Carl F. H. Henry: Prominent Evangelical Thinker

Carl F. H. HenryCarl F. H. Henry, founding editor of the magazine Christianity Today and author or editor of more than 40 books, including The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism and God, Revelation & Authority, 6 Volumes, was often considered the most prominent American evangelical thinker of the mid-20th century.

In the last paragraph of God, Revelation & Authority, 6 Volumes, Henry wrote:

God who stands and stoops and speaks is God who stays: He it is who preserves and governs and consummates his cosmic purpose. But the awesome wonder of the biblical revelation is not his creation and preservation of our vastly immense and complex universe. Its wonder, rather, is that he came as God-man to planet Earth in the form of the Babe of Bethlehem; he thus reminds us that no point in the universe is too remote for his presence and no speck too small for his care and love. He came as God-man to announce to a rebellious race the offer of a costly mercy grounded in the death and resurrection of his only Son and to assure his people that he who stays will remain with them forever and they with him. He is come in Christ incarnate to exhibit ideal human nature and will return in Christ glorified to fully implement the Omega-realities of the dawning future.

Earlier this year my friend Jim Bell shared about an encounter Henry had with theologian Karl Barth. Carl Henry himself wrote about it in his autobiography Confessions of a Theologian:

When Karl Barth came to America for a few lectures at University of Chicago Divinity School and Princeton Theological Seminary, George Washington University made a belated effort to bring him to the nation's capital. Barth was weary, but volunteered for an hour's question-answer dialogue. The university invited 200 religious leaders to a luncheon honoring Barth at which guests were invited to stand, identify themselves and pose a question. A Jesuit Scholar from either Catholic University or Georgetown voiced the first question.

Karl BarthAware that the initial queries often set the mood for all subsequent discussion, I asked the next question. Identifying myself as Carl Henry, editor of Christianity Today, I continued: 'The question, Dr. Barth, concerns the historical factuality of the resurrection of Jesus.' I pointed to the press table and noted the presence of leading reporters representing United Press, Religious News Service, Washington Post, Washington Star, and other media. If these journalists had their present duties at the times of Christ, I asked, was the resurrection of such a nature that covering some aspect of it would have fallen under their area of responsibility? 'Was it news,' I asked, 'in the sense that the man on the street understands news?'

Barth became angry. Pointing at me, and recalling my identification, he asked, 'Did you say Christianity Today, or Christianity Yesterday?' The audience—largely nonevangelical professors and clergy—roared with delight. When countered unexpectedly in this way, one often reaches for a Scripture verse. So I replied, assuredly out of biblical context, 'Yesterday, Today, and Forever.'

In a memoir to Henry, Timothy George, an executive editor for Christianity Today, wrote of the last time he saw Carl:

He could not walk, and could barely talk, but his mind was abuzz with ideas and plans and new ventures for the advance of God's kingdom. We prayed and read the Scriptures together. Even though he was in pain, his eyes still sparkled with the joy of Christ. Carl loved to quote Vance Havner's prayer, "Lord, get me safely home before dark."
Randy Alcorn, founder of EPM

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over fifty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries

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