Convocation 11/29: Robert Morris

This is the second speaker this week that was not announced until the day of. Unannounced speakers always concern me, as I assume they are bringing someone who is either unpopular or controversial (If the next schedule has demonstrated anything, it is that they have no problem announcing controversial speakers ahead of time). Fortunately, today’s speaker, Robert Morris, was not a controversial public figure, but a pastor (It’s kinda bad that a pastor speaking in convo surprises me). The message he gave was not only interesting, but also fairly unique.

Robert Morris, senior pastor of gateway church, started his sermon by taking a pretty controversial position: that God needs us. He quickly clarified that he did not mean this in the literal sense, he does belief that God is all power and self-sustaining. Rather he believes that God needs us to accomplish his purpose on Earth. He argued that this is not because God is unable but rather because he has chosen to need us. He believes that God has chosen to work through people, and as a result needs people to achieve his goals. He extended this statement to the occurrence of miracles, arguing that before God can do the supernatural, we must perform the natural.

While I liked Morris’s message, I disagree with his assertion that God works exclusively through people. I found this assertion theologically troubling for several reasons. First, it effectively makes God subordinate to man. If God can only work through the actions of  mankind, then he is unable to act if people do not act in accordance with his plans. This means that God’s hands are effectively tied until a person decides to obey God. Any assertion that makes God dependent upon humanity must be examined carefully before being accepted.

Second, it treats God’s use of miracles like a transactional process. One of Morris’s claims was that God will do the supernatural but only if we do the natural preparation first. This is a dangerous way to look at miracles. It means that those who received or witnessed miracles only did so because they put in more natural preparation or “deserved” it more than those who do not witness the supernatural. This in turn implies that those who request but do not witness the supernatural did not put in the work or were somehow undeserving of a miracles. This belief that miracles are dependent upon human action also precludes the existence of miracles that do not rely on human action such as visions or dreams. We often hear of such miracles in places hostile to the gospel, however this theology would suggest that such events are impossible without prior human action.

Lastly, the Scripture itself does not support the notion that God works exclusively through people. An example of this can be found in the book of Jonah. In Jonah 1:2, God commands Jonah to “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it…” (NIV). Instead, Jonah refuses and flees from God. If God is dependent upon human action to accomplish his plan, then this should have been the end of the story. Theoretically, God could have sent someone to convince Jonah to go to Nineveh and still have relied on human action, but this does not occur. Instead, God acts directly in the historical narrative. Jonah 1:4 tells us that Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up”(NIV). Later, Jonah 1:17 says that “ Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah… (NIV). Both of these verses demonstrate God acting directly in the world in order to achieve his plan of sending Jonah to minister in Nineveh. In neither verse does God work through people or rely upon their actions, instead he acts independently and supernaturally.

Despite my criticisms, I really liked Robert Morris and his message. In a semester that has been pretty short on purely theological convocations, it was good to have a speaker who went all in on the Bible and theology.

Lightning Round:

  • Get ready for the roughest week of convocation speakers yet. If freshmen want to know what convocation is like during an election year, imagine next weeks convo speakers, but every week. For a year.

Bible verses quoted : 5

Total quoted all semester: 77

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Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Liberty University leadership or administration in any way. This post is solely a matter of personal opinion. The opinions expressed here are solely my own and should be not be taken as the opinion of the University, its staff, or the student body.

 

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