Church Leadership

The Scholarly Significance of Leon Morris

Neil Bach, having recently published a biography of Australian New Testament scholar Leon Morris, just can’t shake his enthusiasm for Leon and the impact of his scholarship.

Neil Bach is the author of Leon Morris: One Man’s Fight for Love and Truth.

My recent biography Leon Morris: One Man’s Fight for Love and Truth (Authentic Media /Paternoster 2016) gives a comprehensive overview of the interesting life and fascinating scholarly pursuits of Leon Morris. In considering his significance as a scholar, a worthy exercise in itself, I offer a few observations.

Leon Morris was unusual in having no formal theological education until he arrived at Cambridge aged 35 for his PhD. His lifelong habit was to write straight out of his head and then check what others thought. That he was so confident in theology and yet had been quite diffident in his early studies is a matter of interest.

Leon drilled a deep significant mine of truth at Cambridge in his PhD study on the atonement and drew from it throughout his career. It demonstrated his already developed belief in the cross as central to the bible and Christianity. His analysis changed the thinking about the cross and exhibited its power and meaning again. We acknowledge that concepts of God’s love, righteous opposition to sin, Christ’s sacrifice, redemption, righteousness and so on were known before Leon arrived. His application of rigorous scholarship as an evangelical academic pioneer in the establishment of the truth of penal substitution, against more liberal treatments, marked him out.

His significance was marked by his complete and passionate attachment to evidence based conclusions, arising from his scientific beginnings. When once asked of views of another scholar Leon took the man’s book down and looked at a passage in question. He told me that he had reviewed the man’s sources, went behind them to supporting data, but that sadly the scholar’s views were not supported by the sources, in fact some claimed sources didn’t exist. Leon liked evidence and it controlled his interpretative framework.

He was also significant for the way he rigorously searched for the meaning of biblical words. He used the words wider background, moved through the original meaning to the use of such words (and terms) in the bible to determine biblical meanings. My friend Peter Adam develops these principles further in an article referenced below*.

Leon was retiring by personality, but forthright within academia; in his post Cambridge PhD days he trail blazed a rising standard of evangelical scholarship in Australia by his world-class contribution and the institution of a Tyndale Fellowship in Australia.

He put his mind to truths put forward by other scholars that troubled his conservative wing and produced a credible defense of various matters. Only a few evangelicals were available to do this. A small example of his time is his booklet The Abolition of Religion, in response to the honest to God debate. He later wrestled over issues within evangelicalism … the inerrancy debate, women in ministry et al. His conclusions have shaped evangelical thinking.

He was an encourager and mentor of numerous evangelical scholars that followed him. People like I Howard Marshall, Graeme Cole, Peter Adam, Tom Schreiner, Brian Rosner and pastors like John Stott record their debt to Leon. Stott relied heavily on Leon’s view of the atonement in his popular book The Cross of Christ (IVP 1986). Leon’s emphasis remains in a number of modern conservative writings.

It might seem odd to say, but people could understand his teaching and writing. Leon was apparently judged to be more understandable than some of his colleagues. A student at Ridley College, Melbourne, later a successful Vicar, had a fine law degree and had sat under some very astute university lecturers. He was amazed at Leon’s teaching. He said that he could not believe the precision and clarity of Leon’s teaching compared to what he had experienced in his law faculty. This clarity significantly helped students, academics, Christians and non-Christian learners in their understanding.

His influence in teaching students who became Vicars and church leaders across Australia has to be noted. In his Melbourne Diocese his fight for love and truth was most clearly seen and the Diocese is the richer for it.  He wrote so that English, American and other Christians also received great teaching in the central issue of the cross and other truths. When he travelled, extensively until he was 74, he poured his heart out for others in his teaching.

Leon was a scholar who could preach and relate to the church. I argue, and you can assess it in the book, that he turned his mind to helping the church as much as academia in the latter half of his career.  His extraordinary humble servant perspective came to the fore, as even though he was more suited to pure writing, he and his wife Mildred juggled academic and general ministry responsibilities.

Then there is significance as a scholar in having sold some two million books of the depth of Leon’s work. A few years ago in Nashville, I asked a young lady in the main Christian bookshop, did she have any books by a guy called Leon Morris? She fiddled with the computer and said ‘Oh … Oh … yes, we do have a few … would like to buy some.’

In all of this Leon never forgot his roots, and never forgot that people needed to be saved and established in Christ. I outline the connection in Leon’s thinking of the cross of Christ and how it impacted his passion for evangelism in the biography.

Lastly, Leon saw himself as an ordinary human being. There were several major obstacles during his personal life and career, some within and some outside himself.  It was only the deep spiritual relationship he had with Jesus Christ, his God given humility, prayer and love of God and scholarly capital that he had built up over the years that enabled him to get through some of these trials.

You will have your own view of his significance as a scholar. My unashamed view, having spent eight years on and off researching his life, is that in this arena Leon Lamb Morris is an Aussie hero. 

Neil Bach Melbourne, Australia April 2016

*See Peter Adam  ‘Morris, Leon Lamb,’ in Donald K McKim, ed., Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters, 2nd Edition, Downers Grove /Nottingham, IVP, 2007, pp. 751-55.

The Scholarly Significance of Leon Morris

My recent biography Leon Morris: One Man’s Fight for Love and Truth (Authentic Media /Paternoster 2016) gives a comprehensive overview of the interesting life and fascinating scholarly pursuits of Leon Morris. In considering his significance as a scholar, a worthy exercise in itself, I offer a few observations.

Leon Morris was unusual in having no formal theological education until he arrived at Cambridge aged 35 for his PhD. His lifelong habit was to write straight out of his head and then check what others thought. That he was so confident in theology and yet had been quite diffident in his early studies is a matter of interest.

Leon drilled a deep significant mine of truth at Cambridge in his PhD study on the atonement and drew from it throughout his career. It demonstrated his already developed belief in the cross as central to the bible and Christianity. His analysis changed the thinking about the cross and exhibited its power and meaning again. We acknowledge that concepts of God’s love, righteous opposition to sin, Christ’s sacrifice, redemption, righteousness and so on were known before Leon arrived. His application of rigorous scholarship as an evangelical academic pioneer in the establishment of the truth of penal substitution, against more liberal treatments, marked him out.

His significance was marked by his complete and passionate attachment to evidence based conclusions, arising from his scientific beginnings. When once asked of views of another scholar Leon took the man’s book down and looked at a passage in question. He told me that he had reviewed the man’s sources, went behind them to supporting data, but that sadly the scholar’s views were not supported by the sources, in fact some claimed sources didn’t exist. Leon liked evidence and it controlled his interpretative framework.

He was also significant for the way he rigorously searched for the meaning of biblical words. He used the words wider background, moved through the original meaning to the use of such words (and terms) in the bible to determine biblical meanings. My friend Peter Adam develops these principles further in an article referenced below*.

Leon was retiring by personality, but forthright within academia; in his post Cambridge PhD days he trail blazed a rising standard of evangelical scholarship in Australia by his world-class contribution and the institution of a Tyndale Fellowship in Australia.

He put his mind to truths put forward by other scholars that troubled his conservative wing and produced a credible defense of various matters. Only a few evangelicals were available to do this. A small example of his time is his booklet The Abolition of Religion, in response to the honest to God debate. He later wrestled over issues within evangelicalism … the inerrancy debate, women in ministry et al. His conclusions have shaped evangelical thinking.

He was an encourager and mentor of numerous evangelical scholars that followed him. People like I Howard Marshall, Graeme Cole, Peter Adam, Tom Schreiner, Brian Rosner and pastors like John Stott record their debt to Leon. Stott relied heavily on Leon’s view of the atonement in his popular book The Cross of Christ (IVP 1986). Leon’s emphasis remains in a number of modern conservative writings.

It might seem odd to say, but people could understand his teaching and writing. Leon was apparently judged to be more understandable than some of his colleagues. A student at Ridley College, Melbourne, later a successful Vicar, had a fine law degree and had sat under some very astute university lecturers. He was amazed at Leon’s teaching. He said that he could not believe the precision and clarity of Leon’s teaching compared to what he had experienced in his law faculty. This clarity significantly helped students, academics, Christians and non-Christian learners in their understanding.

His influence in teaching students who became Vicars and church leaders across Australia has to be noted. In his Melbourne Diocese his fight for love and truth was most clearly seen and the Diocese is the richer for it.  He wrote so that English, American and other Christians also received great teaching in the central issue of the cross and other truths. When he travelled, extensively until he was 74, he poured his heart out for others in his teaching.

Leon was a scholar who could preach and relate to the church. I argue, and you can assess it in the book, that he turned his mind to helping the church as much as academia in the latter half of his career.  His extraordinary humble servant perspective came to the fore, as even though he was more suited to pure writing, he and his wife Mildred juggled academic and general ministry responsibilities.

 

Then there is significance as a scholar in having sold some two million books of the depth of Leon’s work. A few years ago in Nashville, I asked a young lady in the main Christian bookshop, did she have any books by a guy called Leon Morris? She fiddled with the computer and said ‘Oh … Oh … yes, we do have a few … would like to buy some.’

In all of this Leon never forgot his roots, and never forgot that people needed to be saved and established in Christ. I outline the connection in Leon’s thinking of the cross of Christ and how it impacted his passion for evangelism in the biography.

Lastly, Leon saw himself as an ordinary human being. There were several major obstacles during his personal life and career, some within and some outside himself.  It was only the deep spiritual relationship he had with Jesus Christ, his God given humility, prayer and love of God and scholarly capital that he had built up over the years that enabled him to get through some of these trials.

You will have your own view of his significance as a scholar. My unashamed view, having spent eight years on and off researching his life, is that in this arena Leon Lamb Morris is an Aussie hero. 

Neil Bach

Melbourne, Australia

April 2016

*See Peter Adam  ‘Morris, Leon Lamb,’ in Donald K McKim, ed., Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters, 2nd Edition, Downers Grove /Nottingham, IVP, 2007, pp. 751-55.

Knowing the Truth of the Cross Produces a Thirst for Evangelism

Neil Bach reminds us of the life and impact of the Australian New Testament scholar Leon Morris ahead of the publication of his biography of this man who loved the gospel of Christ crucified.

Neil Bach is the author of a recently published biography of Leon Morris entitled "Leon Morris: One Man’s Fight for Love and Truth."

Sixty-five years ago the embers of a spiritual battle burst into flame. After a lecture at Cambridge University a young Australian courageously stood in front of a very great churchman.

‘I don’t think you were right in that, sir.’

‘Oh’ he said. ‘Why?’

I said one or two things.

‘Would you write that out for me?’

Between one lecture and the next the young man had a session with the churchman Michael Ramsey. He tried to explain to Ramsey that the scholar C. H. Dodd was wrong in eliminating propitiation from the New Testament. He thought the old boy was most interested. We know that young man. He was Leon Morris. He remains the greatest New Testament scholar Australia has produced. He wrote extensively about the cross of Christ, with his book The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross still a fantastic read, summarizing the truths of propitiation, redemption, covenant and so on that he unearthed in his Cambridge studies. In a new biography, soon to be published by Paternoster, called Leon Morris: One Man’s Fight for Love and Truth, I tell his life story and the impact of his teaching ministry.

Church Planting: A Critical Issue for an Anglican Future

Is church planting normal for Anglicans? Is it worth the trouble? And how can we make a decent fist of it for the sake of churchplanters, their teams and the cause of the gospel? Andrew Katay gives answers.

Andrew Katay is CEO of City to City Australia and Rector of Christ Church Inner West Anglican Community in Sydney. He presented this paper at the 2015 Anglican Futures Conference in Melbourne.

When you hear the words ‘church planting’, I wonder if your gut response varies somewhere between skinny jeans and chai lattes on the one hand, or penicillin and a cure for cancer on the other. Is church planting just a phase that we’re going through, like the other phases that come and go periodically in church life? Or is it the answer to everything, the solution to all problems and the only gateway to a glorious future?

Actually it's neither. It’s not a mere trend or fad, for the obvious reason that ‘one-another life’, and therefore church, is central to the purposes of God for his people. And every church that exists had a beginning, which if you like agricultural metaphors, you could call church planting. At the same time, church planting comes in many forms, from independent churches to congregation plants and everything in between, green fields as well as brown fields, and has many specific risks as well as advantages, and is only a part of what God is doing in and through his people.
I want to unpack the challenge of church planting in an Anglican context under three headings - its normality, its net results and how to nurture it.

Closing the Gap

Jude Long shares some insights about some of the crucial issues for Indigenous people in the remote parts of Australia

Jude Long is Principal of Nungalinya College, Darwin, NT

We hear a lot today about closing the gap between Indigenous and non–indigenous Australians. Government policies are developed, and decisions are made about how we (usually meaning non-indigenous people) are going to do that.
“The gap” has become a shorthand way of describing the inequalities in Australian society between the first and second peoples of this country. The gap exists across Australia, but it is very different for urban Indigenous people compared to those in remote communities. I can only talk from the context of Nungalinya College where most of our students come from remote communities across the Top End and down into the Centre of Australia.

Health Gap

Here is a story to illustrate the health gap for people in remote communities. We had a student come in to an intensive with a sore foot which had been burnt in a fire. Her community did have a clinic but it was currently closed because a 14 year old girl had committed suicide by hanging herself outside the clinic and so everyone was too scared to go to the there. She showed her foot to our staff who thought it smelled not so good so took her along to the hospital. It turned out that she had gangrene and had to have 3 toes amputated.

Life Expectancy Gap

Closing the Gap Part 2

Last issue Jude Long identified important gaps between Indigenous Australians and the rest of
Australian society. Here she suggests some first steps for Christians who are keen to see those gaps closed.
Dr Jude Long is Principal of Nungalinya College, Darwin, NT

In my previous article I outlined the significant gap that exists between Indigenous Christians in remote communities, and mainstream English speaking Christians. This gap includes areas such as health, life expectancy, safety, literacy, and resourcing in Christian faith. Obviously this is a huge issue! This article attempts to explore some concrete things the church in Australia can be doing to help reduce this gap.

1. Awareness

Many people within the church are unaware of the reality of life for Indigenous people in remote communities. Few would have an understanding of the significant cultural and linguistic differences that exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

This first step may seem obvious, but it is essential for the church to become aware of the diversity of Indigenous languages and cultures, of the history of engagement between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians and of the situation today. I think this is especially significant for our young people. There are a number of great resources available like “Australians Together” a four part DVD series that is suitable for small groups that can really help this.

The Missing Question

Peter Brain considers the Report of the Viability and Structures Taskforce, produced for the 2014 General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia.

Peter Brain, formerly Bishop of the Diocese of Armidale, is the Rector of Rockingham, WA.

This is a sad report. Not because of declining numbers, the precarious financial status of many dioceses, or the difficulty most dioceses have in attracting ordinands. Those anxieties for church members, local church and denominational leadership are real. The real sadness of this report is its failure to address, or even pose, the possibility that our problems might be theological. Could there be a failure to be clear on the nature of our calling, the content and power of the gospel and the primacy of the local church?

Time after time the Report suggests that our problems stem from the fact that the number of nominal Anglicans is declining. In all the years of being a Christian it has never occurred to me that my ministry should be restricted to Anglicans. As long as there are people who do not know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour our Lord calls us to take the gospel to them because they are perishing. People who are not members of other local Christian churches are our mission field too.

Could this be the result of a far deeper and more serious problem? A failure to be on the same page as Jesus in regard to the content of the gospel and its power to save sinners. The Report nowhere speaks about this matter. On a couple of occasions it makes the assumption that we are Christians by virtue of our baptism. Apart from having no Biblical warrant, honest reflection would keep us from this folly. Not only does it ascribe to the sacrament a power it cannot possess, robbing the Holy Spirit of his wonderfully life changing work, but the fruits and habits of baptised uncommitted Anglicans betray their need for conversion.

The focus of the Report is on the diocese. Indeed the report, in response to the tragic problems caused by some of our members in improper sexual behaviour, suggests that we ought to be one national church. Whilst the reasoning — that people and governments don’t understand our diocesan diversity — may be laudable, it is an approach that can only move us further away from the coalface of healthy and vibrant local churches. This betrays a misunderstanding of where real growth, healing and discipleship takes place.

At the risk of opening myself to the criticism of pride or grandstanding, the Report, whilst acknowledging the low ratio of ordained pastors to census Anglicans, the availability of ordinands, the healthy financial position and the numbers of attenders of Sydney and Armidale Dioceses, never posed the question as to whether there may be a correlation between these facts and the kind of theology and ecclesiology practised and held in these two dioceses. I would imagine that any secular investigation would be very happy to have a city and a rural diocese by which to compare what is going on. I hasten to add that neither of these dioceses would be content with either the size of congregations or with their rate of growth. But they are there and there are clear differences between these dioceses and others. They provide an opportunity that was missed by the Report to compare, contrast and enquire.

The emphasis of these two dioceses on the authority of the Bible gives to their pastors and members a confidence in God and the content of the gospel. The fact that Jesus is Lord and that repentance towards God and trust in Jesus form both the content and call of the gospel means that false hopes (like you are saved because you are baptised, good, spiritual, sincere) are consistently exposed and the sure hope based on God’s grace to us through the uniqueness of Christ, his substitutionary atonement and bodily resurrection, confidently held out to all. The emphasis on the life of the local church, where converts and seekers are drawn into its fellowship, provides a context for these gospel realities to be observed, tested, proved and learnt. The diocese can nurture and encourage this ministry (and must do so) but the diocese will never be a viable substitute for the local church.

As one who has returned to parish ministry after 12 years in diocesan leadership I am rediscovering the privilege but also the challenges of this coal face work in evangelism and pastoral care. It is in a warm hearted and gospel focussed local church that those hurt by past sins might regain confidence. Those of us who are committed to evangelical truths have no right to be proud, smug or self- confident. We do however, have a mandate from our risen Lord to be confident in him and the gospel he has entrusted to us. We are part of a denomination that is struggling and asking questions. The Report is honest at this level. However the Report does not encourage us to find any answers from God who has so graciously called us to build his church through his gospel.

The Report of the Viability and Structures Task Force is General Synod 2014 Book 8, and is available at www.anglican.org.au/general-synods/2014/documents/books/book%208_for%20website.pdf.

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