Summary Notes for “Concise Theology” by J.I. Packer

To read Concise Theology by Dr. Packer please visit the linked posted here.

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In the introduction Dr. Packer explains the scope of this work and, without apology, the focus will be Reformed and Evangelical with the driving idea that theology is for “the praise of God and the practice of godliness.”

 

 

SECTION ONE: God revealed as Creator

The first section deals with what God has revealed to us as our creator.  As with the Reformed confessions the author begins with the revealed word or special revelation, which contains how we as believers are to worship in truth and how to serve our Creator, with importance on understanding that God is speaking through His word.

Proper understand of the scripture is then discussed included the responsibility of each believer to interpret the scripture for himself.  The proper method for the interpretation of scripture is outlined as the historical grammatical method.

With special revelation covered, Dr. Packer then moves to general revelation or the portion of revelation that is inescapable and known by all and is the basis for the condemnation of sinners by the apostle Paul in Romans (1:18-3:19).  Everyone receives this form of revelation by being alive and witnessing the laws that govern the natural world including the laws of nature and logic.

With general revelation comes human guilt.  Humanity is inclined to religion and sets up idols in place of God as well as reacts to faith with atheism.  Instead of worshiping God, man without special revelation, will turn to worship creation including their work or family in hopes of dealing with their guilt.

The holy scriptures are authenticated by the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit and is the same Spirit that bears witness to Jesus Christ Himself.  This inward witness is the same witness to the scripture since the beginning and is not to be misunderstood as some mystical experience.

Dr. Packer discusses in brief the authority of the scripture in governing God’s people and that all theology is, “measured, tested and where necessary corrected and enlarged, by reference to biblical teaching.”  True knowledge comes through faith and knowledge of Christ as He is revealed in the man, the incarnation and is to be contrasted with the Gnostic idea of knowledge and Christ.

God created all that is out of nothing.  Creation is awe inspiring and mysterious.  The world cannot sustain itself without the hand of God and providence and every second of our lives we depend on God for our existence.  We learn of God’s nature from the self-disclosure of His name, Yahweh, for the name of God “in all its forms proclaims his eternal, self-sustaining, self-determining, sovereign reality—that supernatural mode of existence that the sign of the burning bush had signified.”  The self-existence and self-sustaining God of revelation provides us with a knowledge of an un-derived and independent God who has always been.

Dr. Packer then explains the transcendence, omniscience and sovereignty of God in a distantly Reformed manner.  God is not limited by a temporal body or affected by time and is by nature utterly changeless.  God knows all things as an immanent act in His mind.  He learns nothing but knows all.  His control is total and He wills what is to be.  Dr. Packer’s description truly brings a sense of wonder.  The almightiness of God, His filling all things, brings to mind dread but also comfort.  My sin is always before God but He is always forgiving, knowing my troubles, showing mercy and guidance.

The doctrine of predestination is briefly explain as the purpose and outworking of God’s sovereignty in the world.  This theme runs through every book of the Bible and is essentially Trinitarian in nature.  The historic or technical language used to describe the complex revelation of God to man is not found in scripture, but is rooted in the New Testament. The Trinity is therefore to be believed.  In the section on holiness we read that the word “signifies everything about God that sets him apart from us and makes him an object of awe, adoration, and dread…”  God’s holiness is utter purity and light.

Dr. Packer draws a link between the goodness of God and “God is love,” and then another line between “God is love” with redemption.  God’s love is particular and redemptive, not general and common.  God is a God of a particular people.  These particular people are to fear God…“that is, reverent worship and service of him.”  God’s wisdom is based in His decree and purpose with His behavioural commands being rooted in His character and therefore eternal.

God is great and His greatness is incomprehensible to the mind.  The mind of God is a mystery to man in the sense that man cannot fully know the mind of God.  We know God in a limited sense but what we know has been revealed by Him and is to be believed.  This revelation uses anthropomorphisms to describe the creator, who is indescribable, so that we may be drawn “in worship, love, and trust, even though conceptually we are always like the young children who hear their parents’ baby talk and know the talker only in part (1 Cor. 13:12).”

In speaking of His providence we find another Dr. Packer quote, “His hand may be hidden, but his rule is absolute.”  God keeps, involves and directs all things harmonizing mans evil actions for good.  God does not overrule the natural inclinations of the human heart but does “overrule” the final outcome of these actions.  There is no such thing as luck or fate.  God is in control of all things.  Once we understand how God governs His creation miracles logically follow.  Miracles are broken down into three categories; that of wonder, mighty work and sign.  We are reminded of God’s presence, His creative power and message through His workings in the world.  This is an essential part of our faith.

The ultimate purpose or the chief end of God is to bring glory to Himself.  It is not out of pride but due praise for His worth.  The salvation of sinners is not just to save lost souls but also to bring glory to Himself through the work of salvation.  Idols set up before God blind and enslave the worshipper in ritual superstition and deny God His due praise and worth.

Angels are described as personal beings created with moral agency.  They are not visible but able to show themselves in physical form and cannot die.  These messengers of God reside in heaven and worship the creator, guard believers and observe the church.  Angels were often seen during the writing of scripture and will be more prolific when our Lord returns.  Demons on the other hand ware fallen Angels who are at enmity against God, damaged and evil serving Satan as their master.  Their work was to plague mankind with physical and psychological problems including “deception and discouragement in many forms.”  Christ’s spent much of His earthly ministry waging war against Satan and His minions by healing the sick and exorcising demons.  Satan as their leader is the “adversary” of God and His people known by many names.  As a side note: one of the names for Allah is Al-Mumit.  This Arabic name means “the Destroyer” and is also translated as “the Creator of Death, the Slayer and the Life-Taker.”  (Exodus 12:23; Revelation 9:11 see also Abaddon/Apollyon)  Using trickery Satan will confuse evil with good and show himself to be an Angel of light, the saint once aware, must be on watch for such cunning devises.

Humans are created in God’s image, we are His image bearers on earth with a full scoop of intellectual powers of which we are responsible for.  Created  and declared good by God man fell from this state in Adam our federal head.  Now we live with the taint of sin until God begins the work of regeneration in us.  Humans are dichotomous beings made up of body and soul or spirit.  The soul is embodied as a central part of God’s plan where the body is redeemed with the soul.  Both men and women bear the image of God and are created with unique purposes and roles.

jm

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2 thoughts on “Summary Notes for “Concise Theology” by J.I. Packer

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