem in college. Ryrie was the map home as I sat under Erickson in seminary. Ryrie himself led me to the titanic Systematic Theology by Chafer. Ryrie was the door through which I entered theology, but as the years progressed he became a home to which I invariably returned. I have never outgrown Basic Theology, and I honestly hope that I never do. It goes without saying that Ryrie was neither infallible or inerrant. He would recognize that before we did! When I sit down to read theologians I do not seek out prideful arrogance for their position, but humble convictions for the views that they espouse.
It is due in large part to Ryrie that I am an evangelical conservative by conviction. I cannot tell you how many times I have consulted my yellow colored copy of “Basic Theology.” I remember consuming it in greedily in high school and never feeling threatened by what he wrote. His admiration and submission to the Bible were refreshing! He helped me to gain a sound basis for the thought provoking years of education that lay ahead. Only the Lord knows what would’ve happened if I had stumbled into Bloesch or Barth first! The margins of my copy of his study Bible are filled with personal notes and interactions because Ryrie was always interacting with Scripture.
It is mainly due to Ryrie that I am a dispensationalist by conviction. In my theological wanderings, I bought and digested his Dispensationalism: Revised and Expanded. I carefully measured his arguments with Scripture. As with everything he wrote, his goal was to get and keep the conversation on Scripture. He was not enamored with voices from the past, but was dedicated to the One Voice: Scripture. The foundation for the vast majority of my hermeneutic was laid by that text.
There are others that could testify to Ryrie in more ways than I ever possibly could. I sat down once in college to write him a letter, but I never conjured up the strength to send it. I wanted to write him not so that he could answer my questions because a good student always has questions. I merely wished to express my sincere gratitude. Though I never wrote the letter to Ryrie, I have scarcely written a paper that Ryrie did not find himself in the bibliography. Perhaps continuing to learn from his writings is the best gratitude that I can offer. Ryrie is one of only a few among the list of great theologians through whom God has blessed the church.
Ryrie and I shared the same faith. His has now become sight. I may continue to regret not writing that letter, but I look forward to the opportunity to engage in conversation with Dr. Ryrie in eternity. I never sat in Ryrie’s classroom, but I daily sit under his tutelage, and I will continue to do so.
Farewell, faithful solider! The church is and will continue to be in your debt. Your ministry of teaching will carry on to the rapture. Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!