Archives For J.I. Packer

The young John Frame teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia

Dr. John M. Frame has distinguished himself as a prolific author and one of America’s foremost theologians and philosophers—significantly shaping the thought of Evangelicalism today. Many of today’s most influential Christian leaders and authors, like Tim Keller and John Piper, readily acknowledge the significant impact John Frame has had on them.

“I should like to think that tomorrow’s Reformed leaders will add John Frame’s name to that list; I believe they should.” – J. I. Packer

Commenting on the continuation of protestant reformation theology since the time of Martin Luther and John Calvin, J. I. Packer writes in his foreword to Frame’s Systematic Theology:

“Three parts of the world have since made major contributions to the Reformed heritage, each engendering its own conflicts and loyalties:

  • England saw the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Puritan development, from William Perkins to John Owen, exploring life in Christ in and through the Holy Spirit;
  • nineteenth-century Holland produced the Kuyperian theology of human and Christian culture within a Reformed frame; 
  • and the twentieth-century witnessed, within the conservative Presbyterian world, the ongoing quest for Reformed methodological authenticity, in which B. B, Warfield, Geerhardus Vos, J. Gresham Machen, and Cornelius Van Til are, by common consent, the leading names.

I should like to think that tomorrow’s Reformed leaders will add John Frame’s name to that list; I believe they should.”

After 49 years of distinguished service as a seminary professor at three seminaries, Dr. John Frame retired in 2017. But his influential writing ministry continues today. Although widely known and deeply respected in church leadership and academic circles for decades, his works are now, finally, becoming well known to the general public.

Framing John Frame: 4 Parts

With the goal of helping introduce Frame and his writings more widely to the general public, Childers wrote this four-part series below called “Framing John Frame,” that was later published as the foreword for the book, John Frame’s Selected Shorter Writings, Volume 1, by P&R Publishing. The goal of this series is to help more people begin mining the rich theological, philosophical, and practical gems that have for too long been mostly in the hands of academics and church leaders.


The Applied Theology Project

Since 2016, John Frame and Steve Childers have been collaboration on the Applied Theology Project. The mission of the Applied Theology Project is to provide accessible, affordable, seminary-level courses to underserved church leaders in their language and adapted to their culture wherever they live and serve.

The vision for the Applied Theology Project is to use the latest advances in educational technology to help bring all the loci of Systematic Theology to the millions of church leaders, especially in the developing world, who have no access or cannot afford high quality traditional seminary education. – John Frame

Childers and Frame have published their first two online courses with parallel ebooks, called Foundations of Theology and Essentials in Theology – on the Pathway Learning online library of courses. And they’ve completed writing the manuscripts for the next 3 courses and books – including “Perspectives in Theology” now in production.


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Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 8.51.50 AMThis is a guest post by my friend, Sam Storms, on Crossway blog.

Today is J. I. Packer’s 90th birthday. Longevity in life and ministry is often taken for granted in our day. We quickly forget that Thomas Aquinas died at the age of 49. Both John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards were 54 when they entered the presence of Jesus. Charles Spurgeon died much too soon at the age of 57. Martin Luther outlived them all, passing away at the age of 62. The church of Jesus Christ should pause and thank God for sustaining Packer’s remarkable life for as long as he has.

As I reflect on who J. I. Packer is and what he has meant to me personally, several things come quickly to mind.

First, few theologians are as thoroughly and pervasively Christo-centric as Packer. When I was writing my book, Packer on the Christian Life, I was repeatedly and pleasantly surprised by the way in which all exegesis, theological reflection, and pastoral application were grounded in the truth of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. It was the odd page in Packer’s writings that didn’t include a hymn of praise or a prayer of adoration focused on the person of Jesus.

Second, although I’m profoundly grateful for all his writings, I want to especially highlight a short introduction he wrote to John Owen’s, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. Packer openly acknowledges that no one in church history exerted a greater or more formative influence on the shape of his soul and the content of his theology than did Owen. Many of us who joyfully identify with the Reformed theology that Packer has so faithfully defended can point to our reading of his Introductory Essay as a decisive factor in persuading us of the truth of particular redemption or definite atonement. For those who are struggling to grasp the meaning and extent of Christ’s death, I can do no better than direct you to Packer’s essay.

It was the odd page in Packer’s writings that didn’t include a hymn of praise or a prayer of adoration focused on the person of Jesus.

Third, the evangelical world as a whole is deeply indebted to Packer’s relentless, yet loving, articulation of the truth of biblical inerrancy. When people on both sides of the Atlantic have argued that the notion of an inerrant biblical text is indefensible and out of touch with the discoveries of contemporary biblical criticism, Packer has held his ground. And he has done it with remarkable intellectual integrity, clarity, and in my opinion, persuasiveness. I’ve always been impressed with one statement in this regard, taken from his book, Truth and Power: “Authority,” he insists, “belongs to truth and truth only. . . . I can make no sense—no reverent sense, anyway—of the idea, sometimes met, that God speaks his truth to us in and through false statements by biblical writers.” [1] I thank God today for J. I. Packer’s immovable commitment to the truth of an inerrant Bible.

Fourth, I can honestly say that I’ve learned more from J. I. Packer about the nature of progressive sanctification through the power of the Holy Spirit than from any other individual in Christian history. Of course, Packer would confess that he himself has learned from the giants of the Christian faith, most notably Baxter, Bunyan, Calvin, Owen, and Edwards. But in a way that goes beyond each of these heroes of the faith, Packer puts the dynamics of spiritual transformation in a language that is accessible to believers of all ages. The clarity, conviction, and practical value with which he describes Christian living is, in my opinion, unparalleled in the history of the church.

Of course, Packer would confess that he himself has learned from the giants of the Christian faith, most notably Baxter, Bunyan, Calvin, Owen, and Edwards.

Fifth, and finally, I want to draw attention to J. I. Packer as the consummate Christian gentleman. By this I have in mind the admirable and humble way in which he has conducted himself in numerous controversies, many of which resulted in unjustified assaults on his character. One need not agree with Packer on every issue to recognize that he has modeled for us the way one maintains a godly and principled position on disputed topics. Be it his involvement with Evangelicals and Catholics Together, his disagreements with Martyn Lloyd-Jones on church unity, or his unwavering opposition to so-called same-sex marriage, Packer has consistently displayed a unique blend, without compromise, of both immovable theological conviction, on the one hand, and the meekness and gentleness of Jesus Christ, on the other.

So, on this your 90th birthday, I say to you, “Jim”, thanks! May God richly bless and empower and extend your life as you seek to honor the Lord Jesus Christ in every way.

Notes:
[1] J. I. Packer, Truth & Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1999), 37.


Sam Storms (PhD, University of Texas at Dallas) has spent more than four decades in ministry as a pastor, professor, and the author of more than two dozen books. He was visiting associate professor of theology at Wheaton College from 2000 to 2004, and is currently senior pastor at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He is the founder of Enjoying God Ministries and the author of numerous books, including Packer on the Christian Life: Knowing God in Christ, Walking by the Spirit.






by Steve Childers

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Calvinists have a reputation for sometimes being angry and argumentative regarding Christian doctrine. Granted most Calvinists are not angry. Why does it seem that there are a disproportionate number of cranky Calvinists? Some say it’s because Calvinism is a system of thought that appeals to left-brain types who like to debate ideas. Others say Calvinism is just so biblical and beautiful that it naturally causes people to feel spiritually superior.

The root problem with angry Calvinists does not lie with their learning but with their hearts. In his commentary on 1 Corinthians 8:1 (“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”) Calvin wrote:

“Paul did not mean, that this (being puffed up, i.e. arrogant) is to be reckoned as a fault attributable to learning—that those who are learned are often self-complacent, and have admiration of themselves, accompanied with contempt of others. Nor did he understand this to be the natural tendency of learning—to produce arrogance, but simply meant to show what effect knowledge has in an individual, that has not the fear of God, and love of the brethren; for the wicked abuse all the gifts of God, so as to exalt themselves.” (emphasis mine) ((Calvin’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians))

Calvin’s point here is that the gift of biblical learning, like all gifts from God, can be abused in such a way that results in arrogance and contempt “through a mistaken confidence in these things.” When that happens you must learn not to blame the learning but the learner. Calvin wrote:

“If riches naturally tend to make men proud, then a rich man, if proud, is free from blame, for the evil arises from riches… At the same time, knowledge is not by any means to be blamed for this (arrogance), any more than a sword, if it falls into the hands of a madman.” ((ibid))

In the introduction to his contemporary classic Knowing God, Calvinist theologian and author J.I. Packer reminds us that people can know a lot about God and godliness, but still not know God. Those who are proud of their deep theological knowledge are, ironically, showing the depth of their theological ignorance. Calvin put it this way:

“And truly, where there is not that thorough knowledge of God which humbles us, and teaches us to do good to the brethren, it is not so much knowledge, as an empty notion of it, even in those that are reckoned the most learned.” ((ibid))

But those who are prone to view with contempt people who deeply value theological knowledge (including those angry with the angry Calvinists) must be aware of their own arrogance. Calvin responded to people on this end of the theological spectrum with an old proverb: “There is nothing so arrogant as ignorance.” There is also nothing more practical than sound theology.

We must all be on our guard against the arrogance of both knowledge of doctrine and ignorance of doctrine. And we must learn what it means to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things” (Titus 2:10). Calvin wrote, “This ought to be a very sharp spur of exhortation to us, when we learn that our becoming conduct adorns the doctrine of God, which, at the same time, is a mirror of his glory.” ((Calvin’s Commentary on Titus))

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