In the five years after I turned to Christ 1998, I came across three very significant and powerful books on the core truths of Christian belief. I was mightily thirsty to know more about God and to press more deeply into Him, to understand His heart for me. I was recommended ‘Knowing God’ by J.I. Packer; ‘The Cross of Christ’ by John Stott; and ‘Gospel and Kingdom’ by Graham Goldsworthy). They have set my feet upon a very solid path, theologically. Yet their deeper significance is that they are not merely a list of well-articulated doctrines and dry-as-a-piece-of-cardboard principles: they have deepened my relationship with God and helped me to grasp how the entire Biblical story hangs together (thus exposing how the God of the First Testament is not different to the revealed Messiah Jesus in the Second Testament, as if The Father underwent a personality transplant during the 400 year interlude), how God can be known and experienced in the life of a believer, and how pivotal the Cross is to the promises and the function of all Scripture:
The first two books are written with an easy-to-understand voices, of well-seasoned, well-weathered minds who have walked longer journeys than myself. They, I found, to be most instructive in an intellectual sense as well as in a personal sense. The third, the Goldsworthy book, has as much theological gold as the name of the author, though it is not always easy to read. It’s the shortest of the books (just over 100 pages if I rightly remember), but the prose is often wooden and it serves mostly as a systematic framework that can be hard for a new believer to get through. But with hard work and dogged persistence, its fruits quickly come to bear.
Although these authors are great men in Christendom and I look up to in many ways, that does not mean that I agree with them in everything. Packer’s views, for instance, on evolution are something to be desired and on that I have to say I disagree with him. But for what these men have written in these books one cannot go wrong. I hope they serve others as well we myself. They have helped me to apprehend the loving heart of Father God and given me a framework to sift wheat from chaff, truth from falsehood, and wonder from fantasy. They really are, in my view, must-reads for any Christian who is serious about connecting with God on His terms and really serious about what it means to walk with Him in truth and grace. I am aware that for many people, and often for good reason, people chomp at the bit when they think of learning theology and “core doctrines”. I can empathise with that but it is as C.S. Lewis once wrote, “If you do not heed theology, that will not mean you have no ideas about God; It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones.” To not subscribe to a theology is to still have a theology! Shalom.
“Lord, it belongs not to my care
Whither I die or live;
To love and serve Thee is my share,
And this Thy grace must give.
If life be long, I will be glad,
That I may long obey;
If short – then why should I be sad
To soar to endless day?” -
“Knowing God”, J.I. Packer, p. 33.