Book tells past to renew evangelicalism of today

Gregory Thornbury, dean of the School of Theology and Missions, released a new book last month called “Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom of Carl F.H. Henry.”

Thornbury said he seeks to unite the wisdom of the past with the issues of the present in the 224-page volume.

Thornbury joins the ranks with other professor-authors in his department, such as Hal Poe, Randall Bush and George Guthrie. Although Thornbury has contributed to various books in his career, this is his first book on his own.

“I’ve had several publishers over the years gauge my interest in writing a book on my mentor, Carl F.H. Henry, but I wanted to write a book that was looking forward, not just back,” Thornbury said. “This is my crack at that.”

He worked on the book for 15 months, devoting weekends, breaks and some early mornings to the project.

“Recovering Classic Evangelicalism” shows Carl F.H. Henry’s influence on evangelicalism to become more philosophically astute.

“It was my intent to show Henry as a theorist who was supplying evangelicalism with its primary animating ideas and intellectual esprit de corps,” Thornbury said.

Thornbury relates this to the present and explained that modern evangelicalism veered away from Henry’s ideals.

“My desire was to paraphrase some of Henry’s best theological work – much of which was admittedly difficult to read – and to reset those ideas in light of the current situation of modern theology and contemporary evangelical life,” Thornbury said.

Evangelicalism is something that has lost its persuasiveness, Thornbury said.

“Classic evangelicalism was characterized more by what it was for than what it was against,” he said. “It was upbeat, confident, evangelistic and engaged.”

“Our worldview has, to quote the words of Paul Simon in his song ‘Call Me Al,’ has ‘gone soft in the middle now … now that our role model is gone.’ Even when we agree upon basic theological affirmations, I worry that we’re not quite sure why,” Thornbury said.

Thornbury wants his readers to come back to the roots of what made them believe in Christ in the first place.

“We live in an age that craves epistemological knowledge about truth, origins, language, and art,” he said. “So my attitude is, ‘Let’s do this. The generation of evangelicals previous to ours were happy to talk about this stuff. We should be, too.’”

Other books written by faculty in the School of Theology and Missions include “Widgmus World,” a children’s book by Randall Bush; “Read the Bible for Life,” a book and Bible study by George Guthrie; and “Evermore: Edgar Allan Poe and the Mystery of the Universe” by Hal Poe.