No One Reads Dean Ryle
The following excerpt from Evangelicalism Divided is a good warning to those who abandon scriptural inerrancy and confidence in the actual words of Scripture. It should also be an encouragement to those ministers who remain faithful.
The ministry of J. C. Ryle, first Bishop of Liverpool (1880–1900), was devoted to teaching what Scripture says, and the result has been the abiding faithfulness and relevance of his writings. By 1897, and estimated twelve million copies of Ryle’s tracts and booklets had been sold and his writings continue to be read world wide-today. Compare this with the work of his son, Herbert Edward Ryle, Hulsean Professor of Divinity at Cambridge and ultimately Dean of Westminster. Herbert Ryle, in contrast with his Father, believed that verbal inspiration was ‘irretrievably shattered’. He probably agreed with his biographer that the tendency of the Evangelical Revival was towards ‘bibliolatery’. From the year 1916, Herbert Ryle was at work on a Commentary on the Minor Prophets and much of the work was done by the time of his death in 1924. Yet it was never published. A professor of theology, asked to evaluate it, considered the manuscript, ‘the work of a tired man’. It was probably already out of date. Today no one reads Dean Ryle of Westminister.
—Iain Murray, Evangelicalism Divided (Banner of Truth, 2000), 205.
The statement above concerning Herbert Ryle’s Commentary on the Minor Prophets—“It was probably already out of date”—deserves attention, as it exposes the dilemma of liberal scholarship. That dilemma is that, in order to be relevant, one must be on the cutting edge of current scholarship. In plain terms, that means the cutting edge of what liberal scholars are saying right now. Keep up, or be relegated to the dustbin of yesterday’s fads.
The scholar who only seeks to be faithful to God’s Word has no such worries. Everything that really matters was written two thousand or more years ago. Everything since then only builds on that foundation. There is no pressure to be novel, only the responsibility to guard and accurately teach the ancient truths of God (1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 2:15).