As many of you know by now, one of the great saints of our age, Carl Henry, has gone home to be with the Lord. Although he suffered greatly during his illness, he maintained a consistent Christian witness. He died as he lived—Coram Deo, in the face of God.
Carl’s legacy to this ministry and to the kingdom is beyond recounting. Though he only went to college (
He was a co-founder of Fuller Seminary, founding editor of Christianity Today, and author of The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, a book that was instrumental in bringing evangelical Christians out of the fundamentalist wilderness in which the movement had been mired for most of the first half of the twentieth century. His book, published in 1947, came just at the same time Billy Graham was growing in influence as a preacher, and many people believe, as I do, that Henry and Graham together sparked the renewal of evangelicalism that we’ve been experiencing for forty years.
In my earliest days as a Christian, Carl helped me develop my own theological understandings. After he joined Prison Fellowship’s Board, he was the solid rock that kept us anchored to our faith. Carl was a former journalist, converted to Christ as a newsman (if there’s hope for newsmen, there’s hope for anybody!), and brought those great journalistic skills with him into the kingdom.
Carl Henry will never be replaced. He was a man God raised up for a particular time to do a mighty work. Others will come along, but they will not be Carl Henrys.
I personally am forever in Carl’s debt because he mentored me so lovingly. Not once in our close relationship over twenty years did he ever tell me anything; he was always very patient to explain that what I had said was very good, but then he asked if I had thought about another perspective. Within a short period of time, I realized that he was coaching me from his wealth of great wisdom. I do not remember a time when I didn’t welcome it, appreciate it, and grow in Christ as a result of it. He was one of the great minds teaching a fledgling, and he did it with understanding, patience, love, humility.
As Christianity Today put it in its online tribute to Carl, “[he] made it his life’s work to present biblical Christianity as intellectually credible and historically true. On the battlefields of modern theological thought, spanning seminaries, denominations, and media, Henry shaped the defenses of evangelicalism with two goals in mind: preserving truth and attracting nonbelievers.”
Those of us who were privileged to know and serve with Carl Henry will sorely miss this gentle, wise, and devoted man—not only for the broad influence he had on the Christian world as a whole, but also for the very personal influence he had on our individual lives. We remember this day his wife, Helga, and his daughter, Carol, and hold them up in prayer as they go through a time of mourning. But the best way we can honor his memory is by recommitting ourselves to his great goals: preserving truth and attracting nonbelievers.
For further reading and information:
In lieu of flowers, the Henry family has asked that donations be sent to Prison Fellowship (
“Chuck Colson on the Legacy of Carl Henry,”
Kenneth S. Kantzer, “The Carl Henry that Might Have Been ,” Christianity Today,
Carl Henry and Kenneth Kantzer, “Standing on the Promises,” Christianity Today, 1996.
Edward E. Plowman, “Man knows not his time,” World,
Adam Bernstein, “Christian Theologian Carl F.H. Henry,”
Myrna Oliver and Mary Rourke, “Carl F.H. Henry, 90; Theologian Was a Key Evangelical Influence,”
“First Editor of Christianity Today Dies ,”
Michael Foust, “Carl F. H. Henry, known as the ‘dean’ of evangelical theologians, dies at 90,” BP News,
David Dockery, “Carl Henry and ‘the evangelical mind,’ ” BP News,
Albert Mohler, “ The Life and Legacy of Carl F. H. Henry: A Remembrance ,” Crosswalk.com,