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Theology journal celebrates legacy & influence of Carl F.H. Henry

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The life and work of Carl F.H. Henry teaches Christians valuable lessons about engaging culture with the unchanging truth of Scripture, according to contributors to the latest edition of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology.

The winter 2004 edition of the journal examines different aspects of Henry’s thinking and seeks to bring clarity to recent debates surrounding Henry’s influence on evangelicalism. Essayists include two professors from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — Russell D. Moore and Chad Owen Brand.

Henry was a 20th-century theologian who authored numerous books, served as the founding editor of Christianity Today and influenced Southern Baptist leaders who played key roles in the denomination’s conservative resurgence. Henry died in 2003 at the age of 90.

In his editorial, Editor Stephen J. Wellum calls on readers to follow Henry’s example of confronting pressing issues with biblical and theological accuracy.

“Henry’s example in both the content and structure of his thought, as well as in his understanding of the issues, must not be ignored by a new generation of evangelical pastors, leaders, and teachers to whom Henry has now passed on the baton,” Wellum writes.

“Our aim is not to idolize the man; Henry himself would abhor such a thing. Rather, it is our desire to learn from Henry, both personally and intellectually, and to stand on his shoulders as we face the pressing issues of the twenty-first century.”

Moore, senior vice president for academic administration and dean of the school of theology, notes that Henry’s doctrine of the church was related to his doctrine of the Kingdom of God. Despite a heavy emphasis on parachurch ministries that has resulted in an under-emphasis on local congregations, Henry believed the local church must “model before the watching world the reality of the inaugurated Kingdom of Christ,” Moore writes.

Henry’s views on the authority of Scripture for the church, regenerate church membership and the role of confessions of faith were particularly helpful to Southern Baptists during the latter decades of the 20th century as they sought to return to biblical fidelity, Moore writes.

“The challenge of the next generation is to build on Henry’s evangelical orthodoxy with a clear statement of how such truths shape and define the life of local congregations,” he writes. “This means maintaining broad, trans-denominational coalitions, but it also means developing specific ecclesiological models within our own communities.”

Brand, associate professor of Christian theology, counters recent claims that Henry employed a theological method informed by Enlightenment models of rationality. Henry believed Scripture to be the absolute authority for all matters of faith and practice, Brand argues. His works have been misinterpreted as rationalistic by some because he believed that Scripture was presented in rational terms, Brand writes.

“Rather than moving in the direction of modernism, Henry steers the church away from modernism and toward Scripture, which he claims can be trusted in all that it claims about God and the world,” Brand writes.

“Henry does in essence challenge theology to make two faith affirmations — one that Scripture is true and the other that Christ is the one hope for humanity — but he sees the two faith affirmations as part of the same indivisible package.”

Paul R. House, associate dean and professor of divinity at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala., writes on the development of Henry’s theology over his lifespan. House’s article both describes Henry’s thinking and commends it as a model to be followed by evangelicals in the decades to come.

House argues that Southern Baptists are indebted to Henry because his contributions to evangelical scholarship provided inspiration for conservative thinkers during the SBC’s conservative resurgence.

“When young conservatives looked for sound theology in the 1970’s and 1980’s Carl Henry, Millard Erickson, James Packer, and others like them provided it,” House writes.

“When Southern Baptist seminaries began to shift to the right, it was made possible through the hiring of scholars from evangelical institutions. Thus, Southern Baptists have a theological debt to interdenominational evangelicalism.”

Other essayists include Gregory Alan Thornbury, assistant professor of philosophy and theology at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and Ray Van Neste, assistant professor of Christian studies at Union.

The journal also includes a forum in which scholars discuss various issues related to the life of Carl Henry.
For more information on the journal of theology, call 1-800-626-5525, ext. 4413 or e-mail [email protected].