Carl Henry Tribute

6th April 1999


The Editors, Christianity Today.


Dear friends,


I was delighted to see the tribute to Dr. Carl F. H. Henry in your January 11th issue which arrived here only a few days ago. I know this is late, but I thought I must write something about Dr. Henry.


In the assessments of the contribution of Dr. Carl F. H. Henry, I do not think I’ve ever read anything about the great impact he has had upon the church in the Third World and the former Soviet countries. It is harvest time in many of our countries, and sometimes as we reap this harvest we may forget those who laid the foundations during those unspectacular days when God was preparing this harvest. Dr. Henry was one of those people.


When he was at the height of his powers he gave, I believe, as much as three months in a year to lecture in the Third World. I am sure that this ministry did not help advance him many rungs in the theological and ecclesiastical ladder in the West, but it made a vital contribution to the growth of the kingdom of God. I know that when the Soviet block was closed to the West, he would go as a tourist and check in at a modest hotel and spend several days at a time ministering to the pastors and scholars in those nations.


He made several visits to Sri Lanka when I was a young man. Our church was struggling at that time with the embarrassment of having been associated with the British. One of the results of this was that liberal theology ruled in our churches. Evangelicals were considered naive simpletons who simply had no idea of the intellectual and cultural issues of the day. What breaths of fresh air Dr. Henry’s visits were to us! He helped take away something of the stigma that we carried because we were Evangelical in our convictions. He made us proud to be orthodox. Now it seems that orthodoxy has become a major influence in the life of the church.


I evidenced his interest in our part of the world most when I was a student in the States in the early seventies. He faithfully wrote to me quite regularly. And I will never forget the thrill of holding in my hand the envelopes containing his letters. They were easily recognisable, for they were typed with a typewriter which had a few keys that would type a little off the mark. I would always be amazed that this famous theologian took the time to type with his own hand a letter to this insignificant student from Sri Lanka.


I believe that in the annals of heaven, if there is a record of the progress of the church in Asia, the part that Carl Henry played in the years before the great harvest would be considered as a very significant one.


Ajith Fernando,

National Director, Youth for Christ/Sri Lanka

(Corresponding Editor, Christianity Today)