Carl F. H. Henry
The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism
Matthew Lipscomb – Modern Christian Thought
Carl F. H. Henry (1913-2003) was an evangelical theologian who established a reputation as an outstanding theologian and scholar. Henry positioned himself as a strong advocate of biblical authority while also rejecting modern liberalism. Henry helped launch various evangelical institutions and with the publishing of this book, cemented himself as one of Evangelicalism’s brightest and most respected scholars.
Carl F. H. Henry was an advocate of Evangelicalism’s engagement – not just into intellectual and scholarly realms – but also the cultural sphere as well. The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism is Henry’s addressment of the cultural failures both extant and possible within the Evangelical movement, which Henry was a part of.
In the introduction to his book, Henry outlines both the possibility and the need for ‘surgery’ to be made to then-modern fundamentalism. He sites that it while some disagree with the necessity, it is always under attack, and that it had in fact failed to fully address the full potential of the “Hebrew-Christian Genius” in relation to problems that are intrinsically social in context.
I: Evaporation of Fundamentalist Humanitarianism
In this chapter, Henry discusses Fundamentalism’s failure to address an entire litany of ongoing social ills, having chosen to rather focus on superanturalist concerns, over the everyday plight of people all over the world.
II: The Protest against Foredoomed Failure
Here, Henry discusses the alignment of millennialists and millennialists against postmillennialists. Essentially, he criticizes those who embrace a despair-centered eschatology and thereby have abandoned hope for a ‘better future’ and instead have written off any potential for a Christ-centered societal affluence, which for eschatological reasons, they view as being a lost cause.
III: The Most Embarrassing Evangelical Divorce
In this chapter, Henry explores the fact that metaphysics and ethics once “went everywhere together” but that in the modern fundamentalist mindset, the redemptive “theologico-ethical” emphasis had been lost.
IV: Apprehension Over Kingdom Preaching
In this chapter, Henry discusses the anxiety extant within millennialists and millennialists mindsets of preaching a ‘kingdom theology,’ because of their intrinsic eschatological despair. Henry concludes this chapter with what he considers a biblical view of what ‘kingdom preaching’ should look like, as well as it’s intrinsic necessity in terms of fundamentalist essentials and world-relevance.
V: The Fundamentalist Thief on the Cross
In this chapter, Henry discusses the necessity for Fundamentalism to remain connected to the redemptive power of a personal Faith in Christ, not just in history – but also “superhistory.” He argues that rather then just expressing theological positions, fundamentalism must strive also for a “temporal focus” that applies the redemptive dynamics of Christianity to everyday life.
VI: The Struggle for a New World Mind
In this chapter, Henry discusses the need for the Fundamentalist worldview to change in accordance and relation to it’s present and ever-changing socio-political situational frame works, without compromising it’s teaching or it’s intrinsic redemptive emphasis.
VII: The Evangelical “Formula of Protest”
In this chapter, Henry outlines a plan of action by which Evangelical groups can constructively interact with like-minded social action endeavors- when either in the majority or the minority positions of affluence. Here again – he emphasizes the need for the inclusion of a redemptive mindset.
VIII: The Dawn of a New Reformation
In his final chapter, Henry outlines what a future evangelicalism must look like, and the things that it must intrinsically espouse to remain not just influential but also affective and, more importantly – Christ centered. Here again, he maintains the importance of divine redemption and that it alone is “the best solution of our problems, individual and social.”
In recent years, there has been much talk of evangelical and conservative Christians being too involved in politics in culture. Usually these voices come from those with oppositional views. The rise of political and cultural activities among conservative Christians has served as the genesis behind many antithetical organizations. In recent years, the terms “Christian Right” or “Moral Majority” are often used in derogatory and critical ways. Almost all agree, however, that not all of the criticism is unwarranted. Were he alive today, Henry would probably be writing a book aimed at not just affirming – but also brining further corrections, as his scholarly side would be want to do. His thoughts on cultural engagement are just as timely and crucial to the walking out the balance of the secular and the sacred, today, as they were when he first published them.