Who gets to say they got to drove J. I. Packer home? What an incredible privilege I had to be able to drive home from a lecture, an evangelical giant, J. I. Packer. I was attending the annual Centre for Mentorship and Theological Reflection’s award ceremony last night at Tyndale University College in Toronto. One of our TBS students was receiving a Junior Scholar award (Justin Galotti!) as having promise for further theological education and J. I. Packer was also lecturing. My boss, Dr. Michael Haykin, was presenting the award to Packer so of course I would go.
Packer lectured on “Evangelicalism and the Future (Prospects and Problems).” It was a timely lecture in the world of Evangelicalism as we re-evaluate where we have been and where we are going. Packer identified Evangelicalism as a movement and as a people and discussed the growth of the Evangelical movement in the 20th century and the place of primacy in the religious world in the 21st century.
Packer noted a number of problems that we face as Evangelicals. Some are economic like poverty, climate change and the like. Some are cultural like the problem of postmodernism, rampant immorality, and others. He also mentioned political problems like the middle-east and the rise of Islam.
He offered two major goals we should have as Evangelicals today. Christ should fill all of our horizon. He is the supreme minister, the penal substitute, and the great Lord and God we should serve. When we are focused on the glory of Christ and reflect upon him, then we will make great changes in the world today. Secondly, a renewed focus on personal holiness is necessary in Evangelicalism today. We are all too often succumbing to an immoral world around us. We need to strive to live lives of holiness seeking to be honouring to the Lord we serve.
Overall, it was a tremendous evening. I hope to be as active as Dr. Packer at 81! I did not agree with everything Packer said (he is a firm advocate of the ecumenical movement and was disparaging of Fundamentalism) but I was definitely challenged by this man of God. Then I had the privilege of driving him to where he was staying for the night. We talked long about the Puritans, doctoral work, and just normal things like getting lost in Toronto (it’s easy to do!). Anyway, this was a key moment in my life when I got to interact on a personal level with this hero of mine.
If you are unfamiliar with Packer let me suggest 3 books to get you started by him.
First, the classic, Knowing God is a must. It is probably the book he is best known for. I remember receiving this book as a gift in college and devouring it!
Second, Keep in Step with the Spirit is also a must as we navigate the muddied waters of much of the abuse of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, as all good believers in the sovereignty of God should read, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God where Packer shows that believing in the sovereignty of God does not mean we must not evangelize. This was an eye opener for me in college.
Sounds like a great night!
Yes Crawford it was indeed a great night! You would have enjoyed it!
Alan, while the three books you mention are highly commendable, you must not forget his “A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan View of the Christian Life”.
Of course! How could I forget! I just finished reading it for the second time!
Another work with Packer’s imprint on it is the ECT (Evangelicals & Catholics Together), which he signed with the likes of Chuck Colson and Bill Bright, of which sellout none of whom have repented.
I can’t see how any Fundamentalist Christian could consider a New Evangelical leader like Packer who betrays sola fide and courts Romanism a “man of God.”
Sure, he’s written some great works in the past, but that’s the past. And he still utters some gems from time to time, but then who doesn’t? The point is that he continues to lead God’s people into compromise rather than to biblical separation, and that should be cause enough for caution. I think T.T. Shields and Martyn Lloyd-Jones (and Charles Spurgeon before them) were right about those who refused to separate; there is biblical precedence for drawing a line and warning against even professing and ostensible brothers who walk disorderly.
It is interesting your reference to Lloyd-Jones who was hardly a separtist. The leading separtists of his day washed their hands of the good Doctor (in the words of Charles Woodbridge) because he was not as separtistic as they were.
Yes, Packer signed ECT. And no I’m not happy about that. Does that make him apostate? Nope. He is a committed Calvinist and writing some of the best things on the atonement as we speak (more than just gems in my opinion). You can read him here:
Almost all that Packer writes is worthy to be read and if you are having a hard time doing that, I guess you better throw out Luther who did not want to leave the Catholic church and many others who are just not perfect like the rest of us.
And men like Shields and Spurgeon were attacking those who denied the gospel. If you look at it historically, they were not your typical ultra-separtistic men who separated from everyone who did not practice strict separation! They joined together with many who agreed to the Fundamentals but disagreed on so many other issues (big issues I might add!).
Please articulate for me the exegetical arguments for second-degree separation please. That might help to clarify this discussion.
Oh, and I tire of people who continue to think that New Evangelicalism still exists. Brother, that was a movement of the 40’s. The “New Evangelicals” are dead and gone. Use the more normal terminology of today, simply evangelicals.
And yes, I am a Fundamental Christian (who hates to be identified with the rabid Arminian/KJV-onlyists of the movement but instead affirms “historic fundamentalism” or what Kevin Bauder has called “Paleo-Evangelicalism.”
I’m not a little surprised. Lloyd-Jones “hardly” a separatist? One historian you may know depicts Lloyd-Jones as saying, “They should come out of doctrinally-compromised bodies to enjoy closer fellowship with their evangelical brethren. Only then, he said as he concluded, could they expect the blessing of the ‘Spirit of God to come upon us in mighty revival and re-awakening’.” That coming out was contradicted by the likes of Stott and Packer, who parted ways with the older man.
No, I’m not saying that Lloyd-Jones was a “rabid Arminian/KJV-onlyist” or “typical ultra-separatistic” as you put it. But it doesn’t take a Fundamentalist or Reformed person of any genius to recognise that compromise with the Romish church over “faith alone” is something serious enough to separate over.
What’s more startling is your denial of New Evangelicalism as a movement; surely the argument isn’t merely over its rebranding (dropping the “New” in its name). Call it whatever name, that movement–some of whose founders, e.g. Billy Graham, are still alive and well, and a whole new 2nd generation’s at the helm–is still big, growing, and an embarrassment to the cause of Christ.
As for degrees of separation, doesn’t the Bible make it clear that we need to keep from brethren who walk disorderly and not after what the Apostles taught? If something as “trivial” as gluttony or laziness shouldn’t be passed over, why is ecumenism any less important? Perhaps this isn’t a good place for a full-blown discussion of biblical separation, but the following are some good resources you might consider reading:
Rolland McCune’s Promise Unfulfilled: http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?sku=07318&event=AFF&p=1135486
Iain Murray’s Evangelicalism Divided: http://www.9marks.org/CC/article/0,,PTID314526%7CCHID598026%7CCIID1562302,00.html
International Testimony’s Articles: http://itib.org/articles/articles.html
As for Shields, Spurgeon, and Luther, none of them would have signed the ECT, and if they did, like Cranmer they would have offered their offending right hands to the flames.
This shall be brief because I’m actually on holidays.
Yes, Lloyd-Jones was more of a separtist than some but much less than others. I would suggest you read the following article to see how the Fundamentalists of his day viewed him:
Click to access Sidwell.pdf
Second, I never said I was ECT in the first place nor that I thought it was good nor that I was giving up on sola fide or anything. All I am trying to say is you throw the baby out with the bathwater. Packer has written tremendous things and to throw out those things because he has some doctrinal problems is a mistake. I am much opposed to Roman Catholicism.
I never said New Evangelicalism was not a movement. Make sure you don’t put words in my mouth. I just tire of using the old Fundamentalist terminology. The original New Evangelicals do not exist anymore. The movement has much changed and they do not call themselves that. We should use the labels that are being used today, not the labels of yesterday which most do not understand any longer.
And yes, I agree with what you wrote on separation but you did not comment on “second-degree separation” in that we must separate from those who do not separate from the disorderly.
Thank you for the links. McCune was my Systematic Theology professor so I had him first hand. I’ve read Murray’s book a few times and have read every book listed in the other link. I know the arguments. And I am a separtist. But I am not convinced I must separate from John MacArthur because he does not separate from everyone we think he should.
Yes, Shields and them would not have embraced Roman Catholicism. That was not my point. My point was simply they were not as separatistic as you may think they were. I mean Shields’ teamed up with J. Frank Norris and that man probably wasn’t even saved in my opinion!
Anyway, good to hear your arguments on the subject. My simple point is, do not throw out Packer for one theological problem. You miss out on all the other tremendous things he has written. For instance, I heard him speak on the “Future of Evangelicalism” and it was just tremendous! His emphasis on the Lordship of Christ in our lives and a pursuit of holiness IS what evangelicalism needs. We all needed to hear that even if he subscribed to ECT.
Thanks, Allen. I hope you get to enjoy the rest of your holidays. I’m afraid (and saddened) that we’re not seeing eye-to-eye on the gravity of Romish ecumenism and things like “faith alone,” which seems to be bathwater compared to the baby of Packer’s writings. From my perspective, much more appropriate to Packer, whatever his fair writings and speeches, would be Jehu’s question/comment to Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 19:2. I appreciate your sharing on knowledge on Packer and fundamentalism, and I do find agreement on several points (e.g. the stridency of Norris and Woodbridge, and to some extent Shields, too), but the ECT only exemplifies a compromise gone too far to ignore or to trivialise.
There are other issues that we could go on to discuss–[New] Evangelicalism, for instance–but I’m not sure if it’s at all fruitful. My prayer (and plea) is that we’ll not have to make the choice between militancy or magnificence for Christ but will endeavour to hold to both in the face of growing error.
Gentlemen, I read with much appreciation of your burden to give God the glory for what He has done in a man’s life such as J.I. Packer. As mere men we often struggle with how to treat one another, refer to one another, and even when to judge one another. In every situation we are forced to draw reasonable conclusions from a man’s actions and warn of potential consequences that experience has taught us to do.
So often we must embrace the good that men bring us because they have been used by God (as amazingly as God has used us) and give them their credit due. At the same time we must condemn the bad and attribute that to our oftentimes failing humanity. It seems that we are sometimes caught in apparent contraditory statements, but this only helps us see that God is in control and we as imperfect servants are often out of control.
Who shall deliver us from this tension that threatens to overwhelm our sanity at times. Perhaps in our struggle to say the right thing about all of God’s servants (for those we can reasonably assume to be so) we must practice in our accreditation or condemnation of any man’s actions the following words of wisdom: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (NKJV).
We must always allow for a gracious, seasoned response whenever we are speaking of God’s servants. It must also be truthful for we cannot hide the flaws that belong to his and our humanity.
Joining you both in a sincere desire to please Christ,
C. Cogswell (Park Royal Bible Church – Mississauga)