I suspect this is yet another blog that will appeal to just a few, even among thinking Evangelical leaning Christians. When a few years Dr Packer came to town, around the same time as another well known in certain quarters preacher, Tony Campolo, it was Campolo’s meeting that was packed and not Packer’s. Yet while having different subjects, it was Packer that represented sound theology.
When a lot younger, and as is the case with many younger people, there were a few preacher type people I hero worshipped, although later I was to grow out of that tendency as I recognized however great a person might be he/she has/had limitations. But when a Facebook friend posted two articles about Jim Packer (click here and here) it got me thinking as different people mentioned others in the Anglican tradition that they also had a lot of regard for, and in all the cases I was inclined to concur. I couldn’t help thinking as the Anglican church looks going down the schismatic root, how much they need someone of the calibre of Packer to help steady the ship, although sadly I doubt too many will take heed of his wisdom.
As I reflect on great preachers, especially those who are living (in this case just about) the one name that sticks out above almost all the rest is J.I.Packer. I have been aware of him ever since I was a student back in the seventies and have found his books helpful as I sought to better understand and apply the great truths of the Bible. Even recently, the same sense of having my eyes opened and understanding enhanced was the result as I read another of his books, in this case it was about the Puritans and the legacy they left. When he did come to Southend a few years back, I can’t say I recall what he spoke about. In the few minutes in which were able to talk, I thanked him for his help and was struck by his gracious, humble, gentle manner. One thing I do recall was reflecting briefly that both of us shared significant roots with the Plymouth Brethren.
What became clear from the two articles that were posted today was that at 89 his faculties were going, in particular his sight (although not it seems his sharp intellect), and yet his awareness of God and what are the essential things of life was if anything increasing. To quote from the first of the articles: “This marks the end of a remarkable writing and speaking ministry … He is unable to read, and therefore he will be unable to travel and speak. Because so much of his writing involves initial working with a ballpoint pen and blank paper, he is also unable to write.” It then quotes Packer: “God knows what he is doing, and some good, something for his glory, is going to come out of it… I find it more possible to concentrate on God himself and his plans, purposes, and performance than I used to do. I suppose that all these things have rooted themselves more deeply in my mind and heart. And I trust there’s less superficiality than there used to be” and goes on to exhort the church to “Glorify Christ in every way“.
I am sure there are many today who like me will testify how much they owe Packer and can be thankful for. For me it is primarily about trying to make sense of the world in which I live and answering the question what is it that God would have me believe, say and do? I have no doubt Jim Packer was limited in his understanding and even someone like Tony Campolo has insights that he hasn’t. But I have no doubt that Packer would be the first to acknowledge that what really matters is that God gets all the glory.