Out of Context: J. I. Packer

"There's no sense that people need to be born again. There's no sense that Christians are different altogether at root level from non-Christians in society."

-J. I. Packer is the Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C. and the author of Knowing God (IVP, 1973)

Taken from "God's Triple Team" in the Fall 2006 issue of Leadership Journal. To see the quote IN context, you'll need to see the print version of Leadership. To subscribe, click on the cover of Leadership on this page.

November 03, 2006

Displaying 1–10 of 10 comments

Jack W.

November 14, 2006  5:09pm

People are people no matter what tag is attached. Some call themselves Christian, or Jewish, or Muslim, or Atheist and it does not affect the way that they live. The same cravings are present and evenly distributed among all people. Sexual mores, Financial greed, Social snobbery or neglect of others, do not diminish because of the label that one takes for him/herself. Even the most devout among us cannot escape the inner cravings that take control at times. Honesty within a Christian context is an avenue to derision, rebuke, scorn, and rejection. What is needed is a "Sinners Anonymous" group where people are honest and accepted because everyone else recognizes that they too are sinners. The news media is full of hypocrits who attack the church for its submission to sin and takes great pleasure, even gleeful pleasure, when someone falls off the pedestal they have climbed onto, or have been put on by the church. The Roman Catholic scandals, the scandal at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in NYC, the Jimmy Swaggert scandal and this latest in Colorado with Ted Haggard have come to public knowledge. How many others are still going on in secret? It is not only Christians who get caught up in this area of human conduct. Several years ago the Yogi at Kirpalo, a retreat center in Massachussetts, was dismissed for sexual conduct outside of marriage. Besides the actual acting out of sexuality outside of their marriages how many Christians participate in other sexual pleasures. Perhaps it is the sensual nature of religious spirituality that feeds the inner fires that burn within the hearts of believers across this land. Fueled by advertisements and films that depict sexuality as something to be achieved, fed by the dryness of the soul in its search for God and ignited by a warm touch or a kind word or a curiousity that leads to the satisfaction thought to fill the emptyness within, ministers and priests go beyond their boundaries. The sexual sins are ones that the church condemns while financial greed goes unchecked. Social snobbery is thought to be a normal way of organizing society into relevant groupings. Neglect of human needs is something that many in the church seem to condone. Perhaps it is the publicity of highlighted sins that is a correction that reminds the church of its mission. Then again, I doubt it.

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Barb J

November 08, 2006  11:09am

While I do not have any personal knowledge of Ted H. My thought is.... How clean is MY heart - my thoughts - my actions. It is always easier to watch and criticize others and their faults and mistakes (SINS) while excusing our own, as "at least I don't do _____ or _____." God will judge us by His Word, not grade us "on the curve" as compared to ANYONE else. Judgment does begin at the house of God. That means - you and I - all who call themselves followers of Christ.

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Dean

November 07, 2006  9:02am

Dr. Packer hits a nerve I've been trying to ignore... and Sam's comments make it hurt! I'm an Evangelical WASPR who is secretly harboring a concern that our real problem is not the homosexuals, pagans, feminists, Democrats, atheists, etc., but rather our own desire for stuff and self-indulgence. I voted conservative today, but my heart's not in it. It's like buying a car you can't afford and realizing it about 60 days too late. Laodicea comes to mind nearly every day - not when I'm looking at Ted Haggard - but when I'm looking at me and my life choices. My kids are infected with it, too - a form of religion - a sense of piety - yeast of the Pharisees. It seems as thought this latest episode should be a wake up call to God's people and congregations as a whole, but I'm becoming jaded at my willingness to change. Somewhere we've got to get off the treadmill and find what we came here for. Something real and authentic. Something that allows you to put your head on the pillow at night and rest in the simplicity of His grace. He's the one getting ripped off.

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Wolf Paul

November 07, 2006  6:41am

to CV: The world's definition of christianity in this context is those who go to Christian churches. Your definition of a Christian (which I agree with btw) is not one the world or the media can appreciate or even perceive. And even if they could, this past week has once again taught us that appearances can deceive even those in the church.

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CV

November 06, 2006  4:19pm

The problem is that the world's definition of christianity is off. By polling those who claim they are christians, where is the definition which categorizes them into the 'evangelical christian' bucket? Jesus himself told parables about his kingdom making it clear that all those who say 'Lord, Lord' will not necessarily go to heaven. The parable of the wheat and the tares, and the parable of the seeds come to mind. The only true defnintion of christian is one whose faith and devotion to making the risen Christ lord of their life will get them into eternal life in heaven. The last time I read the bible, this demarkation does not exist except in the 'book of life' which is maintained by God alone. In the meantime, can we please stop putting people in stereotypes and help each other be who Jesus has called us to be by living in the light and running from the sin that so easily entangles us?

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Derwyn

November 06, 2006  3:58pm

I think Packer is merely stating what is currently evident about Christianity; I don't think he making a statement that he believes. When one observes what is currently going on in/with the Church and culture today, it is true that there seems to be no reason to think that anyone actually needs to be born again of the Spirit. All you need to do is go to the right church and vote the right way...

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Anne Edwards

November 06, 2006  11:45am

I would also add that believers are supposed to be salt and light to the world...and if the salt has lost its flavor then it's worthless and should be thrown out and walked on. And after the events of the past week, it has become painfully obvious that even Christian leaders are not much different from secular ones. Anne

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journeyman

November 05, 2006  7:36pm

That's about right J.W. I'm firmly convinced that instead of critiquing the culture, Christians have instead allowed the culture to critique us. Instead of being the true counter-culture, we have allowed ourselves to become nothing more than a christian ghetto, a subculture of the larger pop-culture. But to be fair to Mr. Packer,I would at least give him the benefit of the doubt until I can read the statement within the context from which it is taken. Given his well deserved reputation within most Christian circles, I think we at least owe him that, wouldn't you say?

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J.W.

November 05, 2006  7:43am

Hmm...Divorce rate is about the same, amount of lawsuits about the same, most Christians drive the same kind of cars, own as big of a home as they can afford, buy expensive clothing, go on cruises, put themselves first before the needs of their neighbor and those who suffer form any of a myriad of social injustices ... It seems Packer would be right. About the only difference I see is that Christians have created their own pop-culture so that they can now have Christian versions of many of their worldly desires. Yet despite the parallels, God always seems to have his remnant who refuses to bow at the altar of self-aggrandization, and His Kingdom continues to advance through their selfless committment and yes, even through the messy deeds of the rest of Christendom.

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Sam

November 03, 2006  2:30pm

With all do respect Dr. Packer, Christians should look markedly different, well at least if we are following Jesus' teachings and his subsequent apostles. If disciples of Jesus look no different than anyone else, then the Christian faith turns into Gnosticism with only "different thinking". Jesus said the world will know me by "your" love. By love he did not mean some emotional or cognitive state, but a concrete way of living.

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