The Bible calls us to honour those to whom honour is due (Rom 13:7), and J.I. Packer surely deserves such honour richly. Over his 68 years in ordained ministry, he has had an enormous impact for the gospel through his preaching and teaching, but perhaps most especially through his writing. N.T. Wright, Senior Research Fellow at Wycliffe Hall, captures it well in his tribute published in Christianity Today.
In the 1960s, three men set an example of robustly intelligent evangelicalism: John Stott, Michael Green, and Jim Packer. Widely discounted by the liberal establishment, they carved out space for my generation to develop in new ways. Jim, the intellectual giant of the three, encouraged me from our first meeting in 1969 to my final one 50 years later. I thank God for his friendship, his courage, his intellectual rigour, his prayerfulness, his gentle humour, and above all, his love of the Lord and of Scripture.
(‘From N.T. Wright to J.D. Greear: How J.I. Packer Shaped My Faith and Work’, 21 July 2020)
James Innell Packer came to Wycliffe Hall in 1949 and finished his doctorate in Oxford in 1955. After his curacy at St John’s Harborne, most of his ministry was in theological education, giving him opportunities to do research, to write, and to teach internationally, making him one of the most influential alumni of the Hall. Wycliffe gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 for his significant role in bringing the message of the Bible to the wider world. It was a great privilege for me to work with him on two projects during my eleven years in the USA, where I saw first-hand his love for the Lord, and his passion for clear thinking about the Christian faith. He worked with extraordinary carefulness. One of his publishers told me that J.I. Packer was the only author for whom, when he submitted a manuscript, editing was not required.
No John Stott, no Michael Green, and now no Jim Packer. For those of us in the evangelical world, it is hard to suppress a feeling of being orphaned. J.I. Packer won’t be around to respond to the next theological crisis, or to promote Christian catechism, or to encourage evangelical scholarship. We won’t see his name on the foreword to any more books.
It is understandable if we grieve at the death of J.I. Packer. But, as he would be the first to point out, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. In every important sense, nothing has changed. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, and the truths for which J.I. Packer contended remain unshaken. Thanks be to God for Jim Packer, and praise be to God for our saviour, Jesus Christ, to whom he always pointed.
Rev Dr Justyn Terry, Vice-Principal