Book Reviews

Book Review: “J. I. Packer: His Life and Thought” by Alister McGrath

J. I. Packer was undoubtedly one of the most influential American theologians of the 20th Century. Alister McGrath offers a pithy look at the man’s legacy with J. I. Packer: His Life and Thought.

McGrath covers quite a bit of ground in the book, compressing a life’s story as well as an intellectual journey into 154 pages of text. He shows how Packer’s early life influenced his later thought, demonstrates shifts in Packer’s direction, and even offers some brief analysis of aspects of Packer’s theology. In doing so, McGrath can touch delicately on controversial topics.

For example, Packer was a vociferous opponent of women’s ordination, but McGrath attempts to moderate this opposition by couching it in concern for “conviction and process” related to tradition (134-135). This very brief discussion of Packer and women’s ordination led me to wonder if other less amenable aspects of Packer’s theology might have been toned down.

That said, there is quite a bit to appreciate about McGrath’s work introducing any reader to such a swathe of ideas from Packer as well as showing his life in toto in such a readable form.

It’s worth a brief note saying that the book has an absolutely superb index. I was easily able to browse topics and sections and used it a few times in writing this review, as well as as I was reading the book. I commend the editors for doing such a great job on this oft-overlooked aspect of the book.

J. I. Packer: His Life and Thought is a surprisingly deep look at Packer’s legacy in an easily digestable form. Recommended for those interested in learning about one of the more influential theologians of our time.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


5 thoughts on “Book Review: “J. I. Packer: His Life and Thought” by Alister McGrath

  1. “very brief discussion of Packer and women’s ordination led me to wonder if other less amenable aspects of Packer’s theology might have been toned down”

    Implicit association fallacy?

    Posted by Ralph Dave Westfall | August 23, 2021, 3:54 PM
    • I hardly think it’s fallacious to say I “wonder” about something. Seems like trying to force a fallacy into that is a bit much.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | August 23, 2021, 4:37 PM
      • You had a reason for your speculation about Packer’s other positions. That reason was explicitly based on an association with one of his positions you disagreed with.

        The association fallacy is not necessarily limited to truth claims. It could also form the basis for a speculation about something that might or might not be true.

        Posted by Ralph Dave Westfall | August 30, 2021, 11:28 PM
      • Yeah, I’m not debating this. There is such a thing as the “fallacy fallacy” that might be worth looking into for you.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | August 31, 2021, 8:30 AM
  2. Thank you for the tip about the “fallacy fallacy.” It’s an interesting issue, even though you haven’t established that it’s relevant to this discussion.

    Posted by Ralph Dave Westfall | September 6, 2021, 4:28 PM

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