JACKSON, Tenn. – Dec. 9, 2003 – The death of Carl F.H. Henry was felt deeply across the nation's evangelical community but even more so on Union University's campus where the institution's center for Christian leadership was named in his honor.
Henry, the first editor of Christianity Today and one of the nation's most distinguished theologians, died Dec. 7 following a lengthy illness. He was 90. Henry held a unique friendship with Union President David S. Dockery. The two men exchanged correspondence over a number of years and in 2000 Dockery was selected to present Henry with the Christian Council of Colleges and Universities' Mark O. Hatfield Leadership Award.
Dockery remembered Henry as a great man whose death will heave a void in American Christianity.
"No Christian thinker in this country has done more to advance orthodox theology and full-orbed Christian worldview thinking than Carl F.H. Henry. Evangelicals across this country and the entire world stand in debt to Dr. Henry for his years of service and leadership across the evangelical world," Dockery said. "With his homegoing is the passing of a generation of intellectual and scholarly leadership that has shaped the thinking of Baptists and evangelicals for more than half of a century. Henry's vigorous spirit and rigorous mind resulted in a comprehensive vision for Christian thinking and living that is now ours to carry forth to the next generation."
One of those next-generation evangelicals is Gregory Thornbury, an assistant professor of Christian studies and director of Union's Carl F.H. Henry Center for Christian Leadership. Thornbury remembered Henry as his "hero."
"The story of modern theology is so very often a sad tale of doctrinal compromise and unwise alliances with secular thought," Thornbury said. "Carl Henry stood in stark contrast to this prevailing trend. A paragon of theological perseverance, he never wavered from the robust historic evangelical Christian theism he first outlined in 'Remaking the Modern Mind' in 1946."
Thornbury recalled a conversation he had several years ago when he asked Henry the most profound theological question he ever posed to students. "He replied without hesitation, 'Have you met the risen Lord?' Henry's titanic mind and eloquent pen always lent their brilliance to the cause of the biblical gospel."
Thornbury said the Carl F.H. Henry Center for Christian Leadership at Union University "seeks to emulate the central conviction of its namesake: that every area of human inquiry -- whether it be history, theology, politics, ethics, or law -- can be examined in ways faithful to the divine communication found in God's inspired and inerrant Word -- the Bible."
George Guthrie, chair of the department of Christian studies and Benjamin W. Perry professor of Bible, said he will remember Henry's character.
"Carl F. H. Henry personified irenic evangelicalism," Guthrie said. "He offered the church deep theological reflection, a rigorous approach to intellectual life, and a social conscience that takes seriously biblical mandates concerning the poor."
James A. Patterson, professor and associate dean of the department of Christian studies, said he was influenced by Henry as a young seminarian in the 1970s.
"I was influenced by Carl Henry's theological vision and his challenge to evangelicals for intellectual and cultural engagement," Patterson said. "Years later, when writing the 25-year history of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, I interviewed him and gained fresh appreciation for his contributions to evangelical higher education. He surely was one of the great evangelical figures of the 20th century."