James Innell (J.I.) Packer passed on into glory last Friday, less than a week shy of his 94th birthday. Packer was a workhorse who wrote over 300 books, articles, and reviews in his lifetime. Packer was a British born Anglican and an expert in the theology of the Puritans.
He attended Oxford and heard lectures from C.S. Lewis. While at Oxford, Packer attended the church of one of the 20th centuries greatest preachers, Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He was in league with some of the great Christian thinkers of the last century and himself became one of the giants of Evangelical theology for over half a century.
I appreciate theologians and Biblical scholars who can present their ideas with humility and gentleness. While he was a seminary professor and imminent theologian, Packer also wrote books for popular audiences, most famously, his 1973 classic “Knowing God,” which sold over 1 million copies. It’s intellectual but approachable. It’s theologically deep but personally applicable. Knowing God is a great introduction to the Christian faith.
Writing in straightforward language is a quality that alludes many of our great theologians but Packer had that gift. His work was not just about great intellectual knowledge of God, but about pointing us to greater relationship with the Lord.
As Justin Taylor of the Gospel Coalition remembers Packer, he says:
He called for the church to take holiness and repentance seriously by walking in the Spirit and fighting against indwelling sin. He defended biblical authority and championed the cause of disciple-making catechesis.
In seminary, I remember reading another of (what I consider) his classics “Evangelism and the sovereignty of God” which explored the complexities of God’s sovereignty over creation and his call on the world to share the gospel.
Writing for Christianity Today, scholar and Packer biographer Leyland Ryken calls to mind Packer’s words to the church: “Glorify Christ every way.”
Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
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