The Impact of J.I. Packer

Few writers, if any, have had as profound an impact on my thinking as J.I. Packer. He has been and continues to be a blessed gift to the church of Jesus Christ. Books such as Knowing God, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, The Quest for Godliness, Fundamentalism and the Word of God, and Rediscovering Holiness have had an immessurable impact on my life and ministry.

So I am thrilled about the book edited by Timothy George entitled J.I. Packer and the Evangelical Future. It contains essays from some of my favorite people: Mark Dever and Carl Trueman as well as Alister McGrath, Charles Colson, and others.

From the introduction by Timothy George:

The genesis of this book goes back to a conversation Alister McGrath and I had at Oxford about our friend, J. I. Packer, his influence on us, and the role he has played in the revitalization of evangelicalism as a living tradition within the world Christian movement. We wanted to bring together a symposium where friends, colleagues, and former students could express their gratitude and respect to him on his eightieth birthday, but we knew that Packer, with his natural British (and perhaps also Canadian?) reserve, would balk at the idea. He did. It took some time for us to convince him that this gathering was meant not only to celebrate a life well lived to the glory of God (the life of one, let it be said, who is still going strong and shows no signs of diminishment at age eighty-three), but more importantly to exalt J. I. Packer’s God—the great, awesome, three-personal God of joy and grace, the God of creation and redemption we meet in the pages of the Bible and see most clearly in the face of Jesus Christ...

Despite his charitable spirit and his desire to foster a unitive, irenic evangelicalism, Packer has not been able to avoid the effects of the deep ruptures within the world Anglican Communion. In June 2002 the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster in Vancouver voted to approve the blessing of same-sex unions. Packer, among other synod members, saw this action as a flagrant abandonment of the authority of Scripture and walked out in protest. In February 2008 Packer’s church in Vancouver voted to seek episcopal oversight from an orthodox Anglican bishop. In response to charges brought against them by the bishop in Vancouver, Packer and other evangelical clergy declared their determination to continue their ministry “under the jurisdiction of and in communion with those who remained faithful to historic, orthodox Anglicanism and as part of the Anglican Communion worldwide.”2 In the midst of controversy that continues to unfold, Packer has received acclaim for his courage and commitment in the face of what by all accounts must be considered one of the great tragedies in contemporary church history.

It has been my privilege to know and work closely with J. I. Packer for the past twenty-five years, only a fraction of his long and still amazingly productive career. I have seen him buffeted by adversity and criticized unfairly, but I have never seen him sag. His smile is irrepressible and his laughter can bring light to the most somber of meetings. His love for all things human and humane shines through. His
mastery of ideas and the most fitting words in which to express them is peerless. Ever impatient with shams of all kinds, his saintly character and spirituality run deep. I love to hear him pray. Again and again, he has reminded us that we live our lives coram deo and in the light of eternity. He has taught us that theology is for doxology and devotion, that theology is always at its best “when it is consciously done under the eye of the God of whom it speaks, and when it is singing to his glory."