Saturday, March 9, 2013

Book Review: Taking God Seriously (2013)

Taking God Seriously. J.I. Packer. 2013. Crossway. 160 pages.

Taking God Seriously has a great subtitle: Vital Things We Need to Know. Looking at the table of contents shows how great the potential is for this one to be must-read: taking faith seriously, taking doctrine seriously, taking christian unity seriously, taking repentance seriously, taking the church seriously, taking the Holy Spirit seriously, taking baptism seriously, taking the Lord's supper seriously.

So how does Taking God Seriously compare with Packer's earlier works Knowing GodKnowing Christianity and Growing in Christ? I definitely preferred his earlier works. Knowing God was AMAZING. Challenging, thoughtful, and just wonderful. It does take some time, some thought, some consideration, as all good theological books should. But it was worth it. Knowing Christianity continues to cover the basics of theology, of the Christian faith. [With chapters like, "The Person of Christ," "Why the Cross?," "The Holy Spirit and Christian Growth," "Some Lessons in Prayer," "Come and Worship," "Fellowship in the Church," "Christian Citizenship," "The Reality of Hell," "His Ascension, Our Future Hope."] And then there is Packer's wonderful book entitled Growing In Christ, which is divided into four parts: "Affirming the Essentials: The Apostles' Creed," "Entering In: Baptism and Conversion," "Learning to Pray: The Lord's Prayer," and "Design for Life: The Ten Commandments." Just looking at the table of contents of these books makes me want to reread them so I can review them.

In Taking God Seriously, J.I. Packer argues that faith needs to be taken more seriously by believers--all believers, all denominations. He wants believers to have substance. He wants believers to know what's right and what's wrong. He wants believers to know their theology, their doctrine, the true essentials of the faith. Packer knows there are plenty of things wrong with the church, wrong with society, wrong with the world. He knows that there are many, many symptoms indicating trouble. But his argument is that all of them could be solved if you got to the root of the real problem: people need to take God more seriously; their faith needs to have genuine substance; they need to be people of the Word.

For better or worse, Packer makes this book personal. In many chapters, his focus is specifically on recent troubles in Packer's own denomination. Packer discusses the issues facing the Anglican church in the past decade, and these issues are dividing issues and Packer knows it.

I thought the book was good but not as essential as some of Packer's earlier works.

From "Taking Faith Seriously,"
What did the apostolic writers have in mind when they spoke of faith? Nothing less than what they took to be the distinctive essence of Christianity: namely, a belief-and-behavior commitment to Jesus Christ, the divine-human Lord, who came to earth, died for sins, rose from death, returned to heaven, reigns now over the cosmos as his Father's nominated vice-regent, and will reappear to judge everyone and to take his own people into glory, where they will be with him in unimaginable joy forever. (19)
So faith, that is, believing, is in the New Testament a "two tone" reality, a response to God's self-revelation in Christ that is both intellectual and relational. Mere credence--assent, that is, to "the faith"--is not faith, nor is commitment to a God or a Christ who is merely a product of human imagination. Christian faith is shaped, and its nature is determined, entirely by its object, just as the impression on a seal is shaped entirely by a die-stamp that is pressed down on the hot wax. (19)
The fuzzification of faith has developed in parallel to increasing ignorance of biblical teaching and growing skepticism as to whether that teaching as it stands may properly be called the Word of God (20).
Most people in churches nowadays have never read through the Bible even once; the older Christian habit of reading it from start to finish as a devotional discipline has virtually vanished. So in describing the Bible we start from scratch, assuming no prior knowledge. (21)
The authority of Scripture is not just a matter of God putting our minds straight, but of God capturing our hearts for fully committed discipleship to the Lord Jesus. So the Bible is to be approached with reverence, handled with care and prayer, and studied, not to satisfy curiosity in any of its forms, but to deepen responsive fellowship with God who made us, loves us, seeks us out, and offers us pardon, peace, and power for righteousness through Jesus Christ our Lord.  The modern world knows virtually nothing of this approach to Scripture. It is vital that the church recover it, follow it, and proclaim the need for it everywhere. (25)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

No comments: