JI Packer has long been a prominent voice in evangelical theology, and many of his writings reflect solid teaching and wisdom. This book is no exception. This book makes an attempt to deal with one of the principle objections to Reformed theology particularly, and the sovereignty of God generally - if God is in control of everything and has already determined who will be saved, what purpose does evangelism serve? This book provides one of the more substantive responses to this objection.
Packer makes clear early on that it is impossible to get around two clear Biblical teachings without jettisoning whole sections of the Bible. Those two clear teachings are that God is absolutely sovereign and fully in control, and that man is responsible for his own actions and will be held accountable for his life. These two truths, which appear to be in competition with each other, have long proven to be a formidable theological question for theologians of all stripes. Arminians are often accused of elevating man's responsibility and thus forcing a watered down version of God's sovereignty that appears to be in contradiction with Scripture. Calvinists are often accused of elevating God's sovereignty to the point where human beings necessarily become little more than puppets, and that this seems to be in conflict with Scripture. Finding a reconciliation of the two truths that continues to preach the two truths in a way that's faithful to what Scripture actually says is where the rub has been. In this book, Packer does not offer a detailed compatibilist proposal, but indeed affirms the classic Reformed understanding that God's complete sovereignty is undeniably expressed in Scripture, and that this is a significant issue when it comes to the topic of evangelism.
The best section of the book is where Packer discusses the actual practice of evangelism and what it should look like. I think many readers will gain fresh insights about what evangelism actually is, and that Scripture is rather clear about what it is. Readers who are in the missions field or are in a heavily evangelistic role in their church or community will find this section to be very helpful, in addition to laypeople who are likewise called to evangelize the territory that God has given them.
Packer concludes by eloquently discussing how evangelism, without the recognition that God is sovereign, is a worthless enterprise that will yield no fruit. Packer persuasively argues that those who believe that winning converts is based upon their own evangelism techniques or charisma are utterly out of touch with what Scripture clearly says about the human condition in its natural state and its complete unwillingness to grasp or accept the things of God absent a work of God in unregenerate hearts. And it is here that Packer proposes that the sovereignty of God, contrary to eliminating the need for evangelism, is actually the one sure-footed basis upon which to conduct fruitful evangelism. Packer repeatedly comments that regardless of one's views on election and predestination, God's sovereignty is not only complementary, but a necessary precondition to the human responsibility to evangelize effectively. He effectively shows that if we water down or compromise the sovereignty of God, Arminians and Calvinists alike have no Biblical basis to believe that evangelism will be worth anything, and this line of thought is quite helpful for Calvinists attempting to deal with the mainly Arminian objections to the impact the sovereignty of God has on evangelism. A good book.
An Antinomy Explained. Antinomy: a contradiction between two apparently equally valid principles or between inferences correctly drawn from such principles. This is what this book is all about. I used to constantly struggle with this issue and I'm glad to say that Packer helped me put it to rest in a logically and biblically consistent manner. If you don't believe that God is in total control of his creation your prayers are futile, and if you don't believe men/women are responsible for their actions it follows that we all should converge into a common destiny. This book will clearly teach you both, that God is Sovereign and that mankind will have to give an account. More specifically, Packer treats this issue in regards to evangelism (the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ), as an activity for which each believer is responsible, and the gift of salvation (or gift of faith), as an activity that belongs to God. If you have not read it in five years, you should read it again, it is that good. EGM.