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Knowing God by J.I. Packer - Review, Summary, Analysis & Facts

Knowing God by J.I. Packer

Table of Contents:

1. Book Details

Full Title:

Knowing God





Number of Pages:

286 pages

Author - Who Wrote?

J.I. Packer

Publication Date:

January 1, 1973

Original Language:


2. Synopsis

"Knowing God" by J.I. Packer is a profound exploration of the Christian faith that invites readers to embark on a transformative journey of understanding and intimacy with the divine. The book delves into the nature and attributes of God, unraveling the depth of His character and the implications of such knowledge on the believer's life. Packer skillfully weaves theology with practical insights, offering a rich tapestry of wisdom that transcends mere intellectual understanding. Published in 1973, "Knowing God" has stood the test of time, resonating with readers for its theological depth and encouraging a genuine, personal connection with the Almighty. Through its pages, readers are guided to embrace a more profound relationship with God, fostering spiritual growth and a vibrant Christian life.

3. Summary

"Knowing God" by J.I. Packer is a seminal work in Christian literature that combines theological depth with practical wisdom to guide readers in developing a richer, more intimate relationship with the divine. Originally published in 1973, the book has remained influential over the years and is widely regarded as a classic in Christian literature.

The central theme of the book revolves around the idea that knowing God is the key to true and meaningful life. Packer emphasizes the importance of a personal relationship with God, arguing that theological knowledge should not be confined to intellectual understanding but should also translate into a vibrant, transformative experience in the believer's life.

The book is structured in three parts, each addressing different aspects of knowing God. The first part explores the attributes of God, examining concepts such as God's love, wisdom, and holiness. Packer asserts that a proper understanding of these attributes is crucial for developing a robust foundation for one's faith. He contends that God's love, for example, is not a sentimental or indulgent affection but a deep, sacrificial love that seeks the well-being of the beloved.

In the second part, Packer delves into the covenant relationship between God and His people. He explores the concept of adoption, highlighting the privileges and responsibilities that come with being adopted into God's family. Packer argues that this adoption brings believers into an intimate, familial relationship with God, transforming their identity and shaping their lives.

The third part of the book focuses on the implications of knowing God in the believer's daily life. Packer discusses topics such as prayer, obedience, and the role of Scripture in nurturing a relationship with God. He emphasizes the transformative power of this knowledge, urging readers to move beyond mere intellectual assent to a living, dynamic relationship with the living God.

Throughout the book, Packer employs a clear and accessible writing style, making complex theological concepts understandable to a broad audience. He draws on a wealth of biblical references and quotes from various Christian theologians, creating a comprehensive and well-supported argument for the importance of knowing God.

One of the key strengths of "Knowing God" is its balance between theology and practical application. Packer recognizes that theology, when divorced from real-life implications, can become dry and detached. Therefore, he weaves together theological insights with practical wisdom, providing readers with a roadmap for applying these truths to their daily lives.

Packer's emphasis on the sovereignty of God is another noteworthy aspect of the book. He contends that acknowledging God's sovereignty is crucial for a proper understanding of the Christian faith. This sovereignty, according to Packer, should not lead to fatalism or passivity but should instead inspire trust and obedience in the believer.

The book also addresses the issue of idolatry, warning against creating a distorted image of God. Packer argues that many people have a limited or skewed view of God, shaping Him according to their preferences rather than embracing the fullness of His revealed character. He encourages readers to discard these inadequate conceptions of God and to seek a true understanding of Him as He has revealed Himself in Scripture.

"Knowing God" has had a profound impact on countless individuals, challenging them to reevaluate their understanding of God and inspiring them to cultivate a more vibrant and authentic relationship with Him. The book's enduring relevance lies in its timeless message—a call to know God not just as an abstract concept but as a living reality, intimately involved in the lives of His people.

In conclusion, "Knowing God" by J.I. Packer is a theological masterpiece that transcends the boundaries of time and denomination. Its enduring appeal lies in its ability to bridge the gap between intellectual theology and practical spirituality, offering readers a comprehensive guide to developing a deeper, more meaningful relationship with the Creator. As believers engage with Packer's insights, they are invited to embark on a transformative journey of knowing God in a way that profoundly shapes their identity, values, and daily walk with Him.

4. Analysis

Biblical References:

  1. Attributes of God:

  • Love: 1 John 4:8, Romans 8:38-39

  • Wisdom: Proverbs 2:6, Colossians 2:2-3

  • Holiness: Isaiah 6:3, 1 Peter 1:15-16

  1. Covenant Relationship and Adoption:

  • Adoption: Ephesians 1:5, Romans 8:15-17

  • Covenant: Genesis 17:7, Jeremiah 31:33

  1. Implications for Daily Life:

  • Prayer: Philippians 4:6-7, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

  • Obedience: John 14:15, James 1:22

  • Role of Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Psalm 119:105

Theological Significance:

  • Sovereignty of God: Emphasizes God's control over all things without negating human responsibility. Draws from passages like Isaiah 46:9-10 and Romans 8:28.

  • Adoption and Covenant: Highlights the familial relationship between God and believers, grounded in biblical concepts of adoption and covenant, contributing to a robust understanding of salvation.

  • Attributes of God: Provides a nuanced view of God's character, fostering a deeper appreciation for His love, wisdom, and holiness.


  1. Knowing God Intimately:

  • Encourages a personal, experiential knowledge of God rather than a mere intellectual understanding.

  1. Transformative Power of Knowledge:

  • Asserts that true knowledge of God should lead to personal transformation and a reshaping of one's identity and values.

  1. Sovereignty and Trust:

  • Explores the tension between God's sovereignty and human responsibility, promoting trust in God's overarching control.

  1. Covenant and Adoption:

  • Explores the theological significance of being adopted into God's family through the covenant relationship.


  • Adoption: Symbolizes the believer's inclusion into God's family, signifying a new identity and relationship with the Father.

  • Covenant: Represents the unbreakable bond between God and His people, illustrating His faithfulness and the believers' commitment.

Key Points/Ideas:

  1. Knowledge Beyond Information:

  • Emphasizes that knowing God goes beyond acquiring information; it involves a personal, transformative relationship.

  1. The Holiness of God:

  • Explores the profound implications of God's holiness, challenging readers to live in reverence and obedience.

  1. God's Sovereignty and Human Responsibility:

  • Navigates the tension between God's sovereignty and human responsibility, advocating for trust and obedience in light of God's control.

  1. Practical Spirituality:

  • Encourages the practical application of theological truths in everyday life, such as in prayer, obedience, and engagement with Scripture.

Structure and Style:

  • Three-Part Structure:

  1. Attributes of God

  2. Covenant Relationship and Adoption

  3. Implications for Daily Life

  • Clear and Accessible Style:

  • Packer employs a clear and accessible writing style, making complex theological concepts understandable to a broad audience.

  • Biblical Integration:

  • Weaves biblical references throughout, grounding theological concepts in Scripture.

  • Balanced Approach:

  • Strikes a balance between intellectual depth and practical application, catering to both theologians and general readers.

Integration of Theology and Practical Spirituality:

Packer adeptly blends theological depth with practical application. He recognizes the danger of abstract theological knowledge divorced from real-life implications, and thus, he weaves together profound theological insights with practical wisdom. This integration makes the book accessible to a broad audience, from theologians to everyday believers, fostering a holistic understanding of the Christian faith.

The Attributes of God:

The book's first part, focused on the attributes of God, serves as a foundational exploration. Packer's treatment of God's love, wisdom, and holiness provides readers with a nuanced understanding of the character of God. He moves beyond simplistic notions, presenting a God whose love is sacrificial, whose wisdom is profound, and whose holiness demands reverence.

Covenant Relationship and Adoption:

The second part emphasizes the covenantal relationship between God and His people. Packer explores the concept of adoption, highlighting the transformative nature of being adopted into God's family. This section underscores the privileges and responsibilities that come with being children of God, emphasizing the familial and relational aspects of the Christian journey.

Implications for Daily Life:

Packer doesn't stop at theology but extends the discussion to the practical implications of knowing God. He delves into the dynamics of prayer, obedience, and the role of Scripture in shaping a believer's life. This emphasis on practical spirituality makes the book a valuable guide for those seeking to integrate their faith into everyday experiences.

Sovereignty of God:

Throughout the book, Packer underscores the sovereignty of God. He contends that a proper understanding of God's sovereignty should not lead to passivity but should inspire trust and obedience. This theme permeates the entire work, providing readers with a framework for grappling with life's challenges in light of God's overarching control.

Warning Against Idolatry:

Packer's critique of idolatry is a compelling aspect of the book. He cautions against creating a God in our own image, urging readers to discard inadequate conceptions and embrace the God revealed in Scripture. This call to abandon idolatrous notions challenges readers to confront preconceived ideas and seek a more accurate understanding of the divine.

Clarity of Communication:

Packer's writing style is clear and accessible, making complex theological concepts understandable to a wide audience. His use of biblical references and quotations from other theologians adds depth and credibility to his arguments. This clarity contributes to the book's widespread appeal and enduring relevance.

Enduring Impact:

One of the book's greatest strengths is its enduring impact. "Knowing God" has stood the test of time, continuing to resonate with readers across generations and denominations. Its timeless message, centered on the call to know God intimately, transcends cultural and theological boundaries.

Call to Personal Transformation:

Beyond intellectual engagement, the book issues a call to personal transformation. Packer challenges readers not only to know about God but to know God intimately and to let that knowledge shape their identity, values, and daily lives. This transformative call distinguishes the book from mere academic treatises.

5. Review

"Knowing God" by J.I. Packer is a timeless masterpiece that seamlessly weaves theological depth with practical spirituality, offering readers a profound journey into the heart of Christian faith. This classic work, first published in 1973, continues to stand as a beacon for those seeking a deeper, more intimate relationship with the divine.

Why It Is Recommended:

Theological Richness and Clarity:

  • Packer's exploration of the attributes of God is both profound and accessible. His treatment of God's love, wisdom, and holiness provides readers with a solid theological foundation, presented in a clear and understandable manner.

  • Unlike many theological works, "Knowing God" doesn't leave readers in the realm of abstract ideas. It guides them to the practical implications of their faith, emphasizing the transformative power of knowing God in daily life.

  • Packer strikes a remarkable balance between intellectual rigor and practical application. The book is equally suitable for theologians seeking depth in their understanding and everyday believers looking for a practical guide to enrich their spiritual journey.Timeless Relevance:

  • Despite being written several decades ago, the themes and insights in "Knowing God" remain remarkably relevant. The call to know God intimately, the exploration of His attributes, and the emphasis on a covenantal relationship continue to resonate with readers across different generations.

For Whom It Is Recommended:

Theologians and Scholars:

  • "Knowing God" is a must-read for theologians and scholars seeking a comprehensive exploration of God's attributes and their theological significance. Packer's clear articulation of complex concepts makes it accessible to those with a scholarly inclination.

  • The book is equally recommended for everyday believers looking to deepen their understanding of God and live out their faith more authentically. Packer's emphasis on practical spirituality ensures that the book is not confined to academic circles but speaks directly to the heart of those seeking a vibrant relationship with God.

  • Anyone on a spiritual journey, regardless of their religious background, will find valuable insights in "Knowing God." Packer's universal themes of love, wisdom, and the transformative power of a personal relationship with the divine transcend denominational boundaries.

Why It Is Worth Reading:

Transformative Potential:

  • "Knowing God" isn't just a book about theology; it's an invitation to a transformative encounter. Readers are challenged not merely to accumulate knowledge but to experience a profound, life-altering relationship with God that reshapes their identity and values.

  • Packer's writing style is a standout feature, making theological concepts accessible without sacrificing depth. The clarity of expression ensures that readers of varying backgrounds and levels of theological familiarity can engage with the material.

  • The book provides a holistic understanding of the Christian faith, addressing both the intellectual and practical aspects. It doesn't compartmentalize theology but integrates it into the fabric of everyday life, making it relevant and applicable.

  • The enduring popularity of "Knowing God" attests to its timeless relevance. The themes explored—God's love, wisdom, holiness, and the covenantal relationship—transcend temporal contexts, offering enduring truths that continue to speak to the human soul.

6. About the Author


James Innell Packer, widely known as J.I. Packer, was born on July 22, 1926, in Gloucester, England. A prominent figure in twentieth-century Christian theology, Packer was a prolific writer, theologian, and professor. He earned his undergraduate degree at Oxford University and later studied at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, where he obtained a theology degree. Packer furthered his education with a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) degree from the University of Oxford.

Dr. Packer's academic career included teaching positions at various institutions, including Tyndale Hall in Bristol and Latimer House in Oxford. He later moved to Canada, where he served as the Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Regent College in Vancouver for several decades.

Packer's scholarly contributions extend beyond academia, with his influence felt in mainstream Christian literature. In addition to "Knowing God," one of his most renowned works, he authored numerous books, articles, and essays that explored various aspects of Christian theology and spirituality.

Dr. J.I. Packer passed away on July 17, 2020, leaving behind a lasting legacy in the field of Christian theology and literature.

What Inspired the Author to Write the Book:

The inspiration behind "Knowing God" can be traced to J.I. Packer's deep commitment to bridging the gap between head knowledge and heart experience in matters of faith. Packer was concerned about what he perceived as a growing intellectualism within Christianity, where theology became an academic exercise rather than a transformative encounter with God.

Motivated by a desire to rekindle a vibrant, personal relationship with the divine, Packer set out to articulate the profound truths of Christian theology in a way that resonated with the hearts of believers. He sought to communicate not just the attributes and doctrines of God but to invite readers into a living, dynamic relationship with the Almighty.

Influences from the Author's Life in the Novel:

Several aspects of J.I. Packer's life and convictions are reflected in "Knowing God":

Academic Background:

  • Packer's rigorous academic training, including his time at Oxford University, is evident in the intellectual depth and clarity of thought found in the book. His ability to articulate complex theological concepts in a comprehensible manner reflects both his academic prowess and his commitment to making theology accessible to a broader audience.

  • Packer's deep spiritual concerns for the state of contemporary Christianity influenced the themes of "Knowing God." The book serves as a response to what he perceived as a need for a renewed emphasis on the personal and transformative aspects of faith, beyond mere doctrinal correctness.

  • Packer's pastoral heart is evident in the pastoral tone of "Knowing God." Throughout the book, there is a sense of care and concern for the spiritual well-being of the reader. Packer wasn't content with presenting theological ideas; he wanted these truths to impact people's lives, shaping them into a deeper and more authentic relationship with God.

  • Packer's theological stance against idolatry, as seen in the book, reflects his commitment to a biblically rooted understanding of God. His warnings about creating a God in our own image and the need to discard inadequate conceptions resonate with his broader theological convictions.

7. Book Club Questions

Understanding God's Attributes:

  • How did Packer's exploration of God's attributes, such as love, wisdom, and holiness, influence your understanding of God? Were there any attributes that stood out to you in particular?

  • In what ways has reading "Knowing God" impacted your personal relationship with God? Did it prompt any changes in your spiritual life or perspective?

  • Packer emphasizes the importance of bridging the gap between intellectual knowledge of God and a personal, experiential relationship with Him. How do you balance the intellectual aspects of your faith with the personal experience of God in your life?

  • Discuss Packer's concept of adoption into God's family. How does this metaphor resonate with your understanding of your relationship with God? In what ways does it shape your identity as a believer?

  • Packer addresses the tension between God's sovereignty and human responsibility. How do you reconcile these two concepts in your own understanding of faith? How does the recognition of God's sovereignty impact your trust and obedience?

  • "Knowing God" emphasizes the practical implications of theological truths. How have you applied the insights from the book to your daily life, particularly in areas like prayer, obedience, and engagement with Scripture?

  • Packer warns against creating a distorted image of God. In what ways do people often misconstrue or limit their understanding of God? How can we guard against creating a God in our own image?

  • Were there any theological concepts or ideas presented in the book that you found challenging or thought-provoking? How did you grapple with these challenges?

  • "Knowing God" has been influential across generations. Do you think the themes and insights in the book are timeless? How might the message of the book be relevant to different generations of readers?

  • How can the principles discussed in the book be applied within a community or a church setting? How might a shared understanding of God's attributes and the covenantal relationship impact a Christian community?

  • Share any quotes or passages from the book that resonated with you. Why did they stand out, and how do they encapsulate the essence of the book for you?

8. Reading Plan

Here's a suggested four-week reading plan. It can be adapted based on your reading pace and schedule

Week 1: Pages 1-71

  • Day 1-2: Introduction and Part 1 (Chapter 1-3)

  • Day 3-4: Part 1 (Chapter 4-6)

  • Day 5-7: Part 1 (Chapter 7-10)

Week 2: Pages 72-143

  • Day 8-9: Part 2 (Chapter 1-4)

  • Day 10-11: Part 2 (Chapter 5-8)

  • Day 12-14: Part 2 (Chapter 9-11)

Week 3: Pages 144-215

  • Day 15-16: Part 3 (Chapter 1-4)

  • Day 17-18: Part 3 (Chapter 5-8)

  • Day 19-21: Part 3 (Chapter 9-11)

Week 4: Pages 216-286

  • Day 22-23: Part 4 (Chapter 1-4)

  • Day 24-25: Part 4 (Chapter 5-8)

  • Day 26-28: Part 4 (Chapter 9-12), Conclusion, and Reflection

9. Facts & Curiosities

Publishing History:

  • "Knowing God" was first published in 1973 and has since become a Christian classic, widely read and appreciated by audiences around the world.

  • J.I. Packer did not anticipate the overwhelming success of the book. Initially, he thought it might only appeal to a small audience of theologians.

  • The book has been translated into multiple languages, reaching a global audience and influencing Christians from various cultural backgrounds.

  • "Knowing God" received praise from influential Christian leaders, including Billy Graham, who commended the book for its depth and clarity.

  • Many theological seminaries include "Knowing God" in their curricula, recognizing its significant contribution to Christian theology and spirituality.

  • Packer's work, including "Knowing God," played a pivotal role in the development of modern evangelical theology, contributing to a resurgence of interest in Reformed theology.

  • Numerous testimonies exist of individuals whose lives were profoundly impacted by reading "Knowing God." Many credit the book with deepening their understanding of God and transforming their spiritual walk.

  • "Knowing God" has been a source of discussion and study in Christian book clubs, study groups, and churches for decades, fostering rich conversations about theology and Christian living.

  • One of the central themes of the book is the integration of intellectual knowledge about God with a heartfelt, experiential relationship. This emphasis resonates with readers seeking a holistic approach to their faith.

  • Despite being several decades old, "Knowing God" continues to have consistent sales, attesting to its enduring relevance and impact.

  • Packer's insights from "Knowing God" are often quoted and referenced in other theological works, sermons, and Christian literature.

  • J.I. Packer's legacy extends beyond "Knowing God," as he was a respected theologian, professor, and author who left a lasting impact on evangelical Christianity until his passing in 2020.

10. FAQ

1. What is "Knowing God" about?

Knowing God by J.I. Packer is a Christian theological book that explores the nature and character of God. It delves into fundamental theological concepts and aims to deepen the reader's understanding of God and their personal relationship with Him.

2. Who is J.I. Packer?

J.I. Packer (1926–2020) was a highly respected British-born Canadian theologian, professor, and author. He was known for his profound contributions to Reformed theology and Christian literature.

3. What topics does the book cover?

The book covers a wide range of theological topics, including the attributes of God, the nature of salvation, and the significance of having a personal relationship with God. It encourages readers to know and experience God in a profound and transformative way.

4. Is this book suitable for all Christian denominations?

Yes, the book is written from a broadly Christian perspective and is designed to be accessible to believers from various denominations. Its focus on fundamental theological principles makes it relevant to a wide audience.

5. Can non-Christians benefit from reading "Knowing God"?

While the book is primarily written for a Christian audience, its exploration of the nature of God and fundamental theological concepts may offer insights to those interested in understanding Christian beliefs. However, readers should be aware of its Christian theological framework.

6. How does "Knowing God" impact one's faith?

The book is often praised for deepening readers' understanding of God, fostering a more intimate relationship with Him, and providing a solid foundation for Christian faith. Many readers find it spiritually enriching and transformative.

7. Is "Knowing God" suitable for beginners in theology?

Yes, the book is accessible to those new to theological concepts. J.I. Packer presents profound ideas in a clear and understandable manner, making it suitable for individuals exploring Christian theology for the first time.

8. Are there study guides available for "Knowing God"?

Yes, there are study guides and companion resources available for readers who wish to delve deeper into the content of the book. These guides often include discussion questions and supplementary materials for group or individual study.

9. How long is the book, and is it an easy read?

The length of the book varies depending on the edition, but it is generally considered a manageable read. While some find it intellectually stimulating, Packer's writing style is accessible, making it suitable for a wide range of readers.

10. Can I find "Knowing God" in different formats (e.g., audiobook, e-book)?

Yes, "Knowing God" is available in various formats, including print, audiobook, and e-book. Readers can choose the format that best suits their preferences and needs.

11. Books Related

If you enjoyed Knowing God by J.I. Packer and are interested in exploring similar themes in Christian theology, spirituality, or deepening your understanding of God, here are some recommended books:

  1. "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis

  • C.S. Lewis explores Christian doctrines and common beliefs in a thoughtful and accessible way. "Mere Christianity" is a classic work that addresses fundamental aspects of the Christian faith.

  1. "The Attributes of God" by A.W. Tozer

  • Tozer's book delves into the attributes of God, similar to Packer's exploration in "Knowing God." It offers profound insights into the nature of God and encourages a deeper understanding of His character.

  1. "The Pursuit of God" by A.W. Tozer

  • Another work by A.W. Tozer, "The Pursuit of God," focuses on the idea of actively seeking a closer relationship with God and experiencing His presence in our lives.

  1. "Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist" by John Piper

  • John Piper's book challenges readers to find joy in God and to see Him as the ultimate source of satisfaction. It explores the concept of Christian hedonism and the pursuit of delight in God.

  1. "The Knowledge of the Holy" by A.W. Tozer

  • This book by A.W. Tozer explores the attributes of God, providing readers with a profound and worshipful understanding of God's nature.

  1. "The Holiness of God" by R.C. Sproul

  • R.C. Sproul's book examines the holiness of God and its implications for our lives. It is a thoughtful exploration of an essential attribute of God.

  1. "The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism" by Timothy Keller

  • Timothy Keller addresses common questions and doubts about Christianity, making a compelling case for faith in God in the modern world.

  1. "Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge" by Dallas Willard

  • Dallas Willard explores the nature of spiritual knowledge and the ways in which we can know and experience Christ in our lives.

  1. "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas à Kempis

  • A classic work of Christian literature, this book offers practical advice on how to follow Christ more closely and deepen your relationship with Him.

  1. "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis

  • While not a theological treatise, this allegorical work by C.S. Lewis provides thought-provoking insights into themes related to heaven, hell, and human nature.


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