Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Last year we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Carl F. H. Henry’s birth. The Lord called and gifted him in significant ways. Henry experienced new birth while sitting alone in his automobile in the midst of a violent thunderstorm (remember Martin Luther) in 1933. Henry later described it in this way:
A fiery bolt of lightning, like a giant flaming arrow, seemed to pin me to the driver’s seat, and a mighty roll of thunder unnerved me. When the fire fell, I knew instinctively the Great Archer had nailed me to my own footsteps. Looking back, it was as if the transcendent Tetragrammaton wished me to know that I could not save myself and that heaven’s intervention was my only hope.
He never forgot this and never wavered from it. He was called and saved by God for God. He served the Lord the rest of the days of his life.
Henry was a gifted theologian who was committed to serving the church, that would, in turn, impact society and culture. He was one who addressed the importance of believing and behaving in a way that was consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. He did not make moral responsibility the gospel, but he did make it an implication or entailment of the gospel.
Everyone has a theology, claimed Henry. No one is exempt. All, including non-Christians, have a view and understanding of God, and their lives will be lived on that basis. And if smooth sailing in life allows one to get by with a shoddy theology, it is the crises of life which will reveal what kind of theological foundation one has, and it is at those times one will know and experience its necessity (Matt. 7:24-27). This theology is not just general theology or theology in the abstract. It is, rather, focused upon and rooted in the living God (Ex. 3:1-6, 14; cf. Matt. 16:16) and the Lord Jesus Christ, the historical person who was crucified and raised again (1 Cor. 15:1-8). It is only on this basis that one will experience life (Jn. 10:10) and respond to the contemporary views of the meaning and morals of life (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
Here is what Henry says about this in his own words (excerpted from an essay in the Wheaton Record):
Everyone has a theology. It may be a very shoddy one, and if it is shoddy, it will rise to haunt one in a crisis of life. It’s my conviction that only a theology which has the living God at its center and that is rooted in Christ, the crucified and risen Redeemer, has the intellectual struts to engage the modern secular views effectively.
May our theology not be shoddy but solid, grounded in our personal God in all His fullness – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and His truth revealed in the Scriptures.