Contend by Aaron Armstrong: a book review

Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World by Aaron Armstrong

Thursday, January 17, 2013

11:52 AM

Jude 3 - "I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints."

Jude, the half brother of Jesus, says in his letter, "I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints."  This is Aaron Armstong's theme in the book Contend.  He says and rightly so that we need to defend the historic Christian faith in the midst of a world that is opposed to it.  As Armstrong points out however the dangers to the Christian faith don't just come from outside the church, but from inside the church as well.  As worldly factors seep in and as heretical teaching becomes common place we as followers  of Jesus need to take a stand for the core doctrines of the faith.

The author does a good job of explaining the erosion of belief in those core doctrines.  First he says that people who are of the Millenial generation (those born between 1980 and 2000)are dedicated to unity at all costs.  The reason for that is because of the noise created by those who want to debate everything from politics to religion.  They are tired of the bickering so they deem those things to be unimportant and simply choose to ignore them.

This isn't the only problem however, another issue is the world around us preaches a false gospel of tolerance and political correctness.  Because of that they further push any thing that causes division out of their lives.

Another problem is the rise of seek-sensitive churches.  These churches do a good job of telling people to an extent about Jesus, but according to Armstrong they simply do not disciple their members, and because of that many of those Christians fail to mature in their faith.  So they have no idea what they believe.

On the other end of the spectrum are the churches of fundamentalism.  These churches in many cases preach a gospel of "morals"  Do this, don't do that.  If you keep these rules and stay away from these sins then you are a good Christian.  And instead of preaching the true Gospel, they become wrapped up in legalism.  People in these churches have no assurance of their salvation and in many cases no idea what the core doctrines of the Christian faith are.

The response to both of those types of churches has been the Emergent church.  In the Emergent church everything is questioned from the traditional way of "doing church" to the essential doctrines of the faith.  This of course leads to further problems and to a further erosion of the doctrines of Christianity.

These are just contemporary expressions of issues that the church has been confronted with throughout its history.  But as Armstrong points out these are real challenges to the church today and because of that we must seriously contend for the faith.

To do that however we must know what we believe about the major issues and not allow the minor issues and doctrines of the faith to define us or alienate us from other believers.  He uses education as an example here, many Christians send their children to public schools, many to private Christian schools, and many choose to home school them.  This is not a major issue however.  It is a minor issue and it should not cause division within the realm of true Christianity.

The major issues, the major doctrines however are extremely important.  And in these matters we should know what we believe and we should always be willing to defend those beliefs.  Those issues are the nature of God, the way of salvation, the character of God, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He does a good job of laying out in this book what the fundamental doctrines should be.

He also makes an impassioned plea to Christians to conduct themselves in a manner of love when they are defending for the faith.  He says in many situations this simply doesn't happen, and then he talks about how the internet and the rise of social media further  enhances this problem.

Still we as followers of Jesus have a great responsibility to contend for the faith.  Armstrong sees this as a two fold responsibility.  One to make sure that truth is being taught and two to stand against false teaching and heresy.  He uses the Rob Bell controversy, in which Bell a former evangelical pastor says there is no hell, to make this point.

Armstrong does a good job of laying out the need to contend.  He tells us what pastors should be doing to contend for the faith, and what the layity should be doing as well.

All of us as Christians are called to build up our faith through:

*study of the Bible

*study of good Christian books


*gathering with the Christian community

*focusing on the future grace of God

Then he closes with a very practical chapter on how we should contend for the faith.  He uses an example from his own life to illustrate this point and I appreciate his honesty.  In closing I found Armstrong's writing to be accesible and easily readable.  He draws the reader in to his arguments very well and he does a good job convincing the reader of why we must contend for the faith.

The only real argument I had with the book was the section where he talked about examples of contending for the faith.  Some of the examples I feel were more minor issues than major issues, like when he says "when a couple makes a decision to live on one income, so that one of them can stay home with the children, they are contending for the Gospel."  I think this is one of those non essentials that he was talking about earlier such as what type of educational system you choose for your children to be a part of.

All in all however I will say that Armstrong's book is well written and that it makes a needed plea to the church of today.  (7 out of 10 stars)