J.I. Packer writes this in the foreword to his 1973 book, “Knowing God”:
“…Ignorance both of [God’s] ways and of the practice of communion with him…lies at the root of much of the church’s weakness today.”

 

TREND #1 –

 

“Christian minds have been conformed to the modern spirit: the spirit, that is, that spawns great thoughts of man and leaves room for only small thoughts of God. The modern way with God is to set him at a distance, if not to deny him altogether; and the irony is that modern Christians, preoccupied with maintaining religious practices in an irreligious world, have themselves allowed God to become remote. Clear-sighted persons, seeing this, are tempted to withdraw from the churches in something like disgust to pursue a quest for God on their own. Nor can one wholly blame them, for churchmen who look at God, so to speak, through the wrong end of telescope, so reducing him to pigmy proportions, cannot hope to end up as more than pigmy Christians, and clear-sighted people naturally want something better than this. Furthermore, thoughts of death, eternity, judgment, the greatness of the soul, and the abiding consequences of temporal decisions are all ‘out’ for moderns, and it is a melancholy fact that Christian church, instead of raising its voice to remind the world of what is being forgotten, has formed a habit of playing down these themes in just the same way. But these capitulations to the modern spirit are really suicidal so far as Christian life is concerned.”

 

TREND #2 –

 

“Christian minds have been confused by the modern scepticism. For more than three centuries the naturalistic leaven in the Renaissance outlook has been working like a cancer in Western thought. Seventeenth-century Arminians and Deists, like sixteenth-century Socinians, came to deny, as against Reformation theology, that God’s control of his world was either direct or complete, and theology, philosophy and science have for the most part combined to maintain that denial ever since. As a result, the Bible has come under heavy fire, and many landmarks in historical Christianity with it. The foundation-facts of faith are called in question. Did God meet Israel at Sinai? Was Jesus more than a spiritual man? Did the gospel miracles really happen? Is not the Jesus of the gospels largely an imaginary figure? – and so on. Nor is this all. Scepticism about both divine revelation and Christian origins has bred a wider scepticism which abandons all idea of a unity of truth, and with it any hope of unified human knowledge; so that is is now commonly assumed that my religious apprehensions have nothing to do with my scientific knowledge of things external to myself, since God is not ‘out there’ in the world, but only ‘down here’ in the psyche. The uncertainty and confusion about God which marks our day is worse than anything since Gnostic theosophy tried to swallow Christianity in the second century.”

 

“Ninety years ago C.H. Spurgeon described the wobblings he then saw among the Baptists on Scripture, atonement and human destiny as ‘the down-grade’; could he survey Protestant thinking about God at the present time, I guess he would speak of ‘the nose-dive’!”

[J.I. Packer, “Knowing God”, Foreword, p6-7, (1973)]

{Originally written on February 11, 2020}

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