The Gospel Coalition

 

Superficial Holiness and the Modern Scholar

By: John Starke



In his classic work Keep in Step with the Spirit, J. I. Packer bemoans that, "Magisterial treatments on holiness for our time are in short supply." He explains further:

Evangelical talent today is preempted so that when holiness is discussed, it is often not dealt with as weightily as it deserves. In Reformation and Puritan days, theological and pastoral leaders of outstanding mental gifts . . . thought and taught constantly and at length about holiness.

He goes on to write:

The most distinguished evangelical theologians have not always been the most ardent exponents of holiness, and the most ardent evangelical exponents of holiness have not been the most reliable or judicious theologians.

What's been the result?

The result is that much of our best modern theology (there are exceptions) is superficial about holiness, while modern treatments of holiness often lack the biblical insight, theological depth, and human understanding that are needed in order to do the subject justice.

This quote is from Packer's 2004 2nd edition. The first edition was in 1984, which I'm assuming is when these quotes originated. Let's assume that Packer is right and we are coming close to nearly 30 years since he made these observations. Have things changed? I tried quickly to come up with a few good titles by "distinguished evangelical theologians":

There are several others, I'm sure. Am I missing an obvious one? But I wonder, still, if our specialist mentality in academics compartmentalizes us to such an extent that, as Packer puts it, "the best evangelical brains have been put to work in other fields."




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