The Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement began formal operation in 1998 as a faculty center of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The story of its founding, however, stretches back for some time.
Carl F. H. Henry (1913-2003) was a native of Long Island who became a long-time Southern Baptist and member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D. C. Henry emerged in the 1940s as one of the brightest lights of the burgeoning evangelical movement. Ethicist Russell D. Moore has said that from his early career, Henry “served as the intellectual powerhouse behind the evangelical renaissance in the United States.” Henry was the founding editor of Christianity Today from 1956-68 and published over thirty books during his sixty-year career, with the six-volume work God, Revelation, and Authority (1976-83) cementing him as a theologian of the highest order.
In the later stages of his ministry, Dr. Henry enjoyed close ties with SBTS, forging a friendship with future SBTS President R. Albert Mohler, Jr. while the latter was a student in the 1980s. Henry influenced Mohler’s theology and ministry in profound ways, a connection that is vitally felt on the seminary’s campus today through Mohler’s own theological program and sense of ecclesial mission. In the judgment of many scholars and churchmen today, Mohler is considered the theological heir of Henry’s mantle.
In 1998, the seminary created the Henry Institute through Mohler’s leadership. A number of gifted young scholars and leaders were initially associated with the project, including Henry protégés Gregory A. Thornbury, a fellow of the Institute and future president of The King’s College in Manhattan, New York, Russell D. Moore, the executive director of the Institute (2002-09) and future president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; and Mark Dever, a fellow and future pastor of CHBC in Washington, D. C. Fellows also included C. Ben Mitchell, future ethics professor at Union University, Paul House, future biblical studies professor at Beeson Divinity School, and Richard Bailey, future professor of history at Canisius College.
In 1999, the Institute partnered with Crossway Books to re-release God, Revelation, and Authority. In subsequent years, under Moore’s leadership, it featured symposia, events, and essays related to evangelical engagement of the public square and secular culture, becoming well-known for its original scholarly work in these fields.
In 2014, after a brief recess, SBTS President Mohler and Provost Randy Stinson asked Dr. Owen Strachan to become the Director of the Institute. Strachan, a professor of theology and history at SBTS and Boyce College, worked for several years for President Mohler, serving as his Editorial Assistant from 2005-07. He has written numerous articles and reviews on Henry’s theology and influence on evangelicalism in scholarly journals like Themelios, Trinity Journal, and the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. Strachan’s 2011 dissertation at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, written while he was the Managing Director of the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding, offered a fresh appraisal of the intellectual vision of Henry, Harold John Ockenga, and Billy Graham in the neo-evangelical period. It will be published in monograph form in 2015 with Zondervan Academic.
Under Strachan’s leadership, the Henry Institute will seek to champion a theological perspective that, like Henry’s, is winsome, unapologetic, and animated by the person and work of Jesus Christ, the true and living Word.