J.I. Packer went to be with the Lord in July 2020. Nearly a year later, we are blessed with a wealth of theological jewels in Dr. Packer’s posthumous work, The Heritage of Anglican Theology. This resource is a collection of lectures compiled from the author’s course he taught at Regent College. The original intent of these lectures was to provide introductory source material for students who sought to understand the basics of Anglicanism.
The Church of England is a topic that is historically and theologically rich. “Evangelical catholicity” and ”catholic evangelicalism” are two terms that Packer uses to refer to the Church of England.
He utilizes David Bebbington’s four-point description of evangelicalism to help readers discover the core of Anglicanism: Bible-based, Cross-centered, Conversion-minded, Mission-attuned.
Packer adds an additional descriptor. “Church-focused” reminds the people of God that “one’s relationship with God is the most important thing in any person’s life and ought always to have priority.”
The history of the monarchy is discussed which gives readers an inside look at the origins of Anglicanism. In this context, Packer adds an additional list of important adjectives that sum up the essence of Anglicanism. His list includes 1) Biblical, 2) Liturgical, 3) Evangelical, 4) Pastoral, 5) Episcopal, 6) National, 7) Ecumenical. At the heart of this discussion is the strong allegiance to the authority of Scripture.
Packer presents a fairly comprehensive sweep of Anglican history beginning with the English Reformation and proceeding to the theology of the Puritans. Additionally, the author surveys the Oxford Movement, Anglo-Catholicism, and speaks to the current trends in Anglicanism.
Perhaps the most striking feature of this work is the attention given to doctrine. Packer strenuously argues the importance of doctrine in the Anglican church. As such, he urges his readers to grow more familiar with the Thirty-Nine Articles, which nicely summarize the essence of Anglicanism.
The Heritage of Anglican Theology is a needed volume in an age that has largely forgotten the importance of church history and theological tradition. While this volume has much value, it may be too much for some readers to digest.
Having said that, I urge anyone who has an interest in the history of Anglicanism to explore Dr. Packer’s work and glean the high points. Don’t get overwhelmed in the minutia. Be sure to catalog the major headings that help summarize the core teaching and history of Anglicanism.