Leon Morris – a personal recollection




Published Date: 28 Jul 2014

Presentation Date: 28 Jul 2014

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

by Maurice Betteridge, Principal 1979 – 1992.

Fossicking in the bottom draw of my filing cabinet recently I came across an old hard covered notebook. It contained my faded notes of an Evangelical Clergy Conference held 60 years ago at Tyndale House, Christchurch. The trans- Tasman guest speaker was Dr Leon Morris and the date was August 1954.

His keynote address dealt with the inspiration of scripture. Because he believed ultimate standards are self authenticating he discussed many biblical references, but the linchpin of his argument was the attitude of Jesus to scripture. He dealt at some length with the question of the verbal inspiration of scripture, what CH Dodd had derisively called the typewriter version. Rather than scripture being the result of divine dictation, Leon carefully argued how God had entrusted a man like Paul to be his chosen instrument.

In subsequent years I ,like other clergy, greatly appreciated his many commentaries but it was to be 35 years before our paths crossed. As we  discussed the handing over of the task at Ridley in 1979 I came to appreciate his deep personal commitment to the College.

Time has brought many changes since those days. The Victorian mansion on the corner of Walker St and the Avenue was the hub of the College, The Principal lived upstairs and the ground floor was the administrative offices along with the college library. Lectures were given in two ex- army huts and the Babbage room. The new chapel had been Leon’s priority and he took me to see it. On entry, one’s eye was immediately drawn the the central pulpit from which the Bible was read. It was a statement about the purpose of the college.

The other feature of college life which we discussed was the residential university college which Leon had worked hard to have accredited. As Principal he presided at the weekday formal dinners. He took part in various university committees and attended the inter- collegiate sports. I vividly recall how he urged me to continue to employ Ron the College handyman.

In those days  the academic staff and many of the theologs lived on campus. It was a time of considerable change. The Th.L which had long been the basic qualification for the clergy was being phased out and  an accredited degree, the B.Th., established. Leon was one of the architects of the new degree structure. As I was to learn it was an exacting and time consuming process.

The Prin, as he was known by students, was a man of rigorous discipline. It was claimed that you could set your watch by his arrival time at chapel ! Did he have a lighter side ? I discovered this when I moved into his residence. In the tower room was a pile of paperback Westerns and a collection of Readers Digests. Students told me this was the source of his jokes in lectures.

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.
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