When Henry Morris Slept at Our House
Henry Morris, widely regarded as the founder of the modern creationist movement, died Saturday at the age of 87. He and John Whitcomb co-authored The Genesis Flood, a groundbreaking work that argued for a universal flood in Noah's day as the key to understanding both the Bible and geology. Widely quoted, hotly debated, both praised and lambasted, the book became the foundation for a movement that has spawned numerous organizations, schools, and a flood of articles and books.
I only met Henry Morris once, but the occasion sticks in my mind. It must have been 1979 or 1980 and I was the pastor of a small church in Downey, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. Although I had never met him and had no personal connection, Dr. Morris readily accepted my invitation to speak one Sunday. I recall that we did some local advertising and I used all my energy to persuade the congregation that this would be a "red-letter" day for our church. We printed fliers and sent letters and invited everyone we knew. Dr. Morris spoke three times that day--to all the adult Sunday School classes, then to the morning worship service, and again in the evening service. Though we usually averaged around 100, that day we had a packed house, at least 150, maybe more. People came from everywhere to hear this renowned scientist defend the literal interpretation of Genesis. At this distance I can only recall one of his topics--Dinosaurs and the Bible.
You never know what you a guest speaker will be like. Whatever I expected, Dr. Morris was the opposite. He was quiet, gentle, friendly, gracious, and very approachable, more like your favorite uncle than a scientist who had debated evolutionists on campuses across America.
When we were making plans for the day, I contacted his office to ask if he would like us to reserve a motel room. We were told it wouldn't be necessary because he and his wife would be driving up from San Diego. They had somewhere they were going on Sunday afternoon between the services so they didn't need a room. When they arrived, I discovered that their plans had changed. Marlene and I ended up having them over to the parsonage for lunch. He then asked if he and his wife could take a nap. So we opened up the fold-out bed from the sofa in the living room, and Dr. Morris and his wife took a nap that Sunday afternoon. As I write these words, I'm smilng as I think about us tiptoeing around the house so we wouldn't wake them up.
Having been refreshed, Dr. Morris preached a powerful message that night and thanked us for our hospitality. He wrote me later to say how much he had enjoyed being in our church and in our home.
There was a side note I don't think he ever knew. Right across the street from the church there was a retired LA cop named Dennis Greene. Dennis was a great guy, a Vietnam vet, a man's man, and he was a seeker after the truth. We became friends and had many conversations about the Bible and the meaning of life. But he never could quite take the step of faith. That day when Henry Morris came to Redeemer Covenant Church, Dennis came, listened, asked questions, and then said, "It makes sense to me." A few days later he told me, "I settled things with the Lord. I believe it's true. I prayed to receive Christ, and it was like a million pounds was lifted off my shoulders." That Sunday with Henry Morris was the tipping point.
Besides being an eminent scientist, scholar, teacher and author, he was a good and decent man who believed there was no final conflict between the Bible and science. The movement he helped launch has now spread around the world. Well done, Dr. Morris. Rest in peace.