James Innell Packer was born in Gloucester, UK, in 1926, the son of a clerk for the Great Western Railway. Packer won a scholarship to Oxford University, where he obtained a BA (1948), MA (1954), and PhD (1954). It was at Oxford that Packer attended lectures by C.S. Lewis, whose teachings would become a major influence in his life. In a meeting of the Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union, Packer committed his life to Christian service.
After briefly teaching Greek at Oak Hill College in London, Packer entered Wycliffe Hall to study theology and was ordained in the Anglican Church, becoming a presbyter in 1953. From the 1950s through the 1970s, Packer held several academic positions at Tyndale Hall, Bristol and Oxford. During this time, he became recognized as a leader in the evangelical movement in the Church of England. In 1978, he signed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which affirmed the conservative position on inerrancy, although he is not a literalist with regard to the creation narratives of Genesis. On the matter of ministry roles in the church, Packer is a complementarian. His theology is Reformed, though he is open to ecumenical rapprochement with Anglo-Catholics, which has drawn sharp criticism from some quarters. He famously parted ways with Martyn Lloyd-Jones over this issue in the late 1960s.
In 1979, Packer moved to Vancouver, BC, Canada, to take up a position with Regent College, where he would become Professor of Theology, a position he retains beyond the age of 90, even though his vision is now seriously impaired. Since 2009, Packer has been theologian emeritus of the Anglican Church in North America.
During a ministry career spanning over six decades, and through his prolific written output, Packer has distinguished himself as one of the leading theologians and church historians of our time. His book Knowing God (1973) has become a modern classic, and he has done much to stimulate wider interest in the great works of Puritan spirituality – a great passion of his. He has been a frequent contributor to and an executive editor of Christianity Today. Packer served as general editor for the English Standard Version of the Bible (2001), an evangelical revision of the Revised Standard Version of 1971. His other books include, A Quest for Godliness, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, Growing in Christ, and Rediscovering Holiness.
Packer and his wife Kit have three adopted children. Packer rises early at four in the morning, and until he lost his eyesight wrote by means of his old manual typewriter. He loves seriously hot and spicy food, and his favourite book of the Bible is Ecclesiastes.