I am grieved to hear today of the death of J. I. Packer, a great evangelical Christian and a great saint. He had been failing for some time but I did not know that the end was near.
Jim — whom I knew for about twenty years, though not intimately — was considerably more Reformed than I am and considerably “lower” in his worship preferences, but he is to me, and has been for many years, a model of how to combine firm conviction and graciousness. It is because of Jim and a handful of other public figures (setting aside the great saints who are known only to a few) that I can still be proud to call myself an evangelical. Moreover, I have always deeply admired the consistency with which Jim set the needs of Christ’s church ahead of his own scholarly reputation. He always knew how to put first things first.
The last time I saw Jim, some years ago, we ate fajitas and drank margaritas together at Joe T. Garcia’s in Forth Worth. (Service to the Lord can take a boy from Gloucester to some peculiar places.) The next time I’m there, I’ll lift a glass to you, Jim, in gratitude for all you did — and more, all you are. Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Very well done indeed.