Sunday, June 17, 2007

J. I. Packer on the state of the Gospel in 1958

I've just been reading (well, skimming actually) J. I. Packer's 1958 introduction to John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. This seems a remarkable document, and Packer's anaylsis of the church's condition in 1958 remains a strikingly accurate description of its present condition, now a half-century on! Packer asserts, for example, that the most urgent need of the church in 1958 was "the recovery of the Gospel."

From here he begins to contrast the "old Gospel," which the church needed to recover, with the "new gospel," which was then prevalent in the church. Now, see if the following quote does not apply as much to the contemporary church in 2007 as it did in 1958:
It [the new gospel] fails to make men God-centered in their thoughts and God-fearing in their hearts because this is not primarily what it is trying to do. One way of stating the difference between it and the old gospel is to say that it is too exclusively concerned to be 'helpful' to man - to bring peace, comfort, happiness, satisfaction - and too little concerned to glorify God. The old gospel was 'helpful', too - more so, indeed, than is the new - but (so to speak) incidentally, for its first concern was always to give glory to God. It was always and essentially a proclamation of divine sovereignty in mercy and judgment, a summons to bow down and worship the mighty Lord on whom man depends for all good, both in nature and in grace. Its center of reference was unambiguously God. But in the new gospel the center of reference is man. This is just to say that the old gospel was religious in a way that the new gospel is not. Whereas the chief aim of the old was to teach people to worship God, the concern of the new seems limited to making them feel better. The subject of the old gospel was God and his ways with men; the subject of the new is man and the help God gives him. There is a world of difference. The whole perspective and emphasis of gospel preaching has changed.

1 comment:

Moses in the wilderness said...

Bob,

I have to admit, I like your new template so much I changed mine from the lighthouse template to this new template you now have on your blog.

I have been struggling with my writing of late so I hope this lights a fire under me.

God Bless