J.I. Packer’s Legacy (In His Own Words)

Today our friends at Crossway released a wonderful little documentary: “J. I. Packer: In His Own Words.” The video release is coordinated with the release of Leland Ryken’s new biography, J. I. Packer: An Evangelical Life, one of the year’s most important books.

The documentary closes with Dr. Packer himself, in his home study, as he looks back on his life and ministry and looks forward on his legacy, in his own words.

When I look back on the productions that I have had a part in during the course of my life, The English Standard Version of the Bible, the ESV, stands out as perhaps the most valuable thing that I have ever been involved in. We didn’t have a translation that was literal in the sense that it labored all the time to be transparent to the word sequence and sentence structure of the original Hebrew and Greek so that it would get the reader as close to the original wording as any translation could.

We needed a translation that was viable for all ages and all levels of study.

We needed a translation that could be memorized relatively easily as the Bible has been memorized from other translations of the past.

We needed a Bible that would read well in the pulpit.

We needed a Bible that would be clear for the exposition from the pulpit that faithful pastors would give.

We needed a Bible that would be free from cultural bias of any sort.

We needed a translation that, as far as possible, didn’t tip its hand or its hat in the direction of any of the contemporary areas of debate. As far as possible, then, it would be transcultural. . . .

And it seems to me that we who worked on the English Standard Version had considerable success by God’s mercy at all these parts. And I should continue to see this as the most important bit of service to the Church that I have been involved in in the whole of my working life.

Then he talked about his broader legacy.

As I look back on the life that I have lived, I would like to be remembered as a voice that focused on the authority of the Bible, the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, the wonder of his substitutionary sacrifice and atonement for our sins. I would like to be remembered as a voice calling Christian people to holiness and challenging lapses in Christian moral standards. I should like to be remembered as someone who was always courteous in controversy, but without compromise.

I ask you to thank God with me for the way that he has led me and I wish, hope, pray that you will enjoy the same clear leading from him and the same help in doing the tasks that he sets you that I have enjoyed. And if your joy matches my joy as we continue in our Christian lives, well, you will be blessed indeed.

Amen! It’s impossible not to be filled with gratitude at God’s leading of Dr. Packer.

Here’s the entire 18-minute documentary:

Pilgrim’s Progress


In an interview back in the summer of 2003, J.I. Packer praised Puritan literature, a massive and intimidating body of work. So where should an inquiring reader start? Here’s an excerpt from his answer, as published in Reformation and Revival 13/4 (2004), page 170:

Q: Where would you advise a person to go to begin to understand the Puritans?

JIP: There is indeed a lot of material, but the Puritans were a single school of thought and an extraordinarily homogeneous one. For years now I have been telling people that if they want to start exploring Puritan wisdom they must read Pilgrim’s Progress. (I am quite emphatic about this!) What you have in Pilgrim’s Progress is a kind of pictorial index to all the topics relating to the Christian life that the Puritans thought about, preached about, and wrote about. All the perplexities, all the temptations, all the forms of opposition, all the encouragements, all the ups and downs of Christian living, the trials in the form of depression and the trials in the form of overconfidence, and the ways that Satan arranges to test Christians who are overconfident are all there, these pictured in a beautifully vivid form.

Q: But people will say, “Pilgrim’s Progress is just a children’s book.”

JIP: They will say it, and they will be wrong.

Haha! Classic Packer. You can download and read PP free in a fresh edition edited by my colleague Jonathan Parnell, here.

Packer: “As I grow old, I want to tell everyone…”

J.I. Packer, who turns 85-years-old today, wrote these words:

An evangelical theologian, dying, cabled a colleague: “I am so thankful for the active obedience (righteousness) of Christ. No hope without it.” As I grow old, I want to tell everyone who will listen: “I am so thankful for the penal substitutionary death of Christ. No hope without it.”