I always likedÂ R.T. France bothÂ personally and academically. Although we disagreed on a few points like female ordination and Anglicanism, he was a solid believer and a solid academic.
I shall always recall how he commenced to lecture on form criticism by reading CS Lewis’ essay “Fernseed and Elephants,” ridiculing the liberal higher critics whom he refuted with such skill.
His explanation on the hybrid divine and human authorship of scripture was the best explanation I ever heard of the nature of God’s Word and I still draw on it myself to this very day. The London Bible College would not have achieved the academic standard it did, outperforming the universities by awarding half of the upper seconds in theology in the UK, without him and Peter Cotterel.
Not least of all, his debunking rebuttal of the ‘criteria of dissimilarity’ I learned at Cambridge, which he aptly described as ‘the counsel of despair,” was certainly most excellent. He could beat the theological liberals at their own game.Â Rivaled only byÂ FF Bruce, whom I also held in very high esteem, Dick was in my estimation the most gifted British conservative Evangelical scholar of the twentieth century.Â His commentary on Matthew remains on my book shelf to this day.
Unfortunately the obituaries discount his cardinal contribution to introducing an academic standard of conservative Evangelical theology to the Third World with his stint as a missionary in Nigeria training Black African candidatesÂ for the ministry.
He also fought the Anglican establishment over the liberal direction in which Wycliffe Hall gravitated after he retired from Oxford. On top of that he was just a nice guy whose intelligence and status as a scholar never gave him an inflated head. He was not only a professor but a friend.Â Â RT FranceÂ did indeed know and love the Lord and he harbored a holy passion for God’s Word and he cared about his students of which I count myselfÂ fortunateÂ enoughÂ to have been one.