Take Up and Read: Knowing God

200368376-001-1024x689I am writing this ongoing blog series on Reflections to encourage Christians to read more vigorously and enrich their lives with Christian classics in such fields as theology, philosophy, and apologetics. Hopefully, a brief introduction to these important Christian texts will motivate today’s believers to, as St. Augustine was called in his dramatic conversion to Christianity, “take up and read” (Latin: Tolle lege) these excellent books.

This week’s book, Knowing God by evangelical Protestant theologian J. I. Packer, is a contemporary classic of Christian doctrine. Widely considered one of the most important evangelical theological works of the twentieth century, Packer’s magnum opus (greatest work) has sold more than one million copies in North America alone.

Why Is This Author Notable?

James Innell (better known as J. I.) Packer was born in 1926 in England. He was educated at Oxford University where he studied under C. S. Lewis. Packer is a latter-day Puritan in the Reformed or Calvinistic tradition of the conservative side of the Anglican Church. He has taught for many years and currently serves as Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. Packer is considered one of the most important evangelical theologians of the second half of the twentieth century.

What Is This Book About?

Originally written as a series of articles for a magazine, Knowing God was first published as a book in 1973 and has become a standard evangelical work of doctrine and theology. Consisting of 22 chapters and divided into three parts, the work explores the knowledge and attributes of God and the enjoyment that Christians derive from knowing him intimately.

Part 1 is entitled “Know the Lord” and explains just how and why the believer knows the triune God of historic Christianity who is revealed in the incarnate person of Jesus Christ. Part 2 is titled “Behold Your God” and unpacks many of God’s attributes, such as his majesty, wisdom, goodness, and justice. Part 3 carries the title “If God Be for Us” and reveals the joy of knowing God in personal relationship through Christ.

Packer’s book takes doctrine and devotion seriously as he provides practical guidance to the reader both as a theologian and as a pastor. This influential book provides evidence that reading theology can be inspirational and enjoyable. Packer is well-known for saying that the believer should “turn theology into doxology.”1 In other words, the believer in Christ should turn the study of God into the praise of God.

In Knowing God, Packer warns of the dangers that can result when a person avoids the study of theology:

Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfold, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.2

Why Is This Book Worth Reading?

Knowing God is widely considered a contemporary masterpiece of evangelical theology and devotion. In 2006, Christianity Today magazine ranked the book number five on their list of “The Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals.”3 This is a book that many Christians can read and study over and over throughout their lives.

Resources

Knowing God by J. I. Packer (book)

Endnotes

  1. John G. Stackhouse Jr., “Doctrine That Actually Delights,” Christianity Today, December 9, 2013, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/december-web-only/knowing-god-turns-40.html.
  2. “The Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals,” Christianity Today, October 6, 2006, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/october/23.51.html.
  3. Wikipedia, s.v. “Knowing God,” last modified November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowing_God.

  One thought on “Take Up and Read: Knowing God

  1. September 25, 2018 at 8:20 am

    Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.

  2. jamesbradfordpate
    September 25, 2018 at 11:48 am

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

    • September 25, 2018 at 1:39 pm

      Thanks for the reblog.

      Ken Samples

  3. October 24, 2018 at 9:28 am

    Packer asks, and I am paraphrasing here, God will give you knowledge of Himself, but the question is, what are you going to do with that knowledge? I think this is a very important question. We all know that knowledge puffs up the individual, even more so with the eternal truths found in Scripture. But we should also know that what we learn about God is about applying these principles and truths to our lives as well as helping others in Christ grow. Sadly, if you have been on Facebook in Christian groups, many who claim the name of Christ pound one another with what they think is true in Scripture. I had a guy once tell me that because I believe in a pre-trib rapture, I am going to hell. Nonetheless, there are far too many wannabe theologians on Facebook, and yet mock those who do study Theology. (Spoiler Alert: Theology means the study of God.)

    • November 3, 2018 at 7:27 pm

      Thanks for your comments.

      Ken Samples

  4. Gary
    November 3, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    “Part 1 is entitled “Know the Lord” and explains just how and why the believer knows the triune God of historic Christianity who is revealed in the incarnate person of Jesus Christ.”

    What do you mean by “know” God? Do you talk to him? Does he talk back? Or do you mean that you “understand” him?

    • November 3, 2018 at 6:07 pm

      Author J.I. Packer discusses the Christian doctrine of revelation via the Incarnation.

      Ken Samples

  5. Gary
    November 3, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    But does God reveal himself to you with objective evidence that everyone can see, or only through subjective personal experiences?

    • November 3, 2018 at 7:24 pm

      Jesus revealed himself with objective evidence that others could see. I sense God’s presence in prayer, worship, reading Scripture, conscience, and through encountering truth, goodness, and beauty. God has providentially met my needs including recovering from a life-threatening illness that my doctors found uncommon.

      Ken Samples

  6. Gary
    November 3, 2018 at 8:26 pm

    That’s very interesting, Ken.

    I’m sure you are aware that many Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and persons of other religions claim to sense THEIR God’s presence in prayer, worship, reading their holy book, their conscience, and through encountering their version of truth, goodness, and beauty. Many persons of many faiths also believe that their god has miraculously rescued them from life-threatening illnesses that doctor’s find uncommon.

    If so many people of many different religions sincerely believe in the truth of their God belief based on the same evidence upon which you base your God belief, how reliable are these methods for determining the truth on this issue?

    • November 3, 2018 at 9:37 pm

      Gary:

      I have a new book entitled God among Sages: Why Jesus Isn’t Just Another Religious Leader where I compare Jesus with Krishna, Buddha, Confucius, and Muhammad.

      Here’s just a brief outline of how Jesus differs from these religious leaders:

      1. Jesus’s life and ministry is much more anchored in history and fact.
      2. Jesus is the only one with a perfect moral character.
      3. Jesus performs historically testified miracles.
      4. Jesus illustrates the prerogatives of deity.
      5. Jesus rose from the dead.

      In my book 7 Truths that Changed the World I make the case that the Christian worldview does a much better job of plausibly explaining life and reality than does secular naturalism.

      The personal God of historic Christianity abductively best explains:

      1. The universe’s existence, beginning, fine-tuning, order, design, susceptibility to rational investigation.

      2. The existence of abstract non-physical entities (laws of logic, mathematics, universals, scientific models, etc.).

      3. The existence of universal, objective, and prescriptive moral values.

      4. Humankind’s existence, consciousness, rationality, free agency, enigmatic nature, moral and aesthetic impulse, need for meaning and purpose in life.

      5. Humankind’s spiritual nature and religious experience, the miracles of Christianity, and the unique character, claims, and credentials of Jesus Christ.

      I don’t have time now to carry on any further dialogue online. If you are a skeptic or have doubts I hope you’ll consider reading my books and reflect upon the content.

      Best regards and good night.

      Ken Samples

      PS: Here’s a link to my article A Dozen Evidences for the Resurrection of Jesus:

      https://reflectionsbyken.wordpress.com/2018/03/27/a-dozen-evidences-for-the-resurrection-of-jesus/

      • Gary
        November 3, 2018 at 10:08 pm

        But aren’t many of your “facts” about Jesus simply subjective opinion? Would the majority of historians around the world agree that:

        –Jesus life and ministry are more anchored in history and fact than the lives of Muhammad and Joseph Smith, for example? Highly doubtful. Please provide a source.

        –that it is an historical fact that Jesus had a perfect character?? Says who?

        –Although most historians might well agree that Jesus had a reputation as a healer and miracle worker, that is very different from claiming that even ONE of his alleged miracles is an attested historical fact. Not even evangelical Christian scholar Gary Habermas makes such a claim!

        –It is historical fact that Jesus exhibited prerogatives of a deity?? Would historians agree with that statement? Not even the majority of BIBLE scholars believe that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses. So how can anyone be sure that any of his miracles, sermons, and parables are “historical facts”. We can’t. One can only state that he or she agrees with the minority scholarly position (which consists almost entirely of evangelicals and fundamentalist Protestants) on the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels, the only sources for the alleged deeds and sayings of Jesus.

        –It is an historical fact that Jesus rose from the dead?? Maybe in your opinion, Ken. The fact that not one public university history textbook lists the resurrection of Jesus as a fact, or even a probable fact, demonstrates just how far this alleged event is from the status of “fact”.

        So your confidence in the belief that Jesus is the Creator God, Lord of the universe, cannot be truly be based on “historical facts” if most historians, and even most Bible scholars, disagree with you.

        Is it possible that the real reason that you believe is “faith”?

  7. November 3, 2018 at 11:38 pm

    Gary:

    I’m being gracious in taking time away from my family to respond once again to you. I hope you appreciate it.

    However, this comment will have to end our discuss for now.

    1. In Muhammad studies there are increasing historical questions about aspects of his life and religious ministry. Questions concerning legend and late dating. See references in my book God among Sages.

    Accounts of Joseph Smith’s religious experiences are question even by Mormon scholars. See Robert M. Bowman’s works on Smith and Mormonism.

    2. The credible NT documents attest to Jesus’s one of a kind moral nature and even scholars who question the supernatural are deeply impressed by Jesus’s life. World religions scholar Huston Smith says Jesus lived the moral ideals of the Sermon on the Mount. See Smith’s World’s Religions text.

    3. Gary Habermas is a friend and has endorsed a couple of my ebooks. He defends the historical nature of Jesus’s miracles all the time. His doctoral dissertation defended the historicity of the resurrection.

    4. N.T. Wright is a leading NT scholar who affirms the historical reliability of the Gospels and he is not a fundamentalist or a typical evangelical. The are other similar conservative NT scholars.

    5. Claims are judged on the weight of argument and evidence not on the number of scholars who hold a position. Liberal scholars usually begin with an unjustifiable anti supernatural bias.

    6. There are top scholars at Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Princeton, Yale, Notre Dame, Stanford, Claremont, etc. that defend the historical nature of the Gospels, the resurrection of Jesus, and the deity of Christ. Their academic credentials are unquestioned.

    7. I’m a man of faith and reason.

    So long and best wishes.

    Ken Samples

    • Gary
      November 4, 2018 at 7:44 am

      I’ve read NT Wright and Gary Habermas’ books and none of them assert that the specific miracles of Jesus are accepted historical facts. They may personally believe these events occurred, but that is very different than asserting they are accepted historical facts. In addition, NT Wright is on record saying, “I do not know who the authors of the Gospels were, nor does anyone else.”

      I read your bio. You state there that the reason you became a Christian was because you felt an emptiness is your life and because of a terrible family tragedy. I will leave you with this challenge: Is it possible that your belief that a first century peasant is the Lord and Master of the universe really due to a preponderance of the evidence or due to your fervent desire for it to be true?

      Peace.

      • November 4, 2018 at 8:21 am

        Gary:

        Unfortunately you’ve misread Wright and Habermas. If Wright doesn’t know who wrote the Gospels, Papias and Irenaeus did and told us it was Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

        Trying to explain away my faith by appealing to mere psychological factors will not work. As I said I hold a reasonable faith.

        Since you like to leave challenges, here’s a respectful one for you: What is the true cause of your disbelief? A lack of evidence or something else?

        So long.

        Grace,

        Ken Samples

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