Prompted by a sense of wanting to honour and learn more about the life of Dr J.I. Packer on the occasion of his passing into glory, I began reading this volume by Sam Storms on 19 July 2020, just two days after Dr Packer’s death. I had heard about Packer from a distance over the years – including in Iain Murray’s single volume biography of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones – and I seem to recall subsequently hearing from the man himself in interviews, but at the time I began reading this book I had not read a full book of Dr Packer’s. This quickly changed as I devoured Weakness is the Way: Life with Christ our Strength shortly after starting Packer on the Christian Life, and I very much appreciated Dr Packer’s wisdom in dealing with the topic of the appropriate stature for us to take as believers – walking faithfully and humbly through this life with Christ as our strength, understanding that when we are weak, He is strong and His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). While it was wonderful to finally have some entry into reading Packer himself, Packer on the Christian Life helped me to get to know the man and the theologian that was Dr J.I. Packer, and for that I am very grateful.
As Christians, we sometimes talk about giants of the faith – leaders, pastors, evangelists, missionaries, apologists or even everyday Christians – whose lives have had a hugely significant impact for the Kingdom and have greatly blessed the church. Dr Packer is certainly one such giant of the faith, but he was not bombastic, larger than life or overtly charismatic (I do not mean in the Pentecostal sense, but rather in the interpersonal sense, though he wasn’t in the Pentecostal sense either). He was a relatively quiet man (at least in his elderly years), he spoke rather slowly and with a demure British accent, and came across as very winsome. However, this book does well to point out that Dr Packer was an intellectual, theological and pastoral force to be reckoned with.
He was committed to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, he loved and was distinctly shaped by the deep theological heritage of the Puritans, particularly John Owen for whose work he had a special affinity after it changed his life early on in his faith journey, he was willing to make hard calls and take stands on controversial issues when needed, and from what I can tell he always did so with grace and according to his conscience, always wanting his life, his theology, his work and his teaching to be grounded in and guided by God’s Word.
Admittedly, there were a few chapters in the middle portion of this book that got into some quite specific issues in which my reading pace was slowed and I actually took a break, but when I came back to the book towards the end of 2020 I found that this look at the way Packer lived the Christian life caused me to be deeply thankful for his life and ministry, and to be inspired by his faithful service to God and to God’s people – the church.
This book has been in my library for some time. It is the first book in Crossway’s ‘Theologians on the Christian life’ series that I came to own, but I have since built up almost the entire collection. Having enjoyed exploring the life of Dr J.I. Packer – and being inspired to read the other works of his in my library – especially the classic Knowing God as well as his book Concise Theology – I now look forward to reading more of the volumes in the ‘Theologians on the Christian Life’ series.