Book Review: "Fundamentalism" and the Word of God


There are certain books that have a very short shelf-life, either because they’re highly topical or they make pop-culture references that no one will get in 15 minutes.

This is not one of those books.

“Fundamentalism” and the Word of God was first published 51 years in the midst of the British “Fundamentalism” controversy of the 1950s—a controversy centering around the authority of Scripture.

At roughly the mid-point of the 20th century, Theological Liberalism gave way to the “Biblical Theology” movement. Rather than completely shuffling off historic faith, “biblical theologians” sought to get to the heart of what the authors intended; to “read the Bible from within,” as it were. A noble goal to be sure.

However, their approach was to study the Bible as an unbeliever so as not to presuppose certain assumptions regarding faith, including disregarding the Bible’s internal witness as the divine revelation of God. The result was that essentially everything was up for grabs.

The validity of the virgin birth, the resurrection, Christ’s divinity, the nature and necessity of the atonement, the Bible’s divine inspiration… Any and all were up for consideration in the name of “biblical criticism.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? [Read more…]

J.I. Packer: A Fallacious View of Providence


The twin suppositions which liberal critics make—that, on the one hand, divine control of the writers would exclude the free exercise of their natural powers, while on the other hand, divine accommodation to the free exercise of their natural powers would exclude complete control of what they wrote—are really two forms of the same mistake.

They are two ways of denying that the Bible can be both a fully human and fully divine composition. And this denial rest (as all errors in theology ultimately do) on a false doctrine of God; here particularly, of His providence. For it assumes that God and man stand in such a relation to each other that they cannot both be free agents in the same action. If man acts freely (i.e., voluntarily and spontaneously), God does not, and vice versa. The two freedoms are mutually exclusive.

But the affinities of this idea are with Deism, not Christian Theism. It is Deism which depicts God as the passive onlooker rather than the active governor of His world, and which assures us that the guarantee of human freedom lies in the fact that men’s actions are not under God’s control. But the Bible teaches rather that the freedom of God, who works in and through His creatures, leading them to act according to their nature, is itself the foundation and guarantee of the freedom of  their action.

It is therefore a great mistake to think that the freedom of the biblical writers can be vindicated only by denying full divine control over them; and the prevalence of this mistake should be ascribed to the insidious substitution of deistic for theistic ideas about God’s relation to the world which as been, perhaps the most damaging effect of modern science on theology.

When the critics of Evangelicalism take it for granted that Evangelicals, since they believe in complete control, must hold the ‘dictation’ theory, while they themselves, since they recognize accommodation, are bound to hold that in Scripture false and misleading words of men are mixed up with the pure word of God, they merely show how unbiblical their idea of providence ahs become.

The cure for such fallacious reasonings is to grasp the biblical idea of God’s concursive operation in, with and through the free working of man’s own mind.

J.I. Packer, “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God, pp. 81-82

J.I. Packer: What is a Christian?


What is a Christian? Christians can be described from many angles, but… it is clear that we can cover everything by saying: True Christians are people who acknowledge and live under the word of God. They submit without reserve to the word of God written in “the Book of Truth” (Dan 10:21), believing the teaching, trusting the promises, following the commands. Their eyes are upon the God of the Bible as their Father and the Christ of the Bible as their Savior.

Christians will tell you, if you ask them, that the Word of God has both convinced them of sin and assured them of forgiveness. Their consciences, like Luther’s, are captive to the Word of God, and they aspire like the psalmist, to have their whole lives brought into line with it. “Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!” “Do not let me stray from your commands.” “Teach me your decrees. Let me understand the teaching of your precepts.” “Turn my heart toward your statutes.” “May my heart be blameless toward your decrees” (Ps 119:5, 10, 26-27, 36, 80). The promises are before them as they pray, and the precepts are before them as they go about their daily tasks.

Christians know that in addition to the word of God spoken directly to them in the Scriptures, God’s word as also gone forth to create, and control, and order things around them; but since the Scriptures tell them that all things work together for their good, the thought of God’s ordering their circumstances brings them only joy. Christians are independent folks, for they use the Word of God as a touchstone by which to treat the various views that are put to them, and they will not touch anything which they are not sure that Scripture sanctions.

Why does this description fit so few of us who profess to be Christians in these days? You will find it profitable to ask your conscience, and let it tell you.

J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 116

J.I. Packer: The Evangelical View of Scripture


The crucial issue which underlies the “Fundamentalism” controversy thus concerns the attitude in which Christians should approach Scripture, and the use which they should make of it. Evangelicals seek to approach and use it as it demands that men should; that is, they seek to think and live in accordance with its authoritative teaching. Accordingly, they hold that view of the nature and interpretation of Scripture which they believe to be the Bible’s own; and they reject views which they believe to be contrary to it. They reject… the supposition that Scripture errs; for Scripture claims not to err. They reject all methods of biblical criticism which assume about Scripture something other than Scripture assumes about itself. They reject all approaches to Scripture which would not permit it to function in the Church as a final authority. They will not become subjectivists to order. They regard as mistaken those who believe themselves to acknowledge the authority of the Bible while adopting principles of biblical criticism which Scripture repudiates. They reject as misguided all attempts to wield different theological traditions together without seeking to reform them by the Bible. And they do not believe that agreement is possible in this present controversy till both sides have shown the reality of their acceptance of the Lordship of Christ by adopting the biblical interpretation of the principle of biblical authority, and the method of theological procedure which the Bible itself requires.

J.I. Packer, “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God, p 74

J.I. Packer: Our Repentance Has to Be Enlarged


We need to realize that while God’s acceptance of each Christian believer is perfect from the start, our repentance always needs to be extended further as long as we are in this world.  Repentance means turning from as much as you know of your sin to give as much as you know of yourself to as much as you know of your God, and as our knowledge grows at these three points so our practice of repentance has to be enlarged.

J.I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God, 87.

HT: Timmy Brister

Sunday Shorts (08/16)

Read the Gospels: JC is not PC

John MacArthur provided a brilliant editorial in the Washington Post this week abuot Jesus. Here’s the opening:

Let’s be brutally honest: most of Jesus’ teaching is completely out of sync with the mores that dominate our culture.

I’m talking, of course, about the Jesus we encounter in Scripture, not the always-gentle, never-stern, über-lenient coloring-book character who exists only in the popular imagination. The real Jesus was no domesticated clergyman with a starched collar and genteel manners; he was a bold, uncompromising Prophet who regularly challenged the canons of political correctness.

Read the whole thing here. Seriously, it’s fantastic!

Two-Kingdom Theology and Neo-Kuyperians

No, it’s not the plot of a new alien invasion film, it’s a post from Kevin DeYoung’s blog about the merits and dangers of two-kingdom theology and neo-Kuyperianism (of course!). Here’s an explanatory note from Kevin’s article:

In broad strokes, the two kingdom folks believe in a kingdom of this world and a kingdom of Christ. We have a dual citizenship as Christians. Further, the realm of nature should not be expected to function and look like the realm of grace. Living in the tension of two kingdoms we should stop trying to transform the culture of this world into the kingdom of our Lord and instead focus on the church being the church, led by it duly ordained officers and ministering through the ordinary means of grace.

On the other hand, neo-Kupyerianism (intellectual descendants of the Dutch theologian and politician Abraham Kuyper) argue that every square inch of this world belongs to Christ. Therefore, his Lordship should be felt and manifested in politics, in the arts, in education, in short, everywhere. Because the work of Christ was not just to save sinners but also to renew the whole cosmos, we should be at work to change the world and transform the culture.

There’s some extremely interesting points made in the article, so do read the whole thing, but I found this point particularly helpful:

Perhaps there is a–I can’t believe I’m going to say it–a middle ground. I say, let’s not lose the heart of the gospel, divine self-satisfaction through self-substitution. And let’s not apologize for challenging Christians to show this same kind of dying love to others. Let’s not be embarrassed by the doctrine of hell and the necessity of repentance and regeneration. And let’s not be afraid to do good to all people, especially to the household of faith. Let’s work against the injustices and suffering in our day, and let’s be realistic that the poor, as Jesus said, will always be among us. Bottom line: let’s work for change where God calls us and gifts us, but let’s not forget that the Great Commission is go into the world and make disciples, not go into the world and build the kingdom.

Alright, go read the article at Kevin’s blog. And when you’re done, you can read a response article from the fine folks at White Horse Inn.

Out of the Archives: Keeping the 10 Commandments

Keeping the 10 CommandmentsJ.I. Packer is one of modern Christianity’s greatest minds—the author of countless books, including Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, Growing in Christ, and arguably his best-known work, Knowing God. There are few men who are more influential theologically on Evangelical Christianity than Packer. So when I saw Keeping the 10 Commandments at the bookstore, I had a hunch it would be a worthwhile read.

Sufficed to say, I was not disappointed.

By many, the 10 Commandments are seen as irrelevant; as “rules” that prevent us from having any fun. In this short work, an excerpt from Growing in Christ, Packer shows us that these commandments are not rules to be followed; they are commands to be lived to bring us joy…

Read the rest of this review.

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Book Review: What’s He Really Thinking? A book that does the unthinkable: Encourages women to embrace men for being men.

Up the (Willow) Creek: Tim Keller Reflecting on Tim Keller’s session at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, Leading People to the Prodigal God

Up the (Willow) Creek: Harvey Carey Harvey Carey wants the church to do more than sit on the sidelines. He wants it to get into the game.

JI Packer Speaks to New Christians

JI Packer provides some helpful advice to new Christians at the Christian Book Expo in Dallas Texas:

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more about “JI Packer Speaks to New Christians“, posted with vodpod



HT: Mike Anderson/The Resurgence, Justin Taylor