Last week the world lost a great Christian theologian, writer, and teacher, and an even greater human being. Dr. J.I. Packer passed away on July 17 at the age of 93, just five days shy of his 94th birthday.
Jim was my faculty advisor when I attended Vancouver’s Regent College 38 years ago, and he wrote a beautiful foreword for my first book, The Mystery of Marriage. In celebration of the life of James Innell Packer, here is that Foreword, which meant so much to me as a young writer.
If any recently married student of mine at Regent College who wanted to be a writer had consulted me about making marriage the theme of his first book, I should have told him as pontifically as I could that however natural the thought in light of his own present condition, it was a no-no, and he must put it out of his mind. I should have explained that marriage, being the most delicate and demanding of human relationships, as well as potentially the most delightful, is a terribly difficult topic on which to write wisely and well. I should have pointed out that the Christian world is already full of bad books on marriage, books written, it seems, by extrovert Pharisees for readers like themselves who want to reduce life to routines of role-play, and that he could hardly hope to escape the influence of these well-meant but dreadful models. I should have observed that it takes married folk years and years to get their togetherness into perspective, and that young authors rarely write with any depth about relationships anyway. And so on, and so forth. I should have discouraged him every way I could and been sure that thereby I was doing him a service.
Fortunately for the world, and for me as well, as it now turns out, Mike Mason, having sat thoughtfully through some classes of mine, did not consult me about what he planned to do, but went right ahead and did it, with the result that is now before you—this outstanding achievement, of which I would have deprived you if Mike had asked and taken my advice. For better, for worse (I may appropriately borrow that phrase, I think), I write a lot of forewords these days: Packer’s nilhil obstat is prized by some. Rarely, however, has a new book roused in me so much enthusiasm as has the combination of wisdom, depth, dignity, and glow—I don’t know what else to call it — that I find in these chapters. To introduce them is not a chore but an excitement.
Christians, read them—but slowly! Their tone quality, resonating as it does off the Bible as its sounding board, is richer than we are used to. Couples, read them together! Your awe and joy at what you have got into will be mightily fed. Multnomah Publishers, commission some more books from Mike Mason!—for this one is a crackerjack. And readers, please excuse my own slight giddiness; Mike’s pages have just made me aware again that I too am a man in love. For the freshness and force with which he spells out the magnificence of marriage in God’s plan I am deeply grateful, and I predict that the same will soon be true of many more.
Read the tribute “Remembering J.I. Packer”
Next Post: Announcing the new audiobook edition of The Mystery of Marriage