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.