One of the areas of Christian thought missing among most evangelicals is knowledge of church history. John Piper, in his “The Swans are Not Silent” book series, overviews the lives of Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen in this fascinating book. While none of the three men were perfect individuals, much application can be drawn from the lives of the world’s past defenders of Christian doctrine.
Theologically, Piper gives a helpful overview of the doctrines the men fought to defend. Athanasius and the deity of Christ, John Owen with pursuit of holiness and Christ’s sufficiency, and J. Gresham Machen with his battles against liberalism are all discussed and articulated. While plenty of readers will differ on opinion in less significant doctrines (for example, those less “Reformed” would not agree with Owen’s view on limited/particular atonement), that should not put off one from considering this book. Clearly, all three men were biblical defenders for the sake of Christ and His Church.
Historically, there is an adequate amount of material to provide for a general overview of each life. Piper hits on the most significant issues while leaving plenty of material to be found in other works, namely biographies of these men. Less than two hundred pages, Contending for Our All gives just enough of a sample from these defenders of Christianity to spark interest for the consideration of a more substantial volume(s) for each of these men. Thus, if your desires pertain to a very thorough overview of one or all three of these men, you may need to check out Amazon or Ebay for a good deal on a very substantial biography(ies).
Practically, the twenty-first century Christian would be horribly misled to think that nothing can be learned from each of these men. Athanasius, Owen, and Machen all lived lives of ministry directly ignited by their passion for God’s Word. Thus, while all three men sought to defend orthodox theological positions, their beliefs of doctrine were not divorced from their ministerial endeavors. Subsequently, it is quite evident that the phrase “Contending for Our All” encompasses more than just doctrine. Therefore, obtaining and carefully reading Piper’s book on these heroes of the Christian faith would be a most excellent decision.