What a great book honoring a man that I have admired, learned from, and watched over the years as he has served our Lord in Great Britain, North America, and throughout the world. As a young Christian and especially in my seminary days, men like J. I. Packer fed me spiritually and challenged me to think biblically. I even thought that I had most of his books until I read the bibliography of books in this volume. To Timothy George, founding Dean of Beeson Divinity School and editor of this book, I commend you for your effort; not only in editing the book but for the role you played in having those September 25-27, 2006 lectures by the contributors to this festschrift delivered at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, AL. I also appreciate your response to Packer when he had reservations about such a book. The spotlight of the book will be upon Packer’s God. And how fitting a tribute to a man, as George stated so beautifully, who has played such a major role in the revitalization of evangelicalism. It was Packer’s 80th birthday, thus making him 83 today.
George describes the book, “A mosaic of some major aspects of Packer’s life and thought…We learn something of the future of the evangelical church-opportunities, dangers, and direction.” Packer is a man of prayer as well as valiant for the truth. His theology is focused on doxology and devotion.
The book contains chapters by such contributors as: Charles (Chuck) Colson, Mark Dever, Timothy George, Alister McGrath, Carl Trueman, and others. Topics include: The Great Tradition, The Gifts of Packer, His Theological Method, Primacy of Scripture, Packer, Puritans, and Postmoderns, Knowing God and several others.
For a bit about the book! I will only highlight four of the 13 chapters. Each one, not just the four selected, would be worth the price of the book. But especially the four!!! And, if I could wave a magic wand, I would have every seminary professor, student, minister, church leader, and especially those of the “emergent movement” read Alister McGrath’s opening chapter, “The Great Tradition.” He says of Packer, ” I find in him someone whose views are so well biblically and theologically grounded, so well defined and articulated, and so well applied that one could wish for no better dialogue partner in wrestling with the great theological issues of our own age, as well as the past.” McGrath goes on to say that Packer’s genius is his attentiveness to the past as a key to understanding the present and the future. His commitment to the discipleship of the mind is no secret. From Packer’s own words, “I theologize out of what I see as the authentic biblical and creedal mainstream of Christian identity, the confessional and liturgical ‘great tradition’ that the church has characteristically maintained from the start.”
Packer is famous for his distinction between biblical theology and tradition. He says of the latter that it is ministerial not magisterial. As McGrath writes, what a threefold challenge Packer gives us today.