J.I. Packer’s Knowing God (Amazon; .ca; .co.uk) taught me that theology “is the most practical project anyone can engage in” (p. 17). Even in conversing with this book, I was able to put this proposition to the test at three very critical times in my life; undergraduate studies, marriage, and career. In each case, Packer brought forward wisdom that shaped my studies, shaped my approach to marriage and shaped my career choices.
Knowing God: A Transforming Text
This post is part of a series of my reflections on transforming texts–the books that have changed my life the most. These books have become conversation parters with me. I credit them with shaping my thinking, my desires, and my life. I think they will change your life too. When I think of the Bible as a transforming text, I adopt the language of Erasmus: “You must acquire the best knowledge first, and without delay; it is the height of madness to learn what you will later have to unlearn.” (Letter to Christian Northoff (1497), as translated in Collected Works of Erasmus (1974))
Knowing God in University
The first time I read Knowing God was in University, and it began to shape my life. I attended a Christian liberal arts institution, in a coop program with a public university. Both places provided their own unique challenges. But I had to learn to live, in both places with the knowledge of God.
Packer explains what it is to know and be known by God, “not merely that we know God, but that he knows us” (p. 47). And If God knows me, that is the ultimate thing.
Knowing God in Marriage
Engagements are often stressful for young couples. For years I have done premarital counselling. And for all the beauty, joy and hope of marriage, there is a dark underbelly of fear, conflict and trouble that often sits just beneath the surface of this life transition.
Knowing God then became a date book, in the year before I married my wife. We learned that through any adversity love wins. As we learned that God’s love is a holy love, motivated by joy and measured by “how much it gives,” we learned what it meant to love one another (chap. 12).
Knowing God in Life
A few years later, Packer helped me as we wrestled with discerning God’s will in some major decisions in our lives. “The Spirit leads” but within limits. If I could avoid common pitfalls, God’s will could be known with some confidence (chap. 20).