Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | July 22, 2020

J. I. Packer: A Remembrance

(3 Minute Read plus videos)

James I. Packer

James I. Packer (1926–2020) was one of my favorite authors and speakers. He was a clear, logical thinker and master communicator.

J. I. Packer excelled at teaching Biblical Christianity through both the written and spoken word. I was privileged to hear him speak at conferences many times. Always I was enlightened, intrigued, and challenged by his keen insights from Scripture. He was one of my heroes.

Packer described himself as one who “teaches the truths that Christians live by, and also teaches how to live by those truths.”

Packer’s succinct summary of the gospel was “God saves sinners.”

He died this past Friday, July 17, at age 93, five days short of his 94th birthday.

I especially appreciated and was particularly influenced by these three of Packer’s many books:

1. Fundamentalism and the Word of God (1958) was a cogent defense of the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. He believed and argued that the words of the Bible are the very words of God. This was Packer’s first book, and the issue became a life-long passion for him. This passion culminated in serving as the general editor for the English Standard Version (2001). He regarded this project as the greatest achievement of his life.

In a 2008 interview by World Magazine founder Joel Belz, Packer repeated the message of his first book:
“…draw your truth and conclusions and wisdom from Scripture, and allow Scripture to pass judgment on your attempts to express what Scripture is saying. The Bible has the first word; the Bible has the last word.”

2. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (1961) argued that the sovereignty of God is the only reason for evangelism and the only hope for success in evangelism. This was the first of Packer’s books that I read.

3. Knowing God (1973) is his best-known book, selling over 1.5 million copies. It has become an international classic, having been translated into over a dozen languages. For me it opened up the character of God in a most worshipful way. Back in the 1980s I used this book to teach adult Sunday School classes on the nature and character of God. Packer wrote, “The conviction behind the book is that ignorance of God lies at the root of much of the church’s weakness today.” This book came in fifth in Christianity Today‘s 2006 survey to determine the Top 50 books That Have Shaped Evangelicals.

These are my three favorite books out of the long list of books Packer authored.

In the 2008 Belz interview, Packer summarized the doctrinal basis of Biblical faith:

“You have first of all the authority of Scripture affirmed. Secondly, the triunity of God affirmed. Third, the fallenness of the man who was created in the image of God affirmed. Fourth, the incarnation affirmed. Fifth, the atonement affirmed. Sixth, the new birth by the Spirit through faith affirmed. Seventh, justification through faith affirmed. I believe that theologically, in light of John 3, the new birth is a work of God the Spirit out of which faith comes, rather than saying with the Arminians that faith comes, and through faith the new birth takes place. In other words, the primacy of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. Eight, the church sustained by every member along with the ministry of official ministers — all animated by the Holy Spirit and all constituting Christ’s ministry to His people through His people. . . . But my faith comes from the Bible. In the New Testament the church is the center of the plan of redemption. We are units in the body of Christ. There is one spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one church. The church is at the center of God’s promise. I said eighth is the church. Ninth is the return of Christ. Tenth is the glory of God, and both are the final goal of everything that God is doing. Put together those 10 convictions and you’ve got evangelical theology. Lose out on any single one of them and you’ve got something less than evangelical theory or you’ve got evangelical theory mental: maimed, distorted, out of truth.”

In 2015 when asked how he would like to be remembered, J. I. Packer replied,
“As I look back on the life that I have lived, I would like to be remembered as a voice — a voice that focused on the authority of the Bible, the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the wonder of his substitutionary sacrifice and atonement for our sins. I would like to be remembered as a voice calling Christian people to holiness and challenging lapses in Christian moral standards. I should like to be remembered as someone who was always courteous in controversy, but without compromise.”

By God’s grace Packer truly did personify with remarkable effectiveness each of those messages that he cited.

When asked in a January 2016 interview if he had any final words for the church, Packer replied with typical conciseness, “I think I can boil it down to four words: Glorify Christ every way.”

In the same interview Packer urged, “Get right with God as early in life as you can. Remember the Creator in your days of youth (Ecclesiastes 12:1). Don’t leave it until some time in the future when you’re not likely to be able to handle it well at all.”

Dr. Albert Mohler is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Here is his 9-minute YouTube video remembrance of J. I. Packer.

For a brief sample of Professor Packer’s teaching, here is his 3-minute YouTube video,
“What Is Repentance?”

J. I. Packer was a towering giant of Biblical influence — easily one of the most impactful theologians of the past 100 years. He excelled at teaching Biblical theology to the layman through his books and lectures, shaping much of contemporary Christian thought. Packer honored his Savior through a life devoted to His kingdom.

Questions to Ponder

1. Who has been a “giant of influence” in your life?
2. Intentionally or not, you are likely a “giant of influence” in someone’s life. Are you an influence for good or ill?

Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

For Christ and His Kingdom. Soli Deo Gloria. Alere Flammam Veritatis.

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday July 22, 2020 A.D.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

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  1. My sources did not inform me of Dr. Packer’s passing. Thank you for a great tribute to the man. I had his last two books you listed, but not the first, “Fundamentalism and the Word of God.” I immediately corrected that discrepancy. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m glad you also shared God’s blessings through Dr. Packer. Yes, Packer’s Fundamentalism and the Word of God is definitely worth buying and reading.

      Liked by 1 person

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