JACKSON, Tenn. – Dec. 9, 2003 – Carl F.H. Henry, a noted evangelical theologian and journalist, died Dec. 7 in Watertown, Wis. following a lengthy illness. He was 90 years old.
Henry's contributions to the evangelical Christianity were great and far-reaching. From his position as the first editor of Christianity Today to his many published volumes, Henry is credited with helping shape the defense of evangelicalism as historically true and intellectually credible.
A Southern Baptist, Henry was a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
Union University President David S. Dockery said he greatly admired Henry. In 2000 Dockery was selected to present Henry with the Christian Council of Colleges and Universities' Mark O. Hatfield Leadership Award.
"Few people in the 20th century have done more to articulate the importance of coherent Christian world and life view than Carl F.H. Henry," Dockery said during the award presentation.
Dockery said Henry's books and articles, more than 50 in the past 40 years, have "called for serious engagement with our culture and the issues of our day.
"Henry's irenic spirit has enabled him to interact with others in an accepting way while holding unapologetically to the truthfulness of historic Christianity."
In 1977 Time magazine called Henry the leading theologian of American evangelicalism.
Union University maintains a center for Christian leadership named in his honor, the Carl F.H. Henry Center for Christian Leadership. A similar center, at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is also named after Henry.
In 2000 Henry was honored by the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission as a founding fellow of the ERLC's research institute. In a speech Henry delivered at that meeting, he challenged Southern Baptists and other evangelicals to become personally involved in evangelism and to encourage young people to enter into key vocations so they "can serve and give the leadership that we need" in the broader culture, and "beyond that, daily devotions in the Book."
Henry was the eldest of eight children born to Karl F. and Joanna Heinrich in New York City. His mother was Roman Catholic by family tradition, and his father was Lutheran. His early public education led to his first work as a journalist and reporter. Raised on Long Island, Henry became interested in journalism, and by the age of 19, he edited a weekly newspaper in New York's Nassau County. After his conversion to Christianity, Henry attended Wheaton College, obtaining his bachelor's and master's degrees.
Henry completed doctoral studies at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary (1942) and later at Boston University (1949). He was ordained in the Northern Baptist Convention in 1941, and from 1940 until 1947, he taught theology and philosophy of religion at Northern Baptist Seminary. In 1947, he accepted the call of Harold J. Ockenga to become the first professor of theology at the new Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.
Henry took a prolonged sabbatical from his teaching duties in 1955 to become the first editor of Christianity Today, a publication conceived by Billy Graham and L. Nelson Bell and financed by Sun Oil magnate, J. Howard Pew, as an evangelical alternative to the Christian Century. Under Henry's guidance, Christianity Today became the leading journalistic mouthpiece for neo-evangelicalism and lent the movement intellectual respectability.
He resigned from Christianity Today in 1968. After a year of studies at Cambridge University, Henry became professor of theology at Eastern Baptist Seminary (1969-74) and visiting professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (1971). After 1974, he served stints as lecturer-at-large for World Vision International (1974-87) and Prison Fellowship Ministries.
From the beginning of his academic career Henry aspired to lead Protestant fundamentalism to a greater intellectual and social engagement with the larger American culture. As such, with Ockenga and Graham, he is one of the most significant leaders of the "new evangelicalism" of the post-World War II era.
Henry also demonstrated his leadership of the neo-evangelical movement through his presidency of the Evangelical Theological Society (1967-70) and the American Theological Society (1979-80), as well as his organizing role in the Berlin (1966) and Lausanne (1974) World Conferences on Evangelism. Henry's many books, the most famous of which is the six-volume God, Revelation, and Authority (1976-83), consistently reiterate the themes of biblical theism, objective revelation in propositional form, the authority and inerrancy of the Scriptures, and the rational apologetic defense of Christianity.
Henry is survived by his wife Helga, a daughter, two sisters and five grandchildren. His only son, Paul, was a congressman from Michigan. He died in 1993 from a brain tumor.
A private burial is scheduled for Dec. 10 at Oak Hill Cemetery in Watertown, Wis. Two memorial services are being planned for later dates.
Compiled with information from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School