Saturday, May 18, 2019

Book Recommendation: J.I. Packer's "A Quest for Godliness"

In A Quest for Godliness, Packer uses the theology, lifestyle, and experiences of the Puritans to show their relevance for struggling saints today. He demonstrates that these Puritans were not the cold, hardened stoics we commonly see portrayed; rather, they were warm, passionate, heroic people who had their collective gaze fixed on glorifying God.

Any time Packer writes an introduction, I prepare my mind for stretching. In this work, with measured humility, Dr. Packer opens up to us his very soul as he writes of lessons learned through years of studying the Puritans—not mere academic facts, but the stuff of real life.

After the introduction, nineteen chapters filled with food for thought are arranged into six topical sections. Each section, except the last, contains a trilogy of chapters. The whole work shows an exceptional balance of orthodoxy and orthopraxy (right belief and practice). Two chapters are worth special notice in light of today’s situation.

First, “ ‘Saved by His Precious Blood’: An introduction to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ is a classical introduction to a classic work. Owen’s incomparable essay is a classic. Many people have often gone back to its deep comforting insights to be reminded of the enormity of our sin and the price that Jesus so freely paid to secure our redemption.

Second, “John Owen on Spiritual Gifts” was a pleasant surprise. Early on in the essay, Packer gives four very erudite principles by which John Owen would have judged the so-called “Pentecostal phenomena.” Packer then paints a biblical, theological, and historical portrait of the substantive issues. We so often major on the minor points and fail to see that which is of greatest significance. May this essay help many to “seek the greater gifts.”

In the “Afterword” from Packer’s pastoral pen, he recapitulates the major emphases of the work, applying them to the modern church. There is much to glean from A Quest for Godliness. Perhaps Packer’s own words will give you the itch to investigate these things. He says, “I have compared the great Puritans to giant trees; I have implied throughout that they were saints of great stature, showing us the characteristic pigmyhood of present-day believers, at any rate in the West.”