Friday, February 25, 2005

Contending for our all



Each year John Piper shares a biography at his pastors conference, calling us to sit at the feet of those who have gone before us and learn from them. This year he turned to Athanasius who took his stand to guard in the midst of a crisis over revelation and redemption, a fight that continues today.

What was clear to Athanasius was that propositions about Christ carried convictions that could send you to heaven or to hell. There were propositions like: “There was a time when the Son of God was not,” and, “He was not before he was made,” and, “the Son of God is created.” These propositions were strictly damnable. If they were spread and believed they would damn the souls which embraced them. And therefore Athanasius labored with all his might to formulate propositions that would conform to reality and lead the soul to faith and worship and heaven.

I believe Athanasius would have abominated, with tears, the contemporary call for “depropositionalizing” that you hear among many of the so-called “reformists” and “the emerging church,” “younger evangelicals,” “postfundamentalists,” “postfoundationalists,” “postpropositionalists,” and “postevangelicals.”36 I think he would have said, “Our young people in Alexandria die for the truth of propositions about Christ. What do your young people die for?” And if the answer came back, “We die for Christ, not propositions about Christ,” I think he would have said, “That’s what Arius says. So which Christ will you die for?”

Athanasius would have grieved over sentences like “It is Christ who unites us; it is doctrines that divides.” And sentences like: “We should ask, Whom do you trust? rather than what do you believe?”37 He would have grieved because he knew this is the very tactic used by the Arian bishops to cover the councils with fog so that the word “Christ” could mean anything. Those who talk like this—“Christ unites, doctrine divides”—have simply replaced propositions with a word. They think they have done something profound and fresh, when in fact they have done something very old and stale and very deadly.

Read the whole biography: Contending for our all: The Life and MInistry of Athanasius