J. I. Packer (1926 – ) serves as the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. He has written extensively on the topic of biblical authority, stressing the foundational importance of the Word of God in faith and practice. In a 1994 interview with the Founders Journal, he answered the question, Do you believe that modern evangelicals have lost their grip on the biblical gospel?
Well, in one particular respect we have got it all wrong. We are inclined to believe that God exists for us, God is waiting for us, God is there to make us happy. But in the gospel, God does not play the role of a butler. In the Gospel we are told that God, the Creator who made all things for his own praise and glory, has gone into action as mankind’s redeemer. We human individuals are impotent of spiritual response, that is, response to God in any shape or form; but God first of all sends us a Savior to make atonement for our sins, and then he sends the Holy Spirit to change our hearts and make us willing to see and respond to Christ. Now, if we do not appreciate that our salvation is God’s work in that absolutely radical sense, that is, God sends the Saviour, God gives us the gift of faith to respond to the Saviour, then we will not even be able to tell people what the gospel means. You see, we ought to be telling people that they are helpless, that they need Christ, and that they must ask God for new hearts and for the ability to trust Christ. In other words, you have got to tell them of their own spiritual inability right from the start. If on the other hand we forget this and go around saying that God is just there to help you, and that you call on him whenever you need to, that he is a sort of cosmic bell-hop, well, then we are misrepresenting the gospel in an absolutely fundamental manner. Until the gospel is understood as a message that obliges us to say that we are hopeless, helpless, lost, and ruined, requiring also that God does the work of salvation from start to finish, then we are not presenting the gospel as it is revealed in the New Testament.1
1 J. I. Packer, “An Interview with Dr. J. I. Packer,” The Founders Journal, 16 (Spring 1994), The Founders Journal Website, http://www.founders.org/FJ16/interview.html (accessed August 8, 2013).