Who is Carl Henry and Why Read Him?

Posted: January 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

Carl Henry was once widely regarded as the most influential evangelical scholar in the world but, regrettably, he is nearly ignored today.  Who was Henry and why should he still be read?

Carl F.H. Henry was born on January 22, 1913 in New York City and grew up on Long Island in a working class family.  Henry was raised in a nominal Episcopalian home and all neglected the faith until his conversion at age 20 in 1933.  

Henry worked his way through Wheaton College as a journalist having served as a reporter for various newspapers back east including The New York Times.  Henry earned both a bachelors and masters from Wheaton, working on the latter while simultaneously completing a seminary degree from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. Henry would then earn two doctorates, one in theology and one in philosophy from Northern Baptist and Boston University respectively.

Henry then embarked on a phenomenal career.  He was a founding member of the National Association of Evangelicals, a founding faculty member of Fuller Theological Seminary, the founding editor of Christianity Today, the head of World Vision, as well as a noted author and lecturer.  Henry went to be with Christ in 2003.

Henry is perhaps best known for penning the work  The Uneasy Conscience of the Modern Fundamentalist (1947), which clarified the fundamentalist/evangelical divide.  Henry argued that fundamentalists had become too sectarian and too reactionary.  He argued that conservative Christians had nothing to fear from science or even Biblical criticism.  He argued that it was only the liberal prejudice against the “miraculous” that orthodox Christians needed to reject.  Henry thus defined evangelicalism as orthodoxy that thoughtfully engaged the culture. 

Henry went on to pen his 6-volume masterpiece God, Revelation and Authority between 1976 and 1983 and it is to the introduction and 1.1 of that work that we will turn to tomorrow morning. 

Why read God, Revelation and Authority? Is it just out of respect for Henry’s influence within evangelicalism? He certainly deserves respect.  In fact, he should get more than he does now.  I welcome the onset of the young, restless and reformed movement and their passion for the puritans, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon and modern thinkers like D.A. Carson and Wayne Grudem but they have all but overlooked Henry.  But it is not just out of respect that I propose we turn to Henry and his magnum opus–it is its relevance.  As we will see tomorrow in the introduction and first chapter of God, Revelation and Authority, Henry has much to say to us right here and right now.

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