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Letter from Australia 52 – Missing Packer, Weeping with Peterson and Rejoicing in Church

Letter from Australia 52 – Missing Packer, Weeping with Peterson and Rejoicing in Church

 Dear brothers and sisters,

It’s a truism that we are living in times of great upheaval and change.  It seems to me that there is a sifting of the Church as well.  This year we have lost some significant leaders within the worldwide church – Derek Prime, Ravi Zacharias and then this past week J I Packer.  It is hard to overstate the influence of Packer.  The first book I read of his was Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, which I found incredibly helpful.  Knowing God is one of the great Christian classics.  Packer was a faithful and Godly bible teacher – whose influence will be sorely missed.  With the number of older leaders passing on very quickly the question in my mind is who is going to replace them – I am not aware of any who seem to have that degree of influence and leadership.  There is a crisis of leadership in the Western church.

This short video of Packer talking about his ministry is well worth your time…

Which Christian leaders are speaking into the culture?  It used to be said that people would not listen anyway.  But I have watched someone like Jordan Peterson reach deeply into the psyche of many people.  When he last visited Sydney, the interest was such that the hall was packed, and hundreds were unable to get in.  He particularly had an appeal for young men.  This week I watched a remarkable video of Jordan Peterson.  He has been out of action for a year because of serious illness.  I found this deeply moving.  Peterson is such a great analyst; he is deeply empathetic and fundamentally open and honest.  And yet he cannot carry the sins of the world.  There is only One who can.

If you want to understand why Peterson is so effective and important then watch this interview he did with the Swedish commentator, Skavlan.  It is astonishing and a delight.

Although it is good to be able to watch and listen to things like that – I don’t think it could compare with actually meeting with the likes of Peterson and talking to him.  For our dining table we have been able to interview great Christians like Greg Sheridan andJohn Lennox.  It would be an absolute dream to be able to discuss Christianity with Peterson.   Just as we can ‘meet’ people through video, so we can also meet as a church ‘online’.  But it is not the same as the real thing.   So it was with great joy that we were able to return to meeting together in public in St Thomas’s building.

Screenshot 2020-07-19 17.51.52

What was it like?  Weird but wonderful.  There was no congregational singing – we just hummed, or lip synced along to the musicians.   Entering into the church was like going through airport security – Annabel and I were part of the welcome team.  People were lined up on the marked crosses, and asked the three questions; then we entered their names into a computer programme on our phones, before people went in to the church, picked up their labels (printed out from the phone) and were then shown to their marked and suitably distanced pews.  At the end everyone was given wipes to wipe down their pews, before leaving.    It was weird but it was also wonderful.  Great to see people (without face masks), and to share together in prayer and hearing God’s word.

But we live in a fragile world.  Because of what is happening in Victoria, and some evidence that that has already spread to NSW, it is possible that we may again be prevented from meeting next Sunday.  We live in an uncertain world.  It is little wonder that so many are fragile and worried.

But those who of us who are believers need not fear.  We stand on the solid rock.  All other ground is sinking sand.  My hope and prayer is that this whole pandemic – which is shaking the world – will not shake our faith but drive us ever more to Christ.   It’s not the preachers, the psychologists or the politicians who can save us.  It is only Christ.

See you next week…


PS.  This video from our friend Colin Buchanan and the wonderful City Alight reminds us of our only comfort in life and death.


Letter from Australia 51 – One Year On – Failure, Frustration, Fruit and Finishing.


  1. I was addicted to benzodiazpam for15 years also alcohol, Jesus delivered me from them.25 years of freedom.

    1. I was addicted to nicotine for 40 years and Jesus had absolutely nothing to do with me giving up.

  2. Maybe they’ll now publish Packer’s long awaited systematic theology he always promised us. I suspected he never wanted it published in his own life time. A good man indeed. I met him once in Belfast many years ago and discussed the Kansa City Prophets. Stott and Packer two of the greatest Anglicans of the twentieth century. It’s ironic that they disagreed over two different types of E.C.T.! Evangelicals and Catholics Together and Everlasting Conscious Torment!

  3. Prof Jordan Peterson has often denied that young Western men have legitimate Ethnic/Genetic Interests , instead encouraging them to “become better persons” while remaining atomized.

    Here’s an Australian , Dr Frank Salter , who apprehends the “Diversity” dangers to Western Culture in a way that Peterson does not attempt.

      1. David, why _publish_ Frank Salter’s views on your website _without comment_ if you don’t know what they are?

      2. I didn’t. It was someone’s comment. I don’t have time to read and vet all comments. I assume my readers are of sufficient intelligence to work things out for themselves and don’t need me to censor for them.

  4. “Many are fragile and worried.” Indeed, it’s not dissimilar here.

    And perhaps the epitome of this is with Peterson. “Peterson is such a great analyst; he is deeply empathetic and fundamentally open and honest. And yet he cannot carry the sins of the world.” No doubt this is true. Also in spite of what you rightly say about him and good that he has been doing he says in one interview that it’s not good and you see him breaking down saying all that people need is encouragement and there is so little of it. It’s sad that he can’t feel good about what he is doing and as you say he can’t carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. Rather it seems does it no that he is in need of the unburdening that Christ offers? “Come to me all who you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).

    Sometimes the hardest thing can be to “let go and let God”?

    I went to one of his lectures. It held my attention and resonated through the 2 hours. My thoughts were only distracted slightly by considering the protesters, small in number, that had turned up making false claims of transphobia and handed out leaflets at the entrance to the venue. It was a powerful experience and seems to me to be not dissimilar to what has been written about Jesus speaking with authority not like the teachers of the law.

    However he is extraordinarily intense and does have depression in the family. I just hope he can find some peace and to be able to let go and not worry so much.

    It seems does it not that thinkers can be susceptible to this kind of thing – the apostle Paul being accused of being driven mad by his learning and him engaging with saying he is not mad, but that he would like others to be as he was apart from the chains he was in. Or Neitzcshe, say who I’m led to believe went into a coma after he saw someone ill – treating a horse from which he never recovered his sanity and spent the last 10 years of his life in an insane asylum.

    And for all of us – there is the need for God’s grace is there not, perhaps especially so in these strange, unprecedented times?

  5. I owe a great debt to Jim Packer for his pointing me to the Puritans – “Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices” has been life-changing. The problem with the Puritans is, I think, that they thought in Latin and it shows in their writing. Though, on second thoughts, having to work the harder as one ploughs through a paragraph makes one engage more thoroughly. I suggest reading these slowly at first trying to grasp what’s being said, underlining in appropriate colours (I’m addicted to doing this in any of my reading) and noting the Bible verses where the text is not given (use one’s on-line concordance). Lastly, annotating with subheadings. Then, this done, put the book to one side for a while and then come back and read and pray through . . . and re-read and pray . . . and . . . you get the idea.

  6. A few years ago I read Bavinck before he became famous and I was a subscriber to Jordan Peterson before he wrote his best selling book. I see commonalities in their thought and i hope one day he would read him especially The Wonderful Works of God. The outcome of that would be fascinating and hopefully redemptive.

  7. One thing that has changed from the time that people like Stott and Packer began to make their mark as Bible preachers and/or translating theology for those occupying the pews is the change in the surrounding culture which has become increasingly hostile to the Christian understanding of the good and godly life. In this context Christian leaders/commentators who stand out are those who a) understand and can articulate for ordinary Christians what is going on today, and b) defend Christian understanding of the good and godly life given this context. I think of people like Al Mohler and Carl Trueman, but there are others. I might add in Rod Dreher.

  8. Very sweet and lovely video about J I Packer. As for Peterson, oh my, it sounds absolutely horrendous!! I can’t even imagine, I am so relieved that he is doing better and pray that it will only continue!

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