Thinking Out Loud

July 21, 2020

Remembering J. I. Packer

I can’t imagine readers here not also being tuned in to Religion News Service or Christianity Today or even Facebook or Twitter; so when I learned on the weekend of the passing of J. I. Packer, I didn’t feel the urgency to add anything to what was being said.

Days later, I’ve decided silence is not appropriate either. Here is an amended version of something I wrote on Saturday for another blog.

Remembering J. I. Packer

Christians around the world are remembering the man Wikipedia describes as an “English-born Canadian theologian;” J. I. Packer. His books — numbering over 50 — have been staples in Christian bookstores for decades. But his name probably appears elsewhere on your bookshelves, as John Stackhouse noted a few years ago, “Perhaps no one in history has written more endorsements and prefaces to the books of others than Packer did.”

Packer died on Friday at age 93, just days short of turning 94. Though I never met him or heard him in person, he was always nearby. While we were at Regent College last year we frequently drove by what some called “J. I. Packer’s church, “a church on the campus that he could easily walk to.” And back in the day, as an employee for IVP Canada, I remember packing and shipping many copies of Knowing God.

Though he surprised many with his decision to move from an important role with the Church of England to settle in Vancouver, his influence continued to span the entire world.

A year ago, The Gospel Coalition ran this list of declarations he said everyone should tell themselves daily:

  1. I am a child of God.
  2. God is my Father.
  3. Heaven is my home.
  4. Every day is one day nearer.
  5. My Savior is my brother.
  6. Every Christian is my brother too.

Though he was equally comfortable with Evangelicals as with Anglicans, he did appear in Time Magazine’s list of the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals.

…Just over two years ago, we featured this lighthearted moment here:

At age 91, J. I. Packer isn’t too old to cruise the J. I. Packer section in the Regent College Bookstore, making sure his bestsellers are properly displayed! [June, 2018]

Much more information is available at this tribute at Christianity Today.

If you have a Christian library in your home or your church, you might want to peruse this list of his titles at Wikipedia.

Memorial gifts may be made to the J. I. Packer Scholarship at Regent College.


January 15, 2013

Honoring The Sport of Theology

Theologian Trading Cards - Thomas Merton

Theologian Trading CardsBaseball players have them so it was only a matter of time. I love it that a company like Zondervan is able to indulge creative types and bring a wild and crazy idea from the conceptual stage to store shelves. An idea like a box containing 288 Theologian Trading Cards. (My wife, a little more skeptical, believes they are the result of someone getting drunk at a pastors’ conference.) The ‘author’ credit for this goes to Norman Jeune III who is the Lead Hospital Chaplain for a children’s hospital in Orange, California.

This is not an “everything you always wanted to know” product. You’ll get far more info at Wikipedia. And it’s not a deck — 14 or 15 decks actually (see footnote) — of “heroes of the faith.” A great biography doesn’t automatically merit inclusion, but rather a contribution to the various branches of theology.

This is an ideal product for a graduate or current student from a Master’s program at a school of divinity, seminary or Bible college; for anyone else who wants to satisfy their inner church history nerd, or for the pastor who has everything. I’m sure publishers at other companies looked at this and asked, “Whatever were they thinking?” Still, it stands to do better than Zondervan’s direct-to-remainder “Chunky” NIV Bible.

The decks represent different streams of thought, types of approach or in some cases, eras in theological history. From the Munich Monks and Athens Metaphysicians to the St. Pius Cardinals, Geneva Sovereigns and Constantinople Hesychasts one gets a good idea where different figures from ecclesiastical history fit either into the larger time line, or doctrinal groupings. (Did you click that link? See, you’re learning stuff already!)

For the serious student, these serve as a reminder. For the uninitiated, they serve to whet the appetite for reading classic authors. For the critic, your best bet is to consider who was and wasn’t included. For the doctrinally obsessed, you can carry your Ulrich Zwingli card in your wallet or purse. For the person in your house who refuses to read an actual book, this just might work!

The problem will be finding someone else to ‘trade’ with.

A review copy of the package was sent to me from Zondervan and HarperCollins. Full disclosure: For whatever reason, I ended up receiving two copies of this. Each one was missing one of the decks, but I combined them to make up a single complete set. One also contained a duplicate of one of the decks. What is now my ‘lesser’ set was also sent minus N. T. Wright and Karl Barth and one other theologian who doesn’t come to mind right now.The box retails for $26.99 and you should make sure you have 15 different decks before you leave the store.

Cards are not shown actual size.

Theologian Trading Cards - D L Moody

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