One of my most treasured possessions is an old paperback Christian book. It is somewhat battered and dog-eared and the pages are yellowed at the edges. IT also has one of those awful 1980s covers, a picture of a sunset, that were so popular among evangelicals. Aesthetically, it has all the appeal of a dated disco album. Yet that book is a treasure. When I became interested in Christianity at the age of seventeen, I knew nothing about the faith. I had rarely been to church, except for the occasional carol service at Christmas. I had read very little of the Bible. I had no idea of what theology was. Yet as I left for university, the local Baptist pastor gave me this book – pretty battered, I seem to remember even by the time I received it – and my life changed forever. The book was God’s Words and the author was J. I Packer. It was not a book of striking originality, nor one of those for which Dr. Packer would be most famous; but it did something for me that transformed my thinking. It explained basic biblical concepts in language that even I, a neophyte believer, was able to grasp.
Basic books on solid issues are a vital part of the church’s literature. It is one of the reasons catechisms were developed: to make sure that even the humblest believer with the least amount of spare time was able to learn the foundations and basic building blocks of the faith. In today’s world where fewer and fewer people even within Christian homes are brought up under solid preaching and taught basic catechetical theology, the need is even more urgent. That is why it is a pleasure to be able to write the preface for this volume. What the authors have done here is to provide a series of essays on matters of interest to the church, from the doctrine of hell to that of Christian freedom to the issue of proper local church eldership to homosexuality. The reader who takes time to work through these essays will have received a good grounding in sound thinking about the Christian life, doctrinally and practically.
Yet there is more to the Christian faith than simply providing contemporary explanations of Christian truth. An important element of this volume is the desire of the authors to be historically and ecclesiastically responsible. Thus, the text is replete with references to creeds and confessions, to the writings of respected men from the past and to lessons that can be drawn from history. Readers will thus find themselves not simply connected to the Bible but also to the church throughout the ages as it has sought to be faithful to her Lord.
Dr. Packer’s book still sits on my bedside table. I confess that I consult it rarely these days. But is it there as a reminder that the basics are important and that those who teach us those basics, whether directly from the pulpit or in conversation over coffee or indirectly through books and other media, fulfill an important role in the lives of Christians. This book is of a similar caliber and I trust that in years to come readers will be remember the authors and the volume with the same affection and gratitude as I have for Dr. Packer and God’s Words.
Carl R. Trueman
Westminster Theological Seminary, Pa.
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