The Ministry and Writings of Rev. Dr. J. I. Packer

Among evangelical pastors and theologians today, few have written more passionately and persuasively on the need to restore catechesis in the church today than J. I. Packer. A self-described "latter-day catechist," Dr. Packer stands in a small tradition of pastoral theologians—he named near contemporaries such as C. S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, and John Stott—who wrote for a higher-level but still non-specialist audience. That is, he produced literature for those engaged in adult catechesis.

One of the problems behind the contemporary failure to catechize, Packer recognized, was the dearth of literature addressing this middle-ground audience. Much exists for beginners in the faith, as well as academic specialists. But there’s not much for folks in between. Packer saw his task as a "translator" of the church’s wisdom, helping believers come to a greater understanding of their life in faith.

"Where are my successors as adult catechists?" Dr. Packer has asked. We hope to encourage some here.

Below are a several video clips, articles, quotes, and references to books by or about Dr. Packer, which are related to catechesis.  


 
 
 

VIDEO 

 

2014 Interview w/ Joel Scandrett (Trinity School for Ministry)

Dr. Packer describes catechesis as the nexus point between "the doctrine by which we live" and "how we live that doctrine." 


a Three-Part Series on Catechesis (2014)

Dr. Packer delivered three lectures at the 2014 ANiC (Anglican Network in Canada) Synod. In each one, Dr. Packer lectures for about 30-45 minutes, and is followed by an "application" by Jeremy Graham, a priest at St. Johns Church in Vancouver where Packer attends. 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


Online Articles and Interviews

 

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"Called to Catechize" — In this 2012 article for the online journal, The North American Anglican, Dr. Packer sets out his case for Anglicans to recover catechesis. One of the particular points of note is how he narrates the reduction of all-age catechesis—a hallmark of the Puritans—to an emphasis primarily on children’s catechesis.

"The Lost Art of Catechesis" — from the March 2010 volume of Christianity Today, this article by Packer and Gary Parrett presents a nice précis of their book Grounded in the Gospel (subscription required). 

"One of the Most Urgent Needs in the Church Today" — a compilation of quotes from various books about the contemporary need for catechesis.


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BOOKS AND CHAPTER ARTICLES

J. I. Packer and Gary Parrett, Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way (Baker, 2010).

One of Dr. Packer's most recent and fullest accounts of a vision for catechesis. This book, co-authored with Gary Parrett of Gordon Conwell, is especially written to convince evangelicals of the need to renew catechetical teaching within local churches. As such it carefully lays out the biblical imperative of catechesis, as well as provides a vision for its practical aim.

J. I. Packer, Growing in Christ (Crossway, 1994; a reprint of I Want to Be a Christian 1977).

A pre-cursor to the new Anglican Catechism, in this work, Dr. Packer offers a thorough but accessible account of the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. A very fine companion to the Catechism.

J. I. Packer, "Reflections and Response," in J. I. Packer and the Evangelical Future, ed. Timothy George (Baker Academic, 2009), esp. pp. 172–176. 

A rare self-reflective account by Dr. Packer, in which he describes himself as a "latter-day catechist." In accord with the great pastor-theologians of the early church—Irenaeus, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Augustine—along with their modern "translators”—Lewis, Stott, Schaeffer, and others—Packer writes that he has mostly understood himself to be an adult catechist. He has eschewed the professionalization of theology so pervasive in academic circles, but he also has seen the need to deepen and further the basic catechesis that one might receive in childhood. A particularly well-stated example of the urgent need for catechesis and the audience to which this effort is directed.

Joel Scandrett, "'To Be a Christian': J. I. Packer and the Renewal of Evangelical Catechesis," Crux 52, no. 1 (2016): 4–12.

An article written by one of the co-editors for the Anglican Catechism, To Be a Christian, on the rare achievement that Packer's catechetical emphasis is.

 

 

Quotes:

So how should I be described? Alister McGrath labeled me a theologizer, a communicator rather than a constructor of theology; and I can settle for that. But I have come to think that the best way to describe myself is as a latter-day catechist—not, indeed, a children’s catechist (I am not good with children), but what may be called an adult or higher catechist, one who builds on what children are supposed to be taught in order to spell out at an adult level the truths we must live by and how we are to live them. Such catechists stand in the succession of Irenaeus, Cyril of Jerusalem, Augustine, and the Puritan pastors as ministers of the gospel for whom giving this instruction is the main and never-finished ministerial task.
— J. I. Packer, "Reflection and Response," in J. I. Packer and the Evangelical Future
My vision, the goal of all this striving, is of congregations well educated by well-educated pastors, but the credibility of this vision is undermined, it seems to me, by the church’s lack of easy-to-read literature written in full faithfulness to the Bible and the gospel at higher catechism level. Once the churches of the Reformation had bigger catechisms alongside their children’s catechisms, devised for adult instruction … and the churches knew how to use them; but today these documents, with very few exceptions, are forgotten. Once whole families were regularly catechized, as we learn, for instance, from Richard Baxter’s Reformed Pastor (1656), which quickly became a handbook for this practice all over England prior to the Restoration; but nowadays such things do not happen. Adult instruction in the faith for church members (not to be equated with Bible study, which flourishes widely, thank God) is at a discount almost everywhere, and we evangelicals are short of resources that might help to turn this situation around.

Consider: we have good small basic books for beginner Christians, and the Alpha course and its progeny to set them going; we have good big technical books for clergy and ministerial students and a fine crop of first-class evangelical seminaries; but we do not have much in between, whether literary or institutional, to give ordinary adult believers adult insight into the coherence, breadth, winsome, beauty, and glory of the faith. Roman Catholics are far further forward in this that we evangelicals are. The writings of C. S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, John Stott, and myself, which are pitched at a higher catechism level, may indeed easily be overvalued just because so few others are composing theological material on that wavelength.
— J. I. Packer, "Reflection and Response"
Catechesis is instruction in which two things are brought together: 1) the doctrine by which Christians live, and must live, and 2) how to live by it. These two things are not always linked in the practical way in which Catechesis links them, so we need Catechesis to make sure that both are taught and that this link is established.
— Interview with Anglican Planet
We catechize because we must. For catechesis is both a very biblical idea and a faithful practice
of the church through the ages. Where wise catechesis has flourished, the church has flourished. Where it has been neglected, the church has floundered. We catechize in obedience to the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ and in imitation of the Lord’s own ministry when he walked among us. He has charged the church to make disciples from all people groups of the earth. This discipling requires a rigorous ministry of teaching obedience to all that Jesus commanded. Catechesis is precisely such a ministry.
— Grounded in the Gospel, 184