On September 26, there was a gathering at Beeson Divinity School to celebrate J. I. Packer's 80th birthday with lectures under the theme, "J. I. Packer and the Evangelical Future." Many others who were not there were asked to send letters. Here is John Piper's.
Dear Dr. Packer,
With deep gratitude to God for your labors of love, I write this letter. I rejoice with the thousands of others who have been the beneficiaries of grace through you.
I thank God that you have made God Himself the center and bottom and top of your ministry. You have been relentless in directing us to the indispensable experience of “Knowing God” in the fullness of the biblical word know.
I thank God that you have never been trendy. You have not swerved from the old path, but have labored to show that nothing is more irrelevant than forsaking the old Truth for the new in the name of relevance.
I thank God that you have said the old Truth well and have made it obvious for those with eyes to see that the old Truth is ever new and ever relevant.
I thank God that you have swum against the stream of a-theological, a-doctrinal, a-propositional visions of generic evangelicalism and called us back over and over to the “good deposit” and to the “whole counsel of God” and to the “type of teaching” to which we have been given by God.
I thank God that this focus on truth and doctrine has never been intellectualistic. You have never let us forget the Holy Spirit and the spiritual experience of joyful obedience on the Calvary Road with Jesus.
I thank God that you are unafraid of being explicitly Reformed and that, with Spurgeon, you show the glorious doctrines of grace to be the humanly best and fullest sum of the gospel, and not a tangential complex of ideas.
I thank God that you have been a Bible man with an unflinching commitment to the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of the Bible. You have not been ashamed to put your life on the line for this magnificent claim for God’s word.
I thank God that you lived with the Puritans long enough to love them and let the world know that they are the Redwoods of biblical and pastoral life and thought.
I thank God that John Owen appeared in your life when you needed his message most. I am glad he rescued you from the perfectionistic and suicidal views which move so far from the Bible in trying to be biblical. I thank God that you wrote the introduction to The Death of Death and helped ten thousand of us see the preciousness of the truth that Christ did not only die to save whosoever would believe, but that he died to secure every possible blessing for his bride, including her belief.
I thank God that you gave your precious time to help the ESV translation committee navigate its editing of the RSV so that the church of the twenty-first century would have a translation of the Bible in English that is less of a paraphrase than the NIV and more broadly usable for all the needs of the church than the NASB. This is a sweet gift to the church.
I thank God that you have humbled yourself again and again to help the little guys—by speaking at our conferences and by writing blurbs for our books. You were willing to be the first speaker at the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors in 1988 when we were not certain that anyone would come. And you wrote the first blurb for Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. And who knows how many other books.
I thank God for your friendship and partnership in the greatest cause in the world—magnifying Jesus Christ in our bodies, whether by life or by death.
May the Lord of glory give you strength and wisdom and faithfulness till he comes or until he calls. It will be a delight to stand somewhere behind you in the massive choir to acclaim our Lord in the resurrection.