[My new book on J. I. Packer’s view of the Christian Life opens with this biographical note.] Continue reading . . .
[My new book on J. I. Packer’s view of the Christian Life opens with this biographical note.]
I don’t think it an exaggeration to say that I owe much of what I am as a pastor and theologian to the combined influence of a schoolyard bully and an inattentive bread truck driver. Such are the mysteries of divine providence that largely account for the remarkable spiritual influence, not only on me personally but on the whole of the evangelical world, of one James Innell Packer. I’m not alone in this assessment of Packer’s impact, as the readers of Christianity Today identified him as second only to C. S. Lewis when it came to the most influential theological writers of the 20th century. But how did the bully and the bread truck driver enter the picture?
The answer to this question takes us back to September 19, 1933, and the city of Gloucester, England. J. I. Packer was only seven at the time of the incident, having been born on July 22, 1926, the son of a clerk for the Great Western Railway. It was from the grounds of the National School in Gloucester that the young Packer was chased by the bully, himself an obviously unwitting piece of the providential puzzle that would ultimately make Packer into the man we know and love him to be. Who knows what was passing through the mind of that bread truck driver. Were his eyes momentarily distracted by some random event? Was he day-dreaming? Or was he fully engaged and must the blame be laid at the feet of young Packer himself? Regardless, the force of the collision thrust the seven-year-old to the ground, inflicting on him a serious head injury.
Packer was immediately rushed into surgery where he was treated for &