Amnesia, when it happens within the minds of individuals, is diagnosed as a mental disorder of the greatest significance, and often leads to institutionalization. Within a group of people, however (at least in the modern West), amnesia appears to be a willingly embraced form of life. Blindly trusting in the power of the self and naively pilgrimaging toward a better future, the mere idea of remembrance as a credible form of thought is often dubbed as nostalgia and antagonistically dismissed.
Setting aside the fact that the Bible itself offers strong counter-testimony to this attitude – the themes of remembering and forgetting pulsate throughout Scripture – the great problem of this forgetfulness is its tendency towards ingratitude, lack of appreciation for those men and women whom God has used to make possible the life that we now live, who gave themselves to the strengthening and equipping of Christ’s bride, and without whom our own relationship with God would be all the more impoverished.
Among those men who have indelibly shaped our present moment – especially we who call ourselves evangelicals – is Carl Henry. Today (January 22, 2013), and this year more generally, presents a wonderful opportunity to remedy this amnesia about our Evangelical heritage. Today marks the centennial of Carl Henry’s birth, and the opportunity to celebrate his life and praise God for his ministry.
Carl Henry and Evangelical Identity
This brief post is not the occasion for a detailed description of Carl Henry’s life and legacy. Often dubbed “the thinking man’s Billy Graham,” Carl Henry is recognized by most as a founding figure (along with Billy Graham and Harold Ockenga) of the movement that we today call Evangelicalism. His most widely received book, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism (1947, a must read), placed him soundly at the head of this already emerging movement that was gaining force in the early 1940’s. Within the following years, Carl Henry would become the first dean of Fuller Seminary (1947), part of the founding of the Evangelical Theological Society (1949), and the founding editor of Christianity Today (1956), soundly locating him at several of the institutions that have stood for and upheld evangelicalism in its 50+ years of social and theological engagement.
Henry was neither merely a strategist and visionary, nor an academic of the highest order (although he was both of these things). Remaining true to his journalistic roots, and his personal conversion at the age of 20 (1933), Carl Henry remained resolutely concerned with the general public and committed to the priority and necessity of personal regeneration. His institutional savvy and high intellectual engagement, therefore, was accompanied by corresponding care for the spiritual maturity of individuals. This is apparent in his body of work, with books like The Pacific Garden Mission, as well as many writing and speaking engagements aimed at the everyday Christian.
Remembering Carl Henry: A Prelude to the Coming Year
In order to commemorate this centennial year, and to bring Carl Henry’s life and legacy back to Evangelical consciousness, the Henry Center is intending several initiatives throughout the year:
- Many of Carl Henry’s sermons, lectures and broadcasts will be streamed from our website (beginning immediately following this post with part of the Know Your Roots series).
- John Simons, a Hansen Fellow and PhD student in church history, will be blogging throughout the year on Carl Henry; we also hope to include others in this way.
- We will be hosting a “Carl Henry Day” on campus in October.
- The lectures from that day will be published in the Spring 2014 Trinity Journal, which will be dedicated to Carl Henry. (To learn more about these opportunities, please follow future posts, where we will present a call-for-papers.)
- We will be developing a Carl F. H. Henry page on our website.
We’d also like to hear from you: Have you personally been influenced by Carl Henry? Are you willing to share your story with us? If so, please write us at [email protected]. We would love to post this story on our site and include it in our Henry archives.
Whether theological novice or expert, we hope that you will join us in the coming year as we celebrate the life and legacy of Carl Henry and praise God for his ministry, from which we have so greatly benefited.