Westminster Shorter Catechism question four:
What is God?
Apologies for the late notice, but we’ve kicked off our next book “project:” J.I. Packer’s Knowing God. I’m really looking forward to going through this book, not only because it is a modern classic, but it has strongly helped to shape the faith of two people I am close to. God used it to bring my Dad to a deeper understanding of our sovereign God and the Reformed faith, and He also used it to shape my pastor/friend Ken’s understanding of Himself when he was a young believer. We’ll be trying to cover about a chapter each week (at least in the summer), so please feel free to read along with us or just follow the discussion here and on the New Covenant PCA blog (I’ll be posting mine on both, check the NCPCA Blog for Ken’s postings). Ken wrote an introduction to the book last week, and he posted on the first chapter (“The Study of God”) yesterday.
In the foreword, Packer says that the “conviction behind this book is that ignorance of God – ignorance both of his ways and of the practice of communion with him – lies at the root of much of the church’s weakness today.” Two trends have contributed to this, he writes. First, Christian minds have been conformed to the modern spirit – the spirit that thinks highly of man and leaves very little room for God. Second, Christian minds have been confused by the modern skepticism – “the foundation facts of faith have been called into question.” The skepticism related to God and to the Christian faith has opened up skepticism to the idea of a unity of truth. Packer wrote this book in 1972, and its striking relevance even in the foreword and first chapter makes it seem like it was written just yesterday.
As I read Knowing God, I am praying that God gives me grace to apply Packer’s challenge to his readers: “What do you intend to do with your knowledge of God, once you have got it?” After all, says Packer, pursuing theological knowledge for its own sake is faulty. Instead, knowledge of God should influence all aspects of life, as David Wells says in The Courage to be Protestant:
“Those who know God will walk before him humbly (Micah 6:8), not carelessly or with indifference, because they have come to learn that they can stand before him only because of his grace. They will be morally careful and reverent as a result. They will be in awe of him, living in the ‘fear of the Lord.’ Why is this? It is because of God’s exclusive demand upon their loyalty and attention. He allows no alternatives. This was a sore lesson that the Old Testament people had to learn over and over again. More than that, God’s exclusive demand is what is to be reflected in everything we are and do. That was the basis of the Ten Commandments, and it is the summons to be heard in the church today: ‘As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct’ (1 Peter 1:15).”