Yesterday’s Christians

Though yesterday’s great Christians must not be idolized, they should be remembered, and their legacy kept in appreciative view; for God gave them their strength and insight in order to enrich not just their own generation but all who would come after.

J. I. Packer


12 thoughts on “Yesterday’s Christians

  1. Kansas Bob says:

    Hope this doesn’t sound snarky but maybe Packer is wanting to be remembered.

    The truth of the matter is that Christians have made idols of the theologies of Calvin, Arminius and others. IMO it is better to teach people to rely more on the Holy Spirit interpretation of the scriptures than Spurgeon or CS Lewis.

  2. Dave says:

    I agree completely with KB on this one. It seems to have become common to hear a Pastor, or read a “Christian Living” or “theology” book, in which the Bible is referenced far less than the writings or teachings of other men. That makes me sad.

  3. nephos says:

    I read this quoted in another book, so I can’t speak to Packer’s intent.

    But, taking it at face value, do you guys disagree with it? Is the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives limited to their generation? Can we not have “an appreciative view” of their lives and works?

    I have been blessed by Church History, Christian biographies, and writers of previous generations to think otherwise.

    The excesses of others (idolizing men) doesn’t keep me from enjoying God’s gifts to the church through their contribution.

  4. Dave says:

    I do not disagree with the quote, on its face. Actually, I do agree with it. We should learn from those that came before. However, I do not think that we should put anyone on such a pedestal that we do not check what they say against Scripture, or use their views on the same level as Scripture. Nor do I think that we should be all that concerned with how future generations will view what we think. We need to be careful that our doctrine comes from the Bible, not from men.

    So, I think that both the quote and KB are spot on.

  5. Kansas Bob says:

    I enjoy reading CS Lewis and gleaning wisdom from commentaries as much as anyone. I just think that you have to have a decent understanding of the scriptures before you start relying on what books tell you.. if you don’t you may become a disciple of the author instead of a disciple of the Author.

    I am with you Cameron that stories of Christians (like Wilberforce) can be very inspirational.. great reading and viewing!

  6. Tim A. says:

    I think we are called on to remember past Christians and their faith in Christ and their faithfulness.
    We are to pattern our lives after them, as their lives patterned that of Christ.
    We should take Packer’s quote at face value, and not try and judge otherwise.
    Thanks for the quote.

  7. nephos says:

    I think (here’s a surprise) that what we would agree on is balance. Honor and respect that stops well short of worship.

    KB, the operative word in your question is “searching!” 😉

  8. Dave says:

    I think you are correct on needing a balance. People have struggled with this balance for a long time. Could Paul have been alluding to this a little bit in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17?

  9. nephos says:

    Very possibly, Dave. If you compare that passage and others (warning against thinking too highly of him) with those where he tells them to follow him as he follows Christ, you get an idea of that balance.

  10. Chuck Grantham says:

    God gives us great Christians to be teachers and examples throughout the ages. We learn from both their successes and their failures.

    We have only one Teacher who was more than Man, and thus never in error.

  11. nephos says:

    Chuck, I think that recognizing that the great Christians of the past are both “saints and sinners,” helps keep things in perspective.

    That one perfect Teacher should be the measure by which we determine when they got it wrong and when they got it right. When they line up with Him, I should respect them, and when they don’t, I should be willing to recognize it.

    Problem is, I too often evaluate them by whether or not they agree with me!

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