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Knowing Packer

The lonely journey of a passionate Puritan.
1998This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

J.I. Packer: A Biography, by Alister McGrath
Baker Books, 340 pp.;
$19.99, hardcover

Last year my son Jon had to wrestle two weight classes beyond his actual weight. Still, he won more matches than he lost, but when he took to the mat during one particular match, my heart sank. PeeWee Herman versus the Incredible Hulk came to mind. The buzzer sounded, and my son's opponent quickly flattened him. Yet somehow, before the interminable minute expired, Jon gathered his strength, wrested himself from his opponent's grip, and stood up.

The second period looked like the first, with the added dimension of my son having swollen eye sockets and mat burns. He flailed under the weight of his antagonist, squirming as his dwindling strength allowed, until he dislodged his foe's grip, grunted and heaved, and stood up again.

By round three the other guy looked as dazed as Jon did as they lumbered to the starting position for the third time. My son was flattened yet again, and I wouldn't have blamed him for giving up. But seizing a second wind, Jon wiggled out of the near-pin and, unbelievably, stood up again. Then, as quickly as he had been felled earlier, he flipped his opponent and had him flat on the mat. The crowd exploded, hoping for the upset pin, but the buzzer rang. The referee lifted the arm of my son's opponent, but everyone there recognized that something greater than a victory for one and a loss for another had transpired on that mat.

My son's match kept coming to mind as I read Alister McGrath's recently published J. I. Packer: A Biography (Baker). In the author's meticulous documentation of James Innell Packer's role in the shaping of contemporary evangelicalism, I saw how tall this solitary man from Britain really stands, given ...

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