He wrote over forty books on the Christian life and taught theology to thousands of students.
For many reasons, this believer is considered one of the most influential theologians of our time.
Now, he’s home with the Lord, and his friends are sharing the reasons why everyone should read his work.
“Having just heard about the home going of J.I. Packer, I am filled with mixed emotions: joy for him, sadness for us,” said Michael Horton, a professor of systematic theology at California’s Westminster Seminary.
“I first met him when I was about 15. I can’t calculate how much I owe to him, not only his teaching and writing but his godly example.”
Packer shared Christ with so many throughout his lifetime, but in the beginning, he himself was influenced by some of the greatest thinkers and writers of the 20th century.
Packer was born in England in 1926. As the son of a railway clerk, Packer wasn’t always interested in theology and Christianity.
But his life changed when he won a scholarship to Oxford University. At Oxford, Packer encountered C.S. Lewis—the famed Christian author and philosopher—who quickly influenced his life and thinking.
It was at Oxford that Packer committed his life to the service of God. He realized that God was calling him to full-time ministry, and he was ready to jump right in!
After graduating from Oxford, Packer studied theology at Wycliffe Hall and pursued ordination in the Anglican church in England.
It wasn’t long before he became a recognized leader in the Church of England’s Evangelical movement, arguing for scriptural inerrancy and other conservative ideals.
But Packer was also sensitive to the voice of God, and when he felt called to move his ministry to Canada, he didn’t hesitate.
In 1979, Packer accepted a teaching position at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. He served in this position for nearly four decades, finally retiring in 2016 due to his failing eyesight.
As a professor, Packer often told his students, “Theology, friends, is doxology.”
That one statement sums up much of Packer’s life, work, and position toward God. He firmly believed that knowing God leads to true worship—an idea echoed in one of his most popular books, Knowing God (written in 1973).
“It was reading J.I. Packer’s book, Knowing God…[that] made a decisive difference in my life,” reflected Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, CA.
“For the first time, I had someone talk to me about what it meant to know God—to recast the Christian devotional life…as not only knowing about God but knowing God.”
Many others would echo Mohler’s sentiments, saying that Packer’s teachings and writings influenced their understanding of the Christian life and their personal relationships with God.
It’s no wonder that Packer has been called one of the most influential theologians of the modern era!
Over forty other books address various subjects surrounding the Christian life, such as church history, the sovereignty of God, prayer, and the universality of the church.
“[Packer’s] writing was an extension of his Christian and evangelical identity…viewing the writing and publishing of articles as a ministry rather than as a scholarly [pursuit] never ceased to be Packer’s model,” commented Leland Ryken, a biographer.
“Packer [was] an absolute genius…[and] an extremely prolific author.”
In addition to writing dozens of books (some say as many as one hundred and sixty-five!) and untold numbers of essays, Packer also served as the general editor for the much-beloved English Standard Version of the Bible.
Packer was working hard and sharing Christ until the very end, refusing to slow down even in his old age.
Packer passed away peacefully on July 17, 2020, just five days before his 94th birthday. He’s in the presence of his Savior now, Who is undoubtedly telling him, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”
Packer is survived by his wife, Kit, their three children—Ruth, Naomi, and Martin—and two grandsons.
Praise God for Packer’s life and ministry! He was a staunch defender of true theology, and his relationship with Christ serves as an example to all Christians.
And it’s not too late to glean wisdom from his legacy! Read some of Packer’s most beloved books today.