Social Engagement Before It Was Cool: The Life and Times of Carl F. H. Henry (Part 5)

Carl F. H. Henry

This is Part 5 of 6 of a series of posts looking at the life and influence of Carl F. H. Henry on Christians and politics.  For this post, I just want to offer a few summarizing thoughts.

Henry offers a unique and thoughtful challenge to Christians for healthy public engagement.  What he says is biblically grounded and Christ centered.  I stumbled across his work beginning about a year ago, and was refreshed and encouraged by his nuanced reflections, and refusal to play the stooge for partisanship.  Far from pushing the church into a subjective corner of privacy and emotions as many today desire and expect, his approach frees us to be a true political force in the deepest sense of the term.

His own son listened well, serving in Congress for many years.  No doubt countless other Christians have and will follow his example as well, and rightfully so.  His working foundation consisted of two parts.  1) A coherent, unified creation bound by one truth and 2) revelation as an authority for claiming all that is good for Christ.   Such a foundation is an example all Christians can surely learn from in whatever field of work they find themselves in.

Henry is no doubt right the preaching of the Gospel is in itself a political act.  It calls people away from reliance on the world.  Christians should, therefore not be afraid of this reality, but rather learn to keep it in perspective.  This means we speak politically with a prophetic voice of truth rather than merely mustering troops for a partisan cause.  It means a message of slow, quiet, moral influence rather than bumper sticker sloganeering and witch hunting. It means leaning on scriptural principles as opposed to investing in specific policy objectives (talking about churches here, not individuals- see Part 3).  And it means constantly seeking identification with and listening to the powerless rather than currying favor in the halls of power.

It is perhaps more needed today than in Henry’s heyday as a new evangelical left now seeks to oppose the entrenched religious right on many issues.

Those who would encapsulate the Gospel into any single issue or platform would do well to remember that doing so blurs the purpose and hope of the biblical Jesus and fails to address the totality of the human condition.

Next time we will look at one last, powerful example of Henry’s principles at work.




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