Book Review: “Biblical Answers to Tough Questions” by Charles Caldwell Ryrie (1991)

I recall one tidbit of advice from seminary that has never left me: “The biggest threat to ministry is ministry itself,” meaning that when you’re constantly surrounding yourself with fellow believers, you run the risk of losing touch with fallen world that we’re all called to reach. Certainly, some of us are gifted with edification or with teaching or with pastoring, all of which are strictly believer-focused ministries, but that never deletes our responsibility to the lost and searching. Reading Charles Ryrie’s Biblical Answers to Tough Questions has really opened my eyes to this danger, because the topics he discusses are too often taken for granted by Christianity at large, as if simply knowing the Bible’s stand on an issue is enough. When we’re together, we don’t usually discuss such issues in depth, but what about when we step outside our comfortable fortress walls and engage the lost? We’ve got to realize that “because the Bible says so” is the weakest answer we can give a non-believer who might approach us with these very real questions and concerns. Unless we can point to where in the Bible it speaks to such issues as homosexuality, civil obedience, or drugs—and explain why!—our well-meaning yet cop-out answers will be as useless as silence.

Ryrie’s book covers a myriad of topics, listed here in their chapter order: civil obedience, capital punishment, women’s rights, divorce, race, situational ethics, suicide, abortion, demon activity, evolution, homosexuality, debt, alcohol and drugs. As you can see, this list of topics evidences the distinctive social issues of our times, and is practically a “usual suspects” for Conservative Presidential Debate questions! Unless we believers are able to answer these issues from the Bible, and not simply from our Christian culture, we’re going to continue losing this generation to the liberal worldview that has been slowly disintegrating our nation’s moral foundation for at least the past two generations. When will the American Church wake up and see that we’re losing our children to political correctness as it stands in stark contrast to the clear teachings of Scripture?

Biblical Answers is written in a very concise, fluff-free manner, like a collection of magazine articles. Ryrie backs his arguments up with the Word, of course, though sometimes he foregoes sharing Bible references, as if the intended audience were the church leadership who is to engage the seekers and not the seekers themselves. As implied already, this book would be considered by most Americans today a most politically-incorrect offering. Ryrie certainly errs on the side of caution with most topics, and might therefore even be confused by our own church culture as a borderline-Quaker. But honestly, is that not the whole point of being not simply a “Bible-believing Christian” but a “Bible-obeying Christian”? Isn’t occasional politically-incorrectness simply obedience to the Word of Christ? The Apostle Paul would have considered Ryrie an obvious brother-at-arms, peculiar to the world in exactly the right way. Perhaps this world needs a few more peculiar people, some more “weird, uptight” Christians like Charles Ryrie and the Apostle Paul, instead of all the excuse-making, freedom-loving compromisers that fill the majority of our pews.

Ryrie concludes his final chapter (on alcohol and drugs) with a poignant remark that seems to be a fine standard for how we deal with each of the issues he addresses. I close with that remark: “To sum up: Why not do the good thing, that is, abstain, for the sake of one’s own body, others’ growth, and society’s benefit?”

©2015 E.T.

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