Best-selling author J. I. Packer, one of the most influential evangelicals of our day, has put together what may become a Christian classic on the vital truths of the faith. Serving to nourish the church worldwide, Packer makes accessible the things we need to know in eight essential areas. This concise book also helps us guard against liberalism by pushing Christians to know their faith so they can explain it to inquirers and sustain it against skeptics. Here is a call to a discipleship in mere Christianity—the business of taking God seriously.
- Getting Serious About Theology
Taking God Seriously by J. I. Packer is a series of discussions about different areas of doctrine and how Christians should take them seriously. Areas such as doctrine, baptism and repentance are discussed in some detail and suggestions on how to get serious about them are given.
There does seem to be a lot of references to the Anglican church's issues especially with one of the major issues of today – homosexuality, which seems a bit strange but these issues are faced by most other churches around the world. His opinions and information seems to be quite helpful and will hopefully find the church in general in a better position in years to come as Christians get more serious about God, His church and doctrine.
The narration was quite good, although it did seem a bit monotone at times but it is a book on doctrine so it went with the content of the book.
This book is an interesting insight in doctrine and challenges to it in today's church and the importance of getting serious about different areas of doctrine.
This audio book was gifted as a part of the christianaudio Reviewers Program in exchange for my unbiased review of this work. More information can be found about this and other Christian audio books at christianaudio.com.
- Not Quite Recommended
The type of person for whom this book might be recommended is just the type of person to whom this book—and, to a degree, its author—might prove a stumblingblock. In many ways J.I. Packer is the very person I'd choose to help me teach basic doctrine. He's a fantastically clear writer who drives home sound, conservative doctrinal points. He knows Protestant theology well and communicates it even better.
But that's just it—his clarity on Protestant theology makes his apparent acceptance of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox errors that much more liable to confuse people. I love and recommend other Packer books (<i>A Heart for God, Knowing God, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God,</i> and who can forget <i>The Collected Blurbs of J.I. Packer</i>), but those books don't promote the same confusion.
In this book, for example, Packer glosses over the what he calls "partial" disagreements between Reformation and other churches. But he zeroes in on one disagreement that he regards with special seriousness: the debate over homosexuality. In chapter 3, Packer argues that the acceptance of homosexuality destroys Christian unity. but that had me wondering why it's Roman Catholic and evangelical disagreements over the Gospel don't get the same treatment. That topic is the one about which Paul pronounced an anathema (Gal. 1:8).
Chapter 5 reveals more than other chapters the genesis of this book, talks Packer gave to Anglicans in Canada. His discussion of Anglicanism and the Anglican episcopate is, on the one hand, a laudable example of taking doctrine seriously. But I still think that the kind of person to whom I might otherwise give this book doesn't need to hear about Anglican bishops and doesn't need to hear quite so much about the Anglican debate over homosexuality.
At the end of his discussion on homosexuality Packer brings up the possibility of separation, only to (mostly) dismiss the idea—without bringing up any Scripture passages. He didn't repeat Christ's advice to the church at Sardis, "Strengthen what remains" (though that's his position); and he didn't repeat Paul's command to the church at Thessalonica, "Withdraw from those who walk disorderly." If we're not going to mine Scripture for guidance with regard to professed Christians who accept homosexual unions, how much better are we than they? They're ignoring clear passages, and so is Packer.
There is interesting historical theology in the book, good material on baptism and the Lord's Supper. And I liked this quote in chapter 2: "All gifts are given to be used, and not to use them is to quench the spirit." But it's hard for me to imagine to whom I might recommend this book. It is, frankly, a little odd. It bears too strongly the marks of its origin in talks to Anglicans; I had trouble picking up a unifying thread.
<i>Thanks to Christian audio for a review copy of this book.</i>
- Not what I expected it to be...
Taking God Seriously by J. I. Packer was not at all what I expected it to be.
I have read a couple of other Packer books. I have thoroughly enjoyed everything that I have read from him in the past, so when this new book became available through christianaudio, I was happy to listen to it in order to write a review.
Having read these other books by Packer, I was expecting this book to deal with big thoughts of how we need to take God seriously. I was ready to soak in some over-arching themes on the importance of really listening to God and doing what He says.
My first surprise came when he started talking extensively about issues in the Anglican church. Not only did I not know that Packer was Anglican, I had also never seen him refer to any current denominational issues. This book contains numerous references to current issues that are plaguing the Anglican church and many other churches in the world today. Much of this book felt like an address to others in the Anglican church to ... well ... take God seriously.
The next surprise that this book delivered was related to the content. Sure, he addressed some issues that I expected, like repentance, but he also addressed some issues that I didn't expect, like church, baptism and communion. Even though I didn't necessarily agree with everything he said, I also didn't find myself disagreeing with anything he said either. I found the information landing on very common ground and very Biblical, at the same time. But what made this surprise content really enlightening was that while I was listening to it, I found myself realizing that I hadn't been taking Baptism or Communion as seriously as I should, and that the question of taking God seriously couldn't really be dealt with until these issues were addressed.
If you've never encountered a book by J.I. Packer, this is a great place to start. He has a straight-forward, no-nonsense style of writing that I find refreshing. He doesn't beat around the bush, he goes straight to the point, and he brought this direct style of writing, which I've normally encountered in his theological works, into this current, culturally relevant book.
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- Good content, bad narration
The Anglican Church is in trouble. At least that’s impression I got when I read Taking God Seriously by J.I. Packer. And the main cause of this trouble? According to Packer, It stems from the lack of solid teaching in Biblical doctrine, or, in a word, “catechism.” I would agree this is a problem even outside the Anglican movement.
From the author’s introduction, I expected this to be a book that outlined a scope and sequence for that training, or maybe an abridged systematic theology. What it is instead is a series of essays that the author himself admits tend to re-tread the same territory. These essays each deal with a different foundational doctrine—repentance, the church, the Holy Spirit, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, etc. But more on the content of the book later.
In reality, the first thing I noticed about this audiobook is the narration. And that’s not a good thing. Narrator Arthur Morey's voice sounds like one of those text-to-speech robots on this recording. After the first fifteen minutes of listening, I wanted to throw in the towel; just because of the narration. Unfortunately, I can’t even recommend the book because of the poor narration, which is a shame because there is some great material in Taking God Seriously.
Many of the essays mention homosexuality, and a few deal with this subject in lengthy detail. Even when the subjects of the chapter don’t seem to be directly related to this topic, homosexuality is often discussed. Granted, this has been a particularly contentious issue recently in the Anglican Church (indeed, in many other denominations, also), but it still comes across like Packer is dwelling on it too much.
This book has a decidedly Anglican bent, and Packer is wrong to assume that readers in general will share his interest in the ins and outs of denomination gatherings and policy changes. That said, the chapters on the Holy Spirit, the Bible, the Lord’s Supper, and church unity contain some profound words of wisdom for all evangelicals. I especially loved Packer’s argument that a greater emphasis on Pentecost Sunday is necessary in order to better understand the work of the Spirit. Conversely, I thought his justification for retaining the practice of infant baptism was remarkably short on biblical support. His weak argument sticks out like a sore thumb in a book that doesn’t seem to lack Biblical support on any other topic.
Packer is a man who loves the church and definitely knows his stuff. I wish the narration was better for this book so I could recommend it. Outside of this glaring issue, Taking God Seriously’s other shortcomings are not enough to disqualify it from a well-deserved spot on the shelf.
In print form, of course.
Please Note: This audiobook was gifted as a part of the christianaudio Reviewers Program in exchange for my unbiased review of this work. This has in no way influenced my opinion or review of this work.
- Solidly Scholarly
J. I. Packer is well-known and well-respected as a theologian. Thus, when he chooses to write, addressing issues of the modern church, he is worth reading. Packer’s work is rich in doctrine, at times deep, and often convicting.
Packer’s work shows his deep concern for the state of the church, especially in the west. Through a series of chapters (that were apparently once separate papers or addresses), Packer challenges Christians to take faith, doctrine, Christian unity, repentance, the church, the Holy Spirit, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper seriously. These chapters are deep, serious, and thoughtful.
Readers wanting to think about church issues in a fairly deep way will find this book enjoyable. However, not every reader will be fascinated. Packer is part of the Anglican Church, and his book is clearly addressed to his denomination and its specific struggles. There are things that Packer will put forward which participants from other Christian denominations will disagree with.
Besides the general solid thinking in this work, Taking God Seriously contains some important thoughts from Packer regarding the Anglican Church’s struggle over the issue of homosexuality. Packer sounds a Scriptural call for his denomination to cling tightly to the word of God and not to compromise based on cultural pressures. This, of course, is something that many denominations need to consider.
I would recommend Packer’s work to readers, with the understanding that it is not always an easy read. The thoughts in the book are solid, but the text reads more like a paper than like a popular-level book.
I received a free audio copy of this book from christianaudio.com as part of their reviewers program. The quality of the recording is up to christianaudio’s high standards. However, the reader’s voice may be a bit too soothing.
- A Book We Ought to Take Seriously
When well-respected theologians enter into their eighties and nineties, I think it’s important for younger believers to listen up and pay attention to what they have to say. Their years of experience and awareness of their own fragility tempers and seasons their words and perspective. J. I. Packer turns 87 this year. I want to take seriously what Packer says about Taking God Seriously because this book is written from a perspective that can only be gained after years of experience and faithfulness to God.
Although much could be said about each of the topics Packer covers, the main message of the book is that we, as Christians, need to think about and cling to biblical Christianity. This call is similar to that of the Apostle Paul at the end of his life, when he said to Timothy, a young leader of the next generation of believers, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:13, ESV).
Throughout Taking God Seriously, Packer references the present situation in the Anglican Church, specifically regarding homosexuality. There has been a movement in recent years towards affirming homosexuality as approved by God, which is a radical departure from biblical teaching and a descent into heresy. Packer recognizes that there remains a sizeable majority currently against such a diversion from orthodoxy, but the jury is still out as to whether the Anglican Communion, particularly in the U.S. and Canada, will succumb to the culture around it or remain a beacon for the gospel. I myself am not an Anglican, but Packer’s assessment serves as a warning to every believer in every church that assuming, and thus, presuming upon, the gospel is merely the first step towards man-made religion that reflects more the wiles of the culture around us than it does the character of God.
Packer’s book is a call to return to the fundamentals of the faith and to practice real discipleship—“catechists”—passing on “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
One last note: The audiobook version of Taking God Seriously was narrated rather woodenly and at times I wasn’t sure if I was listening to an actual person or a computer program. I got used to it after a while, but that was my initial impression.
I received this audio book from christianaudio for the purpose of review.
- The books has a 'grumpy old man' problem
I really want to like this book more than I did. I agree with the main point, that in order to live a holy life, and to have strong church, we need to pay more attention to catechesis (the teaching of the faith.) And I am encouraged that Packer rightly treats teaching as broader than knowledge to include teaching toward right action as well.
The problem with the book isn't the ideas (or the actual content of the teaching), the problem is that Packer spends a lot of the books sounding like a grumpy old man complaining about those kids on his lawn.
As an example, Packer rightly spends time early in the book talking about the importance of scripture. And he starts with the assumption that the reader may not know a lot about the scripture. Which is a good place to start in a book like this. But instead of talking just talking about the importance of scripture, the formation of the cannon, etc, he has to complain that no one reads their bible any more. Which is just not true. Yes bible isn't taught in schools, yes I wish people read and knew their bible more, but I don't think his hyperbole of suggesting the young do not read the bible devotionally helps motivate people to actually read their bible.
Quite often he bring up the problems of the Anglican communion, especially around homosexuality. Which may be useful as an illustration, but show some of the problems of his position (much of which I agree with). He complains that acceptance of homosexuality limits the ability of the Anglican churches in Africa and Asia to reach out to Muslims. But he ignores the same contextual argument (that a hard line against legal gay marriage) could be made about the Western church's ability to reach out to in the west.
It is not so much that I think he is wrong. A lot of what he is talking about in this book are basic Christian doctrines. The problem is that he is tone deaf to the social context of the people I think he wants to hear him. If he is only talking to older conservative voices that already agree with him, then the book is really of not much use. Most of those people already believe the basics of the Christian faith and have been properly catechized.
The irony for me is that I really am becoming convinced of the importance of catechesis and I have been watching my nieces go through Lutheran pre-school and have been impressed with what they are getting there. I am just frustrated with this particular call.
christianaudio.com provided me a copy of the audiobook for purposes of review.