Piper’s The Swans are Not Silent series continues with book 4, Contending for Our All. I thoroughly enjoy this series since it combines history and theology applied to our contemporary context. I was going to review this book as a whole, but after reading the section on Athanasius, I just couldn’t do it justice that way.
Athanasius is one of those intriguing figures from history. It was great to learn abit more about him and his life. I can see now why the desert fathers were so dear to him. Piper gives a good look into his life as a churchman, and a suffering one at that. But then he applies lessons learned from Athanasius to our contemporary context, and this is well worth the price of the book itself.
“If something is worth fighting for, it is worth rejoicing over. And the joy is essential to the battle, for nothing is worth fighting for that will not increase our everlasting joy in perspective.” THAT is a great quote, well worth remembering as we contemplate contending for truth.
“Loving Christ includes loving true propositions about Christ.” He compares the de-emphasis of doctrine and propositional statements among the more liberal elements of the church modern and postmodern with the tactics of the Arians. Without propositions we do not know who this Christ we speak of is. Without propositions, we do not know who this Jesus we trust is. Without propositions, we do not know who this Jesus we suffer for is. And if we do not know who He is, why do we proclaim Him, trust Him and suffer for Him. Christianity is more than mere propositions, but it is not less either.
“Biblical language must be vigorously protected with non-biblical language.” Arius and his followers used biblical language. The real question was about what that biblical language meant. We must be able to ask people what they mean- and expect them to answer us- on important questions. Piper pressed this home, again, with the more radical elements of the emerging church.
But Piper also addressed the “seeker” models of church growth. As pastors we do need to be indigenous (all things to all men), but we cannot stop there. We are also a pilgrim people and need to create new categories of thought and truth in the minds of our hearers. People’s minds need to be renewed so their lives can be transformed. We necessarily have to speak of things they may not get, at first. Real church growth is not through compromise (see my posts on Sinclair Ferguson’s sermons) but contending for the truth with clarity- winsome clarity. More pastors and elders need to read this chapter.