The Gospel Coalition Australia


Leon Morris: One Man’s Fight for Love and Truth

Leon Morris: One Man's Fight For Love and Truth - Neil Bach

Leon Morris was an extraordinary man: authentic Australian, genuine believer, great intellect, courageous intellectual, clear communicator, striking preacher, prolific author, able leader, patient teacher, humble Christian, and willing servant. He was an ordinary man with extraordinary gifts in scholarship, concentration, memory, and disciplined and productive hard work for God’s glory and the good of others. His simple tastes and lifestyle and wry self-deprecating humour endeared him to many.

Leon Morris

This well-researched memoir of Leon Morris shows us a humble man whom God gifted, used, and blessed. He was born in Lithgow, studied science at Sydney University, taught himself theology, was ordained in Sydney, served with the Bush Church Aid Society in a church in outback South Australia, served as vice-principal of Ridley College Melbourne, gained his doctorate at Cambridge, served as Warden of Tyndale House in Cambridge, then returned to Ridley as Principal from 1964-1979. He travelled, spoke and lectured extensively in Australia and the USA, and wrote and published over 50 books, which had world-wide circulation. 2,000,000 copies is a good number!

As Bach shows us, Leon travelled extensively, lecturing, speaking and preaching in the USA, South America, Asia and Africa. In Australia he supported a broad evangelical and reformed constituency: the Billy Graham Crusades, AFES, Scripture Union, TEAR, and the Reformed Theological Review. He was also an active Anglican, serving on the Doctrine Commission and the Liturgical Commission of the Australian General Synod, and as a Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne. He had definite and passionate evangelical and reformed theological views, but was also respectful of people with different views, and was able to work with them.

He had the ability to ask the humble and perceptive question, and to find the accurate and convincing answer.

His most significant theological contribution was in the theology of the Atonement, and his Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (1955) recovered and defended the doctrine of penal substitution, and supported and shaped evangelical theology around the world. Neil Bach shows us that Leon was a world-leading evangelical scholar of his generation, and helped to promote a generation of sound evangelical scholarship. His many commentaries were remarkable because of this strong focus on the text of the Bible, rather than on the ideas of other scholars. He wrote his commentary on the Bible text, and then read other commentators and interacted with them. He had the ability to ask the humble and perceptive question, and to find the accurate and convincing answer. He had a scientist’s respect for the subject of his study. He had an extraordinary combination of great ability and great humility.

While patient with simple people, and able to teach and preach to them to help them understand great Bible truths, he was occasionally impatient with colleagues. The inexact quotation of an obscure theologian was corrected with abrupt clarity, and some suggested changes were quickly dismissed. Bach points out that one striking feature of his ministry as the Principal of Ridley was that his door was always open, and that he was not impatient with interruptions, even though he was so amazingly productive in his ministry of lecturing, writing and speaking, and leading the college. In this same, he would always reply to those who wrote to him, and not begrudge the time this took from his day’s program of work.

Bach’s book is well-written and interesting, with a good balance of information, background and observation. As with all good biographies, we learn of both the man and his times. Leon played a strategic role in world-wide Christianity in the second half of the 20th Century, and had particular impact on Australian Reformed evangelical life and thought. A great read!

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