T-Shirt Theologians 1 | What would Packer do?

I remember back in college when I used t-shirts to express my opinions on something (like my ‘Serve The People!’ or ‘Punk’s Not Dead!’ shirts) or to immortalize people whom I admire (like my Che Guevarra, or Sid Vicious shirts).

This shirt is an attempt to immortalize those who are at present instrumental in my formation spiritually as well as theologically, and I would like to start this post series off with James Innell Packer who is better known in Evangelical Christian circles as J.I. Packer, a British-born Canadian Christian theologian in the low church Anglican and Reformed traditions.

I first encountered him and his writings for getting high scores at Sunday School exams, for which I earned his famous, book Knowing God as a prize for my high scores. In the book, Packer explores the character of God as revealed in the Scriptures, along with the proper Christian responses to it.

It is in that book that I first read the term: Hypostatic Union, which is the theological term that best explains the dual nature (100% God; 100%Man) of Jesus Christ. It was also in that book that I was able to finally understand the Reformed teaching of Predestination and Election, and it was that book (along with his Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God) that pointed me to George Eldon Ladd’s explanation on John Calvin’s TULIP.

To many Packer stands as a conservative theologian for his signing of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy among other things, but for me what I admire most about Packer is that in spite of his perceived conservatism is that at heart he is a committed Christian who devotes serious time and reflection on the interplay of faith and works; of doctrine and practice. Such devotion to faith and practice may also be the reason for his endorsement of Benedict Groeschel's Arise from Darkness.

Among other things is the fact that --like John Stott (who I will also devote a t-shirt and post to), he never advocated separation from what is seen in Evangelical Christianity as liberalism in mainline denominations like his Anglican denomination. In fact, he was among the few conservative theologians who I look up to for their commitment to ecumenism –that is ecumenism which believes that unity should not come at the expense of abandoning Christian orthodoxy, his endorsement of the book Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission is among one of the many things that helped me in getting over the Evangelical “we're in/you're out” mentality which is still prevalent among non-denominational born again churches such as the one that I am attending now.

Lastly I admire Packer for his commitment to critically engage with Scripture and the contemporary. His defense of complementarian gender roles (which I do not totally agree to) as well as his endorsement for Denis Alexander’s 'Creation or Evolution: Do We have to Choose?' not to mention his well-informed pronouncement that cleared Tony Campolo's book A Reasonable Faith, which was unfairly deemed as a heretic book by the Campus Crusade for Christ; and his praise for premiere Anglican Bible scholar and Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright are proof that unlike John MacArthur, and his likes Packer serves as a clear example of how theologians are to engage society on its own turf.

It is for these reasons that I believe he deserves a t-shirt in his moniker.

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