CES mentor Dr. David W. Bailey has written a biography of Roger Nicole. I had the privilege of reading the book while it was in manuscript form, and I asked Dr. Bailey if he'd like to share some of his book with my CT readers . . . He did . . . here it is below.
Do you know Roger Nicole? If you are a Reformed Baptist you might, though probably not. Southern Baptists, whose latter twentieth century denominational record was one of intense struggle over the nature of Scripture, owe a debt to Roger Nicole that most would not recognize.
If you have ever read from the NIV Bible, you have encountered him, for he was an assistant translator for that version.
He was a founding member of both the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy and the Evangelical Theological Society (of which he is a past president).
His family history, academic career, and Christian statesmanship are the stuff of legend. Perhaps most lists of influential twentieth-century theologians would overlook this remarkable “man of God,” a title conferred by no less an evangelical commentator than David F. Wells (he dedicated his 1985 release Reformed Theology in America simply “to Roger Nicole, a man of God”). If this oversight should occur, I am convinced it would be the result of a regrettable unawareness of the man and of his impact on Christian theology. I ask the reader to permit me a personal observation before I proceed.
A strange thing happens when I read William F. Buckley Jr. Since I am a political conservative, he is one of my favorite authors. But Buckley has this paradoxical effect on me: when I encounter his thoughts in print, I feel both more intelligent and less intelligent at the same time. His mind is massive, a fact that does not escape Buckley himself (John Leonard, in his introduction to a collection of Buckley essays, recalled the following exchange when the political analyst appeared on the television show Laugh-In: "Mr. Buckley I notice that on your own program you're always sitting down. Is this because you can't think on your feet?" Buckley paused for a moment, then replied, "It is hard . . . to stand up . . . under the weight . . . of all that I know." [Happy Days Were Here Again, xix]) One just feels smarter after reading Buckley. In fact, during the week prior to my oral comprehensive exam at the completion of my doctoral studies, I read Buckley to steel myself for the coming intellectual challenge. Encountering such a mind stretches one's own. But at the same time, there is a sense of humiliation when I read Buckley, for I realize that my own mental prowess is paltry by comparison. And what cerebral acumen I do possess I have not improved as I should.
This smarter/dumber paradox faced me whenever I was with Roger Nicole. His mind, like Buckley's, is legendary (though Nicole's own Christian humility would demur at the description). Pastor and author John Piper once quoted Nicole’s affirmation of John Owen as the greatest theologian who has ever written in the English language. Piper recalled that Nicole paused in the midst of his presentation and said that Owen was ‘even greater than the great Jonathan Edwards.’ “That really caught my attention,” said Piper, “because I am sure Nicole has read more of those two greats than most theologians and pastors have.” Nicole always assumed I knew more about whatever subject we discussed than was actually the case. I am not sure if my T.Q. (theological quotient) ever advanced more than a point or two, but I felt like a world-class scholar for having been in his presence. Simultaneously, as names, facts, figures, dates, and personages rolled effortlessly off Nicole's tongue, I was sure that no Ph.D., pastor, and sometime professor was as utterly ignorant as I!
Who is Roger Nicole? Why should one read his biography? These are valid questions. Until the summer of 1997, I, too, was unfamiliar with the nonagenarian Swiss theologian, mathematics devotee, world-class bibliophile (his personal library contains, among other gems, a copy of the first edition of Heinrich Bullinger’s Decades, published in 1552), and acknowledged expert in the thought of Reformation leader John Calvin. Nicole was for decades an avid philatelist, with an encyclopedic knowledge of the hobby and a personal collection of approximately one million stamps. He enjoys reading detective novels. He was named to Who’s Who, and served as Associate Editor for the New Geneva Study Bible and Corresponding Editor for Christianity Today. Nicole holds two earned doctorates (a Doctor of Theology from Gordon Divinity School and a Doctor of Philosophy from Harvard University). He helped draft the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and he is a biblical egalitarian. Nicole defies classification. Though you may not recognize the name, you have likely encountered him, indirectly if not directly. He has contributed articles to reference works that are probably on your library shelves or in your computer hard drive. The more I got to know Roger Nicole, the more I learned as a theological student and pastor. And the more I got to know the man, the more I knew his story must be told.
Nicole is an amiable man. His genuine love for persons is immediately evident. He converses as effortlessly with a five-year old child as with an academic colleague. This derives, in part, from his mature Christian humility. Speaking of several great theologians, Nicole quipped, “God works with big shots and with little shots, like me; He is not an elitist. God makes His people elite, but He does not demand elitism as a precondition for working with persons.” When I approached him about the prospect of a biography, his response was typical: “I don’t know if I am important enough, but if a biography were done, I would want it to glorify God rather than me.” The author’s prayer is the same: that the God Who molded and fitted and gifted Roger Nicole for kingdom service might be praised for His goodness. For, indeed, God was good to His church when He gave her this “mind in love with God.”
This is the story of a life, a Christian life, a Christian theologian's life. It traces the “footprints of God” throughout the lifetime of Roger Nicole, those providential connections in a life that form the basis of a valid Christian biography. The title, chosen by Nicole, is instructive, for it encapsulates the man and his ministry: speaking the truth in love. Fittingly, it is a biblical quotation (Ephesians 4:15), extracted from a context concerning Christian maturity. Nicole's existence has been marked by commitment to Scripture, progress in sanctification, and instruction of the church in the same. The title is also striking because it reveals the balance that is so characteristic of Roger Nicole. Truth is always expected of evangelical, Reformed theologians; love, sadly, is often neither found in nor required of them. In Nicole, the church and the academy have a happy mixture of both truth and love.
Dr. David W. Bailey's soon-to-be-released biography on Dr. Nicole can be viewed by clicking here: Speaking the Truth in Love: The Life and Legacy of Roger Nicole (Solid Ground Christian Books).
Here are just a few endorsements:
"This is a moving tribute to one who has been valiant for the truthfulness of God's Word throughout his whole life. Not only is the measure of the man included, but amazing story here is the way Dr. Nicole's life has intersected with almost all the major events of the evangelical world in the past three-quarters of a century. It is a vivid reminder of the faithfulness of God and the bold necessity of ever speaking the truth in love both to those both who are part of the household of faith and those who are not."—Dr. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.
"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, veteran Reformed theologian Roger Nicole comes beautifully to life in this warm-hearted biographical tribute. Thank you, David Bailey."—Dr. James I. Packer
"This enjoyable biography of Dr. Roger Nicole flows along in a novel-like way, which makes it more than simply a documentation of facts, dates, and events. Truly, this book is a page-turner, and one that--to my pleasant surprise--led me to many smiles and chuckles along the way. Surprisingly, this book is also a theology text. For although the author does not set out to simply list the theological propositions of his subject, the reader finds himself being theologically taught (or at least challenged) by Dr. Nicole as he takes, as it were, a long, leisurely stroll with him. Along with some well-stated tautologies that made me laugh out loud ("Among Protestants it ought not to be a terrible thing to be protesting"), this book was inspirational as well as educational. This is perhaps the most enlightening biography I have ever read and certainly one of the most entertaining. In a genre that this reader has not seen before, Dr. Bailey writes in such a way that one wonders at times where Dr. Bailey stops narrating and Dr. Nicole muses on certain fascinating events in his own life. This blending is seamless as we journey through The Life and Legacy of Roger Nicole, a man who indeed spoke and is still speaking the truth in love."—Dr. Rick Walston
"David W. Bailey has collected all the available material on Roger Nicole to write this biography in which he reveals to the reader a person of intellectual superiority who has been blessed with a photographic memory, a joyful disposition, and a pleasing sense of gentle humor. Bailey exposes the legacy of a man whose aim in life has been to teach and defend the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures. We are indebted to Bailey for sharing with us the influence of a man who as a master theologian in the Reformed persuasion has done more than many other theologians to promote sound biblical research."— Dr. Simon Kistemaker
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