Sunday, April 06, 2008

J.I. Packer grows up

I've complained about the fluff 'n stuff, cotton candy diet of "Christian Living" books and sermons, where "it's all about me" seems to be the center of the faith. So I was surprised (or maybe not) to read this account of the early Christian walk and faith of 20th century giant, J.I. Packer.
    "Having come to faith in my first term at Oxford, in 1944, I was nurtured in a fellowship where zeal for Christ and evangelism, and fortitude in face of criticism, were magnificently present, but where the operative theology was limited to a few Bible-based, surface-level ideas about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and personal faith and faithfulness. The accepted view of theological inquiry was that it was an unspiritual and dangerous distraction from the real demands of discipleship, unfruitfully muddling the mind and hardening the heart. In my foreword to Bruce Milne's fine little handbook of theology, Know the Truth, I recounted what a fool I made of myself by explaining to my college chaplain that theology (not bad theology, but theology as such) is poison to the soul. I was at that time a very young convert, naively regurgitating what those teaching me to love and serve my Lord had told me. Though I soon saw the stupidity of thus rubbishing theology and started profiting from the Puritans, who were theologians to their fingertips, I never realized how theologizing can sanctify the mind and heart and deepen one's doctrine, devotion, and doxology all together till I read the Institutes [Calvin] and found it happening to me as I followed Calvin's argumentation."
From Packer's account of the importance of Calvin's Institutes in his faith walk found in Indelible Ink; 22 prominent Christian leaders discuss the books that shape their faith, Scott Larsen, ed., Waterbrook Press, 2003, p. 81. This title is in the UALC library of The Church at Mill Run (although not at the moment, since I have it checked out).

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