Preface

Truth and Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life by J.I. Packer

I like the story (perhaps apocryphal) of the open-air preacher who gathered a crowd by putting his hat on the sidewalk and circling around it,pointing to it and shouting, “It’s alive!” When at last he picked up the hat, there under it was his Bible. The livingness of the Word of God was the preacher’s first theme as he unfolded the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This book aims to match that preacher’s witness by exploring the true place, use and benefit of the Bible — a topic on which I feel I can never say enough, let alone too much. Some of my material here has been printed before, but it seems to me that it all needs this present frame for its full thrust and force to appear.

Everything has been more or less rewritten for the present volume. For the record, the chapters originated as follows: Chapter one began life as a minibook titled in North America Freedom and Authority (1981) and in Britain Freedom, Authority and Scripture (1982). Chapters two and four started in a book called Beyond the Battle for the Bible (1980; in Britain, Under God’s Word). Chapter three is from a symposium edited by Harvie Conn, Practical Theology and the Ministry of the Church (1990). Chapter five expands what I wrote in Inside the Sermon, edited by Richard Allen Bodey. Chapter six develops some thoughts printed in The Evangelical Catholic (July/August 1992). Occasional repetitions of detail from one chapter to another (which could not be eliminated without damaging the argument) will, I trust, be forgiven. “It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you” (Phil. 3:1).

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May these pages bring readers closer to the experience of the psalmist who wrote:

Oh, how I love your law!

I meditate on it all day long . . .

How sweet are your words to my taste,

sweeter than honey to my mouth!

I gain understanding from your precepts;

therefore I hate every wrong path.

(Psalm 119:97, 103-4)

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