“Prescriptive Retrospective”: Finding Your Way Forward By Looking Back

Packer Evangelical Future“And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2.

History lovers have to appreciate a book that charts the evangelical future by looking back on the life and legacy of a great theologian. Of course, such a strategy of turning back to find your way forward perfectly suits J. I. Packer. As an accomplished historian and theologian, Packer finds cures for what ails contemporary evangelicalism by exploring the contributions of spiritual giants such as the Puritans. So we expect nothing less than prescriptive retrospective from J. I. Packer and the Evangelical Future: The Impact of His Life and Thought, a new book edited by Timothy George.

Christian History Blog: J. I. Packer, Man of God’s Word

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This opening paragraph of a post on the Christian History Blog is the kind of thing I’m all about. I’ve always said, “You can’t know where you are going until you learn where you’ve come from.” The state of the church can always benefit when her members learn that the name of the game is taking what was left them by previous generations and building on it–not in ways that will radically change and leave behind the sacred deposit of the truth of God’s Word (hello, theological liberalism and some emerging churches and other wayward brethren), but in ways that teach us to preserve the essentials of the faith on which we all stand (“catholicity”), while gaining deeper insight into the issues that divide us, that we might at least come to understand each other better, if not come to a place of outward confessional unity around agreement on the non-essentials of the faith.

Respect the faithfulness of past generations by allowing yourself to be guided by their light. Yes, that includes the ever-present call to be “Bereans,” always searching the Scriptures to see whether the things they taught are so.

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