Saturday, December 01, 2007

J.I. Packer on Theological Liberals

J.I. Packer is on of my favourite living theologians. He is best known for his book Knowing God. The first book by him that I ever read was Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. That was more than twenty years ago and I still count is as one of my favourite books.

Dr. Packer is a conservative Anglican who is also solidly Reformed.

Recently the 81 year old Packer spoke about the turmoil that is on going in the Anglican Communion, that has been produced by the rise of liberalism in the Anglican Churches in Western World and a large growing, orthodox, evangelical Anglican church in Africa and Asia.

In that talk Dr.Packer said this about theological liberals, "Liberal theology as such knows nothing about a God who uses written language to tell us things, or about the reality of sin in the human system, which makes redemption necessary and new birth urgent. Liberal theology posits, rather, a natural religiosity in man (reverance, that is, for a higher power) and a natural capacity for goodwill towards others, and sees Christianity as a force for cherishing and developing these qualities. They are to be fanned into flame and kept burning in the church, which in each generation must articulate itself by concessive dialogue with the cultural pressures, processes and prejudices that surround it. In other words, the church must ever play catch-up to the culture, taking on board whatever is the “in thing” at the moment; otherwise, so it is thought, Christianity will lose all relevance to life. The intrinsic goodness of each “in thing” is taken for granted. In following this agenda the church will inevitably leave the Bible behind at point after point, but since on this view the Bible is the word of fallible men rather than of the infallible God, leaving it behind is no great loss."

I think Packer's assessment is a good one. He is right on target. When discussing the Christian faith with "liberals" it is of little consequence to them if you can show them that what they hold to is counter to the Word of God, because as a rule they do not believe that the Bible contains the Word of God, except when the Scriptures agree with something that they already hold to.

Theological liberals get their worldview from the culture that they see as evolving and progressing. For them, it would be wrong to tie their believe system to an ancient book that is archaic and at many points vulgar and offensive in it content.

It is interesting that liberals believed that for Christianity to survive it needed to evolve and grow with the culture to survive and remain relevant. What we have seen over the past half century is the steady decline of those Churches that have been most influenced by theological liberalism.

Theological liberalism is anti-Christian and it leads to a slow death for the denomination that is overrun with it.

Coram Deo,


gallicman1 said...

What would Calvin think about female preachers? How would he react to homosexuals in modern protestantism? Why would Calvin desire to give communion weekly when he did not believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist? Many questions.

Cajun Huguenot said...

Hello Gallicman,

Thanks for the visit and comment.

Calvin, while breaking with Rome was still quite traditional. He was well versed in the writings of the Fathers.

You are wrong on Calvin's view of Communion. Calvin strongly argued against those denied Christ "true presence" in the Eucharist. I wrote on that on a previous blog titled "John Calvin and the Eucharist."

Calvin did not agre with Rome on Transubstantiation, but that is a far cry from denying the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

I am sure Calvin would oppose radical, unbiblical and untraditional innovations like female ministers or the acceptance of homosexuality. These ideas are products of liberal, theologies that are anti-biblical and anti traditional.

Thanks again,

gallicman1 said...

That's news to me. I am surprised that Calvin believed that Christ is present in the Eucharist. Very surprised. I understand he was a priest and at one time offered the sacrifice of the Mass.

I really can't speak to Calvin's person thoughts. I do know the results of his theology. Currently there is not one Protestant denomination that believes that Christ is present in the Eucharist. I understand that the Anglicans and Lutherans come close and state that the Eucharist is symbolic, not Christ, as Orthodox Christians have believed since the time of the Apostles.

Regrettably, even if the Protestants came to realize that Christ is present in the Eucharist there would be no one in their Churches who had apostolic succession and the right to offer the sacrifice of the Mass.

Cajun Huguenot said...


Thanks again for you visit and comments.

I believe, by you comment that you may be confusing Calvin and Luther on some points.

Luther was a Augustinian monk, a parish priest, a doctor/professor of theology in good standing with Rome for many years before the 1517clash they brought about the Protestant Reformation.

Calvin studied for the priesthood, but was never ordained by in Roman Catholic Church.

Lutherans, Anglicans, and historic Reformed (i.e. Calvinists) believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They do not hold to Transubstantiation, but the do believe that we do partake of Christ when we eat the bread and drink the wine during the Communion meal.

Some Lutherans and Anglicans do have Apostolic succession. I am not sure as to how Rome views them, but they do have bishops with an unbroken line back the Early Church and the Apostles.

Coram Deo,

gallicman1 said...

How could the Lutherans have apostolic succession when Luther, as a priests, could not ordain Bishops?

The same goes for the Anglicans, the Episcopal Consecrations were change in intend and form under King Edward thereby invalidating their ordination and succession.

Well I'll have to accept what you say about Calvin because I really do not know much about him except that he inspired Protestant Armies that sacked Churches in France and the Netherlands were his followers desecrated the Host. Certainly if the Calvinists did believe in real presence why did they desecrate these Hosts?

Additionally, if Calvin was not a priest why would he want to give out Holy Communion if he could not offer the sacrifice of the Mass?

Cajun Huguenot said...

Hey my friend,

Thanks again for the visit and comments.

Luther was only a priest, but there were bishops that also went over to the Lutheran movement. It is by these bishops that "some" Lutherans have apostolic succession.

The line of Anglican bishops also go back through all of church history. Rome may no longer recognise them, but the line is there.

The Reformed wing of Protestantism did not believe in transubstantiation, but they did believe in "real presence."

Coram Deo,

Scotty J. Williams said...

Kenith I am much impressed with you heart and mind as you answer questions, and tear down misconceptions about the Reformed faith in complete love. To Gallicman, there were also a few prominent leaders in the Catholic clergy that crossed over to the Reformed side during the times of Zwingli and Knox; this can also be used as a means of showing that we are in alignment with apostolic succession. But in the Reformed circles we would see apostolic succession being more along the lines of the truths past down from the apostles and church fathers rather than a line of bishops, for there have been many bishops who did not uphold the truth. As Kenith said, Calvin (as well as the rest of the magesterial reformers) was immersed in the church fathers and held to them very well.

I recently did a study on humanism during the time of the Reformation and found that it was merely a movement that sought to get back to the classics and ancient sources (much different from the humanism of our modern context); so the Reformers being humanists themselves emphasized the importance of the apostolic tradition passed down from the fathers.

Cajun Huguenot said...


Bonjour mon ami.

Thanks for your for joining our discussion. I appreciate your comments.

I would recommend that every one read Cardinal Sadoleto's letter to the people of Geneva in an attempt to bring them back to the Roman and John Calvin's response.

Coram Deo,