I’m indebted to J. I. Packer’s legacy for many things, so it was bittersweet to hear that he has finished his race and is now with the Lord. For more on that, read the blog post I pulled together for IVP, with links to a free ebook of the superb ‘Concise Theology’ and a brace of 99p ebooks.
Another influence on my theology has been John Wimber, one of the founding figures of the Vineyard Movement of which I am a part.
Those two names are not often uttered in the same sentence. Charismatic Vineyard leaders and conservative evangelical reformed Anglicans are not always the closest of bedfellows, ecumenically speaking, but one shared value of both Packer and Wimber was communication across traditional tribal and denominational lines. My own conservative evangelical upbringing mean that finding this little chapter by Packer on Wimber was really valuable to me – helpful both in encouraging me to explore a more charismatic theology and practice, but also to not, as it were, ‘run away with the fairies’. Packer is kind, gentle, and gives plenty of space to Wimber’s own words. In 1998 Bishop David Pytches gathered a fascinating team of leaders and pastors to write John Wimber: His Influence and Legacy. One particularly interesting chapter, which I’m focusing on today, was offered by J. I. Packer, Wimber the Intellectual.
In this short (3000 words) piece, Packer unpacks a few important themes:
- Wimber had a fierce mind – he wasn’t just ‘a saved pop-jazz musician with a Bible-based ministry that God was blessing‘
- Wimber was deeply rooted in evangelicalism, particularly the reformed tradition, and had a high view of the Bible.
- Wimber had some big ideas – notably around the kingdom of God, the Holy Spirit, and the way that ministry could be
- Wimber was imperfect, but overall Packer is grateful to God for him: ‘For the life-enhancing impact of this flawed but fascinating evangelical intellectual we do well to thank God’
This book is only available second-hand – I’ve scanned Packer’s chapter and uploaded it as a PDF which you can read. I’ve tried to find someone to ask permission to do this – if you know how to get in touch with someone appropriate at Eagle or Packer’s estate, please do let me know in the comments!
If you are interested in the way that the Vineyard relates to evangelicalism, and similar topics, you might find the following interesting…
- A paper I gave on the evangelical identity of the Vineyard movement, at a conference in 2018.
- An unused paper on Wimber and tradition – this is a look at some ‘Wimberisms’
- A book review of ‘Empowered Evangelicals’, a book not by Wimber but about the Vineyard. I’d also recommend ‘The Quest for the Radical Middle’.
- I’ve interviewed two Vineyard theologians: Doug Erickson and Alexander Venter, on related topics.