top of page

The False Gospel of Charles Ryrie and Other Doctrinal Errors

Updated: Jan 3

Charles Ryrie (1925-2016) was a Bible scholar and theologian who served as professor of systematic theology and dean of doctoral studies at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and as president and professor at what is now Cairn University. After retiring from DTS he also taught for Tyndale Theological Seminary. Ryrie is most well-known for The Ryrie Study Bible which contains more than 10,000 of Ryrie's explanatory notes. Since its first publication in 1978, it has sold more than 2.6 million copies.

Ryrie’s promotion of premillennial dispensationalism is what made him popular amongst evangelicals and fundamentalists. Though he got some doctrines and practices right, such as his literal interpretation of Scripture, I believe he was a heretic and false teacher in the very sense of the word. I try not to be trigger-happy in calling a person a heretic, but he certainly meets the characteristics of a heretic in Scripture, which describes a false teacher of doctrinal error (Ti. 3:9-11; 2 Pet. 2:1; cf. 1 Tim 6:3-5; 2 Jn 1:9-11), one that wilfully chooses error and teaches heresies contrary to the sound doctrine of God’s Word, which changes the beliefs of individuals, and causes many to be misled to destruction and eternal hell fire. The Greek “hairetikos,” translated “heresy” in Ti. 3:10, is from “hairtezo,” which is translated “chosen” in Matt 12:18. So the word heresy means “a choice,” a man-made opinion that is the product of the will, instead of being drawn from the Divine Word — a wilful departure from orthodox teaching. This we see in a number of doctrinal areas taught by Ryrie, but none more important than the Gospel, the first point…

Charles Ryrie Promoted a False Gospel.

This is evident from a number of different angles. Ryrie taught error about repentance, grace and works, faith and fruits, regeneration versus "carnal Christians," and the deity of Christ — doing great damage to the nature of the Gospel itself. For instance…

(a) Ryrie rejected true Biblical repentance and Christ’s Lordship (and actively opposed it), which is both a perverted gospel (Gal. 1:6-9) and “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4), since “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil 2:11). Ryrie, like Louis S. Chaffer and Zane C. Hodges, was a leading opponent of any form of lordship salvation. All three of these men taught an unscriptural view of the gospel and salvation. They taught wrong and false doctrine about repentance, grace and works, faith and fruits, regeneration versus "carnal Christians" — doing damage to the nature of the Gospel itself. Accuracy requires the declaration of distinction between Hodges’ view, which is consistent antinomianism, and that of Ryrie, who took a more moderate, although still unscriptural, position. Ryrie and Hodges, like very many evangelicals and fundamentalists, pushed an intellectual, non-volitional repentance. They saw something volitional as works. Losing ones life isn't a work—it is believing in Christ. Not receiving Christ as Lord is not receiving the true Christ. Ryrie, like many evangelicals and fundamentalists today, pushed an intellectual, non-volitional type of repentance. He saw something volitional as works, but there is no true repentance without the volition of man involved. Romans 1 addresses the reason why men will not repent: because of their will (volition). They hold the truth in unrighteousness. It’s not because they can’t, but because they won’t, what Jesus refers to in Jn 3:19-21. They won’t turn from their ungodliness and unrighteousness and evil, and that is because of their will. Ryrie opposed the sinner willingly turning from his sins for salvation, and that is a false repentance and thus a false gospel. Turning from and forsaking ones sin and losing ones life isn't a work—it is part of believing in Christ and being converted.

The gospel heresy of Ryrie is noted in the following quote, where he gives repentance a false definition, description and application.

“But if repentance means changing your mind about the particular sin of rejecting Christ, then that kind of repentance saves, and of course it is the same as faith in Christ. This is what Peter asked the crowd to do on the day of Pentecost [in Acts chapter 2]. They were to change their minds about Jesus of Nazareth. Formerly they had considered Him to be only a blasphemous human being claiming to be God; now they changed their minds and saw Him as the God-man Saviour whom they would trust for salvation. That kind of repentance saves, and everyone who is saved has repented in that sense." (Ryrie, A Survey of Bible Doctrine, 1972, p. 139).

Peter certainly didn’t ask anything of this nature. He preached to them that they had murdered the Lord, the Christ (Ac 2:36), and that caused the Jewish listeners to be pricked, I.e. convicted, in their hearts (v. 37). Nowhere in Scripture is repentance described as "changing your mind about the particular sin of rejecting Christ." This is the false repentance of turning only from unbelief, very popular in gospel-corrupters today. Ryrie’s repentance is perverted which means he preached a perverted gospel (Gal 1:6-9), since repentance is part and parcel with the gospel, which then means he is a false teacher.

Here is another example:

"This is what Peter meant by repentance when he was asked by the people what they should do in the light of his message (Acts 2:38). The word repent means, of course, to change one's mind about something. But what that something is is all-important to the meaning of repentance in any given context. . . . The content of repentance which brings eternal life, and that which Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, is a change of mind about Jesus Christ. Whereas the people who heard him on that day formerly thought of Jesus as a mere man, they were asked to accept Him as Lord (Deity) and Christ (promised Messiah). To do this would bring salvation." (Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life, pp. 175-176).

Repentance does NOT mean a change of mind about Christ. For repentance to be true to God’s Word, it must involve all three faculties of man: the will (volition), the mind, and the emotions, and it always involves turning from sin, from self, and from any other idols. Take one faculty away, and you have false repentance. In the following report, Repentance is Not Just a Change of Mind, repentance is clearly proven to be much more than just a mere change of mind, and then in the following report, False Arguments of the False “Change of Mind” Repentance Position are Debunked.

What men actually believe concerning repentance, that teach it in this heretical fashion, is a turning from unbelief to belief. That is what is intended behind the change of mind only “repentance," also demonstrated in the other quotes. The sin of unbelief (as in, not giving credence to the historical facts of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection and doctrinal credence to some vague aspects of that great event) has been put forward as the sin from which men need to repent in order to find peace with God. The staggering burden of sin has been set aside. In this teaching, there is only really one sin to be dealt with, and that is the sin of unbelief, which is rectified by believing that Jesus died for your unbelief. But this is a false repentance and a “damnable heresy” (2 Pet 2:1) which condemns Ryrie as an unsaved false teacher (2 Pet 2:1), since no man is saved without true Biblical repentance, the very foundation of salvation and the gospel (Matt 4:17; Mk 1:1-20; 6:12; Lk 24:47; Ac 3:19; etc).

Ryrie would in fact argue that the Bible does not teach that one must repent at all to be saved. His main argument is that God requires only that people believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for Him to save them, as if believing is separate from repentance or true without repentance, but that is what he believed as illustrated in a previous quote where he correlated repentance with faith. He also declared this in his book So Great Salvation, in conclusion of the chapter “Repent! About What?”

"Is repentance a condition for receiving eternal life? Yes, if it is repentance or changing one’s mind about Jesus Christ. No, if it means to be sorry for sin or even to resolve to turn from sin, for these things will not save. … Repentance may prepare the way for faith, but it is faith that saves, not repentance (unless repentance is understood as a synonym for faith or changing one’s mind about Christ)." (p. 99)

In this we see Ryrie's actual rejection of repentance. His use of the word repentance is smoke and mirrors. He rejects the doctrine entirely, indicating that the only way repentance may be used in salvation is if its synonymous with faith. What would the point then be to have any mention of this doctrine at all in Scripture? Repentance is not a synonym for faith or a change of ones minds about Christ. That is not what the word repentance even means, as noted in the four different Greek words translated into repentance or synonyms or principles of repentance: metamelomai, metanoeo, metanoia, and epistrepho. The Greek word for believing is an entirely different word, “pisteuein,” which actually entails the idea of committal or entrustment in the common NT verb "to believe in/on Him” (“pisteuein eis auton”) which is the verb found in texts such as Jn. 3:16, and is translated in a form including the word “commit” in Lk. 16:11; Jn. 2:24; Rom 3:2; 1 Cor. 9:17; Gal. 2:7; 1 Tim. 1:11 and Ti. 1:3. When John the Baptist said in Jn 3:36, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” the words "believeth not" is the Greek word “apitheho” which literally means, "obeys not" or “disobedient” or “wilfully and perversely disbelieve,” all of which speak of a refusal to submit with the will, which is one of three aspects of the faculty of man involved in repentance. “Entrust self to Jesus," according to Ryrie isn't the same as a commitment of self. The "repentance" argued here by Ryrie results in a faith of intellectual assent only, which is a false gospel (Gal 1:6-9; 2 Cor 11:4), a “repentance” that is shared with the devils (Jam 2:19). He argues that Biblical repentance will not save, which is repentance that is defined as being sorrowful for sin and turning from sin (more-so than just merely "resolving" to) despite the fact Biblical faith or belief clearly involves these principles, and also surrender and commitment. Repentance is much more than an intellectual assent (a change of mind). It is in fact primarily a matter of the will (volitional—Rom 1:18-3:20; Mk 7:20-23) and requires a turning from sin and self to God in surrender to Christ’s Lordship for it to be true in the cause of salvation. This happens to also be the historic Baptist/Anabaptist position (point #8).

Ryrie denies that saving repentance includes “a sorrow for sins or even a sorrow that results in cleaning up one’s life,” and he claims that Lordship salvation “apparently makes repentance and faith two distinct and necessary requirements for salvation.” (ibid, pp. 94, 96).

Well, that is actually what the Bible does as well, so I wonder who is right? The false teacher and liar, Charles Ryrie, or God, Who is Truth and cannot lie?

Repentance and faith are two very distinct and necessary requirements for salvation:

"Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." (Mk 1:14b-15)
"Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." (Ac 20:21)
"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; . . . Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand." (Ac 3:19; 4:4 — same people and context)

Ryrie’s chapter “Must Christ Be Lord to Be Savior?” answers the question with a dogmatic NO:

"The importance of this question cannot be overestimated in relation to both salvation and sanctification. The message of faith only and the message of faith plus commitment of life cannot both be the gospel; therefore, one of them is a false gospel and comes under the curse of perverting the gospel or preaching another gospel (Gal 1:6–9), and this is a very serious matter. As far as sanctification is concerned, if only committed people are saved people, then where is there room for carnal Christians?" (Charles C. Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life, p. 178)

Ryrie is calling good evil and evil good. The gospel that is accursed is the one that isn't found in God's Word or that contradicts what is found in God's Word, which is the "free grace" absent of any genuine repentance and surrender to Christ's Lordship. That much is clear when one goes through the Scriptures carefully and sees what is commanded for salvation and the many examples we have of sinners being converted. To answer his question, "if only committed people are saved people, then where is there room for carnal Christians?" — there is no such thing as "carnal Christians." "Carnal Christian" is Keswick/Revivalist currency, like "lukewarm Christian" and "backsliding" and "unbelief," terms used to describe people that are actually unsaved and feigning faith, yet treated as if they are saved. They are a convenient label given to people that profess to be Christian but live after their flesh and the world, that don't have a true Biblical testimony of salvation and/or embrace doctrinal errors and heresy, qualifying them as “members” of their church and as “brothers,” when they’re actually unconverted. To call this elusive category as saved is a dangerous lie invented by false teachers, and its eternally destructive to these deceived souls who should be shown from scripture their lost condition. More on this next point.

As noted, Ryrie opposed the lost turning from their sins, making an alleged distinction between “justification repentance" and "sanctification repentance" with the former apparently not involving the turning away from sins, while the latter apparently does — but there is no such Biblical repentance found in Scripture or salvation, without the lost turning from their sins, as I demonstrate in the report, Repentance is a Major Element of the Gospel and Must Always Be Preached, Including Its Description.

Ryrie, like many of the Dallas Seminary faculty (including L.S. Chafer, Warren Wiersbe and Zane Hodges) was very confused over the gospel. He gave mere lip service to the doctrine, and only out of forced necessity (pragmatism) but it was perverted in important elements and condemned him as a heretic (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Cor. 11:4). He removed the ancient landmark set by the true believers of old (Pr. 22:28). Salvation and the gospel has never changed in any age, but the “gospel” he believed and taught was new (new as in the last century, brought in unawares and propagated by wicked and ungodly men, such as Hyles, Ryrie, Chaffer, Hodges, Gray, Hutson, Anderson, etc).

What Ryrie believed concerning repentance reflects false repentance which then means a false gospel (Ac 20:21, 24; Lk 24:44-48; Gal 1:6-9), since Paul said the “gospel of grace” (Ac 20:24) that he preached was “repentance towards God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ac 20:21). Here and here I expound why repentance is not only a component of the gospel, but foundational.

If the Lord Jesus Christ commanded repentance (which He did) and all His servants to preach repentance (which He did) and His repentance is no different than that of John the Baptist (which it isn't), then that means men like Charles Ryrie “teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:3) and “abideth not in the doctrine of Christ” (2 Jn 2:9),

“Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.” (2 Jn. 1:9).

According to these Scriptures he should be treated as an unsaved person. What are we to do with such? “From such withdraw thyself.” (1 Tim. 6:5b).

“If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” (2 Jn. 1:10-11).

Connected intimately to repentance is Christ’s Lordship. One cannot be converted without Surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Lordship Salvation is the Only Salvation found in the Word of God. Read the massive amount of Biblical proof in that linked article before you discount this truth.

Removing Lordship, like Ryrie does and argues against, distorts repentance, and that ties together. Look at Acts 14. In Ac. 14:15b-16a Paul declares:

“[We] preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.”

The word "preach" is the Greek word euanggelizo, which means, "to preach the good news" or "to preach the gospel.” A literal understanding is "We preached the gospel unto you that…” That what? What is the gospel that Paul preached? "That ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God” and not “to walk in their own ways.” Paul says the gospel is turning from vanities to the living God. The word "turn" is epistrepho, and to turn is obviously repentance. Epistrepho is one of four different Greek words translated as repentance or the principles associated with repentance, and all four words combined give us a perfect picture of what repentance is (volitional, intellectual and emotional). "Vanities (mataios) is what is "worthless or useless.” Paul says the gospel is turning not just from sin, but what is useless or worthless to the living God, from stuff which is essentially idols. Vanities are dead things, and God is living. They are treating God as if he is worthless and useless and their things as living. This is worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator. It's easy to see that a lot of people who call themselves Christians are actually serving things. They prioritize things above all else. Those in Lystra put their things ahead of the living God. The gospel Paul preached to them was to turn from that to God. This is repentance and Lordship. What is turning to the living God? He describes that in the following verses. They were walking in their own ways, and they needed to turn from walking in their own ways to walking in God's ways. That is turning from sin to God, but it is related directly to Lordship. Walking in their own ways is keeping self as Lord. Walking in God's ways is relinquishing to Him as Lord. This is what the truly repentant sinner desires. Furthermore, this is "preaching the gospel.” "Preaching the gospel" includes repentance and Lordship. Paul specifically says that also in Ac 21:24, 20 and Phil 2:10-11. True Biblical repentance dovetails with the Lordship of Christ. Both encapsulate Lordship salvation. A person can't remain in rebellion against the Lord and be saved. This isn't repentance. If someone believes Jesus is the Christ, he will give up control of His life and no longer desire to be in rebellion against God, therefore, repentant. Take that away and it is false repentance or no repentance. Acceptance of Jesus as Saviour is intellectual only and it is also incomplete, so false.

The true gospel was not lost, and all true believing Baptists of past centuries are not burning in hell because they allegedly believed in works salvation, since the supposedly true, anti-Lordship, anti-repentance gospel not having yet been discovered by men like Charles Ryrie, Zane Hodges, Lewis Sperry Chaffer, and others such as Curtis Hutson, Jack Hyles, Steve Anderson, and more. Biblical Baptists and other true believers have indeed embraced the true gospel from the time of Christ until today. But the anti-repentance and anti-Lordship gospel is both unscriptural and a-historic among true churches and is a recent and modern innovation and corruption of the gospel and deviation from Biblical and Baptist orthodoxy. Corruptions of the gospel has awful eternal consequences (Gal. 1:8-9), and since “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Gal. 5:9), all such leaven of false teaching must be kept from entering into the church and immediately purged out if it does enter (1 Cor. 5:6-7).

It is not surprising that those who reject the Lordship of Jesus Christ also reject true Biblical repentance for salvation (or vice versa). It’s the normal pattern always noted, since the two doctrines dovetail. According to Ryrie, just because someone sins or acts in disobedience (even habitually) doesn't mean he doesn't have saving faith. Those who reject lordship salvation like Ryrie, believe that someone may have genuine faith in Christ, and then when and if he continues in his sin he is demonstrating that he has not made Jesus his Lord, only his Saviour.

Of course Ryrie had to twist, corrupt, and wrest the many Scripture passages that teach and reflect repentance and Lordship of Christ, to maintain his position. Instead of reading and believing what the passages teach, pulling out, he would force his beliefs into the meaning of the text, which is putting in. He would also misuse and falsely divide (privately interpret) passages to support his false gospel. An example of that is John 1:12 and 3:16, claiming that these passages do not support the Lordship/ true repentance (turning from sin, etc)/ discipleship/ mastery position (Ryrie, So Great Salvation, p. 109). In this same chapter of So Great Salvation he also gives illustrations of his position by giving "examples of uncommitted believers," using Lot as example, but once again misuses and manipulates Scripture to further his cause. He is reading into Scripture what he wants to read into it, which is eisegesis (a very dishonouring to God, corrupted method of interpretation), and neglects to understand a very important difference between born again believers under the Old Covenant and those under the New Covenant. And that is the fact that only under the New Covenant are believers permanently indwelled by the Holy Spirit of God. And that is why many O.T. examples are limited in N.T. trajectory. Ryrie also claims the believers at Ephesus in Acts 19:1-20 are examples of believers were devoted to their magical arts (Ryrie, So Great Salvation, pp. 111-112). But this manipulation and perversion of Scripture once again, since the devotion to magian arts was VERY clearly prior to their conversion and then their new birth proven by they fruits of repentance in burning these books (vv. 18-19). "And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds" (v. 18) which included burning the books (v. 19). NOWHERE does it say that the believers were devoted to magical arts. He was bending the Scriptures to force his beliefs, to force his presuppositions into the text.

Dovetailing with the false repentance is the unBiblical belief that salvation doesn’t always immediately change a person. That is next.

(b) Ryrie also claimed that one can be converted yet may be entirely unchanged for some unknown period of time, and then at some point he will make a surrender decision to become a disciple and then Christian growth will start. That terrible unscriptural heresy is derived from Keswick/ higher life/ revivalism “theology,” false sanctification, which Ryrie’s teachings were flooded with. See also the following report on the heresy of Keswick Theology: Keswick Theology Heresy Reigns at Baptist College of Ministry and Falls Baptist Church.

I believe that Ryrie was conforming his own experiences to the scriptures, rather than allowing the scriptures to speak for themselves and testing the experience to be true or not. This is a very common problem among false teachers, who resort to the false and dishonouring interpretation methodology of eisegesis, which is forcing into scripture ones personal beliefs, experiences and presuppositions.

(c) Ryrie, like the utter heretic Zane Hodges (they both taught for Dallas Theological Seminary), believed in the false idea that man is saved by believing certain facts or doctrines. The faith of Ryrie was faith in facts (i.e. promises) and NOT repentant faith, which tells us that he was never converted. A pastor I once submitted to, had the same type of false profession. He actually never talked about his testimony of conversion, never mentioning it, and that for a good reason, except for one time after a heated debate occurred in church over repentance. He personally shared with me that he had walked the alter many times, week after week, attempting to be converted, yet without any assurance of salvation, until he put his faith in the factual promises found in God’s Word. It was clearly evident that he continued to lack any true Biblical assurance, even though he had been pastoring for a number of years, and he certainly rejected the Biblical doctrine of repentance. Naturally, he wholeheartedly embraced Ryrie and preached his heresies from the pulpit, week after week, with practically every sermon based around the subject of faith and unbelief, as if attempting to soothe his toermented conscience, corrupting both repeatedly.

In one part of Ryrie’s book “So Great Salvation” he declares that faith is not merely "assent to facts" (p. 118), but he then spends three pages proving that faith is indeed a mere assent to, or belief in, certain facts, using different wording and various evasions (see Mk. 3:11; Jam. 2:19). That is hypocrisy and deceptive. And its also not Biblical faith. Nowhere in Scripture is faith every described even remotely like that. It is also not what “believe” means. The word “believe” entails the idea of committal or entrustment in the common NT verb "to believe in/on Him,” (“pisteuein eis auton”) the verb found in texts such as Jn. 3:16, is evident, and is translated in a form including the word “commit” in Lk. 16:11; Jn. 2:24; Rom 3:2; 1 Cor. 9:17; Gal. 2:7; 1 Tim. 1:11 and Ti. 1:3. When John the Baptist said in Jn 3:36, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” the words "believeth not" is the Greek word “apitheho” which literally means, "obeys not" or “disobedient” or “wilfully and perversely disbelieve,” all of which speak of a refusal to submit with the will, which is refusing to surrender and applies to repentance. True saving faith is repentant faith that surrenders and commits to Jesus Christ as both Lord and Saviour.

(d) Ryrie believed that people were saved differently under different dispensations. He seems to think that the present dispensation is called the "dispensation of grace" because the Lord's "coming displayed the grace of God in such brightness that all previous displays could be considered as nothing" (Ryrie, Dispensationalism, p. 56). Concerning the “dispensation” we currently live under, Ryrie says that “under grace the responsibility on man is to accept the gift of righteousness that God freely offers to all (Rom. 5:15-18)" (Ibid., p. 56), clearly implying that this gift was not offered to those under the Old Covenant. But this is clearly a lie, since the exemplar of faith for salvation for this “dispensation” is Abraham (Rom 4:20-25). In the same book he provides a chart labeled “THE DISPENSATIONS.” There he lists the responsibilities and tests of men in each dispensation and under "Grace" he lists "Believe on Christ" and "Walk with Christ" (Ibid., p. 54). According to Ryrie, one of the tests in the Age of Grace is faith in Christ. The clear implication is that each Dispensation has its own test for entrance into God’s eternal kingdom and people in other ages were not under grace and did not believe in Christ or walk with Christ. The “dispensation of grace" according to Ryrie, is indeed a new way of salvation. But this is heresy. Absolute heresy. It is also a false gospel, since the Bible is very very clear that people have aways been saved the very same way in every age, from the Garden of Eden, to today and into the future of the Millennial Kingdom. To believe what Ryrie does, which is the same as C.I. Scofield (who has propagated his damnable heresies through the study Bible that bears his name) and many others do today, is to believe in a blatantly corrupted and false gospel. The gospel started in the OT. That is the foundation. Way back in Genesis, chapter 3 verse 15. And then Abraham is given as the exemplar of salvific faith — if we believe like Abraham believed, we can also be justified by faith (Rom 4:20-25). To claim salvation was not by grace through repentant faith in Christ in the OT is to believe in a different gospel and Jesus than the one found in Scripture. That fits with Ryrie’s false repentance and the non-Lord ‘Jesus’ that he embraced, further compounding the heretical gospel that he propagated.

(e) Ryrie’s heresy goes beyond the false gospel and into other realms that tie into the gospel. Ryrie taught that a person does not need to believe in the return of Christ in order to be saved (Ryrie, So Great Salvation), a doctrine that happens to be directly connected with repentance (Ac. 17:30-31; 2 Pet. 3:1-10) and a major mark of true salvation (e.g. 1 Th. 1:9-10; Ti. 2:11-13 Matt. 24:42-51; 25:1-13; 2 Tim. 4:8; Heb. 9:28).

“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained…” (Ac 17:30-31a).

Biblically there would be no purpose in believing in Jesus Christ without the context of His return (cf. Heb. 9:27-28; 1 Th. 1:9-10). Ac. 17:30-31 and 2 Pet. 3:9 (context vv. 1-10) completely contradicts Ryrie's statement, connecting saving repentance directly to the return of Christ and the coming judgment (seen also in the message preached by the angel in Rev. 14:6-7 of fearing God and His coming judgment, which is the same “everlasting gospel” we preach today and has ever been preached). “For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (Heb. 10:37). This is a very strong statement about the nearness and certainty of Christ’s coming. The word “little” is the Greek micron, which refers to a very small thing. It is used today for a millionth part of a meter. And micron is modified by a repetition of “oson” (micron = “oson oson”) which means “so very, so much as.” Thus it is literally “a little while, how very, how very” (Lenski). “He that shall come will come” is literally “the coming One will come.” Christ is called “the coming One.” The Second Coming is so important that it is one of His names! But according to Ryrie, you don’t even have to believe this in order to be saved. Because he rejects repentance, he rejects the importance of Christ’s second coming. The two doctrines go together as we see in Ac. 17:30-31.

"Free grace theology" is what Ryrie embraces, but its heretical as we see. It denies the true Biblical gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in some very important areas.

Charles Ryrie Embraced Corrupted Sanctification, Notably of the Keswick/Second Blessing-Type.

Though Ryrie embraced some Biblical views on sanctification, he promoted much Keswick-type views on false sanctification.

Naturally a corrupted view of the gospel/salvation will produce errors in sanctification. Here, again, Ryrie is no exception to this. Out of a perverted false gospel flows unscriptural sanctification.

Ryrie was a proponent and pusher of the “carnal Christian” theory, which is less than hundred years old, having been essentially invented by Louis Sperry Chafer, the founder and first president of Dallas Theological Seminary, since it was practically unheard of prior to his time (especially prior to his book “He That is Spiritual" written in 1918). It there was any hints of the doctrine prior to Chafer, it was certainly unheard of before the late 1800’s, before the inception of the Keswick/ higher life/ deeper life/ victorious life/ Pentecostalism theological movement (the latter in fact born out of the Keswick movement). Whether by actual name or theory, its never been taught or heard from among true Bible believing Christians prior to the 19th century. Its a new theory and we know what the Bible says about new teachings. But more so, the proof is in the passages and context, in harmonizing the Scriptures, rightly dividing the word of truth and comparing Scripture with Scripture, as demonstrated in this article: Does the Bible Teach the Class of Christian known as “Carnal Christian”? For someone to believe in the "carnal Christian" position, they have to start with that three pronged category of man that was mostly popularized by Louis Sperry Chafer: the natural man, the spiritual Christian, and the carnal Christian. Before Chafer, this teaching was absent from Baptist and other historical theology. Since Chafer many others have propagated this theory, such as Charles Ryrie, Zane Hodges, Jack Hyles, and many revivalists preachers today, so that now it's considered standard Bible doctrine.

Charles Ryrie argued that the Bible does not teach that good works and continuing to believe in Jesus are the necessary fruit of saving faith. The very many passages that teach the evidence of salvation, including the many scripture on obedience to God's Word, and then entire books such as 1 John and James, are twisted and wrested out of their meaning and context to give them another meaning that fits the corrupted sanctification flowing out the easy believism he embraced and taught. Ryrie entertained the idea that Christians may be in a lifelong state of carnality and may even become unbelieving believers. (Ryrie, So Great Salvation, 31-32, 59–66, 141-143).

"What if one or more of those babes in Christ in Corinth [referring to 1 Cor 3:1-3] died between the time of conversion and the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians? In other words, what if a babe in Christ [i.e. a carnal Christian] at Corinth died before growing out of that baby state? Did he or she go to heaven? Assuming that such an individual did live all his (or her) Christian life in a baby [i.e. carnal] state, if he is 'in Christ,' whether baby or mature, he will certainly be in heaven." (ibid, p. 31)

It's clear from a few paragraphs earlier in his book that Ryrie equates the "carnal believers at Corinth" with "babes in Christ." (Ryrie refers to them variously as "brethren", "babes in Christ", "men of flesh", "fleshly", and "carnal or fleshly Christians.") So Ryrie is talking about the same group of people, which are the one's in 1 Cor 3:1-3, obvious from the context. Ryrie doesn't view these people as unsaved, but rather as saved, yet carnal. And Ryrie says that if these carnal Christians were to have died before growing out of their baby (or carnal) state, they "will certainly be in heaven"

This is the heretical fruit of a false gospel of non-repentance, non-Lordship, easy-believism, where there is no power to save and change the sinner. There is no such thing as a “carnal Christian.” Its in fact a contradiction of terms. The word "carnal" means lost; unregenerate; referring to the flesh, the natural man. Like the rest of Scripture, Paul divides everyone into two categories, not three: natural or carnal (1 Cor 2:12a, 14; 3:1-3 — all same context) and then spiritual (1 Cor 3:9-13, 15-16). This is all the same context and literally same breath, and I find its a good practice to ignore the chapter and verse divisions which do damage here and many other places, which are not inspired of God (besides those within books like Psalms and Proverbs). The natural or carnal person is the same person: one that is unsaved (2 Pet 2:12; Ju 1:10), and this is who Paul is contrasting the sinning Corinthians with in 1 Cor 3:1-3 (“as unto carnal . . . are ye not carnal, and walk as men?”). Paul likens the Corinthians to carnal people, essentially questioning whether they were in fact lost (carnal), walking as unsaved Gentiles. He had just divided them into two peoples: spiritual (saved) and natural (lost) (1 Cor 2:9-16). They were professing spiritual but behaving as the natural man. This is how ungodly and unrighteous behaviour has to always be handled, also noted in other examples in Scripture, including the transgression between two professing brethren (Matt 18:15-17) — the unrepentant is treated as a heathen and publican, i.e. lost, unregenerate, unsaved.

There was unsaved people in that church at Corinth (1 Cor 5; 6:1-11; 2 Cor 12:20-21; 13:5) but some involved in sin repented (2 Cor 7:9-11), while others didn’t (2 Cor 12:12–13:5). The carnal are unsaved false professing “believers” made very clear by Rom 8:1-9, a clear contrast of saved and unsaved. In those passages in Rom 8 we find that the unsaved walk/live after the flesh, are carnally minded, at enmity against God, under the law of sin and death, cannot please God, without the indwelling Holy Spirit and don’t belong to Christ. The saved on the other hand walk after the Spirit, are spiritually minded, mind the things of the Spirit, are eternally freed from the law of sin and death by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ, fulfill the righteousness of the law, are in the way of life and peace, have the indwelling Spirit and belong to Christ. Neither Rom 8:1-9 or 1 Cor 3 are contrasting two types of Christians, but rather two types of people — the only contrast that is made from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 (read also There are Only Two Classes or Categories of People in God’s Word, Not Three).

Charles Ryrie Embraced the Corrupted “Universal Church” Theory.

Charles Ryrie claimed the term “church” is used in the singular form to mean more than one church congregation, which then allegedly supported a universal church. Amongst many quotes that could be given, Ryrie explains,

"Yet the singular “church” is used to designate several churches in a region (Ac 9:31). Here “the church” included groups throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria.” (Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, p. 395).


“Universal serves well as a label for the body of Christ.” (ibid).

In the Textus Receptus the word for church is ekklesia (ἐκκλησίαι), the plural form, which betrays the Critical Text being based on later manuscripts which misapplied the term to a universal sense. This also proves that the Bible version and the underlining Greek text used by the translators of the various versions make a big difference on how people understand theology. Ryrie either created or promoted doctrinal error based on the use of corrupted texts. However, even if it was singular (which it is not in the best of manuscripts), the meaning of the verse would express the “church at Jerusalem, whose members were dispersed throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria…” (Cleon Roger Jr. and Cleon Roger III, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, p. 250). This is a good example how people are eager to read their presuppositions into the text.

Universal church defenders like Charles Ryrie seem to think they have something to gain from a pre-NT usage of ekklesia that was only an ekklesia during the time of gathering. The idea, as I attempt to understand it, is that the meaning of ekklesia changed during the NT, because it seems that non-gathered ekklesia in the NT is still an ekklesia. They (men like Charles Ryrie) take that from usages like Ac 9:31 and 1 Cor 10:32. In this continued extrapolation, a non-assembled, non-gathered church, is allegedly still a church, since it is apparently part of a larger entity, the universal church. Therefore, since there is a church in Heb 12:23 that is gathered, it is a church when it is not in fact gathered (before the folks gathering have arrived), so those that will gather are a church while they are scattered all over the earth. A church can be a church when it is scattered, even if it has not yet gathered one time, because something of a non-gathered church has been established by Ac 9:31 and 1 Cor 10:32.

For further reading into the “universal church” error, read here and here, a two-part series, and here on The Destructive Damage of the “Universal Church” Doctrine.


Why would the wife of a Bible believing Christian divorce him, as Ryrie’s wife did in 1987? Though it's commendable that he did not remarry after his wife divorce him, since remarriage is adultery (continual adultery until the remarriage is broken permanently), why did he not marry a born again believer, like Scripture commands (2 Cor 6:14)? And when did Ryrie get converted, which testimony appears to be largely absent from his writings.

It is inevitable that one will interpret the Scriptures according to what one reads and is influenced by, hence the need to firstly test everything by Scripture and reject that which is unscriptural (Ac. 17:11; Is. 8:20), and not exercise a respect of persons.

I understand Charles Ryrie taught good doctrine as well, but one cannot sidestep or ignore the false gospel with the corrupted and novel repentance and rejection of Christ's Lordship that he promoted, nor the Keswick-type of sanctification he propelled. Doctrine and beliefs is not weighed on a balance of good and bad. A preacher of God is either preaching "sound doctrine" (Ti 2:1) or unsound doctrine (Ti 1:9-16).


"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." (2 Jn 1:9-11)


bottom of page