J. I. Packer

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J. I. Packer
James Innell Packer

(1926-07-22)22 July 1926
Twyning, England
Died17 July 2020(2020-07-17) (aged 93)
  • Canadian
  • British
Kit Mullett
(m. 1954)
ChildrenRuth Packer, Naomi Packer, Martin Packer
Parent(s)James Packer, Dorothy Packer
Ecclesiastical career
ReligionChristianity (Anglican)
  • 1952 (deacon)
  • 1953 (priest)
Academic background
Alma mater Corpus Christi College, Oxford Wycliffe Hall, Oxford
Thesis The Redemption and Restoration of Man in the Thought of Richard Baxter (1954)
Doctoral advisor Geoffrey Nuttall [2]
Academic work
Discipline Theology
Sub-discipline Systematic theology
School or tradition
Notable students
Notable works Knowing God (1973)

James Innell Packer (22 July 1926 17 July 2020) was an English-born Canadian evangelical theologian, cleric and writer in the low-church Anglican and Calvinist traditions. He was considered one of the most influential evangelicals in North America, [5] known for his best-selling book, Knowing God , written in 1973, as well as his work as an editor for the English Standard Version of the Bible. He was one of the high-profile signers on the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, a member on the advisory board of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and also was involved in the ecumenical book Evangelicals and Catholics Together in 1994. His last teaching position was as the board of governors' Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, in which he served from 1996 until his retirement in 2016 due to failing eyesight.


Life and career

Packer was born on 22 July 1926 in Twyning, Gloucestershire, England to James and Dorothy Packer. [6] [7] His sister, Margaret, was born in 1929. [7] His father was a clerk for the Great Western Railway and his lower-middle-class family was only nominally Anglican, attending the local St. Catherine's Church. [7] [6] When he was seven, Packer suffered from a severe head injury in a collision with a bread van, which caused him to not be able to play sports, so he became interested in reading and writing. [7] At 11 years of age, Packer was gifted with an old Oliver typewriter. [7] He went on to cherish typewriters for the rest of his life. [8] In 1937, Packer went to The Crypt School, where he specialized in the classics. [7] At age 14 he was confirmed at St. Catherine's church. [7]

He won a scholarship to the University of Oxford, where he was educated at Corpus Christi College, obtaining his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1948. In a 1944 meeting of the Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union (OICCU), Packer committed his life to Christian service. [6] [7] It was during this time that Packer became exposed to the Puritans through OICCU's library, which were an influence he carried for the rest of his life. [7] He also first heard lectures from C. S. Lewis at Oxford, whose teachings would (though he never knew Lewis personally) become a major influence in his life. [8]

After college, he spent a brief time teaching Greek and Latin at Oak Hill College in London. [7] During this 1949–1950 school year, he sat under the teaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel, who also would have a great influence on his thinking, and who he would know and interact with later. [7] In 1949, Packer went back to Wycliffe Hall, Oxford in 1949 to study theology. [9] He obtained his Master of Arts degree in 1954, and Doctor of Philosophy in 1954. [9] He wrote his dissertation under Geoffrey Nuttall on the soteriology of the Puritan theologian Richard Baxter. [9] He was ordained a deacon in 1952 and priest in 1953 in the Church of England, within which he was associated with the evangelical movement. [6] [9] He served as assistant curate of Harborne Heath in Birmingham from 1952 to 1954. [7] In 1954, Packer married Kit Mullet, and they had three children, Ruth, Naomi, and Martin. [6] [8]

In 1955, his family moved to Bristol and Packer taught at Tyndale Hall, Bristol, from 1955 to 1961. He wrote an article denouncing Keswick theology as Pelagian in the Evangelical Quarterly . [7] According to biographer Alister McGrath, it is widely agreed that his critique "marked the end of the dominance of the Keswick approach among younger evangelicals". [7] It was also during this time that he published his first book, Fundamentalism and the Word of God (1958), a defense of the authority of the Bible, which sold 20,000 in that year and has been in print since. [8] Packer moved back to Oxford in 1961, where he served as librarian of Latimer House in Oxford from 1961–1962 and warden from 1962–1969, an evangelical research centre he founded with John Stott. [8] [7] In 1970, he became principal of Tyndale Hall, Bristol, and from 1971 until 1979 he was associate principal of the newly formed Trinity College, Bristol, which had been formed from the amalgamation of Tyndale Hall with Clifton College and Dalton House-St Michael's. [9] [10] He became editor of the Evangelical Quarterly in the 1960s, and eventually published a series of articles he wrote in the journal into a book, Knowing God . [7] The book, published by Hodder & Stoughton in Britain and InterVarsity Press in the United States in 1973, became a bestseller of international fame and sold over 1.5 million copies. [7] In 1977, he signed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. [8]

In 1979, one of Packer's Oxford friends persuaded him to teach at Regent College in Vancouver, eventually being named the first Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology, a title he held until he was named a Regent College Board of Governors' Professor of Theology in 1996. [9] At Regent he taught many classes, including systematic theology and the Puritans. [9]

He was a prolific writer and frequent lecturer, [6] and a frequent contributor to and an executive editor of Christianity Today . [8] Packer served as general editor of the English Standard Version (ESV), an evangelical translation based upon the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, and theological editor of the ESV Study Bible . [9] [11] [12]

Packer was associated with St. John's Vancouver Anglican Church, which in February 2008 voted to schism from the Anglican Church of Canada over the issue of same-sex blessings. St. John's joined the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC). [13] Packer, on 23 April, handed in his licence from the Bishop of New Westminster. [14] (ANiC eventually co-founded and joined the Anglican Church in North America in 2009.) [15] In December 2008, Packer was appointed an honorary clerical canon of St Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney in recognition of his long and distinguished ministry as a faithful teacher of biblical theology. [16]

Packer had been the theologian emeritus of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) since its creation in 2009, being one of the nine members of the task force who wrote on a trial basis Texts for Common Prayer, released in 2013, and general editor of the task force who wrote for trial use To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism, approved on 8 January 2014 by the College of Bishops of the church. [17] [18] He was awarded the St. Cuthbert's Cross at the Provincial Assembly of ACNA on 27 June 2014 by retiring Archbishop Robert Duncan for his "unparalleled contribution to Anglican and global Christianity". [19]

In 2016, Packer's eyesight deteriorated due to macular degeneration to a point where he could no longer read or write, consequently concluding his public ministry. [8] [20]

Packer died on 17 July 2020, five days before his 94th birthday. [6]

Theological views


He signed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy , affirming the conservative evangelical position on biblical inerrancy. [8]

Gender roles

Packer was a complementarian and served on the advisory board of Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He thus subscribed to a view of gender roles such that a husband should lovingly lead, protect and provide for his wife and that a wife should joyfully affirm and submit to her husband's leadership. Complementarians also believe the Bible teaches that men are to bear primary responsibility to lead in the church and that as such only men should be elders. [21] [22] In 1991 Packer set forth his reasons for this in an influential yet controversial article called "Let's Stop Making Women Presbyters". [23]


Packer held to the soteriological position known as Calvinism. [24]


Packer endorsed and supported books that have advocated for theistic evolution, [25] [26] but has also expressed caution towards the validity of evolution. [27]


In recent years, he had supported the ecumenical movement, which drew criticism from other evangelicals. Specifically, Packer's involvement in the book Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission (ECT) was sharply criticised. [7] He defended ECT by arguing that believers should set aside denominational differences for the sake of winning converts to Christianity. [7]

Packer took the side of evangelical ecumenism in opposition to Martyn Lloyd-Jones in 1966, then co-authored a work with two Anglo-Catholics in 1970 (Growing into Union) that many evangelicals felt conceded too much biblical ground on critical doctrinal issues. [7] The publication of that work led to the formal break between Lloyd-Jones and Packer, bringing an end to the Puritan Conferences. [7]


In the Anglican Agenda series



Works about


  1. When Packer joined the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) in 2008, it was autocephalous. ANiC became a diocese of the Anglican Church in North America in 2009.

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  1. Bramble, Neil (12 May 2017). "J. I. Packer". Convivium. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  2. Dever, Mark E. (2009). "J. I. Packer and Pastoral Wisdom from the Puritans". In George, Timothy (ed.). J. I. Packer and the Evangelical Future: The Impact of His Life and Thought. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic. p. 92. ISBN   978-0-8010-3387-2.
  3. Kent Hughes, R. (May 2007). Disciplines of a Godly Man. ISBN   9781433518638.
  4. DeYoung, Kevin (6 June 2014). "Bio, Books, and Such: Carl Trueman". The Gospel Coalition. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  5. "The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America". Time. 7 February 2005. Retrieved 24 July 2008.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Dean, Jamie. "Theologian and churchman J.I. Packer dies at age 93 - WORLD". world.wng.org. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Taylor, Justin. "J. I. Packer (1926–2020)". The Gospel Coalition. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Leland Ryken. "J. I. Packer, 'Knowing God' Author, Dies at 93". ChristianityToday. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Remembering J.I. Packer". Regent College Summer Programs. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  10. "A Tribute to John Alexander Motyer" (PDF).
  11. "J. I. Packer". Crossway. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  12. Stec, D (July 2004). "Review: The Holy Bible: English Standard Version". Vetus Testamentum. 54: 421.
  13. Eustace, Chantal (14 February 2008). "Anglican congregation votes to split over same-sex blessings". The Vancouver Sun. Archived from the original on 15 February 2008.
  14. Nine priests, two deacons, hand in their licences from the Bishop, Anglican[ dead link ]
  15. "History". Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC). Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  16. Packer and Short honoured by Archbishop, Sydney Anglicans.
  17. "Texts for common prayer". Anglican Church in North America.
  18. "Catechism". Anglican Church in North America.
  19. "Anglican Church in North America".
  20. "Remembering J.I. Packer". 17 July 2020. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  21. "A vision of biblical complementarity". CBMW. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  22. Fifty crucial questions (book) (online ed.), CBMW.
  23. Christianity Today, 11 February 1991.
  24. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (book).
  25. Creation or Evolution, front cover.
  26. Hudson, Lion, Reclaiming Genesis, archived from the original on 23 August 2010
  27. Packer, Evolution and creation problems (talk), Sydney Anglicans, 19 min.
  28. Packer, James Innell (1963). The Church of England and the Methodist Church. A Consideration of the Report Conversations Between the Church of England and the Methodist Church. Ten Essays Edited by J.I. Packer. Marcham.