I was told once in seminary that I might have some books on my shelf that I will never read cover to cover. You may just read one chapter of this one, one chapter of another - and that is ok. You don't have to read every word of every book.
My friend Brad suggested that I read an introduction of a book. How often do I just skip over the introductions to most books. I am so glad I finally read this - having started it back in August. It is amazing. Oh, which intro am I talking about?
J I Packer on John Owen's Death of Death in the Death of Christ. You can find the entire thing here.
John Owen was a brilliant theologian in the 1600s. Packer is a brilliant theologian now. One man's writings greatly influenced the other. As CS Lewis says - we usually only read books written by people in our generation - I mean - look at the Christian book section of your nearby superstore or grocery. Its called Chronological Snobbery! Don't fall victim to it! Read outside the 20th century. One of the most difficult books I've read was John Owen's Mortification of Sin.
The main reason I like this work by Packer is because it looks at Calvinism from a standpoint other than the 5 Points. Most people - when you say, I am a Calvinist - get all defensive and say how we never evangelize and we don't do missions and we don't like people. Packer makes a case that Calvinism isn't solely about soteriology - or the work/process of salvation - but it is a worldview that permeates all of life. I mentioned that to a friend the other day. I hope the longer I live, by the grace of God, that people will not have to ask which "camp" I'm in - they will see it in how I live, how I teach the Word (to women), how I think and pray and worship.
Packer looks at two different gospels: new and old.
"The new gospel conspicuously fails to produce deep reverence, deep repentance, deep humility, a spirit of worship, a concern for the church." I see this so often, not only in my own life, but in many many churches (sadly).
"Calvinism is something much broader than the “five points” indicate. Calvinism is a whole world-view, stemming from a clear vision of God as the whole world’s Maker and King. Calvinism is the consistent endeavour to acknowledge the Creator as the Lord, working all things after the counsel of His will. Calvinism is a theocentric way of thinking about all life under the direction and control of God’s own Word. Calvinism, in other words, is the theology of the Bible viewed from the perspective of the Bible—the God-centred outlook which sees the Creator as the source, and means, and end, of everything that is, both in nature and in grace. Calvinism is thus theism (belief in God as the ground of all things), religion (dependence on God as the giver of all things), and evangelicalism (trust in God through Christ for all things), all in their purest and most highly developed form. And Calvinism is a unified philosophy of history which sees the whole diversity of processes and events that take place in God’s world as no more, and no less, than the outworking of His great preordained plan for His creatures and His church. The five points assert no more than that God is sovereign in saving the individual, but Calvinism, as such, is concerned with the much broader assertion that He is sovereign everywhere." I love this! Thanks Packer!
"God saves sinners. God—the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing. Saves—does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies. Sinners—men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot." How amazing is this thought that it is not up me.
The main thought in the book by Owens is preaching against Universal Atonement (vs Limited Atonement). Packer defends "L" by saying that if Christ's work on the cross was for all - and not everyone believed - then his work was ineffective.
"The new gospel, by asserting universal redemption and a universal Divine saving purpose, compels itself to cheapen grace and the Cross by denying that the Father and the Son are sovereign in salvation; for it assures us that, after God and Christ have done all that they can, or will, it depends finally on each man’s own choice whether God’s purpose to save him is realised or not."
And ending thought by Packer: "And to the further question still: how am I to go about believing on Christ and repenting, if I have no natural ability to do these things? it answers: look to Christ, speak to Christ, cry to Christ, just as you are; confess your sin, your impenitence, your unbelief, and cast yourself on His mercy; ask Him to give you a new heart, working in you true repentance and firm faith; ask Him to take away your evil heart of unbelief and to write His law within you, that you may never henceforth stray from Him. Turn to Him and trust Him as best you can, and pray for grace to turn and trust more thoroughly."
Thanks Brad! Any more introductions you would like me to read and then be convicted?