“If there were a god, it would be nice and tame, and it would fit neatly into this little ‘god box’ here, which (in my brilliance) I have designed. I have examined the box, and it’s empty. Plus I have a PhD, so trust me: God does not exist.”

With numerous insults and blasphemies thrown in, this is basically the line of argument employed in some recent, popular books by atheists Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Samuel Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. In stark contrast to those educated fools (Psalm 14:1), J.I. Packer says something like this:

I was blindly living with my head in a box, when God suddenly opened my eyes, heart, and life to Himself. Come—join me in discovering what wisdom and joy can be found in knowing Him!

In 1940s Oxford, Packer encountered Jesus under the influence of C.S. Lewis. After graduate degrees in theology and an Anglican ordination, he moved to teach at Regent College in Vancouver. Since publishing Knowing God in 1973, Packer has become the most widely-read theologian in the world.

Why read this book? Because — now and eternally — nothing and no one is more important to know than God. This book addresses our need in two ways: by highlighting biblical truths about God and by drawing us into a hunger for intimate acquaintance with Him. When I first read it, I was surprised by my lack of knowledge; more than that, though, I was ashamed of my lack of desire. How could I have so little interest in knowing the One in whom is found all I truly long for! Soon, however, my shame was lost in eagerness and joy, for God delights in being known!

The French have two words for ‘to know’— savoir and connaître. Savoir means to know a fact, some information, as in “I know the answer to your question.” Connaître means to know someone in relationship, in acquaintance, as in “I know Chester McCormick—he’s a friend of mine.”

And which do you imagine Packer writes about in Knowing God? Well, both, actually, for we have to know something about Him in order to know Him, and both are mentioned in Jeremiah 9:24:

"...let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.

Leading us through Scripture, Packer enlarges our understanding of three crucial topics:

  • Why and how God can be known
  • What we can know about Him (His love, wisdom, wrath, power, etc.)
  • God’s role and our role in the relationship between us

Each topic, indeed each chapter, is worth the price of the book. Buy your own copy, because you will want to underline and highlight important truths well stated. Packer writes clearly and systematically, and yes, this is a theologian writing theology, but it is anything but dry! His writings inspire deep longing for God Himself. Like a parched hiker finding a pure spring, you will find Knowing God to be exactly what you need and want. A hiker can drink too much, but is there such a thing as too much Living Water?

Drink deeply. This is one of those rare books which, after the last page, you’ll be tempted to read again immediately. Some have found this to be — after the Bible — the most important book they’ve ever read.

You may want to investigate more of Packer’s other great books, or to hear him speak. Of his several books, though, Knowing God is clearly the best.

Favorite Quotes

“We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing the God whose world it is and who runs it. ...you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfold, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.”

“A little knowledge of God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge about Him.”

(Knowing God has been made available for check-out from the ABEFC library, along with other titles in The Bookshelf.)