Takeaway: What we believe and how we act is important to who we are as Christians. (Just wish the book was more about that.)
I really want to like this book more than I did. I agree with the main point, that in order to live a holy life, and to have strong church, we need to pay more attention to catechesis (the teaching of the faith.) And I am encouraged that Packer rightly treats teaching as broader than knowledge to include teaching toward right action as well. This right action includes a good explanation of the sacraments of baptism and eucharist.
The problem with the book isn’t the ideas (or the actual content of the teaching), the problem is that Packer spends a lot of the books sounding like a grumpy old man complaining about those kids on his lawn.
As an example, Packer rightly spends time early in the book talking about the importance of scripture. And he starts with the assumption that the reader may not know a lot about the scripture. Which is a good place to start in a book like this. But instead of talking just talking about the importance of scripture, the formation of the cannon, etc, he has to complain that no one reads their bible any more. Which is just not true. Yes bible isn’t taught in schools, yes I wish people read and knew their bible more, but I don’t think his hyperbole of suggesting the young do not read the bible devotionally helps motivate people to actually read their bible.
Quite often he bring up the problems of the Anglican communion, especially around homosexuality. Which may be useful as an illustration. But to show some of the problems of his position (much of which I agree with), he complains that acceptance of homosexuality limits the ability of the Anglican churches in Africa and Asia to reach out to Muslims. But he ignores the same contextual argument (that a hard line against legal gay marriage) could be made about the Western church’s ability to reach out to in the west.
It is not so much that I think he is wrong. A lot of what he is talking about in this book are basic Christian doctrines. The problem is that he is tone deaf to the social context of the people I think he wants to hear him. If he is only talking to older conservative voices that already agree with him, then the book is really of not much use. Most of those people already believe the basics of the Christian faith and have been properly catechized.
The irony for me is that I really am becoming convinced of the need for catechesis and I have been watching my nieces go through Lutheran pre-school and have been impressed with what they are getting there. I am just frustrated with this particular call.
christianaudio.com provided me a copy of the mp3 audiobook for purposes of review.