By now the news of the death of Jim Packer has circled the globe. He was a Christian gentleman, and a great theological figure. Striking to look at, softly spoken, with every word worth attention, he was remarkable. In a class by himself. He seemed to have boundless knowledge, an appreciation of Christian theological resources and of its wisdom. For much of his time in England, his influence spanned evangelicalism, both Anglicanism and Dissent.
’I am an Evangelical Christian. I hold that Prayer Book Evangelicalism expresses the authentic Anglican outlook, and that the task of Evangelicals in the Church of England is no more – and no less – than to present to one Church its true self’.(Discipulus, the student magazine of Tyndale Hall.)
To have known him was a supreme privilege, for which I shall always be thankful…..He embodied and expressed ‘the glory’ – the glory of God, of Christ, of grace, of the gospel, of the Christian ministry, of humanness according to the new creation – more richly than any man I have ever known. No man can give another aa greater gift than a vision of such glory as this. I am forever in his debt. (David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in Honouring the People of God, Volume 2 of Collected Shorter Writings of J.I.Packer, 1985, (Paternoster 1990), 87.
Not a sour grape.
In his student years he had encountered 'by chance' a set of the writings of John Owen in the basement of the Northgate Hall, where the Oxford Christian met.. He was attracted by Owen's writings on indwelling sin and temptation in volume 6 chimed with Packer's self=knowledge as a new Christian, rather than that of the Keswick preachers and their followers which were useless in the face of his own failings. This was one impetus in the beginning of the Puritans at that time.
He was of course instrumental in beginning educating his generation in the Reformed faith, not only to fellow-Anglicans, but what might be called Protestant Dissenters. Many of them relished his preaching to them and his writings. This was from the time he published a new translation of Luther’s Bondage of the Will with his friend Raymond Johnston in 1957. In it he was not shy to mention that
The evangelical certainty of the trustworthiness and authority of Scripture is of exactly the same basis as the Church’s certainty of the Trinity, or the incarnation or any other Catholic doctrine. God has declared it; Scripture embodies it; the Spirit exhibits it to believers; and they humbly receive it, as they are bound to do..... continued
Unscriptural ideas in our theology are like germs in our system. They tend only to weaken and destroy life, and their effect is always damaging, more or less. But they provoke resistance. Heretical notions may occupy Christian men’s heads, leading to error of thought and practice and spiritual impoverishment; but these notions cannot wholly control their hearts….in this case Christians in the liberal camp have adopted a position which logically makes reason, and not Scripture, their final authority. But,just because they are regenerate and have the witness of the Spirit. It is not in their nature to follow this anti-Christian principle to its logical conclusion…..' (passages taken from 122-4)