I know this post is coming out of order. Today, you get Part 2 long before Part 1. My normal sequence will be to present something about the author before talking about the content of the book. Please forgive me this time.
In the introduction to Knowing God, Packer (following John Mackay) talks about 2 perspectives on talking about the Christian life. He gives the analogy of travelers walking along the path being overlooked by balconies of Spanish houses. The balconeers are onlookers who make comments and judgments about the what the travelers are talking about among themselves. They purport to have some objectivity and critical understanding of the issues but have very theoretical understandings, some would say they don’t understand at all. Then there are the travelers “which, though they have their theoretical angle, are essentially practical” (pg 11).
What is the difference between these two perspectives? Where do you fall?
For Packer, its not that the travelers have no concepts for theology or doctrine, or that they are against theory. Rather, the travelers represent Christians who are trying to live out their faith as they walk toward Jesus. The balconeers represent “outsiders” who haven’t ventured to put faith into practice, or to have faith at all.
Though an insider/outsider dichotomy may be perceived here, I don’t think that is his intention. Rather, he is taking the stance of Jeremiah, as he quotes,
“‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls’ (Jer 6:16). Such is the invitation which this book issues. It is not a critique of new paths, except indirectly, but rather a straightforward recall to old ones” (pg 13).
In other words, he recognizes the effect modernity, and foresees the effects of postmodernity, on Christian faith. So his approach to theology in Knowing God is one of active obedience. It is designed for the traveler following after Jesus.
I love this! I am learning more and more that I am not an embodied mind. I have a mind, but I am not my mind. My mind is a tool that God has given me to use for His glory. It can also be manipulated, but it must be submitted to my soul and, ultimately, to His Spirit. This reminds me so much of what I have been reading from Emerging/Missional Church pastors and authors about a wholist Christian faith. Yes, Christianity is rational, but it is ultimately Spiritual. And Jesus has redeemed me, all of me. Yes, I am to be growing in holiness, but he uses me even though I’m not perfect (otherwise, I would be useless until I reach heaven, right?). I want to approach my faith like a traveler, not like a critical/cynical outsider. Christianity is not meant to be merely described (though accurate description has a place), faith is meant to be lived. We have a prescriptive faith. Let us travel this road together!
Will you submit you mind to Christ without checking your mind at the door?