Some knew him as Papa. Others referred to him as professor. Thousands regarded him as founding member and president of the Evangelical Theological Society. For Christian women called to ministry, Roger was a wise and vigorous champion. He was deeply burdened by the lack of support women often received while training in seminary. In praying for them one evening, Roger asked God to send them someone who could bring them great help. Amid this prayer, God seemed to be inviting him to become that help. Immediately, Roger responded with, “I will, Lord!” From that moment onward, he devoted his talents to challenging theological perspectives that obscured Scripture’s support for women’s leadership. His advocacy for women was especially prominent in organizations like the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), of which he was a founder. When a woman was nominated for leadership in the ETS, Roger (one of their most respected leaders) jumped to his feet and exclaimed, “Let’s hear it for the ladies.”
Roger is remembered for “speaking the truth in love”—the title of a recent biography honoring his life. Though gracious to those who disagreed with him, he tenaciously pressed for logic, clarity, and most of all, respect for the authority of Scripture. Along with six others, he developed CBE’s “Statement on Men, Women and Biblical Equality,” a document that shaped the gender perspective of thousands of Christians, hundreds of churches, and many evangelical organizations. This document has not only stood the test of time, but also the scrutiny of critics who invested (quoting Roger) “some six-hundred pages, intended in good part to controvert our two-page statement…” In support of CBE’s mission, he said:
Having shared with six others the responsibility of drafting the original manifesto for Christians for Biblical Equality, I stand firmly committed to the same. I believe that most, if not all of the restrictions on women in society have no basis in Scripture; and that those maintained in the church are based on an inadequate interpretation of a few restrictive passages which put them in contradiction with the manifest special concern and love of God for women articulated from Genesis to Revelation. I do believe that in the eschaton all the redeemed will endorse biblical equality, since all of them will together constitute the bride of Christ.
Roger stands in a long tradition of egalitarians whose commitment to biblical authority provides an invincible response to those who believe egalitarians comprise a new path of liberalism. His published work through CBE includes, “Biblical Egalitarianism and the Inerrancy of Scripture”, “The Splendor of Marriage”, and a chapter in How I Changed My Mind About Women In Leadership: Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals, edited by Alan F. Johnson. Throughout his life, Roger called upon churches to expand positions of service for women so that the world might benefit from their God-given gifts.
On December 11, Roger entered Christ’s presence. One week before dying, he sent CBE a tender reminder of his support. Eager to greet his Savior, Roger spent the last week of his life giving to others. As we celebrate Christmas, may we also be inspired by God’s incarnate presence to give to others, just as God gave us his Son. Will you join us in remembering the life of Roger Nicole, through a Christmas gift to CBE?
On behalf of all of us at CBE, we pray your Christmas will be filled with the peace of Christ that passes all understanding.