Born on January 22, 1913, to German immigrants in New York City, Carl F. H. Henry was not raised in a religious family environment. In 1933, while Henry was editor of The Smithtown Star and a stringer for The New York Times, Henry met with a man named Gene Bedford. They had a three hour conversation about the Christian faith, after which they prayed The Lord’s Prayer together. Henry converted to the Christian faith on the spot and became convinced that he should go to college to prepare for a life of Christian service. He attended Wheaton College, recognizing that “faith without reason is not worth much, and that reason is not an enemy but an ally of genuine faith, and moreover that the resurrection of Jesus is an historical event.”
Henry pursued graduate studies at Wheaton, earning a M.A., Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, where Henry earned his Th.D. after being ordained a Baptist minister, and Boston University, where he earned his second doctorate. In 1947, Henry’s The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, challenging the withdrawal of fundamentalists from society, was published. “Among my concerns,” he wrote, “was to engage evangelicals in a discussion of social and cultural problems and to help define authentic involvement.” Henry became the editor of Christianity Today in 1955 and left in 1968. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Henry helped shape a new generation of evangelical leadership by serving on the boards of Prison Fellowship, the Institute for Religion and Democracy, and the Ethics and Public Policy Center. An able encourager and champion of evangelicals serving in many facets of society, Henry entertained panoramic visions of evangelical cooperation and co-belligerency on behalf of preserving and articulating biblical values, while insistently calling for evangelical repentance and renewal to precede forays into politics, social action, media, and higher education.
On granting Henry the Mark O. Hatfield Leadership Award from the Christian Council of Colleges and Universities in 2000, Union University President David S. Dockery said, “Few people in the twentieth century have done more to articulate the importance of a coherent Christian world and life view than Carl F. H. Henry. No Christian college or university in North America carries forth the commitment to the integration of faith and learning without Henry’s influence, even if many on our campuses are unaware of that influence.”