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Contending for Our All: Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the Lives of Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen (The Swans Are Not Silent, Book 4) Hardcover – January 20, 2006
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About the Author
John Piper (DTheol, University of Munich) is the founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and the chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He served for 33 years as the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is the author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God, Don’t Waste Your Life, This Momentary Marriage, Bloodlines, and Does God Desire All to Be Saved?--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I originally purchased this book back on June 2010 but didn't pick it up to read it until just now.
To my sheer delight and joy, when this book did come up in my queue, I was thrilled to see Athanasius' name next to John Owen. For you see, over Christmas, I just finished Athanasius' On The Incarnation of the Word which made Christmas all the more special (and reading that book during Christmas is a tradition I am sure to pick up). But I digress.
So if Piper sought to put Machen (some dude I never heard of) alongside Athanasius and Owen, I am sure to pay attention.
While this is a book about their lives and their works, it was less about those men and more about defending the truth and "contending for our all".
I love the theory that is being passed around that we, as humans, have so evolved in our behavior in thinking. Yet, when I read history, I am blown away that we are still doing the same exact things that we were doing 10,000 years ago or even 100 years ago. We have not changed. Sin is still sin. We are still born depraved. Praise God that he still saves.
It is no truer than defending Biblical doctrine or 'what the Bible teaches' and it is no more needed in current age of the children of the Enlightenment (post-modern, whatever you want to call it).
What I see commonly is two thoughts: Orthodox Christians who assume the truth (dangerous) and Liberal Christians who fail to see that there is nothing new under the sun and continuous push for new truths and revelations that are not there (far more dangerous still). Yet, for those who do know the truth will not reach out to the Liberals or to the flock in a gentle, loving, compassionate way, they lash out using truth as a double-edge sword and leaving a heap of bodies in their wake.
Shall we take the examples of these three men who did not see the people who opposed the truth of God as enemies but as prisoners of war. This book is a staunch reminder that while we are to "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching" (2 Timothy 4:1-5) but to be constant reminded that "... we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12). Shall we follow in their footsteps in worshiping our sweet, loving God in Spirit and in truth? My hope in Christ alone and I pray that He will make all things right one day and he will do so despite our best efforts to separate ourselves from each other.
Piper next explores the life and teachings of Puritan pastor John Owen, a man tremendously influential in the lives of some of today's outstanding Christians leaders such as J.I. Packer and Sinclair Ferguson. Some, including Gordon-Conwell Seminary professor Roger Nicole, consider Owen to be the greatest theologian who has ever written in the English language - even greater than Jonathan Edwards. Owen's most outstanding works are The Death of Death in the Death of Christ and Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers. In addition to his writing Owen was a pastor, the Vice Chancellor at Oxford, and heavily involved in the affairs of Parliament. He also suffered the death of his eleven children during his lifetime. Owen is buried next to his contemporary John Bunyan in London.
Finally, Piper tells the story of the short, but controversial life of J. Gresham Machen, a man who stood at the turn of the century here in America and sounded the alarm regarding the liberalization of the church. As a professor at Princeton Seminary, Machen was in a key position to witness this cultural shift that he called "modernity" and that he defined not as a subset of Christianity but rather as a hostile competitor to the traditional and historical faith grounded in Scripture. Machen watched as Princeton Seminary "died," so he and several others left the once-great seminary to start Westminster Seminary. Machen was not only a New Testament scholar, but also one of the first cultural apologists whose influence shaped the life of the great Francis Schaeffer among others.
This series by Piper is quite extraordinary giving the reader a glimpse into the lives, struggles, victories, personalities, and ministries of some of the great saints of the faith. I highly recommend these books to every Christian wanting to know more about the Christian faith and the men and women included in the "great cloud of witnesses."
Transcripts of the speeches delivered by Piper are available online. It might be reasonable to ask, then, why anyone would care to pay for them. The best reason is that appended to these transcripts are a preface, and introduction and a conclusion, also written by Piper. Within the introduction he discusses why he has chosen to publish the three speeches together. In this book we learn that the common theme of Contending for Our all is that Athanasius, Owen and Machen all stood for the truth of God's Word in the face of opposition. None of them delighted in this controversy, and none was concerned with his popularity. What bound them together, even through almost two millenia of history, is their willingness to suffer for what they knew to be right in their defense of the gospel.
The thrust of each of the sections is to help the reader understand the lessons each of these men offers the church today. Piper does not offer mere biography, but biography that leads to lessons in practical theology.
Contending For Our All is a welcome addition to this series and is a book that is well worth reading. Any believer will benefit from reading about these great men of the faith, whether they do so through purchasing the book or from reading the biographies online.
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