I recently took notes over Carl F.H. Henry’s The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism. Written in 1947 (when “fundamentalism” and “evangelicalism” were equivalent terms), Henry’s call was for a theologically informed and socially engaged evangelicalism. Henry was concerned that, through its separatist mentality and tendency to separate social action from the concern of the Christian, modern evangelicalism was becoming irrelevant — and, more than that, unbiblical.
Henry’s call is just as relevant today as it was then, though evangelicalism has made immense progress. There is still a tendency to over spiritualize, to focus on the “spiritual” side of things in a way that tends to diminish and demean physical and social needs. And, on the other hand, when being rightly practical and concerned about social action, there is a tendency to do this apart from the important doctrinal foundations on which the Bible places these concerns. We need to continue increasing in our concern for social issues and addressing large global problems, while at the same time doing so on a theological foundation, recognizing that classical Christian doctrines are actually the best foundation for diligent social action.
In order to do this, however, we need to understand how Christianity and culture relate. Henry’s book is one of the best expositions of that issue. It is not only a call to action, but also gives the basic fundamentals for thinking about the relationship between Christianity and culture and how Christians can effectively partner with those who do not share our faith but do share our concern for confronting large global problems head on.
Russ Moore recently had a good post on Carl Henry, writing about this book that:
Henry’s “Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism” is perhaps the most important evangelical book of the twentieth-century. It is just as relevant as it was in 1947, and should be read again by all those with a serious commitment to applying a kingdom vision to every aspect of life. The kingdom Jesus inaugurated spoke to the whole person, to spiritual lostness, to physical sickness, to material poverty, to the need for community. A church that joins Jesus in preaching the kingdom will too. We need that reminder every generation, perhaps especially now. The evangelical conscience is, after all, still uneasy after all these years.
It turns out that today would be Carl Henry’s 100th birthday. So, in honor of his 100th birthday, and in light of the call to us as Christians to care about all suffering and be intelligently and helpfully engaged in social issues for the good of the world and glory of God, here are my notes on perhaps his most important book, which is just as relevant today as ever.