J. I. Packer on our response to Scripture


18 Words

This morning I was reading the introduction to J. I. Packer’s book, 18 words. I thought this paragraph worth sharing:

“In form, as I think we all know, Scripture is historical witness to God’s work of redemption which climaxed initially in the incarnation, immolation, resurrection and exaltation fo the Son of God, who is Jesus, and which will climax finally in the eucatastrophe (to borrow Tolkein’s recondite but happy word) of Jesus’ return in shattering glory to make all things perfectly new. Viewed from this standpoint (as viet it we must, else we shall misunderstand it) Scripture is often written off as odd and remote, because its message does not square with what modern man thinks he knows. But in its essential nature, which unhappily not all seem to appreciate, Scripture is quite simply God communicating, God talking, God teaching, God preaching: God telling you – yes, you, with me an all other Bible-readers and Bible-hearers everytwhere – things about Himself which call here and now for faith, worship and obedience; prayer, praise and practice; devoting, denying and disiplining ourselves in order to serve God; in short, our complete conversion and our total commitment.” – J. I. Packer in 18 Words, The Most Important Words You Will Ever Know

This reminds me that the goal of reading Scripture is not the gathering of knowledge for its own sake. The goal of theology should not be understanding for its own sake.

The proper goal of theological study is to better understand God and better understand our proper response to who he is. The proper goal of theological study must be found in the context of relationship.

I have met men who are meticulous in their theological understanding who have left me with the impression that an afternoon spent in dialogue with them would be like a spiritual root canal. I might perhaps gain by the interaction, but I certainly would not enjoy it.

But I have met others, J. I. Packer being one of them, who have demonstrated that good theology leads to good living. Men in this category give me the impression that time spent with them would be profitable and enjoyable.

Any activity that we choose to pursue, theological or otherwise, should move us toward God and toward fulfillment of the two great commands. Either I am becoming more loving of God and my fellow man, or I am becoming less loving.

The difference between the men to whom I am drawn versus those whom I would like to avoid can be assessed with this question, Can I better learn to love God and love my neighbor as a result of interacting with his person?