Moody Publishers Celebrates the Life and Legacy
of Beloved Author Dr. Charles Ryrie
Contact: Janis Backing
Charles Ryrie died on February 16, 2016, just a few days short of his 91st birthday. He will be remembered for the study Bible that bears his name, a project that came to Moody Publishers almost by accident. After signing a contract with a different publisher, Ryrie learned of the publisher’s pending purchase by a larger corporation. They were backing out. When Moody’s Leslie Stobbe and Peter Gunther heard the question, “Would you be interested,” it didn’t take long to make a decision. A contract was signed in the VIP lounge at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. The resulting project was eventually released in six English translations and several other languages, selling nearly three million copies to date.
Charles Ryrie would say: “When I was working on the study Bible, I thought of people in home Bible classes, and I would sometimes ask, ‘Would they want to read a note on this verse or a simple explanation of this doctrine?’ These people were my make-believe audience. Actually, they weren’t make-believe. They were real people.”
“And if you want them to learn something, you have to put it at their level.”
“Theology is for everyone,” Dr. Charles Ryrie was fond of saying, usually followed by the personal application: “And everyone needs to be a theologian.”
Despite his two earned doctorates and a long career as a seminary professor, Ryrie never viewed himself as an “ivory tower” academic. His teaching ministry was aimed squarely at everyday people. To reach them, he would train a generation of Bible teachers with influential ideas about Bible interpretation. But he reminded his ministerial students that good theology would also change lives. “Healthy theology is expressed not only in creed but faithful living, and holy living must be based on healthy theology,” he said in his introduction to Basic Theology.
“He was my friend, my mentor and my esteemed teacher in theology,” said Dr. Paul Nyquist, president of Moody Global Ministries. “Never dynamic, but always profound, Dr. Ryrie will be missed greatly by believers around the world who have been touched and shaped by his ministry.” Ryrie’s last visit to the Moody campus was in 2009, when he spoke at Nyquist’s inauguration. Moody enjoyed a warm relationship with Ryrie for 60 years.
When Ryrie submitted a slim volume on Neoorthodoxy to Moody Publishers in 1956, he had just completed a PhD at the University of Edinburgh. Having earned a ThD from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1949, his second doctorate was deliberately planned to study the nuances of theological liberalism. He emerged with a new conviction, that churches needed to understand these contemporary challenges to biblical authority.
A gifted scholar, Ryrie thrived at Dallas and would eventually join the faculty, where he became chair of the Systematic Theology department and dean of doctoral studies. Many of his students would become professors at Moody Bible Institute and Moody Theological Seminary. And his Dallas years were marked by regular releases from Moody Publishers, nearly one a year, on a remarkable range of topics.
“Dr. Ryrie was one of the most brilliant men I knew,” recalls Greg Thornton, Moody’s senior vice president of media. “He took complex theological truths and explained them in succinct, understandable ways. No wonder his books, ranging from commentaries to doctrinal surveys to theology handbooks, have been read and appreciated by pastors, Sunday school teachers and Bible study leaders worldwide.”