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A reflection on Leon Morris

Posted: 12/05/14

Remember your leaders. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith

by Graham Cole

I first came across the name of Leon Morris as a Moore College student in the 1970s. His prayer book notes were vital for my passing the TH.L exam in the subject. In fact there was quite an underground trade in Leon’s Ridley notes on not only prayer book but on the New Testament and on doctrine as well. Soon I was using his commentaries and reading his other works. They were so simply written without being simplistic. His style was plain and eminently accessible. I found out somewhere that he wrote his commentaries then consulted the secondary literature, hence the copious footnotes. I referred to those footnotes constantly in preparation for my London Bachelor of Divinity Greek New Testament exams. Invaluable! He wanted to be exposed to the text of Scripture at a personal level before researching what others had to say about it. I have emulated that practice in sermon and lecture preparation, and book writing myself.

When I moved to Melbourne to take up the principalship of Ridley in the early 1990s I had the opportunity to visit the Leon and Mildred in their home. Or should I say I visited them in his library that had a bedsit attached. You walked through the front door straight into row upon row of books in stands before making you way to the living area. They were so hospitable. He was quite elderly but still very sharp. He was such an unassuming presence. Interestingly to me, he went to school in Lithgow, New South Wales, a coal mining town. My father-in-law it so happens was in the same school at the same time. It was through my father-in-law’s preaching of the cross I was converted to Christ.

Leon knew how to preach the cross too. I recall meeting folk in Melbourne who had been brought to Christ through a sermon on the cross preached by Leon. One personal experience of his ministry stands out for me. I refer to it at least once a semester in my classes. Leon came to the chapel at Ridley to preach. He was frail but in good voice. He preached on the cross. No surprise there. The chapel was in the round and quite an intimate space. He paused then surveyed the gathered crowd of faculty and students. Next very slowly, very deliberately he pointed to his right and said quietly, ‘You have been died for’, to the middle ‘You have been died for’ and to the left ‘You have been died for.’ It was electric. I knew that to use Pauline language that I had been bought with a price. The cross and what Christ achieved there as the propitiation for our sins – take that C. H. Dodd – was for Leon no mere theological construct but the life transforming truth from God. My book on the atonement has four lines of reference to his works in the index. Anyone who writes on the cross of Christ and neglects the scholarship of this humble Christian man is foolish in my opinion.

 

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\Celebrate the centenary of the birthday of Leon Morris by donating to the Leon Morris Library Building Fund.  The library plays a vital role in the academic and community life of Ridley Melbourne, with excellent collections of print and online resources.  The current library building has served us well for 30 years but has now reached capacity. It is in urgent need of extension and modernization to provide a state of the art learning centre.  The projected cost is $3 million, of which $500,000 has been raised to date.

We respectfully acknowledge the Wurundjeri People, who are the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Ridley College campus is built. Ridley College is an affiliated college with the Australian College of Theology, CRICOS Provider Code 02650E. © 2019 Copyright. All Rights Reserved.