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Why Being Wrong Is OK

February 17, 2016

According to Christianity Today Dr. Charles Ryrie, author of the once-famous Ryrie Study Bible has died.  If you were an evangelical back in the late 70s and into the 80s you knew of, and quite probably owned, a Ryrie Study Bible and poured over the 10,000 or so footnotes interpreting the Bible through the filter of dispensationalist theology.  Ryrie’s work probably surpassed the Scofield Reference Bible as the go-to Bible for dispensationalists.

I confess I once owned a Ryrie Study Bible.  It is something of a confession as, while the notes and interpretations fascinated me at the time, I have since come to view them with skepticism.  The reason for this is obvious; a good portion of the notes are clearly dated.  While Ryrie avoided the embarrassingly detained predictions of “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988” and Harold Camping’s even more disastrous prediction of an exact day for Jesus to return (Actually, he predicted two such days; September 6, 1994 and May 21, 2011) Ryrie clearly expected an “any day now” return of Christ.  This resulted in many of his notes becoming painful to read as time went by.

Indeed, Ryrie shares with Camping and the author of 88 Reasons the fact that the date of death on his tombstone should not have, according to his beliefs, ever come.  CT says that his work does not appeal to a “new generation of dispensationalists.”   I hope that the authors of that article grasp the irony of what they said.  According to Ryrie’s theories there should not have been a new generation.

I owe Ryrie a debt of gratitude as his theology, and his Bible, drove me deeper into Scripture, even if that resulted in my being disenchanted with his views.  For this reason I am sad to hear of his passing.  But this too has a certain irony.  At a time of death we Christians are comforted by the towering promises of Scripture that death is not the end; that there is a resurrection; that there is a world to come.  Yet these great passages of comfort were, in dispensationalist theology, seen as predictions of a specific version of the end.

C.S. Lewis once said, speaking of himself and others deep into theological studies, that when we get to heaven we will find out that “the joke was on us.”  I suspect strongly that Ryrie is enjoying even now that hearty laugh.  I can laugh with him by always adding “But I could be wrong.” to the end of any theological speculations I may have.

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2 Comments
  1. I enjoyed reading this post because it reminded me of a conversation I heard between two very strong professors of theology. One of them believed in a pre-tribulation rapture and the other did not. They finally agreed to disagree and as they were walking away from each other , thankfully not in anger, the pretrib professor turned and looked at the other gentleman and said I’ll tell you that you were wrong as I’m going up . It was rather humorous.

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