When you hear the word “theology”, what does your gut do? Leap or cringe?
What struck me after reading chapter 2 of Contending is that theological debates are not reserved for the ‘dusty’ halls of theological colleges. They go to the deeply personal fact of who it is I talk to when I pray.
It is impossible to love Jesus, but not love theology. Theology is what I know about God and his Son. How can I love the Jesus I know but not love what I know about him?
In this chapter, first Piper summarises the life and work of the great Christian forefather Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria who lived 298-373AD. Then, he unpacks 7 key lessons from his life.
To be honest, I think he’s bitten off more than I can chew! Athanasius’ life is so summarised that I struggled to get caught up in the drama of it.
Having said all this, Piper does provide several perceptive insights about how we should go about defending truths about God. Here’s one that particularly struck me:
“Loving Christ includes loving true propositions about Christ” (p63).
It’s easy to agree that we love Jesus. It’s harder to agree on who he is. Jesus is not an abstract idea like “justice” or “multiculturalism”. He is a flesh and blood man about whom some things are false and some things are true. At this moment, he is either alive or dead. He is either both fully God and fully man or some other concoction. I cannot love him and be happy for others to speak lies or even ½ truths about him.
This should change whether I speak up about him amongst Christians as well as non-Christians. But it should also change how I view other people when they speak up. When I see a minister, in the pulpit or in the media, raising a contentious theological point, my mind jumps to label them as ‘narrow minded’, ‘being nitpicky’, ‘causing division’ or ‘getting up on their hobby horse’. Instead I think I should pause and ask, rather “is somebody who passionately loves Jesus and is seeking to stand for who he really is?”.
The fact is that Athanasius perservered for 45 years, through persecution and exile, for a truth we now take for granted - that Jesus is both man and God. Without this truth, there is no gospel. My place in death is not taken and God as judge is not satisfied.
While I am tempted to put things in the ‘too hard basket’ and change the conversation, Athanasius spoke up again and again. He loved theology because he loved Jesus. He loved Jesus so much that he spoke up when I would have stayed silent.
 Trust me, I’m at one now – they’re not dusty. They’re full of lovely, passionate people!