Are you still writing about “that book”!
My wife [my editor] said that just the other day. My response was “not much longer.”
Well it has finally come to the point when I have to announce a new book to blog on and that book is John W. Stott’s The Cross of Christ.
Before I get to Stott, I have to do two things: write about J.I. Packer’s concluding thoughts in Knowing God and I want to make my personal comments about how I reacted to his book.
I was a bit concerned when I started working on Knowing God on April 22, 2019. I did not get into the book very far before I knew that it was no ordinary book about the Christian faith. Packer was humble in his descriptions of Knowing God, saying it was not a “treatise on God,” saying at best it is a “string of beads: a series of small studies on great subjects.” I jumped into the book and I soon felt like an inexperienced swimmer trying the deep end of the pool for the first time. I soon found myself in over my head.
I did not panic.
I just began to study and to think about Packer’s ideas. I looked for pieces of discussion that I could bite off, pieces that were not too extensive or too complex. I thought if I could break the book down into smaller parts, I could make it manageable.
Still I knew the book was special; one only had to read the accolades on the back cover to realize that I had a classic of the faith to plow through. R.C. Sproul, one of the best theologians and teachers I have ever encountered, called the book a “masterpiece.” Dr. James Kennedy called it a “contemporary classic.” Chuck Swindoll writes that since the mid-1970’s, Knowing God has been on the top of “top twenty Christian books I have read.”
I began in April of last year with the idea that I would try to post comments on Packer every five days but as I dug into the book, I could see that weekly posts were going to have to be my standard. It took too much preparation to write about his thoughts. When I began St. John Studies in 2014, I would post every day or every other day but the books I wrote about were a lot less challenging.
I am not complaining. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I know that J. I. Packer taught me so much. He says early in the book that one of the main problems in the church today is Christians who are ignorant about God. Maybe I fall into that category because as I poured over the pages, I found myself learning so much more than I ever imagined I would learn.
Packer opens Knowing God with a story of two kinds of people who are interested in Christianity. One kind he calls balconeers. They sit on balconies, high above the roadway watching travelers go by on the road below. These people observe but they really don’t take part in “the walk.” Packer says their concern is with the theoretical. The other kind are the travelers. Travelers have practical problems. They are on their walk. They have to decide which way they are going to go, how they are going to get there and how to survive the trip with relative comfort. With Knowing God, Packer writes a book that draws from both viewpoints. For example, at times it is theological,with hefty discussions of the role of evil in the world and how evil can exist at the same time that God has sovereign control of the world. At times it is practical as it addresses evil as a problem that all of us must deal with. How can Christians live life battling evil? How can we bring some good out of everyday life in a world that has so much evil? A mix of balconeer material and traveler material…
As I anticipate discussing The Cross of Christ , I wonder how I will feel about it. It has its share of accolades as well. Luis Palau describes it as “One of the outstanding books of all times.” Dr. D.A. Carson says it is a “must read” book for every minister’s bookshelf. My experience with Dr. Stott comes from his little book Basic Christianity. When I came to Christ in 1998, I picked up a copy of that book and it inspired me. I had so many questions and Stott provided so many answers. Besides the Bible, Basic Christianity became a foundation of my faith.
Are you still writing about “that book”!
Not much longer…
One more post on what Packer calls “the climax of our book.”
One more post before I say good bye to book that has really helped me know God much better.
Thanks Dr. Packer.*
*J. I. Packer died on July 17, 2020 at the age of 93. For the St. John Studies tribute by Leland Ryken see St John Studies July 20, 2020.