THE THEOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY OF CARL F. H. HENRY AND ITS IMPACT UPON CONTEMPORARY EVANGELICALIS

This paper investigates the doctrine of man in the writings of Carl F. H. Henry and the impact of Henry’s theological anthropology upon the evolution of evangelicalism in the second half of the twentieth century. Evangelicalism was reinvented in the 1940s with the birth of the neo-evangelical movement. Neo-evangelicalism significantly shifted the direction and nature of conservative Protestantism in America. There were many leaders involved in the new brand of evangelicalism, but Carl F. H. Henry was the movement’s greatest theologian and architect.
First, this paper examines Henry’s understanding of Augustine’s articulation of the doctrine of original sin and Henry’s understanding of how this doctrine shapes human behavior and the human capability to understand truth. Second, this paper briefly examines Henry’s understanding of presuppositional apologetics, as taught by Cornelius Van Til, and contrasts that with Henry’s understanding of the epistemology and natural theology of Thomas Aquinas to show how Henry uniquely married elements of both systems. Henry’s epistemology and understanding of the nature of human intellect are thoroughly Van Tilian, yet also nuanced enough to include elements of Thomistic thought. Third, this paper briefly examines Henry’s doctrine of the kingdom of God and shows how Henry promoted this doctrine as the primary basis for evangelical political and cultural engagement. Henry’s doctrine of the kingdom informed his belief that the gospel demands evangelical efforts to reshape and recreate society. This caused some observers to misunderstand Henry’s approach to political and social engagement, believing that his ideas would be congruent with many liberal Protestants that embraced variations of the Social Gospel or Marxism. However, this paper shall demonstrate how Henry’s understanding of humanity caused him to reject those various ideas and initiatives coming from liberal Protestants because those ideas and initiatives often set expectations for humanity that Henry believed were impossible for humans to achieve. Lastly, this paper shall highlight several events and trends within evangelicalism in the latter years of the twentieth century, tracing the influence of Henry’s theology upon those events and trends, showing that Henry’s theological anthropology had tremendous influence on contemporary evangelicalism.
The primary questions answered in this paper will be: (1) “How did Henry’s theological anthropology shape his response to the key doctrinal issues in the twentieth century?” (2) “How did Henry influence other key evangelicals?” (3) “How can modern evangelicals implement Henry’s wisdom?” As a result of this paper, readers will understand how Henry presented a unique and nuanced understanding of theological anthropology that greatly informed the choices and ministries of several influential evangelical leaders in the twentieth century including, but not limited to, Billy Graham, E. J. Carnell, Bill Bright, Chuck Colson, Millard Erickson, Timothy George, David Dockery, and Albert Mohler. Readers will also understand how to better embrace and implement Henry’s wisdom and exhortations.

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