I don’t want to be overdramatic, but on Friday, July 17, 2020, the church lost one of its greatest treasures. J.I. Packer left his temporary home here on earth to join the Lord Jesus in glory. Perhaps fewer Christians are familiar with Packer than they were with Ravi Zacharias, who passed away on May 19, of this year, both giants in the Christian academy.
Among the millions of books written through the ages, only a few rise to the level of being called a “classic.” Knowing God by J. I. Packer certainly ranks among them! Sitting in a cabin on an island in Canada as a young man, I concluded reading this masterpiece. In it, I learned of God as the Bible reveals him. Too often, our view of God is so tainted by our culture. Instead of understanding God for who he really is, we often press him into the cultural mold we create. Packer helps the reader uncover God by exploring the meaning of his truth, love, grace, justice, and wrath. After reading Knowing God, I had a greater appreciation for the cross, and the tremendous sacrifice God made through Christ for my atonement (propitiation) on the cross.
It is no small thing to say that Packer influenced my core theological understandings about God and the church. I often turn to his Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (1993) when writing my sermons, and one of his last works, Weakness Is the Way: Life with Christ Our Strength (2013) was helpful to me during my recent call to the role of bishop.
J.I. Packer remained engaged in the Lord’s work through the age of 93; he was ever teaching, always pointing to Jesus. If my life makes half the impact of Packer’s, then my journey on earth exceeded all my expectations.
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Eric grew up in the little town of Gibraltar, PA with his grandparents. He met his wife Cheryl while working at Good’s Greenhouse in Bowmansville, PA. He has three adult children and values watching them grow into the people God wants them to be.