December 30, 2008

What Are You?

J I Packer, in the 1973 Preface to Knowing God, talks about the distinctions between the balconeer and the traveler. The balconeer, sitting on the balcony watches the road and has all sorts of time to reflect on theoretical issues. The traveler has to cover much the same ground but in a more practical, "how to" approach.

I have just started the book, so I have not gotten into the major points that Packer makes yet, but I sense it is going to involve some blending of the theoretical and practical aspects of theology, but going beyond the usual to reaching new levels with God, and with knowing God and of God.

As I think of myself, and others I know I can see the value in that. Being in seminary, it is way too easy to get bogged down in book learning only. Scholarship for scholarship's sake only is for, well, scholars. And quite frankly, it should not be so for Christian scholars for as Paul says to the Corinthians, knowledge puffs up. Those of us who plan to do something in ministry need the practical as well as the the theoretical. But those who say "Just give me Jesus", and ignore the theological aspects of their faith, content in the more emotive aspects are going to miss something as well. Theirs will be a faith that does not have the depth to stand up to concentrated, reasoned attacks in a articulate manner.

You may not agree with me, but I believe you need a strong theological basis to your faith, it will only strengthen the worship you give God, it will only embolden the witness you take to the world.

Are you a balconeer or a traveler? I think I want to be someone who falls out of the balcony, lands on the road and starts walking the journey of life with Jesus by my side. But until I fall out and land, I think I am going to both profit from and enjoy reading Packer.


Anonymous said...

Andy, this is a great book. I would make it required reading for Christians, if I could.

Andy C said...

I agree. I am enjoying it and wish I had read it sooner.

David Porter said...


I have Packer's book in my stack to read. I am looking forward to it.

Laurie M. said...

This is one of the first books I read after my conversion. That "balconeer" illustration is one I've never forgotten because it so clearly described how I'd been during my years as a nominal Christian - and the difference I experienced upon conversion.

Anyway, that business about "Just give me Jesus", I couldn't agree with you more. I've heard my share of that kind of talk. A lady at church once said to me, "Oh, I'm not interested in doctrine. I just love the Lord." Well, try telling your wife you love her more than life itself, but tell her you don't want to hear what she thinks, or learn anything about her. Is that love?

Theology is simply studying to know God, everything we can know of Him through His revelation of Himself. We can't say we love Him, yet not desire to know all there is to know of Him. Doctrine simply means "teachings". I get really frustrated when people claim to know the Lord yet hate His doctrine - His teachings. Anyone who knows God will listen to His teachings and those of His apostles'- the Scriptures. (1 John 4:4-6 and 2: 4-6) If we refuse to come to know God as He has revealed Himself to be, we end up worshiping a god of our own invention.