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Dockery presents tribute, CCCU leadership award to J.I. Packer

Union President David S. Dockery, left, presented a tribute to theologian J.I. Packer, center, in Washington, D.C. Jan. 31. Also pictured is Paul Corts, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. (CCCU photo by Brandon Rush)
Union President David S. Dockery, left, presented a tribute to theologian J.I. Packer, center, in Washington, D.C. Jan. 31. Also pictured is Paul Corts, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. (CCCU photo by Brandon Rush)

WASHINGTONFeb. 10, 2009 – Union University President David S. Dockery presented the 2009 Mark Hatfield Leadership Award on behalf of Council of Christian Colleges and Universities to theologian J.I. Packer Jan. 31 in Washington, D.C.

Dockery made the presentation to Packer during the annual president’s meeting of the CCCU.

The following is Dockery’s tribute to Packer as the award’s recipient:

“The Mark Hatfield Leadership Award is the highest recognition offered each year by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities to an individual who has significantly influenced the church at-large, and Christian higher education in particular. Previous recipients have included Billy Graham, Carl F. H. Henry, Ted Engstrom, Arthur Holmes, Rick and Kay Warren and Chuck Colson, among others.

“The recipient of the 2009 Mark Hatfield Award is Dr. James I. Packer. Everyone here knows of the work of J. I. Packer. Most gathered here this evening have read more than one of his many publications. Dr. Packer has authored more than 30 books and over 300 different publications. In addition, he has edited a number of works, including the magnificent new ESV Study Bible (recently released by Crossway), a project for which he served as theological editor. On top of that he has read, reviewed, and endorsed who knows how many important works. Everyone knows that such an endorsement from Dr. Packer is the ultimate evangelical ‘Good Housekeeping’ stamp.

“Many know Dr. Packer as one of the senior editors of Christianity Today. Others know him from hearing his important lectures or addresses. We have selected Professor Packer as this year’s award recipient for several reasons. First, and foremost, he has superbly exemplified the best of the Christian intellectual tradition, continuing the trajectory that runs from Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Baxter, Owen and Edwards to Lewis, and beyond. He has spoken prophetically to this generation because he has mastered so well the contributions of the past 2,000 years. Not only has his work been in continuity with this great tradition, but it has become an extension of it.

“Secondly, we have selected J. I. Packer for this award because he has not only taught us theology and philosophy, but in the words of Alister McGrath, he has taught us how to theologize and philosophize. He has thus modeled integrative and coherent thinking, linking truth to learning and living, and thus showing all of us on our various campuses how to make our Christ-centered commitments applicable in biology and business, the natural sciences and the social sciences, English and economics; indeed, all across the curriculum -- and music as well. Anyone who can play Dixieland jazz clarinet like Dr. Packer, and who loves ‘Jelly Roll’ Morton and Louis Armstrong must be a great friend of the arts.

“This coherent and integrative thinking has been evident in ‘Fundamentalism and the Word of God,’ where he helped us see the centrality of Scripture without falling into the traps of separatistic fundamentalism, calling for us to be biblicists in all aspects of our lives. It can be seen in ‘Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God,’ where he pointed us to the greatness of God while simultaneously enabling us to understand our responsibilities as Christ-followers.

“In ‘Keep in Step with the Spirit,’ Dr. Packer described what it means to live in the sphere of the Holy Spirit without falling into the traps of legalism, asceticism, mysticism or a faulty kind of triumphalism. He presented a view of the Christian life grounded in a careful reading of the Apostle Paul, along with the best of the Puritans. And, in his classic work, ‘Knowing God,’ a book that many of us would list among the most important Christian works of the past 100 years, he has given us a vision of the majesty of God that frankly has transformed our thinking and our living.

“Thirdly, we have chosen Dr. Packer as this year’s recipient because he models the aspirations on all of our campuses to promote the life of the mind. Over a decade ago, Mark Noll chastisingly wrote of the ‘scandal of the evangelical mind.’ J. I. Packer has shown us the way forward in this regard by connecting the dots between solid Christian thinking and appropriate application. Whether addressing matters that influence the academy or the church, evangelism or social concerns, spirituality or cultural engagement, and whether teaching or preaching, Dr. Packer has pointed us beyond mere rhetorical and pragmatic responses, calling us afresh to think Christianly about and in all aspects of life.

“Finally, the CCCU is recognizing Dr. Packer this evening because his life has modeled faithful and joyful collaboration. As a devoted Anglican, he has helped us all learn to work out of a particular tradition while also working transdenominationally, something that is so important for our shared work across the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He has modeled what it means to be both convictional and cooperative, with a kind and compassionate approach to collaborative service. From his days at Oxford to his days at Bristol, from Trinity College to his past 30 years at Regent College, J. I. Packer has exemplified the best of what some would call transcontinental and transdenominational evangelicalism.

“In a day in which many of us are more and more turning our attention globally, seeking to move beyond many of the denominational and intramural skirmishes in North America, the life of J. I. Packer stands as a living book for all of us to read. Yes, without apology he is convictionally Reformed and a true heir of the Puritans, if not a Puritan for our day; yet, he is also an active leader in the work of ‘Evangelicals and Catholics Together.’ In addition, with his Wesleyan friend, Thom Oden, he has given us the wonderful little book called ‘One Faith,’ representing what the two of them describe as the two wings of the Augustinian plane.

“Dr. Packer, we want you to know that if you are the pilot or the co-pilot of that plane, most, if not all, of us here tonight will be standing in line when the boarding call is issued.

“For the same reason that Christianity Today readers named Dr. Packer, along with C. S. Lewis, as one of the two most influential Christian writers of the 20th century, we have selected our friend, mentor and role model J. I. Packer as the 2009 recipient of the Mark Hatfield Leadership Award. Thank you, Dr. Packer, for your influence on our lives and our work. We offer to you our deep and heartfelt congratulations.”

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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