Life and Books and Everything
Life and Books and Everything

Episode 12 · 1 year ago

In Memory of J. I. Packer

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Originally released on July 17th, 2020, in this special episode of 'Life and Books and Everything,' Kevin DeYoung, Collin Hansen, and Justin Taylor remember their friend J. I. Packer as they share about his influence broadly and personally.

This is life and books and everythinghosted by Kevendy Young Justin Taylor in colinhansgreetings and salutationswelcome to life and books and everything I'm Keven to Young- and I amhere as usual with my good friends, Colin Hanson and Justin Taylor, and wethought it would be worthwhile to do an abbreviated episode for you and take afew minutes for the three of us to reflect a bit on the life and Ministryof JI. Packer, we've all benefited from his books and to one degree or another,even his personal influence. So I think safe to say, Justin certainly has hadthe most interaction. I've had very little other than through his writing,and so just in Wyn. Don't we start with you walk us through a little bit ofjpackers life and ministry go ahead, and we welcome a brief monologue tofhillis in on some of the details and some of the history of this remarkableman and his remarkable life sure he was a born James, nl packer. Ninety fouryears ago July, Nineteen, twenty six in England and his family by his own admission, was ratherunremarkable. They were a lower middle class, H, anglicins but and church going, butthey didn't even really pray together at meal, so they were a nominalAnglican family kind of the the beginning of the packerstory is with his head injury. If you've ever heard him tell anythingabout his life, it always goes back to when he was seven years old and in a junior school and chase by a kind ofa bully outside of school goes into the streek it's hit by a bread van and of ahead long collision and uhfortunately. There was a surgeon in the area who hadtrained in how to do this sort of brain surgery, but his his cranium wasdepressed and he had a chunk of skull missing. Fortunately, the surgery wassuccessful. He had damaged to his front Olow, but obviously it didn't affecthis speech or his intelligence. He had to wear this kind of aluminum plateover his head for several years, which made a young boy who was already a loner,even more ostracized from social things, but loved reading, loved writing h eleven year old boys and that timecrade in that country were kind of received bicycles on Christmas,a sort of a coming of age present; sorry not for Christmas, but for theireleventh birthday and Packark and have dropped hints to his family that hewould like one nd. He tells the story of kind of coming down on the morningof his birthday and finding an old typewriter under the...

...at the table, rather than the bicyclethat he was expecting and you know he's he's crestfalling, but he said it wasreally a prophetic, beautiful, brilliant gift from his parents whocould foresee that a boy like him would benefit more fromtypewriter than from a bicycle. What what part of did you say? What City inEngland might miss that hes? It wasn't north of Glosashire, H, Twinano, okay, a baby yeah sixty miles,maybe west, of Oxford around that area: okay, okay, so givs the typewriter. Imy could not have responded as graciously, but they knew what theywere doing yeah and it was not a new typewriter either it was an oldtypewriter, so it lasted like six or seven years, but he really until he wasno longer able to physically type he he never transitioned to word processors.He always typed on a typewriter, but he's confirmed in the AnglicanChurch, the local England church, Saint Catherine's at the age of fourteen e.He said he was confirmed and had never even heard the word conversion anddidn't know what it meant. Then Age eightteen. He went ascholarship to Oxford University. His Dad was a clerk at the great, arailroad stage, Great West Railroad, h station and us we got a free ticketarrives on campus. Basically one suitcase in hand he. He says he wasawkward shy. He was an odd ball H, but he gets there and three weeks later tomake a long story short. He was converted Um. He listens to an old Anglican clergymember, given ofvangelistic address kind of unimpressed with it, but theguy started to talk about his own camp experience. Growing up and what Jesusmeant to him and packers listening thinking do I really know Christ and atthe end of this address they sing. Just as I am and t e packer gave his life tocraze. He said you know, I I came into the church, an unbeliever and I walkedout knowing Jesus Christ, and I was a Christian that the next big thing that happens atOxford is that another Anglican clergyman, it's interesting. How thesekind of older, Inglican men have an impact in packers story, donates his Old Library of sixteenseventeenth century books to the Oxford Interclea Christian Union there oncampus, and they know that packers, this C intellectual bookworm, they sayhey. You want to go sort through all of that and help us out backer. Does it and hiseyes come across of the works of John Owen. The volumes were uncut, meaningnobody had ever actually opened them. Packard notices the volume onsin and ontemptation, cuts them. OPAND starts to read and basically is, is never thesame again. He' he'd been caught up in a higher life. Theology kind of a deficient view ofsanctification was struggling with his...

...own sin, an dwelling sin and just feelslike that that ended up changing his life. It changed the direction of histheology of his spirituality e, went on to do a doctorate at Oxford on RichardBaxter, who was a contemporary of Owen and really thought of himself a sort ofa latder day. Purintan like a man born out of place, and if you have read hiswritings, if you've ever seen, him speak, it is like a man coming out ofanother century. Um ended up riding his first book at theage of thirty. One. Fundamentalism in quotes an the word of God, the Erbbenspublished on e woicter yeah. It was. It was a piece for its a trackfor its times, and yet you can still read it quite profitably and you can't say that a lot, a lot ofbooks written in htn nineteen fifties that were seeking to be contemporary,but packers always trying to to speak to the modern issues, but drawing fromthe wisdom of the past, which I think gives his books a real timeless quality.To them married ket muleds, who is a Welshwoman, they adopted three H: Children Together, interesting story about knowing God,which of course is his most famous book m. A woman asked him in the nineteensixties if he would do a series of articles for this by monthlyEvangelical magazine. That was the name of the EVEGYLICA magazine, just n, theChristian life and what it means to know God and he kntook that sassignment and what would become a chapter as just an article at a time, and then he approached Ivp over in theUK and said May would you be interested in in doing this as a book? It took himlike five years to write it B'cause. He was just doing a chapter every othermonth and they said that they really wanted a book on the charismatic issuein Great Britain. They wanted him to do that first and wouldn't accept a bookon any other topic, so he said Moka and went over to hotter nd statten and theypubliched it. So ivp, U K, I'm sure, Rus. That decision to the a theUniversity Presse in Downers Grove ended up picking up in in nineteenseventy three. So the? U S, versioned, that we've all read and benefited fromUm comes from that timebarry back in the earlyseventies. So did he was that keeping Sep with aspirit then that he did write. Then the charismatic or thet emlater hat endedup being his contribution later Yaoa little known fact that H, when, when I was at East Lancing, and it's not that littleknown but ker cousins for a time, went to our church and there war someconnections in football people, and so I met with him for a year or two and weread some books, thegether and I read through knowing God with ker cousins so and Hevites te Rancesman, cyeah yeah.I remember reading through that book...

...with him. Actually I wasn't at thepizza ranch. I was at the Pizza House and eats East lancing and just to tellyou about the NCAA, he he was very particular and he said you really'cause. You know I'm taking out a college student, so I'm going to payfor 'em and just said Y, you just you just probably shouldn't do that. Idon't even know if you should be able to give me a book. I mean it's justweird, but just you know, packer would have never known where that book wouldhave gone so Jut e, I it would have been a better story if Kirk had beensuspended for like the entire season, because you bought him Cactus, bread and yeah. He had to sit out of seasonfor reading, knowing O Overtimeo VI a bask Ernalt. Yes, sowhen did he come to? I was going to say the states, but he came to Canada Yeah.You know he was most popular in the United States, but he never dwelt inthe. U S. He came to North America, of course, N Nineteen. Seventy nine S inthe fifties. In the nineteen seventies he had been serving at tendale houseand Cambridge and Trinity College and Bristol and Ladimer House in Oxford. Henever had these kind of big prominent academic appointments, but Nineteeneventy, nine James Houston, who was an old friend of his going back to theirundergrad days at Oxford, asked him if he would consider coming over andjoining the faculty a at regint college in Vancouver Um. So there was no. Itwas not an easy decision to make, but he made that decision and never wentback to live full time in England and UH basically made me. The journey was acision just en made easier by the divisions within the oven, jocal churchin the UK at the time. I think so. I think he was ready for a change, but Ithink he also H Y- U Kn W, there's back storis to all these things and probablythings we don't even know, but I think that there was attention and rifts- and you know perhaps he wasn't gettingfully the recognition that he thought he deserved, or maybe he just wanted afresh start, but I think regent looked like an attractive option for him to beable to teach to be able to right to be able to travel Um. So there's there's astory there in a back story that I don't know all of the ends and outs ofit, and when did he leave the the Anglcan Church, the Inglican? I think it was innineteen Um. I think it was in two thousand an eightthat he was actually suspended. Rum, a Canadian Anglican Church, EANGLICAN church altogether yeah. So he was part of an EnglisAnglican dioces in Vancouver that in two thousand and eight suspended himand the Church for the gay issue, the gay way as he calledit. So that was, I think, a painful part ofhis life. We tend to think of him as an evangelical and, of course he was- andhe talked about inclichanism as being...

...him himself, an evangelical Anglicanand really stressed the evangelical part of it, but all through his storyfrom when he was being raised to his education to his associations all theway along. It's really a part part of the story that he is an AnglicanChurchman. So the fact that the Englican Church of Canida basicallygave him and his church the boot because of their biblical fidelity, isa sad part of his story. M Sad for him. I think the Lord continued to bless himand his faithfulness there, but Um yeah thet's. Something Yomangocos can kindof Skim over that. Oh Yeah. That was kind of a technical thing, but I thinkforham. It was a very personal and difficult thing n and continued towrite. Then for many years yeah he never produced his systematictheology, which he really had a heart and a dream to do a lay levelsystematic theology for Godspeople, I think the closest he came to that isthe concise theology H, which was published cross Wawas, going toactually do a hard cover version of that wherei's. It's packer a his mostbrilliant because he's basically doing a doctrine an just a page or two UM. In some ways. I think it's easier towrite a fifty page chapter on a doctrine than it is to write er one ortwo page, but he continued to write on Ryle e, especially focused in hisletter years on Catachisus or catechism. He kind of called up packers lastcrusade, really wanting the church to catechize the next generation and notjust in in terms of question answer formit, but but discipling teaching thechurch, sound doctrine and and spirituality Um. He thought of th the Evangelical Um. Sorry, the the English Standard version is his greatestcontribution to the kingdom, which, for us at Crossway, was really a humblingthing t to hear. But he thought that that was perhaps the most significantkingdom Labor that he accomplished n all of his decades of Liht y. You could.You could certainly make a good case for that wh what we talked about,knowing God, of course, his most well known book, but I'm curious for each ofyou what's after that, what what's been the most influentialbook of packers in your life and I'll jump in? Because I don't want you totake mine. I've read not not all of them, but agood deal of them, and certainly you know, after knowing God or maybe evenabove that for me is quest for godliness, the puritanbition of theChristian life, which is a series of articles and essays. He wrote that thenh put together a crossway book right, Tustin, Yep, H, yeah, the: U S version,and it just I mean it's it again. It's packer at is best, maybe a bit more...

...academic than some of his other works,but really well done well researched, of course, always well written andwithout doing descending into hagiography on the puritans that theygot everything right and they were the golden age. Just just a wonderful job.In that book of Detailing Different Aspects, n only there theology, butlife and marriage and how they thought of Christian discipleship and doing itin a way that brings to bear the best of the puritans in our lives, and isyou know, intellectually responsible and yet inspiring for the Christian?And that's what I I think Packard did so well, I mean I read that years ago, maybe early in ministry andhave gone back to it, often not Colin. What would you say is top on your Packard Book List, I'mholding up evangelism and the sovereignty of God, a remarkably clear, compelling bookthat I've found at only helpful in my own life and my writing and teaching onreformed theology. But I came out of a background that within crew always comeby had a lot of vangalistic fervor and I came up through an environment thatalso emphasized performed theology, and so I've never really had attention orI've never seen attention. Also, when you study woutd field, you studyEdwards, and you study all these folks. You don't know that there's attention,but I've found that Packar's book is the most helpful place for other peopleto be able to pick up some of the basics. I just remember a couple ofthings from it, especially his teaching on prayer that when it comes to prayerand evangelism everybody's reformed, we all pray that God would open the eyesof our loved ones and our neighbors to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, andI love the way. This is typical, packer. The way he closes of angels in theSOMEREIGNT Y have gone. He says we would not wish to say that man cannotHav angelized at all without coming to terms with this doctrine, but weventured to think that other things be equal, he will be able to evangalizebetter for believing it convicted as a reformed evangelical Anglican, but notsomebody who was adamant about dividing the church. I think some people wouldcriticize him for that when it comes evanjecls and Catholics together beginthat was packer, who was always true to sort of little bit more of ananglicinacumenical vision than some reforms. People would like, but again also. I think it shinesthrough in a really positive way in his Defensive Reform Theology andevangelism in this book right he could sign EA ECT and the statement againstEct. You thing just in wh what are one or two of yourfavorites: Did we steal them already? No, I actually have not read throughofangels Inh, the severinty of God, though I've heard of it for many years.You got to do that quick, at'll be great quest for godliness. I mean Ithink it would be the top of Mylas thereas another one that was less known.Knowing...

H was it knowing Christianity that was kind ofthree books and one basically on the Lord's prayer, the Apostles created theten commandments at Crossway we publish the North American version, and then webroke them up into three little books and they're beautiful little books, butmaybe I'll choose for my answer. Besides incise theology I'll just startlisting them all definitely do o the death of Christ.You know that that wasn't a full length book, but when I was kind of learningabout reformed sateriology in college and debating predestination, that is anintroduction to John Owen's death o death, an death of Christ, which ismore well an Owen's book itself. Nobody actually goes on and reads Oen, butthey read Packor, think hat they. They know what one Wa os, but I mean there's packer and his kindof reforms. SOTERIOLOGICAL glory with you know kindly willing to throw some punchesand to to define as terms and to say arminanism is not biblical andit does not glorify God and servationives of the Lord so reading.That is a twenty something college student that was influential and amaiden impact ot men. I really liked lesser known one rediscovering holiness,not sure. If probably the version I was reading ten years ago was republished, I'm not sure if it cameout earlier than that. But when I was doing my inferior book on holiness, Ialways tell people rejs if you're going to read one, you know rech c Ryle onholiness before you read Kevin to young but reading through packer and ofcourse he he did so much to take the best of JC Ryle and those insihts, andthey had some similar inclinations and so much of rils book onholiness wascounteracting the beginning of the the Kesik movement and higher life, whichplayed an important part in packersby biographies. So you can see why whythey would resonate there. But that was a really good book and you mentionedJustin later in life, is emphasis on catachesis and going through and championing the thebest of whether it's Lord's prayer, apostles greed, just teaching peopleand our children and new believers, the basics of our faith, an in a verysimple, yet a thoughtful way is really the legacy of JI packer and we've allbenefited from it. I wonder Colin did you we can come back to books. Iprobably I know I've forgotten a bunch of them, but Colin. I want to ask justin this, but I know he's going to have more to say than the two of us: Did youmeet Japacker? Do you have any personal daipack her stories more than yourealize Kelly d? You not remember how we would have intersected think aboutthis, your hape en thinks of Colin as amentor.

It's always really and out Christianity.Today, okay, O, when I was when I was before I went to work for Christianity.Today it was M. I mean the masttead was Timothy George Jiipacker, Thomas Oden,and now serving on the Advisor Board for base and divinity school and beingnext door and having an office there. Of course, Timothy George has been ahuge influence in my life, but then, of course it was Jan packer there, and sohe would visit at least once if not twice a year, he'd come down just andof course these were tied with your guys meetings at crossway. Usuallybecause those are I mean, the two office buildings are within a couple ofmiles of each other, and so he would come down, and this was the key Kevin.He was by himself staying in the holiday in in Carroll Stream Illinoisin case you're, wondering where it is it's it's behind the White Castle, sohe was probably filling up. One of those plastic cups of wanklbater. It'sa R canjover in the morning jumping am djustaking taking care of his ownmuffles. That's I mean to to have some like this emogelicaltitan and he's there. I MEA basically the only place you could say that wasnear the office at Christity today, and so every night though he I mean youjust have H, be there for a whole week for Christinan today, reading throughmarking, up articles, giving lectures and the whole week it was like well iscalendar is wide open for dinner. If anybody wants to take him out, you cantake him out, and Christian today will pay for it. So I did this as many times as possibleand we go to the Indian place where it was never hot enough for Jaybacker. Idon't think he had taste buds anmore, it's never hot enough. I will jump inwith one GTO wood that I saw him was in Vancouver and Idon't want to Railou Collin. So I an let you get back to your go ahead: K OThi, str Ahad, your white castle dates with O chapack. I neernom Te WhiteCastle here, go Hadhey Christian, today's paying for it. I might as welltake him to a nice place, migoget and sliders. So I I traveled up to Vancouver to seeif we could finally wrangle in this last book that he wanted to write,which is on the INGLIC inheritage, which a very place to say: crosswayisgoing to be able to publish it, Lord Willing in two thousand and twenty one,his wife read aloud to him, the the final manuscript and he made verbaledits. You know when his eyesight was unable to h ad it in person anymore,but I went up there and spent a whole day with him when we went to an Indianrestaurant, because I was told that that is his favorite food to eat andwhen the waiter said h Ou know, would you like it my lder, medium or hot, andhe said I will take it as hot as your conscience allows.

Somebody told me that when he'straveled in foreign countries they are amazed at peckers, cabar or spice. He liood like he likes his calvinist,sateriolity Ta was, I mean these just remember, I'm basically twentythree years old at the time, twenty four years old, newly married and I'vegot friends still in college or friends in ministry, so I'd invite them out andlike hey guess what we're going to dinner with Ja Packer. So one one ofour friends she's gone on she's at a degree at Oxford and apologetic she'smarried to an Anglican Pastor, now n the UK. She came to one of them anotheron of my friends who went to be a pastor up in North Dakota. He came toone of those, so it w'as just open time to ask any questions of packer and youcan imagine what kind of like formative effect that would have had on me and mywife, but then also one the one other thing that I share about him is earlyon. My first job Ot Christinia today was to help to write a book about billy,Graham, and so we interviewed packer on one of these visits and he was sittingin this little office that would later become my office t the time it wasvacant o just sitting there. You know a D, Not Gandape. The Christine todayoffice is not behind the White Castle. It's behind the colvers. Now so again mage. I Sep up step up for sure and he's just sitting there marking andwe're interviewing him, and it's like one o'clock and- and you know he just h- he keepsfalling his his C, I mean H. His head just keeps drooping and drooping anddrooping, and I keep asking questions thinking. What am I doing wrong here?This guy literally, I mean. Is there a time when Japacker has not been old,Youore, not looked old? Imagine when he was young, he looked old, but he justhe's just drooping there and then. Finally, I'm like I look at mycolleague IIS interviewing. I say I think he just fell asleep on us andthen their packer snaps up, I'm listening so o no sorry, never mind, and so justbrilliant insides, but it was fun to be able to have known him on a personallevel n to have and just nd just to see these offbeat moments where he woulddeign to spend time with these young people who didn't know any better atrandom restaurants in the suburbs of Chicago Wn. I only met in one time andthen we'll ask justin fill in much more. It was at h the ill faded, DallasBookexbo, no Berwirno reserve like a hundred thousand seens unow to come in,and there were, I mean literally doing doing, debates in symposium andcavernous halls. That would seat three thousand and there were twenty peopleto listen to me in Mark Galley talk about the Emergen church in a hunrd andin ten years Kevin it will have been...

...seats for five hundred thousand people.Just the number keeps growing tin od. I think the twenty is exaggerated. Yes,Ye there weren't, actually twenty peoplethey were fin exaggerated, yeahe Ja. Packer was there felt bad that hewas there. We all felt bad that we were there, but I was doing stuff on theemergent church and you know someone from Moody said really.You know want you to meet J, Dr Packer and I'm sure he's going Ta want to meet,to which I'm sure he didn't know who I was or wasn't that interested inmeeting me. So I went up and said a few things and I wish I could do his hisBritish accent. Well, but I said Oh, this is Kevin Young Writtin, this bookon the Emergin Church and I' never forget what he said said. Ah, yes, there are many ways in which one maydeviate from the True Path of Christian faith, and the emerchent church hascertainly found one of them d. That was about it. I just thought ifthat could have been a burb on the book. FRACE Estin did he did he read all thebooks that he blurbe? Did you ever talk to him about his thinking in blurbing,so many books, I mean very generous, but did he have a a vision, anw Yeah Yeah? I did ask himabout once at apparently he was a reformed theological seminary inOrlando at one time and and some student walked up and said,doccorpactor do you actually read those books and s? Look a him. Packard, neverresponded anything like quickly. Everything was just this slowdeliberate and so he said young men. What are you saying about my integrity? So sorry for asking that littlequestion, so I think he he said once that hewould often read the first sentence of every paragraph in a book. So in a ifyou do that, you can get the main idea. You get the argumentits more than justreading the beginning in the end of a chapter. If you get a working throughthe hole book, I think that he saw, as I asked him once actually about it, andI wish I could of course remember his exact answer, but I said something like:Was it an act in your mind of of love of generosity, for younger scholars andPastors Authors? Who didn't have your platform,but m could rely upon it or something like that, and he said no, that's notwhat I was doing so he always gave like a ten minute answer to any simplequestion, but I think you really saw as an act of love for the reader itselfand not as much as an encouragement for the author, but his whole life wasabout discypleship about nurturing people in the faith and pointing themto good resources. And you know I do think there were. There are a number ofbooks that I think, I'm not sure that I think your overly generousspirthey'rethey have been a little...

...overactive on that onner or perhaps thedevil is in some of the the middle sentences of the paragraphs elurved but yeah. I think he saw it asa way to kind of love the Church and point to good books. Just then, as we wrapped this up justyou know your time over the years and ter work in e, ESV and other projects,I mean what what was JI packer like the the man, the Christian, the the godlygiant. We like anyone had clay feet and idiosyncrasies, but as far as as I can tell you know, those clay feetwere of a very ordinary sort of variety and really was a man of some singulartalents and worth imitating. What can you just tell us about getting to knowhim as a man and a Christian over the years yeah? He really was, I think, a greatman and he did have his failings and things that we would disagree on himwith it. He he was a a beautiful soul. I I don'tmean that to sound Clochet, I I remember walking away from meetingwith him and thinking each time, I'm with this man. I want to be more likeChrist and I don't think I want to be more like Jipacker, I'm an awe of ofthis great theologian. He was humble man who had no false modesty about him. Hewas honest about the gifts that God had given him, but he he genuinely loved Christ andlove the Church and he I'm not saying anything out of school or revealing anysecrets. But he would frequently comment if asked about his biography.The every single thing tha allister, McGrath wrote in the biography was onehundred percent true, but I think he had some regret that a people miss thehuman nature of him, his the gleam in his eye, the laughter, his love, Horlife and his love for people. I think one thing that struck me such a giant of a man who kind of seems,like he's, transplanted out of the nineteen fifties and plops centurieslater has had such a a tenderness and patience with the ordinary person. Somy my job at one of the conferences was kind of be his chauffeur and to get himfrom place to place, and you know some twenty year old guy would walk up andsay: Hey Dor Packard, I wrote a book want to write a forward for it and most of us you know if we're notinclined to do so. I Wu'd say: Oh Yeah, I'd have to check my schedule or I m anhe would stop and say. Well, let me tell you some or her I mean here goesthe ten minute answer that H. It's just indicative, I think of hiskindness and his compassion is gentlemanliness, but at the root of itall. I think he was a man enamored by the beauty of Christ and never reallygot over the fact that he was a sinner...

...saved by grace. So what a privilege toHav tribute know H, yeah, and what what a legacy to have your your singularliterary achievement. There are many, but that will be remembered, knowingGod thoug many will be remembered, but you know to have that as your legacy inwriting that you helped people know more about God. His attributes, his character, theworks of Salvation History of redemption is is rich, and that book is,I mean that that's one of the few books of our lifetime. I guess that was rightbefore we were born by a few years, but that I really think people will bereading a hundred years from now. It's is that rich diblical, simple, yetprofound, and we we give thanks to God, for that furthother works and for lifeand Ministry of Dor Dibacker.

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