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Evangelism & The Sovereignty of God
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Evangelism & The Sovereignty of God

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  3,339 ratings  ·  118 reviews
The mystery and seeming paradox between evangelism and God's sovereignty has been causing disagreements and confusion among Christians since the beginning of the 20th century. In Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God, J.I. Packer reveals that a faulty understanding of the Bible leads to the assessment that these doctrines are foes rather than friends. By debunking the er...more
Paperback, 126 pages
Published December 12th 1961 by InterVarsity Press (first published 1961)
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John Gardner
I recently re-read this "classic" (if that word can apply to books while the authors are still living) since this year marks the 50th anniversary of its publishing. This is one of the greatest treatments on the subject of how Christians are to reconcile God's sovereignty with man's responsibility, and something I consider an absolute "must-read" for every Christian.

Debate has raged for centuries about this topic, yet I know of no more helpful book to address it. Most Christians tend to overempha...more
Derek Barber
Classic work on evangelism in light of the truth of God's absolute sovereignty. A must read for every Christian.
Mike E.
A short, classic work which is helpful for Christians seeking understanding related to sharing the gospel and God's sovereignty. Packer introduces the reader to compatibilism or an "antinomy" as contrasted with a "paradox."


Antinomy: "an appearance of contradiction between conclusions which seem equally logical, reasonable or necessary."

A God whom we could understand exhaustively, and whose revelation of himself confronted us with no mysteries whatsoever, would be a God in man's image and theref...more
Zack
I think that every professing Christian should read this book, or (at the very least) those who go on mission trips/evangelistic outings. J.I. Packer delivers a comprehensive, but still brief, explanation of the seemingly incompatible relationship between human responsibility in evangelism and God’s sovereignty in salvation. There are many Christians who say that believers who emphasize the sovereignty of grace and unconditional election do so to the neglect of human responsibility and divine ac...more
Bill
J.I. Packer has an amazing gift for explaining theology with great clarity and brevity. He begins by brushing aside objections to belief in God's sovereignty by claiming that every Christian who prays at all, who thanks God for their own salvation, and who prays for the salvation of others undeniably demonstrates belief that God is sovereign. In chapter 2 he outlines the classic antinomy of God's sovereignty vs human responsibility -- two concepts which are clearly biblical truths, but cannot be...more
C.H. Cobb
To have published a single literary work that becomes a classic is a notable accomplishment. Publishing two gives the writer a corner on contemporary Christians’ reading lists. James Inverness Packer has accomplished just that. Packer is well-known for his landmark book, Knowing God , which first was published in 1973. This is not a review of that book, but if you have not read it you should. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (first published, 1961) is the other classic Packer has written,...more
Gerald
A great book that answered a lot of big questions for me, especially as an evangelism coordinator for InterVarsity. J.I. Packer clearly explains the relationship between divine sovereignty and human responsibility as an antimony; that is, both are true and from the bible and seem to contradict each other, yet they don't. Alas, Packer does a much better job unpacking (pun not intended!) this than I can. Packer then also connects this relationship to evangelism; what it is, what is its purpose/goa...more
Matthew Robbins
Easily the best book I've ever read on evangelism. Packer is clear, concise, profoundly theological and yet practical at the same time. Only 122 pages yet brilliantly outlines how God's sovereignty fits perfectly with the commands to evangelize. Our evangelism (and our Christian faith) must hold together God's sovereignty and human responsibility in tension, as the Bible does.
Patrick McWilliams
Good book that successfully refutes the anti-Calvinist assertion that the doctrines of unconditional election, effectual calling, and particular redemption somehow impede the motivation of evangelism. However, the book cripples its own argument by an odd insistence that the truths of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility form an insoluble antinomy in Scripture. Ironically, I think Packer, in this very book, does a pretty good job of showing how the two doctrines logically cohere. (For a cle...more
Cristina
Great book on our role in evangelism, which is unquestionably the work of God. The author warns against both extremes (trying to evangelize on our own power using the latest techniques and foregoing evangelism altogether because it it God who turns hearts) and presents a solid Biblical middle ground. He argues that the doctrine of divine sovereignty and our evangelistic duty are not opposites, but work together for the salvation of souls in a Biblical manner.

The only thing I regret about this b...more
Steve Hemmeke
Great.

I only read the third section, on evangelism, about 55 pages, in preparing for a sermon. The other sections address why we should evangelize if God is sovereign.

A solid and biblically grounded review of evangelism. It is not the same as conversion, but aims at it. We represent Christ as His ambassador, and speak truth about Him, inviting others to turn away from sin and trust Him as their Savior and Lord. We do this to glorify God and love our neighbor. I thought the way Packer addressed l...more
Micah Lugg
I loved this book. There is a reason that it is an evangelical classic.

Packer tackles some big theological territory in only few pages. It strengthened my belief in the sovereignty of God, encouraged me to engage in evangelism, and shepherded my heart closer to Christ.

I highly recommend it.
Peter B.
Packer does a good job dealing with the relation between evangelism and the sovereignty of God, namely, that God's sovereignty and man's responsibility do not conflict, but complement each other (despite the antinomy they create), and that God's sovereignty gives us our only hope in evangelism.
Tim
An amazingly simple and concise treatment of an amazingly complex and mysterious topic. Packer explains that God's sovereignty actually undergirds evangelism and gives us hope in its usefulness and success, because it all depends on Him; He makes it possible.

Packer goes into depth explaining what evangelism really is (or should be), why we should do it, and how we should do it. This includes a good description of the gospel message, what our role in God's plans are, and what our methods should...more
Michelle Han
Wrestling with some questions and this book is very helpful about a Christian believer's role in light of the doctrine of God's sovereign control over everything.
Mike Knox
Clarifies relationship between God’s sovereignty, man’s responsibility, and Christian’s evangelistic duty. Aim is to dispel notion that belief in God’s sovereignty will hinder evangelism (7-8)

Charles Simeon’s conversation with John Wesley (13-14): following is an excerpt

“Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance…and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phras
...more
Scott Roper
We live in a time when even Arminian understandings of God's sovereignty are rejected by the evangelical church. Many cannot see how one can truly believe that it is God who converts a person to Christ and also believe that we have anything to do in evangelism. JI Packer ably defends the reformed understanding of the compatibility between evangelism and God's sovereignty over conversion. Indeed, he argues that only through a thorough understanding of God's sovereignty can one have any hope in wi...more
Matthew Hodge
Packer simply answers the issue - if God has already predestined things, why evangelise? He answers it neatly and succinctly.
Tim
Prayer, God's Sovereignty, and Our Responsibility to Evangelize. How do these items fit together? That's the premise of Packer's classic, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God."

This is my second time through this book and in comparison to the the first time, when I was more new to the doctrines of grace, this time was more edifying and still as provoking.

What I love best about this book is that Packer clearly explains his terms, supports them using sound exegesis and illustrates from both negati...more
Brett Mclaughlin
Packer is well-known for his impeccable theology, and for condensing and explaining that theology in concise ways. This little work, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, is no exception. Packer tackles the seeming contradiction--what Packer rightly and clearly defines as an antimony--between God's total rule over all things and man's responsibility to evangelize. In short, Packer seeks to biblically answer the question, "Why should a Christian evangelize if God is going to save who he is going...more
Matthew
This book was the result of an address J. I. Packer gave to a conference in 1959 concerning a crisis or controversy over the methods of evangelism. Packer states that his purpose was to set out principles for determining evangelistic strategy rather than endorsing specific methods. As he demonstrates, part of the problem in thinking about evangelism is being more concerned about the methods than principles or content. At the root of debate over methods, Packer diagnosed the problem as one surrou...more
M.G. Bianco
This is my second reading of this book, probably worth reading again every few years.

J.I. Packer does a good job of acknowledging that Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility are an antinomy, not a paradox. They are two truths that set side by side appear to contradict one another, but examined individually are quite plainly true. This is akin to what scientists tell us about light, it is both wave and particles, and yet waves cannot be particles and particles cannot be waves. He quotes Cha...more
logdog
I love how Packer turns the tables on (modern-day, not historical) Arminians claiming that Calvinists are always trying to fit God “into their little box” when he essentially says, “You’re the ones intruding rationalistic speculations by refusing the possibility of mystery, not taking Scripture for what it says and therefore not letting God be God” (15:05). Nope, we aren’t trying to fit God “into our little box”; we’re trying to describe him as he describes himself through his Word.

Packer descri...more
Jonathan
Approximately 65 years ago Packer tackled a theological question still relevant many years later -- how are the doctrines of divine sovereignty and individual responsibility reconciled? Specifically, the author tailored his arguments and proofs to the issue of the effect of sovereignty on personal evangelism. Ultimately, based upon the biblical texts cited (and they are numerous) he concludes that reconciliation between friends is not ever necessary. That is, the doctrines of divine sovereignty...more
Brian Whited
The main theme of this book is summed up in the foreword, “it is a piece of biblical and theological reasoning, designed to clarify the relationship between three realities: God’s sovereignty, man’s responsibility, and the Christian’s evangelistic duty” (7). Packer, in his presentation, offers a Reformed view of the above theme. He employs simple, but biblical language in hopes of not scaring off any Arminians or any who have not delved deeply into the subject, but also allows those who hold to...more
Bob Gooch
God's sovereignty and man's responsibility has been a source of controversy for a very long time. Packer simply states that both are "equally real and ultimate facts." The problem then is not whether these two principles are both valid but rather how they reconcile with each other. Packer's solution? "Refuse to regard the apparent inconsistency as real; put down the semblance of contradiction to the deficiency of your own understanding..." I was hoping a man of his reputation would come up with...more
Stephen White
This is the first book I've given 5 stars. I feel it is *that* necessary and beneficial. The short length of the book indicates that it is not an exhaustive study on the topics; however, the simplicity with which Packer writes allows does not detract from its depth. His four chapters bespeak the main discussions of the book:
1. Divine Sovereignty
2. Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility
3. Evangelism
4. Divine Sovereignty and Evangelism

He starts by letting the readers know that we all believe...more
Brendan
I was first drawn to this book in need of help assessing the confusing and pertinent dichotomy of God's sovereignty and humanity's free will. J.I. Packer is one of the simplest and most talented teachers of doctrine, and having read pieces of "Knowing God", I knew this book would be no different in his pursuit of gospel truth.

The first 1/3 of the book addressed the aforementioned controversial topic, and deconstructed it using the Bible as his only source. This was both dissatisfying and refres...more
Ivan
Though a short treatment of the subject, it doesn’t lack in content. Packer has a way with words unlike many men whom I have read, which makes his ability to communicate effective and winsome.

The book follows a simple outline. Packer first deals with the issue of divine sovereignty and how both Arminians and Calvinists find common ground on this issue. “On our feet we may have arguments about it, but on our knees we are all agreed” (p. 17).

In chapter two the core issue is dealt with, divine sove...more
Dan Glover
In this excellent little book on evangelism, Packer accomplishes a number of very important things. He first of all shows that all Christians practically and inherently pray as though their efforts of evangelism ultimately depend on the will of God, even when those same folks don't consciously and officially affirm the doctrine of the sovereignty of God in salvation.

Also, Packer shows that in order to ensure God's results in our efforts to evangelize, we need to use God's methods to share God's...more
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  • Redemption Accomplished and Applied
  • Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Whole People
  • The Sovereignty of God
  • The Death of Death in the Death of Christ
  • The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented
  • The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination
  • Chosen By God: Know God's Perfect Plan for His Glory and His Chil dren
  • Christianity and Liberalism
  • The Religious Affections
  • Systematic Theology
  • What Is the Gospel?
  • The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God's Delight in Being God
  • The Cross of Christ
  • The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
  • The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Theology of Lordship)
  • Lectures on Calvinism
  • Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 Vols
  • Holiness
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What do J. I. Packer, Billy Graham and Richard John Neuhaus have in common? Each was recently named by TIME magazine as among the 25 most influential evangelicals in America.

Dr. Packer, the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College, was hailed by TIME as “a doctrinal Solomon” among Protestants. “Mediating debates on everything from a particular Bible translation to the acceptabi...more
More about J.I. Packer...
Knowing God A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life Concise Theology In My Place Condemned He Stood: Celebrating the Glory of the Atonement Keep in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God

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“Creatures are not entitled to register complaints about their Creator.” 1 likes
“What we do every time we pray is to confess our impotence and God's sovereignty.” 1 likes
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