Dispatches > The Buzz

Man knows not his time

Issue: "Lord of the Rings," Dec. 20, 2003

Carl F.H. Henry was a towering thinker, educator, editor, and theologian who left an indelible imprint on the evangelical movement of the past half century. He died on Dec. 7, at age 90, in Watertown, Wis.

Atypically, this giant of a scholar and mover-and-shaker also was a down-to-earth guy with a servant attitude, as those who came into close-up contact with him can attest. He cared about people, showing his concern in tangible ways. Clearing the table and doing the dishes after dinner wasn't beneath him. Humility, generosity, and patience were among his traits.

"Soon after he became editor of Christianity Today, he hired me as news editor. I made dumb mistakes in those early days, but he never gave up on me," recalls veteran journalist David E. Kucharsky. "He never nagged staffers."

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He loved Scripture, and he maintained a consistent Christian witness. The Great Commission was ever on his mind and heart.

He was a young newspaper journalist on Long Island in the early 1930s when a friend led him to Christ. Sensing he should prepare for Christian service, he enrolled in Wheaton (Ill.) College in 1935, where his classmates included other future evangelical leaders: Billy Graham (who would father CT as the credible, scholarly voice of evangelical orthodoxy and invite him to serve as the first functional editor), Harold Lindsell (who would succeed him at CT), Kenneth Taylor (creator of The Living Bible), Richard Halverson (future prominent pastor and U.S. Senate chaplain).

Mr. Henry had concluded early on that "faith without reason is not worth much, and that reason is not an enemy but an ally of genuine faith." He received a Th.D. at Northern Baptist Seminary in Chicago and a Ph.D. at Boston University. Along the way, he was ordained an American Baptist minister, and he taught at Northern.

He played a role in the launch and governance of the National Association of Evangelicals. In 1947, he helped to start Fuller Seminary, joining the school as dean and professor. He went to CT in 1955 and stayed until 1968, where he spent much of his editorial time confronting theological liberalism. After that, he pursued further studies at Cambridge University in England, established the Institute for Advanced Christian Studies (his dream of an Oxford-level Christian university never materialized), taught at several seminaries, served on boards of key ministries, and traveled widely in a conference ministry to Christian leaders.

Over the years, he wrote more than three dozen books, including the six-volume work, God, Revelation, and Authority. But it was his first book, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism (1947), that had the most powerful influence on the fledgling evangelical movement. (Evangelicals commonly were known as fundamentalists in those days.) In it, he questioned the withdrawal of fundamentalists from society and culture and challenged them to "authentic involvement."

The evangelical church scene hasn't been the same since then. Mr. Henry will be known for his insistence on integrating faith and learning, and then doing something about it to help change the world.

Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman

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