Obituary of R.T.´Dick´ France published in THE TIMES of London, Thursday 23February 2012
PROF. REV. ALISTER MCGRATH
Dick France was a New Testament scholar and Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford and known for his thoughtful and gracious brand of evangelicalism. Prof. ALister McGrath was both a friend and colleague, succeeding him as Principal of Wycliffe Hall.
R. T. (³Dick´) France was a leading New Testament scholar and theological educator.Originally a student of classics at Oxford, he brought his linguistic and scholarly toolsto the study of the text of the New Testament. His PhD was one of the first to emergefrom the University of Bristol¶s newly established Faculty of Theology in the 1960s,and led to his appointment as a part-time lecturer in the New Testament at TyndaleHall, Bristol, where he had trained for ministry in the Church of England.France was a leading representative of a thoughtful, informed, reflective and graciousevangelicalism. During the 1960s and 1970s, under the leadership of John Stott(obituary July 29, 2011) and his circle, evangelicalism had begun to set to one side itsearlier isolationism, and was reconnecting with the life of the Church and the wider academic world. France was an outstanding example of the new style of evangelicalism that began to blossom in that age. Firmly rooted in both his faith andscholarship, he was willing to explore and engage in questions that had hitherto beenignored or feared. By the late 1970s he had established his reputation as a NewTestament scholar who was able to hold together the worlds of critical scholarshipand personal faith, and became a role model to many younger evangelical scholars,wrestling with issues of biblical interpretation.Richard Thomas France was born in 1938 in Londonderry. After studying at BradfordGrammar School, he went up to Balliol College, Oxford, in 1956 to study LiteraeHumaniores. In 1960 he moved to Tyndale Hall, Bristol, to prepare for ordination inthe Church of England, combining this with his doctoral research at the University of Bristol on Jesus and the Old Testament. He was ordained in 1966 and spent threeyears serving as curate at St Matthew¶s church, Cambridge.France¶s interest in theological education led him to spend his next four years as alecturer in biblical studies at the University of Ife (now Obafemi AwolowoUniversity) in Nigeria. He returned to England in 1973 as librarian of Tyndale House,Cambridge, which was then emerging as a leading research centre for the study of thehistory and literature of the New Testament. He would remain involved with TyndaleHouse, eventually becoming its Warden.In 1981 France moved to London Bible College (now London School of Theology),initially as senior lecturer in New Testament. His administrative gifts and stronginterpersonal skills led to his being appointed Vice-Principal two years later. Hissuccess in that role led to him returning to Oxford in 1989 to succeed Canon G. N.Shaw as Principal of Wycliffe Hall, one of the Church of England¶s theologicalcolleges. His scholarly reputation and easy-going manner drew students, allowing himto expand both the student body and the number of teaching staff. France paid