Jan

22

2013

Justin Taylor|10:41 am CT

Happy 100th Birthday, Carl F. H. Henry

Today would have been the 100th birthday of evangelical stalwart Carl F. H. Henry (1913-2003). It is probable that many reading this blog have never heard of the man. It is also probable that without his work, there would not be a Gospel Coalition to begin with.

Below are several pieces to help introduce you to some of his life and legacy. The new starting point for such endeavors will undoubtedly be Greg Thornbury’s forthcoming Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry (Crossway,  March 2013). You can read an excerpt of it at the TGC site.

Here’s another sample from Thornbury’s work:

So it seems as though there may still be enough of us left who believe that Carl Henry, a key to evangelicalism’s past, may in fact be a cipher to its future. It is a relatively small group, those of us who have this intuition. To return to the analogy of the Shire, the admirers of Henry form a fellowship of sorts who felt better during the days when figures like Kantzer, Schaeffer, Packer, and Henry were the mainstream. To restate the relevance of works like God, Revelation and Authority and the cultural program of works like Uneasy Conscience and Remaking the Modern Mind for our time has become for me something of a quest. Like Frodo taking the ring to Mount Doom and realizing there is no return to the Shire as it once was, I have wondered if the journey might reveal to me something that I do not want to know, something I fear: perhaps the evangelicalism I “signed up for” is gone forever. Worse yet, perhaps it never even existed. But every time I feel this way, I stop and think that there really was once a Shire. Once upon a time, evangelicalism was a countercultural upstart movement. Positioned in between mainline denominational liberalism and reactionary fundamentalism, the evangelicals saw themselves as evangelists to all of culture. Billy Graham was reaching the masses with his Crusades, Francis Schaeffer was reaching artists and university students at L’Abri, Larry Norman was recording Jesus music on secular record labels and touring with Janis Joplin and the Doors, and Carl F. H. Henry was reaching the intellectuals through Christianity Today. It was “classic evangelicalism.” Surveying the current evangelical landscape, one gets the feeling that we’re backpedaling quickly. We are more theologically diffuse, culturally gun-shy, and balkanized than ever before. What happened? And how do we find our way back?

Here are some other resources for your consideration if you want to be part of this mere band of adventurers seeking to recover lost propositions:

  • To hear from Dr. Henry himself in his later years, you can watch two parts of the four-part series of video interviews of Henry and Kenneth Kantzer in 1991.
  • And one of his final interviews (I believe) was with Mark Dever in 1997: “Life of Carl F. H. Henry.”

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