10 April 2012

Knowing God by JI Packer

Put up your hand if you have read Knowing God by JI Packer.

I know lots of people who have started it but haven't make it all the way through.  And many others who didn't ever get started.  Which seems to defy logic given that this book has found its way onto most top ten lists of good reads for Christians.

I've made a start on it several times in the past but didn't ever get very far.   I started it again last October and finished it just last week. 

It's definitely a book that needs to be read slowly.  And savoured.  I read it a chapter here and a chapter there over the six months that it sat on my bedside table.  It's not to be read for the sake of ticking it off the top ten list.  Nor is it good to read if in pride you think you already know it all. If you go into this book just wanting to turn the pages and check off "yes, I know that" on your list of knowledge about God or wanting to check off the book title from your top ten list of books then you probably won't make it.    

Because this is not an especially easy book to read.  JI Packer writes clearly, cleanly and beautifully.  He explains difficult theological concepts with amazing clarity.  And there are a few quips and asides to enjoy along the way.  But Packer writes with such economy of language that you cannot skim over paragraphs or skip over pages.  Every word on every page counts.

But if you find yourself in a space where you really want to know God better - to deepen your personal resources on how to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to be truly amazed by His amazingly gracious and merciful love for you - then this is a rich book.

I especially enjoyed chapters eight (The Majesty of God) and nine (God Only Wise).  And in the final chapter (The Adequacy of God) Packer did a quick sweep over Romans 1 to 7 and then spent several wonderful pages plumbing the depths of Romans 8 - which was glorious.

This book clearly has its place on the top ten lists.  Keep it on your top ten list.  But keep it for a time when you have the time, patience and perserverence to take it slowly. For a time when you are truly hungry to know God better.  And then read it and grow.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you
and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way:
bearing fruit in every good work,
growing in the knowledge of God,
being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might
so that you may have great endurance and patience,
and joyfully giving thanks to the Father,
who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 
Colossians 1:9-12


Sandy Grant said...

I had the same problem with this book.

Another tip I've heard people often say is to start with the latter chapters (part 3 - heart of the gospel) then return to the earlier chapters (parts 1 & 2).

Meredith said...

Hi Sandy. Thanks so much for dropping by to visit.

That's an interesting idea because you're right, in many ways the sections do stand alone. The first section is the "why know God" bit, the second is the nuts and bolts of knowing God and the third addresses the "so what?" sort of question. I'd be really interested to hear from someone who tackled it in a different order - and I can certainly see the sense of starting with the third part although there is a lot to grapple with there.

Maybe starting with the third section and then going to the beginning and reading it all the way through... But that might take nine months then...

Anonymous said...

I feel better now that I keep having to go back and listen again (as I have it as an audio book, and am trying to listen to it as I work away in the kitchen). If I get distracted for a second, I feel like I am completely lost! Lots of gems though. I am enjoying it. Jo

Meredith said...

Wow Jo! You must be a genius!! I think the only way I could actually listen to this book would be while on a car journey. And it would have to be a long trip, I'd have to be the passenger, there would have to be no other passengers (or if there were, they and the driver would have to be very quiet while I listened!) Well done for your multitasking. It is certainly a blink and you miss it kind of book. But I am glad you are enjoying it. Press on.