J.I. Packer may well be the most influential evangelical theologian… well, ever. The author of more than 300 books, Packer may be best known for his 1973 work, Knowing God, a text that is still used in Bible College and Seminaries today.
Though Knowing God may be Packer’s most enduring work, his most important (and best) may well be Grounded in the Gospel.
Grounded in the Gospel sums up everything that Packer’s life work has been about, passing alongthe faith from one person to another. In fact, the subtitle—”building believer’s the old-fashioned way—tells the reader everything they need to know. Packer and co-author Parrett are going back to the future, helping the future church see how the ancient church effectively discipled. We could learn a lot!
This book is dense but rich, its pages filled with wisdom and encouragement from the heart of an elder statesman of the modern Church. When J.I. Packer encourages us to pay attention to something we have missed, we should listen.
Packer takes the reader step-by-step through the methods that the Early Church used to teach generations of ancient Christ-followers. He then helps the reader to see the power of these ideas today. In a word, Packer’s entire point may be summed up in a word: Catechism. Packer advocates for the Church’s return to intentional catechesis as a method of turning around our failing spiritual indicators.
Says Packer, “In most evangelical churches today the need for lifelong Bible study, the value of Bible study groups for everyone, the beneficial ways good books can augment one’s experiences, and the necessity of expository preaching are pretty well established. But the attention to the comparable value of catechesis—truth-in-life study, as we may fairly call it—is not appreciated; indeed, attention to doctrine is sometimes actually avoided, lest it induce contention and coldheartedness and thereby diminish devotional ardor. Here is our starting point. In the following chapters we shall seek to correct this imbalance, showing catechesis to be complementary to, and of no less value than, Bible study, expository preaching, and other formational ministries, and urging upon our readers that congregational strategy must find room for this biblically based and historically armed ministry if full spiritual health among the faithful is to be advanced. And we shall offer suggestions for implementing this insight.”
Personally, I was expecting very little from the book. I was surprised, very surprised, at how much it taught me and moved me. Nearly every page of my copy is marked up with underlining, notes, and personal thoughts.
If I could only have access to a handful of books for the rest of my life, this would be on the short list.
Yes, it’s that good.