Knowing God

by
J. I. Packer

Book Cover: Knowing God by J. I. Packer

Knowing God written by J. I. Packer, at the time my copy was sold in 1993, had already sold over one million copies. Although, the text had been Americanized, it still takes a great deal of mental effort to slog through the academic language. But if you want to know the basics of Christian theology as understood and taught by mainstream denominations, this book is a must-have volume.

I read it nearly twenty years ago, but I took it off the shelf to read it again. Last year, a friend and I began getting together every two weeks or so to discuss it using the discussion questions in the back of my Twentieth Anniversary volume. Both of us are seeing more in it than we did at our first readings many years ago.

If you want to know God, the Bible is the source for his revelation of himself, but educated and gifted teachers can aid in our understanding of it. I had never heard his explanation for the purpose of the book called Ecclesiastes in any sermon or other book. He believes that the writer of Ecclesiastes is setting down the way things really are in this world. He also believes that we can not gain wisdom unless we understand that “the real basis of wisdom is a frank acknowledgment that this world’s course is enigmatic, that much of what happens is quite inexplicable to us, and that most occurrences ‘under the sun’ bear no outward sign of a rational, moral God ordering them at all.” Shocking statement isn’t it. Yet, how else can we explain much of what we experience in this life? For example a Christian mother in her thirties dies of cancer leaving her husband to raise their young children alone while immoral men live long prosperous lives leaving suffering in their wake. We all know that isn’t fair and we do not understand how a good God can allow it.

He goes on to show from Scripture that wisdom does not give us understanding of “why” things happen they way they do. Wisdom teaches us how to live in a world that serves up good and evil indiscriminately.

The topics of the chapters go into detail on the attributes of God giving Scripture references for study. Like most authors of books about the Bible, he gives you the scriptures that support his conclusions and hardly ever provide scriptures that might alter that conclusion. Until we have read and studied the Bible thoroughly over many years, we can easily be misled by those who have firm dogmatic beliefs.

We listen to people who give the impression they know what they are talking about. Whoever gets to us first often has the most influence on our thinking. But our salvation does not depend on having perfect knowledge of the facts. Our salvation is given to us as a gift when we accept Jesus as the Son of God and as the one who makes us righteous because he took upon himself the punishment we deserve.

Knowing God is more than just accumulating information about his attributes; knowing God is fellowship with him through prayer, trust and obedience to his instructions. As J. I. Packer states in his conclusion to the book: “Also, we saw that knowing God involves a personal relationship whereby you give yourself to God on the basis of his promise to give himself to you. Knowing God means asking his mercy and resting on his undertaking to forgive sinners for Jesus’ sake.”

 

 

Book Review
By Scarlett Stough
Title: Knowing God
Author: J. I. Packer
Publisher: Inter Varsity Press
Copyright: 1973 by J. I. Packer. Published in the United States of America by Inter Varsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, with permission from Hodder and Stoughton Limited, London.
ISBN: 0-8308-1651-8