Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of New Georgia Baptist Church.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Biographical Sketch: J.I. Packer

In addition to the “Bible study,” “evangelism,” and “personal” posts I have been publishing to this blog, I would like to begin posting some short biographical sketches of Bible teachers and theologians who have had an impact on my life for Christ. I begin today with J.I. Packer.

Educated at Oxford University, Dr. James I. Packer has served as assistant minister at St. John’s Church of England, Harborne, Birmingham and Senior Tutor and Principle at Tyndale Hall (an Anglican Seminary in Bristol). He preaches and lectures widely in Great Britain and America and contributes frequently to theological periodicals. His writings include Fundamentalism and the Word of God, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, Knowing God, and Growing in Christ.[1]

In 1978, Dr. Packer signed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.[2] In 1994, Dr. Packer signed the ecumenical document Evangelicals and Catholics Together[3] and contributed to the book that came about as a result of this document. Dr. Packer has retired from Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he was a Professor of Theology, though he still offers occasional courses or conferences.[4]

Admittedly, Packer’s involvement in Evangelicals and Catholics Together is inexcusable. Packer could certainly outline the differences between a Roman Catholic and Protestant understanding of the Gospel better than I can, and he should be able to see how partnering with the Roman system in this way is a violation of II Corinthians 6:14-18. Nevertheless, this error on Dr. Packer’s part does not invalidate his entire ministry.

The principle way I have been taught by the writings of J.I. Packer is in the area of evangelism. Think of this dilemma, which has occurred to Christians throughout the ages: If God already knows every aspect of the future, if He already knows what He is going to do in any given situation, and if He already knows our every desire as well as what is truly best for us and others, then why do we pray? Similarly we may ask, “If God is entirely sovereign in salvation (as the Bible clearly indicates He is in passages such as John 6:44, Romans 9:18, Ephesians 1:3-11, Ephesians 2:8-9, etc.), then why do we evangelize?” In his book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, Dr. Packer explores this question and sheds light on true human responsibility as empowered by God’s sovereignty.

Another way that Packer has helped my thinking has been in terms of meditation on the work of Jesus, particularly His work of substitutionary atonement on the Cross. In this regard, I commend to you Packer’s essays, “The Logic of Penal Substitution” and his introductory essay to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.

Update 7/3/07: Today the Reformation 21 blog posted an article by J.I. Packer titled, "Penal Sustitution Revisited." (HT:: Timmy Brister)


[1] Packer, A Quest for Godliness, back cover.

[2] Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation and Authority (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1979), 4:211-219. [on-line]; accessed 3 June 2007, http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/creeds/chicago.htm; Internet.

[3] Evangelical Times (1994). [on-line]; accessed 3 June 2007, http://www.founders.org/FJ17/article4.html; Internet.

[4] Regent College: Retired, Emeritus & Board of Govenors Professors. [on-line]; accessed 3 June 2007, http://www.regent-college.edu/about_regent/faculty/emeritus.html; Internet.

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