Of all the books I have read since becoming a Christian, apart from the Bible itself, one book has consistently both reinforced and challenged my ongoing efforts to become the Christian I have always desired to be. That book is Knowing God by J.I. Packer. As I have mentioned before, our men’s Bible study is working its way through the book and we are currently studying Chapter 8: The Majesty of God. For those interested, more information on our study can be found on my personal website.
I have recently come to the conclusion that while this is one of the most purchased books in the Christian community since its release in 1973 (it is still number four on InterVarsity’s Best Selling Books list), it may be by comparison one of the least studied. I say that from personal experience, being in the midst of my sixth effort at studying the book with a group. This past Saturday, due to people being away and other circumstances, only one member of the current group and myself met together. Since it was just the two of us, we used the opportunity to review some of the materials and discuss in depth both the impact of the book on our lives and how the book’s incessant demands create a waning interest in many (but not all) of those who begin studying it. We agreed that it is impossible to study through this book and not be changed. You will not be at the end of your adventure the same person that started traveling the journey Packer has enticed you to make.
I guess the reasons for the change in each traveler are as varied as the people who make the journey, but I believe the root of each transformation is found in Packer’s simple, yet profound title, Knowing God. Chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, we as readers are confronted with two inescapable things: the true nature of the God with whom we have to do, and our understanding, opinions, thoughts, and even prejudices regarding that nature. Over the years, this modest book (it is written in a popular style for the average Christian) has caused me more than a little heartache as I came face to face with God of Abraham and Moses, as well as the Trinitarian understanding of His nature which is most fully expressed within the writings of the New Testament.
I have read more theological works, including Calvin’s Institutes, Hodge’s Systematic Theology, Bavinick’s The Doctrine of God, and others, but it is this little book that has challenged my soul in ways those esteemed works did not. I am not completely sure why this has been so, but it may be related to the singular insight of an old favorite, but now deceased, radio preacher, J. Vernon McGee. Dr. McGee liked to concentrate on what he said where the practical and common sense Gospel issues of where the “rubber meets the road”. I would give Packer’s book that abiding compliment. It touches me where my daily life intersects my understanding of God and in doing so changes me or maybe it is better to say that the Holy Spirit uses the book’s directness to challenge and change me as the scriptural arguments it presents find their touchstone in my everyday experiences. To use Dr. McGee’s aphorism, it touches me where God’s rubber meets my road.
This time as we go through our study I have been updating my study materials for Knowing God with the intention of publishing them for general use. Those materials, as well as the group’s answers to the questions I pose for each chapter, are posted on my personal website as I finish updating them. You are welcome to use the materials as you see fit, respecting my copyright for anything beyond your personal use. I covet your comments and observations, anything that will make the study a better tool to assist those who willingly take Packer’s challenge.
May God bless you in your transition from balconeer to traveler and may you too be granted the exceptional privilege of coming to know your God.