I plan on reading several “evangelical classics” this year, including Christ and Culture and Christianity and Liberalism. I picked up The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism because it is one of the books that jumpstarted today’s evangelical movement.
Written by Carl Henry in 1947, The Uneasy Conscience seeks to push fundamentalism into the public arena by engaging the world on the level of ideas. Henry argues for a cultural engagement that applies Christian principles to the world’s social issues without denying or downplaying the fundamentals of the Christian faith.
Henry’s vision for future evangelicalism is breathtaking in its scope. I can imagine most fundamentalists in the 1940’s reading this book and wondering how his vision could ever be accomplished. Sixty years later, many of Henry’s hopes for evangelicalism have become reality. Evangelicals are on the front lines of many social issues. American Evangelicals have more political clout than ever before in our brief history. Evangelicals have stopped majoring on the minor issues that divided fundamentalism sixty years ago in order to join hands with like-minded believers and work towards spreading the presence of the kingdom in our nation.
Still, Henry’s vision has not been totally implemented. Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind woefully describes the lack of “thinking” among evangelicals today. Ron Sider’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience reveals the surprising apathy of the average evangelical to take on issues of social justice.
Today, modern evangelicalism still has an uneasy conscience. Some worry of a return to the isolationist tendencies of old fundamentalism, a resurgence of evangelicals who are majoring on minor issues. Others are concerned that the ever-inflating balloon of doctrinal diversity within evangelicalism is already leading to a theological drift in the direction of last century’s failed liberalism.
Perhaps we should be praying for another Carl F.H. Henry to come along - a person who can see exactly where we are, what our strengths and weaknesses are, and how we should move ahead.
written by Trevin Wax. © 2007 Kingdom People Blog