I enjoy theological debate, but I always insist on being respectful and making it known that I am not always right.
Here are a few thoughts in rebuttal to a Facebook post my beloved friend Bill W. of a quote from J.I Packer's book titled, Knowing God.
J.I. Packer in "Knowing God" states…
J.I. Packer states: “Power is as much God's essence as wisdom is.”
My Response: The Greeks would love this description of God, I don’t disagree with this statement but He is also defined by loved (1 John 4:16).
J.I. Packer states: “Omniscience governing omnipotence, infinite power ruled by infinite wisdom, is a basic biblical description of the divine character.”
My Response: Yes, I’d agree, but a scriptural proof text would be very helpful…we mustn’t forget that Jesus is the Lord and Savior of all humanity, He is a Jewish Rabbi, not a Greek Philosopher. It’s dangerous to reduce the character of God to a Greek inspired definition that was also used to describe the character of the mythological god Zeus. Perhaps I am splitting hairs, but I do care deeply about this subject. Debate stimulates theological inquiry, or the Bible states, “Iron sharpens iron.”
J.I. Packer states: “Wisdom without power would be pathetic, a broken reed; power without wisdom would be merely frightening; but in God boundless wisdom and endless power are united, and this makes him utterly worthy of our fullest trust.”
My Response: 1 Corinthians 1:24 rings true. The power of God is always rooted in his wisdom, but it also never operates apart from His great love. A great syncretistic definition of wisdom and power for a theologian in the hallowed halls of academia, but it makes God virtually inaccessible to the laymen who simply needs know that God is trustworthy. Christ shows us how trustworthy God is. I agree with the statement, but it requires we be the visible evidence to the weary Christian and the unbeliever alike, demonstrating that God is utterly trustworthy and the only source of true life in this broken-down world.
J.I. Packer states: “God's almighty wisdom is always active, and never fails.”
My Response: Yes! What is lacking is our willingness to look through the eyes of faith to see the wisdom of God playing out in our lives and the circumstances of others. We have to trust God that He will accomplish something truly miraculous in our lives. We don’t always get what we want in prayer, but we are always led to what we need. I see that as the wisdom of God.
J.I. Packer states: “All his works of creation and providence and grace display it, and until we can see it in them we just are not seeing them straight.”
My Response: Many things can distort the clarity of seeing God and our lives through the clear lens of faith (and scripture). Whether we’re believing a lie about God, living in the delusion of sin, or justifying a way of thinking/living that the Bible clearly says will destroy us…we have a promise from God that grace, not judgement will abound to us in greater measure. That’s not to say we deliberately sin to test the limits of His grace, which would obviously be unwise, if not foolish.
J.I. Packer states: “But we cannot recognize God's wisdom unless we know the end for which he is working. Here many go wrong. Misunderstanding what the Bible means when it says that God is love, they think that God intends a trouble-free life for all, irrespective of their moral and spiritual state, and hence they conclude that anything painful and upsetting (illness, accident, injury, loss of job, the suffering of a loved one) indicates either that God's wisdom, or power, or both, have broken down, or that God, after all, does not exist.”
My Response: I could not agree more. The Incarnation of God the Father, in Christ the Son is evidence that God isn’t indifferent to the plight of humanity. He clothed himself in flesh and took on our distress. There will always be debate about what God causes versus what God allows, but understanding that He is love and that His interaction with humanity is motivated by the logic, or the wisdom of His love immediately redeems any distorted ideas we’d be tempted to think about Him. Especially any theology that further maligns His character or diminishes His love.
J.I. Packer states: “But this idea of God's intention is a complete mistake: God's wisdom is not, and never was, pledged to keep a fallen world happy, or to make ungodliness comfortable."
My Response: The irony of this statement is the godless are quite comfortable, whether it’s in their sin, or their academic sanctuaries where their ego is enshrined like royalty sitting on a throne. God really does offer us comfort in our distress, but He doesn’t always make us feel comfortable, after all the Holy Spirit is referred to by Jesus as the Comforter…so let’s not be hasty in our conclusions about the comfort God desires to bring to His people. God has intervened in the lives of people who were not technically following Him, but because of God’s providential, or divine intervention, they saw the loving intention of God in His actions. That has led many to believing in Him through Christ Jesus alone.
A few thoughts to ponder while you enjoy a cup of coffee.
Much love to you all.
Pastor Jeremy Evans