Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Restless Experientialists - J.I. Packer

In the next two posts I would like to quote J.I. Packer speaking of two different kinds of Christians we find in the church today. Both are on opposite sides of the spectrum. My hope is that by looking at these we may test ourselves to see if we lean too heavily to one side or the other, and find the balance that is found in God’s word.

“Those whom I call restless experientialists are a familiar breed, so much so that observers are sometimes tempted to define evangelicalism in terms of them. Their outlook is one of casual haphazardness and fretful impatience, of grasping after novelties, entertainments, and ‘highs’, and of valuing strong feelings above deep thoughts. They have little taste for solid study, humble self-examination, disciplined meditation, and unspectacular hard work in their callings and their prayers. They conceive the Christian life as one of exciting extraordinary experiences rather than of resolute rational righteousness. They dwell continually on the themes of joy, peace, happiness, satisfaction, and rest of soul with no balancing reference to the divine discontent of Romans 7, the fight of faith of Psalm 73, or the ‘lows’ of psalms 42, 88, and 102. Through their influence the spontaneous jollity of the simple extrovert comes to be equated with healthy Christian living, while saints of less sanguine and more complex temperament get driven almost to distraction because they cannot bubble over in the prescribed manner. In their restlessness these exuberant ones become uncritically credulous, reasoning that the more odd and striking an experience the more divine, supernatural, and spiritual it must be, and they scarcely give the scriptural virtue of steadiness a thought.”

J.I. Packer – A Quest for Godliness –

Next we will look at the entrenched intellecualists.



At Wednesday, February 01, 2006 11:34:00 AM, Blogger Cedric said...

Wow, good insights. This looks like a great book!

At Wednesday, February 01, 2006 12:33:00 PM, Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Good quote Doug. Packer is one of the few Evangelical Anglicans alive today (other John Stott perhaps) who has remained faithful to his Anglican roots without compromise.

At Wednesday, February 01, 2006 1:13:00 PM, Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Did Packer not endorse the Alpha Course? Rotten idea if he did.

Still what is quoted here is very true.

God Bless

At Wednesday, February 01, 2006 2:54:00 PM, Blogger Gordon Cloud said...

It certainly looks as if Packer is heading towards a sense of balance between experience and knowledge. If so, I can't wait to read your next post.

Jesus told the Samaritan woman that those who worshipped God must do so in "spirit and in truth".

The experientalists would be those who worship in spirit, but lack sound doctrine. The entrenched intellectuals would be those of deep doctrine yet lacking in spirit.

God is most honored when we both know Him and experience Him. Great post.

At Wednesday, February 01, 2006 3:04:00 PM, Blogger Joshua Ritchie said...

I imagine that the "entrenched intellecualists" would possibly be the other extreme end of the pendulum.

Clearly, there should be a scriptural balance as Gordon was hinting at.

At Wednesday, February 01, 2006 4:01:00 PM, Blogger Josh Eaton said...

I have usually been able to see the flaws of Experientialism more easily because I am not a "bubbler". Which means I most likely have the flaws of the intellectuals (not that I are one).
I finally bought this book. How far along are you?

At Wednesday, February 01, 2006 5:06:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...


Packer has endorsed some strange books lately. I'm just glad he hasn't written any of it.

God Bless,


At Wednesday, February 01, 2006 5:57:00 PM, Blogger Michael Pendleton said...

I sure am glad I'm a Baptist now. There won't be no "exciting extraordinary experiences" in my church. Heck no! We all dum dum along like the old volkswagen commercial. Sorry, couldn't resist.
I'm definatly "driven almost to distraction because" I "cannot bubble over in the prescribed manner." I do enjoy watching people bubble over though!
Wonder if I'm an entrenched intellectual. Is that another way of saying legalist?

At Wednesday, February 01, 2006 9:31:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...


To be honest with you I am not very far along. I have too much other reading to do to make much headway on it. But I'll chip away at it. I've enjoyed what I've read so far.


At Thursday, February 02, 2006 6:06:00 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

Wow. I'm practically speechless. Packer has captured an entire Christian sub-culture in just a few words.


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