J.I. Packer: An Evangelical Life by Leland Ryken is a fascinating account of one of the most influential theologians of the last one hundred years. Not always a pretty story but rather one where the reader, like the subject himself, can see the working hand of Providence. The only other work of this kind was written years ago by Alister McGrath who Ryken quotes often.
Rather than a cradle to grave biography Ryken chose a different avenue for this monograph. He has broken down the life of Packer into three areas: The Life, The Life of the Man & Lifelong themes. Each with appropriate sub headings. It is not strictly chronological, not a history, but a full orbed biography.
Part one recounts Packer's early life including his decision to become an Anglican priest. His first book, his first venture into controversy, his work with Christianity Today and his move to Canada also come to light.
Part two, The Man and part three, Lifelong Themes delve much deeper into the life & thought of Packer - what makes him tick. Each division includes a recounting of his extensive written works. Packer is a man of words and words he produced - in great quantity.
By far, part three was the most engaging portion of the work for me. Ryken details the major themes of Packer's writing and teaching career. He digs deep into Packer on the Bible, the Puritans, Anglicanism, theology and preaching. Each section was a pleasure to read. Finally in this section Ryken reveals the numerous controversies Packer has been involved in. From his early days to his move to Canada to signing the Evangelicals and Catholics Together documents, all have been captured. Packer's break with Lloyd-Jones and Sproul and dissonance with Stott are also recounted.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I would suggest coupling it with Packer on the Christian Life by Sam Storms to get further insights into the teachings of Packer.
Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of
this book through Beyond the Page.