Saturday, August 1, 2020

Remembering Jim Packer

Jim Packer was an evangelical statesman - once met never forgotten.  Tributes have flowed since his death a few days ago which have shared something of his wide scholarship, Puritan roots, love of teaching as well as his zest for life. I first read his classic 'Knowing God' years ago and later came to realize just how important he was in mediating contemporary evangelical emphases. He was willing to critique N. American evangelicalism as '3000 miles wide and half and inch deep'.  Yet, standing firmly within his own tradition, he always sought to build bridges and especially hold together social evangelicals with theological and spiritual ones.

I was reminded of his visit to Northern Seminary and his session with the faculty.  Into his eighties he still showed such enthusiasm.  I asked him what he would include as essential if he was designing a syllabus to prepare ministers. To my great surprise he replied that he would insist on all students spending some time as interns in Africa.  That experience would broaden and deepen them like no other he said.  I am sure he had several reasons including life style/culture shock and the immediacy of much African spirituality. 

About that last point: though I have downsized many of my books I still keep my Africa Bible Commentary close. In recent studies on Colossians this commentary places an essay on Angels, Demons and Powers in the centre and it wakes you up to a dimension so often neglected in the West.

So, much gratitude to this giant among us.  One essay about Jim Packer went back to William Tyndale's use of the word evangelical which he says: signifieth good, merry, glad and joyful tidings that maketh a man's heart glad and maketh him sing, dance and leap for joy. What a great definition of a life well lived. 

No comments: