"I have an account to settle with Carl Henry. It is too late to personally settle it with him—although I hope the Lord eventually gives me the chance to do that in the hereafter. For now, though, I can at least set the record straight in the pages of this magazine, which Dr. Henry served so capably as Christianity Today's first editor.
The story starts in the fall of 1967 when, as a Ph.D. student in philosophy at the University of Chicago, I received a phone call from Henry. A few weeks before I had sent an essay to him, outlining what I took to be a proper evangelical approach to the sub-discipline of social ethics. Henry told me that he very much liked my piece for its critique of liberal Protestantism's approach to the field, and wanted to publish it. He had only one revision to suggest—a minor one, he insisted. At the point where I said that it was indeed important for the church to on occasion take a stand on some specific question of social justice, he preferred to have me speak of the need for individual Christians to take such a stand."
At first Mouw rejected the revision of his article. Henry pushed Mouw to approve of a statement that would say, in essence, "the church should regularly articulate general principles that bear on social concerns, leaving it up to individuals to actively apply those principles to social specifics." Mouw and Henry eventually came to a 'reluctant' compromise on the wording which replace 'church' with 'Christian'. It was ambiguous enough to pass by both. In the end, the article Mouw wrote and Henry published set forth the case "...that the church can say "no" to things that are happening in the economic and political realms, without mentioning anything about the church legitimately endorsing specific remedial policies or practices."
Now, more than 40 years after the publication of the article, Mouw concedes that his 'youthful convictions' were misguided and Henry was right.
In the article Mouw summarizes five guidelines Henry established to direct his editorial policy while at CT. I think they are wise and helpful to us as we think about how we ought to engage with our culture:
1. The Bible is critically relevant to the whole of modern life and culture—the social-political arena included.
2. The institutional church has no mandate, jurisdiction, or competence to endorse political legislation or military tactics or economic specifics in the name of Christ.
3. The institutional church is divinely obliged to proclaim God's entire revelation, including the standards or commandments by which men and nations are to be finally judged, and by which they ought now to live and maintain social stability.
4. The political achievement of a better society is the task of all citizens, and individual Christians ought to be politically engaged to the limit of their competence and opportunity.
5. The Bible limits the proper activity of both government and church for divinely stipulated objectives—the former, for the preservation of justice and order, and the latter, for the moral-spiritual task of evangelizing the earth.