Dr. Roger R. Nicole – In Memoriam
The great Reformed-Baptist theologian Dr. Roger R. Nicole died at 95 in Longwood, Florida. He was professor emeritus at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary where he taught for 41 years (unfortunately before I got there L).
Even though he never wrote a book (I was very surprised when I read that), he is a considered a “theological giant.”
I quote the comments of Timothy George and J.I Packer from Justin Taylor‘s blog.
“Roger Nicole is one of European Christianity’s greatest gifts to the American church. His role in the shaping of American evangelical theology in the latter half of the twentieth century was enormous and deserves to be better known.”
A few years ago Packer was able to summarize Roger Nicole in a sentence:
“Awesome for brain power, learning, and wisdom; endlessly patient and courteous in his gentle geniality; and beloved by a multitude as pastor, mentor, and friend.”
And there is more from Packer that puts me to shame (I can only greet in 10 languages J): “He was said when first I knew him to have learned to greet people in something like fifty different languages so that he could always welcome overseas students and make them feel at home. Such sweet pastoral care in the conventional coolness of academia is also the stuff of legend, and deservedly so. No one could ever accuse Roger of throwing his weight about; very much a Swiss gentlemen in style, he is also a gentle man and a great encourager, overflowing with goodwill at all times. He has been a model for me in this, as in so much more. Roger stands at the head of my private list of persons worth celebrating, and I am sure I am not the only one who would say that.”
I also like the following comments of Justin Taylor (most of the info on this blog is from him where you can also find the links to many of his articles):
The couple did not have biological children but there are 19 people in the U.S., Africa and Asia who call them Mama and Papa. “These are some of the students we sort of ‘adopted’ throughout my career who regard us as their parents,” Roger Nicole said.
John Piper has written that “One clear mark of Christlike tenderness is love for children,” and several of Roger Nicole’s friends have noted his love of children. David Bailey says, “He converses as effortlessly with a five-year old child as with an academic colleague.”
Those interested in good, foundational essays—many of which helped to shape evangelical theology—to look at a copy of Standing Forth: Collected Writings of Roger Nicole, published in 2002 by Christian Focus.
For some sample lectures by Dr. Nicole, you can listen to this set of three talks online from the 1989 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors, on the achievement of the cross.
Here is an article about The New Testament Use of the Old Testament.
Don Sweeting, President of RTS-Orlando, was able to visit with Dr. Nicole a few weeks ago and wrote a blog post about it. The close of that post is a fitting tribute to a man who has entered glory, seeing his Savior face to face:
Dr. Nicole spoke of his own retrenchment, not with deep complaint, but with a proper sense of realism and lament that comes from any loss. There was melancholy in his voice as he reminisced about days gone by and noted what he no longer had. But then he paused in the conversation. And with all the vigor of his French accented English emphatically exclaimed—”but I have joy.” And this, he said, could not be taken away! Not only that, but Dr. Nicole clearly understood that his present retrenchment is a season as well.
We ended our visit by opening up the Scriptures and reading together from Psalm 16. That great psalm begin—”Keep my safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. . . . I said to the LORD, ‘You are my LORD, apart from you I have no good thing. . . . You have assigned me my portion and my cup. . . . Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices.'”
It was with particular eagerness that Dr. Nicole recited from memory as I read the last part of the psalm. “My body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. . . . You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Seeing beyond our seasons of accumulation and retrenchment, Dr. Nicole clearly had his eye on yet another season, which for him, seemed just around the corner.