Vale Dr Henry Morris (1918–2006)

Doug Phillips, VisionForum.com (reproduced with permission)

7 March 2006

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

The greatest defender of the doctrine of Creation in church history has gone to be with the Lord. No single man in the last two thousand years has contributed more to the defense of the book of Genesis or been more effective in rallying the people of God to embrace the historical, grammatical, literal, normative interpretation of its text than a humble, mild-mannered hydrologist named Dr Henry Morris.

A faithful teacher who served on the faculties of three major universities and went on to found the Institute for Creation Research, a graduate school, a research organization, and the Christian Heritage College (currently San Diego Christian College), Dr Morris spent his life engaged in the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (II Corinthians 10:4,5).

Late Saturday night, at the age of eighty-seven, Dr Morris was ushered into the presence of the Lord Jesus.

The world will never be the same again.

The Long War Against God

Though evolutionary theory long predated Charles Darwin, the scientific and theological revolution he conceived with the publication of The Origins of the Species by Means of Natural Selection, Or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life in the nineteenth century gave birth to the unspeakable horrors in the twentieth century.

The Theory of Evolution served as the philosophical justification for eugenics, abortion, Nazism, and Marxism. Its influence on American culture has been far-reaching, driving much of the modern understanding of psychology, education theory, law, economics, and bio-ethics. Few if any academic disciplines have been left untouched by the pernicious influence of the evolutionary worldview. But the most significant impact of the Theory of Evolution was on the Church itself.

Early in the battle, Christians conceded significant ground. Scriptural compromises, concern about academic respectability, and general ignorance of the philosophical nature of the battle left significant casualties. In the end, many Christians either adopted a dichotomous view of science and faith, or they abandoned long-held assumptions about the integrity of Holy Scripture. The widespread indoctrination in evolutionary theory of Christian children through the government school systems only further entrenched the problem.

John Whitcomb and Henry Morris

I shot this of Dr John Whitcomb and Dr Henry Morris back in January 2003. These two men co-authored The Genesis Flood in 1961. The book was rejected by publishers until a man named R.J. Rushdoony put in a good word with a then obscure publishing house called P and R. The rest is history.

Henry Morris: Hero of the Church

Against this tide of skepticism, rationalism, and pseudo-scientism, the creation movement would emerge, forcing the antithesis between the religion of Christ and the religion of evolution. The recognized founder and leader of this movement was Dr Henry Morris.

The origins of the modern Creation movement can be traced to the publication of his first major work, The Genesis Flood, which he co-authored with Dr John Whitcomb in 1961. The impact of The Genesis Flood has been far-reaching. The book accomplished two important goals: First, it demonstrated that any attempt to diminish the biblical account of a global flood does so at the expense of sound hermeneutics and biblical orthodoxy. In so doing, it refuted various evolutionary compromise theories like the local flood model, the tranquil flood model, and the Gap theory, all of which incorporated uniformitarian, evolutionary assumptions. Second, the book presented a working and intelligent model of biblical catastrophism that demonstrates how flood model geology provides biblically sound answers regarding the age of the earth.

His Life Message

His life message was this: ‘Believe Gods Word! It is reliable. It was given to us by the Creator of the universe, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is completely accurate as to everything it says, and there is no tension between biblical orthodoxy and scientific truth. God created the world in six twenty-four-hour days, just as the Scripture states. Then sin brought death into the world. Next, the world was destroyed by a global flood of Noahs day. The Bible gives us the grid for interpreting scientific fact, not the unproven assumptions of Big Bang cosmology or evolutionary materialism in any form. Between these two positions, there can be no compromise. When applied to the facts as we find them, the biblical account of origins provides the only intelligent and truthful foundation for interpretation. All other approaches are incoherent.’

Over the course of his public ministry, Dr Morris communicated an unflinching confidence in Gods Word, an unassailable commitment to the harmony between science and Divine Revelation, and a firm recognition of the presuppositional nature of thought. Though he was a master at presenting the scientific evidences for creation, he became well known for insisting that neither evolution nor creation could be proven by an appeal to brute facts. Instead, Dr Morris insisted that the religious presuppositions of the scientist (whether Christian or atheist) define their grid of analysis and their interpretation of the data.

Faithful to the End

One of the most prolific Christian writers of the twentieth century, he is best known for The Bible and Modern Science, The Genesis Record, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science, The Long War Against God, and the enormously helpful annotated Bible, The Defender’s Bible.

Henry Morris did not believe in retirement. Dr Morris modeled what Kipling described as an essential element of manhood: filling the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run. The author of more than sixty books and many thousands of articles, Dr Morris spent the last decade of his life with the recognition that God had allotted him only a brief remaining season to leave a written legacy of devotion to Jesus Christ for the benefit of future generations.

And thank the Lord that He did! His recent writings reflect the mature insights of a seasoned Christian warrior who has spent a lifetime immersed in the Word and on the front lines of the defining battle of his generation. One of the last books that he finished was For Time and Eternity which reflected the direction of his heart toward the glories of Heaven. To the very end, Dr Morris was daily busy writing.

He Will Be Remembered as One of the Greatest Warriors

His lifetime efforts in defense of the book of Genesis transformed the theological landscape in Christianity, influenced national policymakers, reached nations as diverse as Japan and South Africa, contributed to a mass exodus of Christians from government schools, and resulted in the single largest treasure trove of Genesis scholarship in history. 

The twentieth century will be remembered for some truly remarkable defenders of the faith. I think of the still highly productive R.C. Sproul, of the now-deceased Cornelius Van Til, and of three of Van Til’s most notable students, Francis Schaeffer, R.J. Rushdoony, and Greg Bahnsen. But in terms of having an immediate, practical, culture-transforming apologetic ministry where the battle raged most ferociously, an argument can be made that Dr Henry Morris was the Christian man of the century.

He Feared No Man

Henry Morris did not fear man, and he did not concern himself with the approval of his peers. He demonstrated that the righteous are as bold as a lion and he exposed the wisdom of the proverb, the fear of man bringeth a snare (Prov. 29:25). Dr Morris received many barbs from his enemies. (He was repeatedly the butt of sarcasm from some of the great deceivers of this generation men like Carl Sagan and Stephen J. Gould.) But like Nehemiah before the scoffers of his day, Dr Morris pressed on with indefatigable resolve.

Regretfully, Dr Morris was dismissed and misrepresented by some professing Christian scientists with ministries of their own. Rather than engaging in the merits of the debate, some of these ministries resorted to fear tactics whereby they would paint for their audience a phony picture of creationists as non-academic science hacks. Through all of this, Dr Henry Morris remained a gentleman and a scholar, never responding in-kind, no matter how vitriolic or ungentlemanly the tactic of his opponent. He was always the best man in the room. Those who dialogued with Dr. Morris on these battles heard him pray for his enemies and speak of them with charity and hope.

In short, Dr Henry Morris was not merely a great leader, he was a true Christian.

A Personal Retrospective

Humphreys, Whitcomb, Morris etc.

This image taken during the taping of the After Eden project. From left to right in a semicircle: Dr Russell Humphreys; Dr John Whitcomb; Dr John Morris; Dr Henry Morris, Doug Phillips.

Once upon a time, I was a committed theistic evolutionist trusting in my own works to merit salvation. I saw no conflict between Christianity and the evolutionary propaganda dispensed by my government school teachers. I weaned myself on the wrong kinds of speculative evolutionary writings and dreamed of becoming an evolutionary astronomer when I grew up.

Then something happened.

God worked in my life through the boldness of several men to bring me the words of life that would ultimately lead to my salvation. One of them was my father who announced: The Bible is true in every detail. God created the world in six twenty-four-hour days, exactly as it says in the book of Genesis. Another man (who would become my pastor and mentor) challenged me by opening Scripture and handing me a book entitled The Genesis Flood. By the age of thirteen, I had learned to love the Lord of Creation. Since that time, I have viewed Dr Henry Morris as a mentor and spiritual father.

For more than a decade, in hundreds of forums across the nation, I have shared with Christian audiences the debt of gratitude I feel toward Dr Henry Morris. He was one of the seven most influential men in my life and played a significant role in my own conversion, spiritual development, and life vision. He personally showed me love and respect. He believed in me as demonstrated by several key opportunities he extended to me over the last ten years.

Dr Henry Morris: A Founder of the Home School Movement?

For the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Institute for Creation Research, I was given the honor by long-time family friend Dr Tim LaHaye of taking his place as a speaker and discussing the impact of Dr Morris and ICR on the twentieth-century church.

My thesis was simple: Henry Morris is one of less than a handful of men most responsible for the modern home education movement and the rise of Christian schools.

I still hold to this thesis.

Though he did not begin with the intent of launching a revolution in education, the works of Dr. Morris brought many Christians to the realization that it was wrong to send children to religious institutions that taught children that they evolved from monkeys. Today, there are millions of children being home educated and many others in Christian schools. Every Christian school and home school in America owes Dr. Henry Morris and ICR a debt of gratitude.

Some years later, I was appointed Adjunct Professor of Apologetics for ICR. After the departure of Ken Ham to begin his outstanding ministry, Answers In Genesis, I joined Dr John Morris for Back to Genesis conferences held periodically around the country. During this time (in 2003), I experienced one of the greatest highlights of my life as a Christian apologist and minister of the Gospel when ICR invited me to spend a week in a studio with Dr Henry Morris, Dr John Morris, Dr John Whitcomb, and Dr Russell Humphreys, taping a series on the issue of creation compromise and the question of death before Adam.

The two octogenarian heroes (Morris and Whitcomb) were sharp as a tack. Though more than forty years had passed since they co-authored The Genesis Flood, the clarity of their thinking and the power of their collaborative effort was inspiring. At the time, most of us suspected that this would be the last time these great men would co-labor together on this earth.

Farewell to a Shepherd of Children

I knew this day was coming. I guess I simply hoped that it would not be for some time. My thoughts are filled with the painful realization that yet another giant of the faith has been taken to the bosom of Jesus, when (from my finite and fallible perspective) we needed him so much. Yet I bow before the sovereign Lord who is infinitely wise, and I rejoice for Dr Morris who, as I write, is face to face with Christ.

For years now, Dr Morris has been turning his thoughts and his writings to the beauty of the Lord Jesus and the promise of Heaven. I am so thankful that he is absent from his mortal body, but present with the Lord Jesus Christ. My love and compassion is with his children, especially my dear friend Dr John Morris who has so faithfully honored his father as president of ICR.

In the final analysis, I think of Dr Morris as one of the great shepherds of twentieth-century Christians. He taught us to have a child-like faith in Christ and His Word. He modeled for us the humble, charitable demeanor of a Christian warrior. He inspired us to dedicate our lives to the glorious study of the God of Creation.

Dr Morris gave hope to tens of thousands of Christian children who are no longer just searching for answers in a sea of evolutionary confusion. Because of Dr Henry Morris, many caught the creation bug. Many have grown to share this passion for creation to their children and grandchildren. More importantly, they have fallen in love with the God of Creation. Today, they are digging up dinosaurs for the glory of God, producing radio shows that proclaim the God of creation, conducting scientific experiments in the name of Jesus, engaging the false prophets of evolution, and passionately defending the Word of God against evolutionary compromise.

I was one of those children (above right).

Published: 1 March 2006