On September 26, 2008, J.I. Packer took time to sit down and answer questions from C.S. Lewis Fellows and pastors in the Washington, D.C., area. The following is an excerpt from that session. Audio of the full interview can be found on our website at www.cslewisinstitute.org.
Which writers have influenced you the most, and which writers would you recommend?
Well, you ask which writers in my understanding of myself have had most influence on me—that’s a different question from which writers would I recommend. I’m going to answer the autobiographical question first, and then I will decide whether I’m going to say anything more. John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Bunyan (17th-century Puritan), John Owen, Richard Baxter (two more 17th-century Puritans), Abraham Kuyper (a Dutchman), C.S. Lewis, and C.S. Lewis’s buddy Charles Williams. Little is known about Williams, but he has had a tremendous influence on me, not so much in forming my doctrinal understanding, as in giving me imaginative projections which give color to the doctrinal understanding. In other words, it’s Williams’s fiction first, and then his bits of biography and theology afterward, that have made the difference. And people ordinarily have their own favorites among the Inklings. Well, Williams is my favorite, although he’s the most uneven of them. Lewis, however, is the one who I think has given me most, but I love them both.
Is there anyone else? … Yes, the first Bishop of Liverpool, John Charles Ryle, who was an evangelical, popular writer, extremely strong devotionally, his roots well down in the Puritan and Reformed perspective, a wonderful communicator in my judgment. And his judgment on just about everything seems to me to have been as sound as a bell. He has given me a great deal. That’s the personal answer.
And then, whom do I recommend? I will make a recommendation: Get the C.S. Lewis corpus, that’s the corpus of his theological writings, an exculpatory in apologetics. Get that under your belt. Read John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, both parts, once a year. I do that; I don’t see why you shouldn’t. Dip into Luther and Calvin and see whether you like them. Liking does actually play a big part, I think, in the appreciation of both. Some find both of them difficult, and some find both of them enormously congenial. Try yourself out by dipping into both of them.
Beyond that … I’m going to be very bold and lapse into bad manners and recommend two of my own books—apologies in advance—but I think that you’ll benefit from my book Knowing God, which has had a very wide ministry over the nearly forty years that it’s been going. I also think you will get benefit from my book Concise Theology, published by Tyndale House, which is meant to be a popular survey of the whole of Christian doctrine. I think that it’s more likely than not that you will get help from my attempt briefly to survey the whole range of Christian theology in a Bible-based way and, as far as possible, to make it sing in the course of the exposition of it. Well, that’s enough of that, you will agree.
Next page »