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In Memoriam: Dr. Roger R. Nicole

December 13, 2010

Professor Emeritus Dr. Roger R. Nicole (man pictured on the right), a widely-known theologian, champion of inerrancy and faithful friend of the seminary, passed away in Longwood, FL, December 11, at the age of 95.

Dr. Nicole had been the senior living alumnus/a of Gordon-Conwell, having graduated from Gordon Divinity School in 1939 with a bachelor of divinity (B.D.). He also graduated from the school in 1940 with a Master of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.) and in 1943 with a Th.D. He later served for 41 years as Professor of Theology and then as the Andrew Mutch Chair of Theology at Gordon Divinity School and Gordon-Conwell. Even after leaving in the 1980s to teach at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in Orlando, FL, he remained a faithful supporter and encourager of Gordon-Conwell.

Gordon-Conwell Provost, Dr. Frank James, served with Dr. Nicole at RTS from 1993-2009 and remembers especially Dr. Nicole’s compassionate and ecumenical nature.

“When I arrived at RTS/Orlando in 1993, I was met by that wonderful French-Swiss accent, so distinctive of Roger Nicole, and he called me ‘bro-zur’ (translation: ‘brother’). I often tell people that when Roger called you ‘bro-zur’ you knew he meant it,” he says.

“I think of Roger as the truest of ecumenical theologians. He held strong positions on inerrancy, on penal substitution, the ordination of women, but he always managed to treat his fellow Christians, even those with whom he disagreed as a “bro-zur.”

In addition to teaching at Gordon-Conwell and RTS, where he was Professor Emeritus of Theology when he died, Dr. Nicole was a founding member of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and served as its President in 1956. He was an assistant translator for the NIV, and an associate editor for the New Geneva Study Bible. He wrote more than 100 articles and reviews as well as a number of essays, which have been gathered into the book Standing Forth: Collected Writings of Roger Nicole.

Dr. Nicole was particularly committed to the inerrancy of Scripture, helping to defend that doctrine in the ETS and founding the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, which produced the Chicago Statement on inerrancy in 1978. He was also known for his graciousness toward those with whom he disagreed and wrote the important article, “Polemic Theology: How to Deal with Those Who Differ from Us.” He was also committed to the equality of men and women, helping to found the organization Christians for Biblical Equality and writing in support of allowing women to hold leadership positions in ministry.

Distinguished Senior Research Professor Dr. David Wells, who worked with Dr. Nicole from 1978 until Dr. Nicole left for RTS, remembers Dr. Nicole’s ability to be kind and gentle even while holding strong positions on theological issues.

“Roger was always an island of calm in the midst of any storm,” he says. “He was always gracious, always generous, always cordial, while nevertheless having a very clearly defined theological position. That’s a rare combination, because sometimes people who have clearly defined theological positions are bold and robust in the way they express those, and he was always gentle and genial.”

A Swiss native, Dr. Nicole earned an M.A. from the Sorbonne in Paris before coming to the United States. He also earned a Ph.D. in 1967 from Harvard University and was awarded a D.D. from Wheaton College in 1978.

Dr. Nicole was married to Annette for more than 61 years, and they were known for their hospitality and kindness. He collected more than 1 million stamps in his lifetime, as well as more than 26,000 books. This collection includes many rare 16th and 17th century books. Much of the collection is now housed at RTS as the Roger Nicole collection.

He follows in death his beloved wife Annette and is survived by a legacy of friends, colleagues, students and “adopted” children who have been deeply impacted by his wisdom, openness, generosity and teaching.

Services are planned for Wednesday December 15, 2010, at 2:00p.m. at First Baptist Church in Sweetwater, FL. Address is 3800 Wekiva Springs Rd. Longwood, FL 32779. PH: 407.862.3893

External Links Remembering Dr. Roger R. Nicole: