We continue our series on Athanasius (lived from around 300-373 AD) statement “Contending For Our All”, which he used, based on Jude 3, to defend the Deity of Christ and the Trinity against heretics such as the Arians and the political and church hierarchy of his day that had been taken over by the Arians for about 60 years. John Piper has an excellent chapter on Athanasius’ life in his book by the same title, Contending for Our All.
When I first read this book, especially the intro and chapter on Athanasius, I was very blessed and encouraged by the way pastor Piper understood the connection between sound doctrine and missions and “contextualization”.
In part 1, we saw the principle of “Loving Christ includes loving true propositions about Christ.” (Contending For Our All, John Piper, page 63). This was a great blow against modern Evangelicalism that tries to downplay doctrine and doctrinal propositions, such as seeker sensitive churches, mega churches, and the whole “emerging/ emergent church movement”, which it seems has faded into more blatant heresy and liberalism. Most of the founders of the “Emerging / Emergent” church movement have gone on into heresy and confessed their liberalism in many areas. Go back to part 1 for a refresher on what Piper said about that.
In part 2, we demonstrated that Athanasius taught a form of Sola Scriptura. James White, in his chapter in the book, Sola Scriptura! The Protestant Position on the Bible, cites many passages from Athanasius and other early church fathers that demonstrate a believe in the early church of some kind of doctrine of Sola Scriptura.
Here, in Part 3, we will continue in highlighting what is so important that John Piper pointed out in seeing the connection between doctrine, missions, and “contextualization”.
“The truth of biblical language must be vigorously protected with non-biblical language” (Piper, ibid, page 64).
“Bible language can be used to affirm falsehood. Athanasius’ experience has proved to be illuminating and helpful in dealing with this fact. Over the years I have seen this misuse of the Bible especially in liberally minded baptistic and pietistic traditions. They use the slogan, “the Bible is our only creed.” But in refusing to let explanatory, confessional language clarify what the Bible means, the slogan can be used as a cloak to conceal the fact that Bible language is being used to affirm what is not biblical. This is what Athanasius encountered so insidiously at the Council of Nicea. The Arians affirmed biblical sentences while denying biblical meaning.” ( Piper, ibid, page 64-65)
One can immediately think of theological terms and phrases that we use to express the meaning of the Bible, but are not used expressly in those exact terms in the Scriptures. Terms that are true as teaching the meaning of Scripture, but are not in the Bible in these exact words, such as “The Trinity”, “trinitas unitas” (Latin, “three in one”); “homo-ousias” (“same substance”, the teaching that the Son is the same essence as the Father), “three hupostasis/ persons”; Sola Fide (Faith Alone – that we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone, but true faith does not stay alone, it results in good works); Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone is the final infallible rule of faith for doctrine and practice), “penal substitutionary atonement”; “forensic justification”, “imputed righteousness”, and more.
When people, especially Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses, object to doctrine of the Trinity, they will say, “the word Trinity is not in the Bible”. Even though the word trinity is not in Scripture, the concept and idea of the doctrine of the Trinity is there in the Bible, when one properly studies all the Scriptures that relate to the issue. See several of my past articles on the doctrine of the Trinity at this blog.