First, Henry was not Graham, nor did God intend for him to be. The Neo-Evangelical movement was strengthened by the diversity of gifts. It was not that Henry thought the calling to be a preacher was wholly distinct from the calling to be a theologian. Both tasks require a resolute reliance upon the power of the gospel. Nevertheless, Henry understood that it was the Lord’s prerogative to endow his people with various gifts to build His kingdom. Henry was once called the “brain of the evangelical movement,” but he understood that the movement must also have hands, head, and heart.
If you examine a list of the best preachers of the 20th century, you will find the names of great orators such as Billy Graham, G. Campbell Morgan, and Gardner C. Taylor, but one name that most likely will not appear on the list would be Carl F. H. Henry. Much more powerful with a pen than in the pulpit, Henry tells a brief anecdote about his preaching prowess in his autobiography Confessions of a Theologian. He wrote:
In the early afternoon I sauntered through Hyde Park, where scores of crusaders daily mount their soapboxes in behest of a hundred and one causes. Billy Graham had been there some weeks earlier when, accompanied by media coverage, he drew thousands of observers. But I was less known than even the unknown God of the Athenians. I listened momentarily here and there to some thumping radical or partisan until I happened on a father and son team who from a stepladder took turns exhorting listeners to put their hearts right with God. I commended them. “Do you have a word from the Lord?” asked the father. Introduced as “an American visitor” I somewhat reluctantly mounted the ladder to give my testimony about God’s forgiving sins and saving me. “Right now,” I continued, “if you will repent and receive Christ as Savior, God will forgive your sins, too, and give you new life.”…I disengaged myself from my lofty perch as discreetly as possible and listened to the father and son a bit longer until I could saunter away unobserved. I paid no attention to two men walking nearby until I overheard one of them remark, “That blooming American didn’t have very much to say, did he?” Graham’s calling and mine, I mused, are very different, and I was willing to leave it that way.
Lessons from Hyde Park
Henry’s mockers would have probably been surprised to learn that one of the foremost evangelical theologians had been in their midst. That “blooming American” was the founding editor of Christianity Today and the author of the six-volume magisterial defense of the Christian faith, God, Revelation and Authority. Anyone who has encountered Henry will quickly observe his towering intellect and know that this man indeed had much to say. What then, can we learn from Henry’s unassuming trip to Hyde Park?