I never had the pleasure of communicating with the Rev. Dr. Francis Nigel Lee before his death this past December. He never even knew I existed. Yet, to say his influence on my life was profound would be almost an understatement. I am not exaggerating when I say that God used F.N. Lee’s writings to shake my theological foundations to their core, and I am in a much better spiritual place now because of that experience.
Francis Nigel Lee was born in Great Britain in 1934 to an atheist father and a Roman Catholic mother. At some time during his childhood, his family relocated to South Africa, where he later became a believing Calvinist. From that time until the end of his life, he contended for the truth of the reformed faith through numerous academic and ministerial positions in South Africa, the United States, and finally, in Australia.
His output was prolific, with over 300 articles and books written and more than 400 sermons and lectures given throughout his life. In fact, so committed was he to the promotion of God’s truth that he continued to write to the very end, completing his last publication, “The Roots and Fruits of Islam,” just NINE days before his death.
More than a theologian and pastor, F.N. Lee was a true polymath, being also a lawyer, educationist, historian, and philosopher. He held twenty-one EARNED degrees, eleven of them doctorates. He set a standard few believers will ever reach in their lifetimes, as is described on his website:
Dr. Lee rises early; reads God’s Word in eight languages; then walks a couple of miles before breakfast. He has been round the World some six or seven times; has visited eighty eight countries (several repeatedly); and has visited every Continent. He continues to be in demand as a promoter of doctoral students in Australia, Britain, South Africa & the United States.
F.N. Lee was not only brilliant but godly as well. Besides blessing countless individuals in their Christian walks, he was instrumentally used by God to bring both of his parents to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. More amazingly, after his father was murdered, F.N. Lee personally visited his father’s murderer in prison and shared the gospel with him, rejoicing when that individual committed his life to Christ. The touching account of this conversion is detailed in his article, “The Sovereignty of God in the Salvation of My Father’s Slayer.”
Let me tell you what people who knew him had to say about him:
Bracey at God’s Lambs describes him as someone who had:
- the spirit of Caleb
- the intellectual and theological mind of John Calvin; and
- the living hope of the Lord Jesus Christ.
You can read Bracey’s full tribute to F.N. Lee here.
Ian Hodge, over at Biblical Landmarks said this about F.N. Lee’s home life:
When you visited his home, this was his practice: family worship morning and evening, a Scripture reading, a short monologue from him, then each person was questioned what they might have learned from the passage. You were expected to pay attention. Singing of psalms/hymns and prayer completed the family worship time.
He further describes F.N. Lee as being “a gifted preacher, an orator,” “intense,” and “a disciplined student” in addition to being a man of “kindness,” with a “serious commitment to the Scriptures” and the “belief that Calvinism gave the best expression of what the Scriptures taught.” You can read more of Mr. Hodge’s recollections of F.N. Lee’s life here.
Uri at Resurrectio et Vita says of F.N. Lee that “Some have said that he is the most under-appreciated scholar of the 21st century.” — a statement with which I cannot help but agree. You can read about some of F.N. Lee’s humorous responses to Uri’s correspondence here.
Lastly, Pastor W.J. Mencarow, who was mentored by F.N. Lee, states that he considered F.N. Lee to be “the greatest living theologian.” I concur. In fact, it was through F.N. Lee’s work that I eventually became familiar with W.J. Mencarow’s sermons on Sermon Audio, and the works of both men combined, through the guidance of God’s Spirit, led me to convert to Calvinistic Christianity.
Even a short but difficult battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease did not cause F.N. Lee’s hope in Christ to waver. Diagnosed in September 2011 with the incurable ailment, Dr. Lee lived only 2 months instead of the 2 years he had initially been promised. Yet, he was never angry or bitter with God at his suffering, saying instead, as related by his daughter Johanna, “Whether I die in 2 years or 2 months, is in God’s hands. My hope is in the next life.”
Dr. Lee remained an inspiration to the end and will never be forgotten by those whose lives he touched and by those who will be touched by his work in the future. If you have the opportunity, please visit and read Dr. Lee’s website here or listen to his sermons online here. You will not necessarily agree with everything that he believed, but you will definitely be edified and challenged in your faith. May we all run our own races faithfully to the very end just as Francis Nigel Lee did, and may we all remember that our hope is, indeed, not in this life but in the next.