Category Archives: Witnesses

J. I. Packer…. In His Own Words, In 15 Minutes

Crossway Publishers has one of the last videos of J. I. Packer, sharing his life in 15 minutes. We have lost one of the great ones, of the faith. I offered an in-depth review of a biography of Packer’s life, this past weekend. Well done, good and faithful servant!!

“I should like to be remembered as someone who was always courteous in controversy, but without compromise.”   — J. I. Packer


Balance: J. I. Packer

One of evangelicalism’s leading lights, James Innell Packer, died yesterday at 93. Having just finished reading a biography via audiobook about Packer’s life no less than two weeks ago, I offer my review of this book, as I honor one of the most remarkable, influential, and balanced Christian authors in my life.

My first encounter with J. I. Packer was during my freshman year in college in the 1980s, when I read his classic work Knowing God. My InterVarsity group was mainly absorbed with the writings of C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, both of whom were primarily oriented towards apologetics.

But Packer was different. I walked away from reading Packer with a greater desire to know Scripture, as a means of knowing God.

Packer’s life is remembered in Leland Ryken’s J.I. Packer: An Evangelical Life. Looking back over his long life, J. I. Packer, serves as a wonderful example of a Christian life lived consistently well. Leland Ryken, a professor emeritus of English at Wheaton College, has done the church a great service by telling the story of J. I. Packer (I also just finished reading one Packer’s final books, Grounded in the Gospel, co-authored with a former student of Packer’s, Gary Parrett, late last month, that I reviewed recently here at Veracity).


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Impact: Ravi Zacharias

Ravi Zacharias died May 19, 2020, after a short battle with bone cancer.

Ravi Zacharias was born and raised in India, coming to Christ as a cricket-playing teenager, after a failed suicide attempt in a hospital, where he read a Bible. In the coming years, he spoke at countless university audiences across the world, taught on a radio program Let My People Think, and engaged in evangelistic conversations with numerous civic and political leaders, all over the globe.

His greatest impact was through the establishment of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), where Ravi built a network of young Christian apologists, that carry on the legacy of providing sound, intellectual reasoning, in support of defending the Christian faith. This newer generation of Christian apologists includes the voices of Vince Vitale, Abdu Murray, Amy Orr-Ewing, and Sam Alberry.

Even though RZIM has not always been without controversy, RZIM has sought to continue the work that Ravi Zacharias began decades ago, through extensive speaking engagements, and a growing Internet presence.

I taught several Adult Bible Classes, based on his book Jesus Among Other Gods. I even got a chance to meet Ravi, when he spoke at my church, a little over a decade ago. He will be sorely missed.


Little Richard

 

Richard Wayne Peniman, who died May, 9, 2020, was one of the founders of rock-n-roll. His 1950s hits like “Tutti-Frutti” and “Good Golly, Miss Molly” transformed the musical landscape of the 20th century.

Little Richard was raised as an Seventh-Day Adventist, but he became caught up in the indulgences associated with the world of rock-n-roll. Richard had a complicated history in relating his sexuality to his faith, but he did later on come back to his spiritual roots, even serving as an evangelist, becoming an outspoken opponent of hedonism in the music industry.

In 1993, Richard took his Seventh-Day Adventist faith in a new direction briefly towards embracing Judaism.  Seventh-Day Adventists share Sabbath observance on the same day that Jews do, on Saturday. But he eventually returned to his Seventh-Day Adventist beginnings. In one of his last television appearances on the 3ABN television network, Little Richard describes his faith in Jesus.


Billy Graham: A Moral and Spiritual Revival

Billy Graham will probably be remembered as the greatest evangelist, if not of all time, at least, of the 20th century. Graham was not simply an exemplary preacher. He was a leader, who helped to define the Neo-Evangelical movement, that rose up after World War 2, in the United States. In the words of historian George Marsden, an evangelical was “anyone who likes Billy Graham.”

My favorite video clip of Billy Graham is the 1969 interview he had with Woody Allen. Graham’s televised interactions with Woody Allen were a remarkable display of winsomeness, warm congeniality, and Scriptural integrity. But a more representative display of Billy Graham’s giftedness comes from an early televised, brief sermon he gave, in the early 1950s. It was a year of a pivotal election in the United States, and yet the direct preaching of Graham pointed listeners towards “a moral and spiritual revival.”

Billy Graham was one of the first evangelists to effectively use television as a medium for Gospel proclamation. Many of Graham’s crusade meetings were recorded, such as his historic crusade summer, at Madison Square Garden, in 1957, New York City.

He was known beyond America, particularly when he preached in England in 1954. This opened up the door for the Billy Graham Evangelism Association to have crusades all of over the world, through the second half of the 20th century:

Graham was not perfect, as he himself readily admitted. His enthusiastic friendship with President Richard Nixon, became a deep embarrassment for him, when audio recordings of Graham were heard, on the infamous Watergate tapes, from the Nixon White House. But it is truly remarkable that Billy Graham was able to avoid other potential scandals, that have derailed a number of evangelists before him, and after him.

In our Internet and social media age, one wonders if there will ever be another Billy Graham, a leader who successfully holds together an evangelical movement, prone to forces of division, that have threatened to undo this tenuous coalition of believers, who gather together under “big tent evangelicalism.” Nevertheless, the Graham legacy is truly a gift to the modern, evangelical church.

One final sermon, to highlight, that Billy Graham preached, back in 1983: “Is there a hell?”  A sobering topic for sure, but observe carefully how he frames his message. How well received would this message be received today, in the 21st century?:

For more on Billy Graham, read this Veracity review of Grant Wacker’s America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation.


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