Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World, by Aaron Armstrong
Endorsed by Peter Jones, David Murray, and more.
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). With the entire Christian faith standing or falling on the validity of such an utterly exclusive and uncompromising claim, doctrine that truly aligns with Jesus will cause division. When we represent our faith honestly, it is simply inevitable: at times we will be at odds with others—friends, relatives, perhaps even other Christians. Yet we are called to contend, in obedience to and for the sake of the most divisive person in history. And the challenge is to do it in the way Jude describes: as an act of mercy toward those who doubt and those who have been deceived, regardless of whether they claim faith in Christ.
Aaron Armstrong is Brand Manager for The Gospel Project, Lifeway Christian Resources. He blogs at www.BloggingTheologically.com.
“A fine combination of concise biblical exposition, down-to-earth examples, contemporary illustrations, and challenging practical application.”
—David P. Murray
Click for all endorsements
—Dr. Peter Jones, Executive Director, truthXchange
“Contend is a fine combination of concise biblical exposition, down-to-earth examples, contemporary illustrations, and challenging practical application. I’ve already made a list of people I want to give this to…as well as another list of areas to work on in my own life and ministry. It’s not only an ideal book for discipling a new believer, but also for shaking the more mature out of dangerous complacency and passivity.”
—David P. Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary
“Some church leaders like myself get a queasy stomach when faced with theological conflicts. Others relish the fights and want to convene a church council over the number of Adam’s hairs. Aaron presents a third way between avoidance and division: the biblical model of earnest, charitable contending for the faith. This is a book the Church desperately needs, for it matters not merely that we contend, but also how we contend and that we contend for the right cause: namely the name of Christ. Contend not only calls us to defend orthodoxy, but gives us a biblical blueprint for doing it. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to pastors, seminarians, bloggers, and teachers.”
—Daniel Darling, Senior Pastor, Gages Lake Bible Church; Author, Real: Owning Your Christian Faith
“The very idea of contending is contentious. But the costs of not contending for the faith are high, and we’d better learn when and how to defend what matters most. With clarity and insight, Aaron Armstrong helps us understand why it’s hard to take a stand, what’s worth fighting for, and how to do it. I’m grateful for this biblical and helpful book.”
—Darryl Dash, Pastor, Liberty Grace Church, Toronto ON; blogger, Dashhouse.com
“While some think that defending the faith is the task of scholarship and others dismiss it as the practice of rigid guardians of doctrine, my friend Aaron Armstrong reminds us that Jude’s instruction is the Christian’s necessity for perseverance in the faith, the advance of the gospel, and the glory of Christ. Filled with humble boldness and delight in the gospel, Contend will equip you with a biblical framework and practical advice to winsomely and wisely stand as a witness for Christ.”
—Andrew Hall, Lead Pastor, Community Bible Church, Ilderton ON
“The Internet has brought with it online shopping at the click of your fingers, e-books, blogs, and podcasts, some of which are edifying for Christians to read and grow in their faith. Sadly, a great deal of the content on the Internet in addition to what is taught through movies, television, and radio today isn’t helpful but rather harmful to the daily walk of grace of the Christian. In Aaron’s new book he argues that in order for Christians to contend well to the glory of God they must love doctrine and people. This is precisely why I’m excited about this book, because it will help a generation of Christians to rightly understand from Scripture that to contend for the Gospel doesn’t mean compromising our doctrine or our concern for people, but in fact means loving God, His Word, and His people. I encourage you to pick up this book and learn from the Word of God and Aaron’s example about what it means to contend for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints.”
—Dave Jenkins, Servants of Grace Ministries
Blog Review –
“Armstrong’s book opened my eyes”
When in love and mercy a wife confronts her husband about his struggles with anger, challenging him to grow in his character, she is contending for the faith.
When an employee encourages his openly Christian- but-disconnected-from-community employer to join a local church, he is contending for the faith.
When parents teach and discipline their children in light of the gospel, they are contending for the faith.
These are just a few of the practical examples Aaron Armstrong provides in his book Contend (Cruciform) of what it looks like to contend for the faith. Prior to this, in the chapters leading to it, Armstrong builds a foundation for what contending is, why we need to do it, and what it looks like. He discusses the context, the content, the challenge, the clergy, and the the congregation.
The challenge is, of course, that contending means taking a position on something; it means taking action, if necessary. But it is not done without mercy. Armstrong points out what contending is:
Contending must be understood and exercised as an act of mercy toward those who doubt and those who have been deceived, regardless of whether they claim faith in Christ.
Armstrong opens the book by discussing the difficulty in contending in this current age where consensus is more valued that doctrine. Why can’t we just get along? He discusses why that simply cannot be, and then he outlines what, exactly, we are to contend for. What are the “do or die” things we contend for? In our culture, contending can be done or the wrong things, for preferences above principles. Armstrong outlines the content of what we contend for: Scripture, the Doctrine of God, and the gospel. Contending for the character of God, and by extension, His word and the content of the gospel, are the things worth contending for:
Without these truths, we have no ground to contend for. We will be rudderless ships, left with only our opinions, incapable of showing the kind of mercy Jude pleads with us to show the doubting and deceived. But as we embrace these truths—not only accepting, but also rejoicing in them—we will be able to expose error with the light of Truth and encourage others to walk in that same light.
One of the things Armstrong emphasizes is that we must contend well. He refers to the nature of internet discourse, where much of the “contending” is really about issues that are not serious. In a section entitled “Biting and Devouring in Broadband” he points out the often dark side of blogging:
Junior bloggers set themselves up as the theology police, thrashing those with whom they disagree and doing so with relative impunity or even the encouragement of readers who seem hungry for controversy. In their wake come the blog commenters, hiding behind aliases while firing off ill-considered rants, seemingly unaware of the damage such behavior can do both within the church and the world at-large. Think about unbelievers assessing the reputation of Christ by the online behavior of those who call themselves his disciples!
Such foolishness is not what Jude meant when he called us to contend for the faith.
I’ve seen this happen, and in all probability, done it myself.
The two chapters which deal with the place where contending takes place, within the local church, were the ones which spoke to most most profoundly. In this day of internet dialogue and “biting in broadband,” the reminder that we are people called to work these things out within the context of the local church was timely:
The local church is a principal means by which God sanctifies us, for in community we are formed more and more into the image of Christ.89 It should be no surprise, then, that community is essential to contending.
Armstrong presents the case that the pastor is responsible to shepherd his flock in such a way that he contends for the truth and equips them to do so as well. This means he recognizes false teaching and addresses it. He must feed his flock, correct them when necessary, and protect them. This highlights the need to pray for pastoral staff. Armstrong reminds us that those who are false teachers lurk about within the church. We don’t always spot them from the outside. The responsibility to uphold our pastors is that much more crucial. It also implies that if the leadership of our church is weak and is not looking to contend, then perhaps we have some thinking to do about such a situation.
Armstrong opened his book with this:
Contending requires action. And while it may sound like something polite people simply don’t do, the fact is that we all contend. Asserting our opinions, vocalizing our likes and dislikes, broadcasting our beliefs, defending our positions—whether our point is profound or trivial, most of us go through the day fully primed to pass along our views to others.
I guess the bottom line is that we all contend for something, but are we contending for the right things? For the Word of God, the character of God, and the gospel? Or is it something else?
I’m not sure I had a clear picture of what “contend” meant before I read this. I knew enough to know I don’t want to be “contentious,” but Armstrong’s book opened my eyes to what this involves. It challenged me about my place in the local church. I highly recommend this book.
I was given a free copy of this book with no other expectation than that I give an honest review. I thank Cruciform for their generosity and their commitment to publishing great books.
Kim Shay, The Upward Call
Blog Review –
“A perfect read for just about all teenagers and those in college.”
Successful bloggers have a certain writing style that I cannot easily mimic. There is a way about them that is to the point, humorous, and bulleted. This marks the writing the style of Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World.
I received an early, endorsement copy of the book by its author, Aaron Armstrong, blogger at BloggingTheologically.com, after developing a friendly relationship via the Internet. It was a delight to read—and to read before most people were able!
His style, mentioned earlier, resonates throughout the book making it an excellent read for those in a rush, and therefore, a perfect read for just about all teenagers and those in college. Armstrong skims across a number of practical situations and challenges that we face today as people saturated with Internet “truths” and fault-finding attitudes.
His quickness with handling subjects should not be understood as being shallow. Rather, he is getting you to the point with urgency—much like the epistle Jude from where he formed his outline, a pleasant surprise to me. Contend parallels Jude with complimentary support from analogous passages in other books of the Bible. However, unlike the tones of many preachers who sound more militarily firm when preaching from Jude, Armstrong promotes a firm sense of mercy. In fact, here is how he sets up the idea of contending:
Contending must be understood and exercised as an act of mercy toward those who doubt and those who have been deceived, regardless of whether they claim faith in Christ.
Here are some highlights:
– Each of us will contend over those things that really matter to us. That’s how you know what people care about.
– There has never been a time in the history of the church when contending was not necessary.
– When we place too high a priority on unity, we fail to contend for the faith.
– One generation believed the truth, the second assumed it and the third denied it.
– The seeker-sensitive model seemed to do a fine job of making converts, but a poor job of making disciples.
– When you don’t understand that there are some things worth contending for, everything is up for grabs.
– The most severe threats to the gospel come not from outside the church, but from within.
– Prayer, whether personal or communal, guards our hearts and minds and commits our efforts to the Lord.
The above excerpts are often paraphrased slightly for reasons of brevity. They are solely to capture your interest in order that you might lend yourself to purchase the book for your own reading. Buy it now from CruciformPress.
Jacob Abshire, t411.com
Blog Review –
“Gave me a vision of the joy that is found in contending for truth”
I had the privilege of reviewing Aaron Armstrong’s new book Contend, published by Cruciform Press. I was excited to do so since I have enjoyed reading Aaron’s blog for quite a while now…plus, I just really enjoy books, particularly books that don’t cost me anything. Thankfully I wasn’t disappointed.
Using the book of Jude as his foundation, Contend addresses three main things: what is contending and why we ought to do it, what we should contend for, and how to contend well for the glory of God.
In American culture, we are really good at segregating—church stays at church and it doesn’t affect the rest of our life. We like to just be able to go along with everything and not cause “problems”. But Aaron argues that if we truly know who God is and what He has done and if we truly take our faith seriously, we will contend against anything or anyone who comprises the truth of Christianity, specifically the authority of Scripture, the nature of God, and the gospel. He says:
To face inward, affirming and clarifying among and between orthodox believers everything God has done for us—this is a necessary, ongoing activity of the church. But that must not and cannot be our exclusive preoccupation. We must also at times—as a necessary complementary activity—be intentional about facing outward, contending with those who deny who God is and what he has done, whether these voices come from within the church or without.
I was blessed by the clarity with which he explained and defending contending. He illustrates how willing we are to contend for what is important to us in every other area; our love for the Lord ought to bring out the same response:
This idea that we don’t need to defend—or at best rarely need to defend—something we love is ludicrous. If we are willing to offer defense for our families, our political preferences, and the Toronto Maple Leafs, how much more should we be willing to offer a defense of the gospel? If we truly love Jesus and if we truly care about the well being of the Church then we must contend.
Overall, Contend was well worth reading. It is a clear and concise application of Jude that is both theological and practical. What Aaron Armstrong set out to do, he did well. I left with a better understanding of what I should contend for, why and how.
But, at least for me, the best thing about Contend is that it gave me a vision of the joy that is found in contending for truth. I am sometimes loathe to speak out because I am afraid of offending or turning people away from the gospel. And sometimes, I’d rather just keep quiet – it’s simpler. But Contend reminded me of the glorious truth that I get to contend for these things, by the Lord’s strength and His glory:
So it is and will be in our every act of contending; it is God who will give the increase—not our strength, persistence, persuasiveness, charm, or cultural relevance. Despite our foolish words and wavering hearts, God delights to use us as his instruments. Let us delight in this as well!
Contending is, as Aaron puts it, both a sacred duty and a great delight.
Contend was well worth my time, and I believe yours, because it reminded me of that truth.
Katie, Here I Raise My Ebenezer
Blog Review –
“I do recommend this book across the board to all Christians.”
I received a digital copy of this ebook at no charge from the publisher Cruciform for the purpose of an honest review.
The words, “don’t judge a book by its cover” ring true in this review situation. When I had the opportunity to review this book I said yes not because of the picture on the cover but because of the subtitle which is, defending the faith in a fallen world. I was very intrigued because I was interested in growing stronger in my defense of the faith but I was a bit afraid this book may have been directed mainly for men. I however, have not let that stop me because I desire strong doctrine and deep Bible study. At times the more masculine titles can fulfill that need. However, don’t let the cover fool you, this is a wonderful read for women as well as men.
This book is a short, easy read yet balanced with a good punch of Scripture. I liked the way the authors words flowed and how his writing was very ordered and researched. The basic gist of this book is taking a look at how we are to defend our faith based on the book of Jude. It is written in a loving non-threatening way which I appreciated.
The author took time to state why this is important. He argued why we must guard right doctrine and warned us that there are errors today that have been allowed to seep into the church. This is so dangerous and can lead many astray. He took us through how we can address these errors, how pastors and leaders should respond as well as lay people.
This book was just broken into five chapters yet I found myself well informed and inspired to make sure correct doctrine is in place among my influences. I liked too how he addressed that there are the important issues that are completely necessary to the Christian faith that must be defended then there are various preferences that we do not have to all agree upon but agree to disagree. The important non negotiable truths are those regarding the gospel and must be protected.
I do recommend this book across the board to all Christians. It is always a good thing to remember that defending the faith in truth and love is of utmost urgency in our day. So important that Jude dedicated a book to it that God included in His inspired word. It was not only true in his time and culture but in ours as well. This is a great companion guide as well to one who is studying the book of Jude.
Angela Parsley, Refreshing My Soul Blog
Amazon Review –
“This powerful book will not allow you to remain sitting on the sidelines”
Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World by Aaron Armstrong (Cruciform Press, 2012) offers a manageable and concise look at what really matters when contending for the faith. Far from accusatory, Armstrong’s descriptive writing style weaves together fundamental doctrines with the need for grace and love. This small book begins by highlighting changes within recent church and cultural history, specifically the development of an anti-division, pro-unity Millennial outlook within the church. In Armstrong’s words, “Tie these threads together and you get a tangled, messy knot characterized by a de-emphasis of doctrine leading to a largely rudderless unity-for-its-own-sake kind of unity” (Armstrong 14). Rather than blaming one specific group, Armstrong claims that both the seeker-sensitive and fundamentalist movements are responsible for the dearth of solid gospel-centered teaching in churches today. And this is why we must contend. In fact, Armstrong says that it is ludicrous to not defend the truth about someone we love. In some ways, this book could be considered a simple handbook to the defining doctrines of Christianity , complete with practical means of upholding and applying these doctrines. This powerful book will not allow you to remain sitting on the sidelines, but it does give you the tools to stand up and fight for truth with love and grace.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Cruciform Press blogger review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
A. S., in a review on Amazon
Amazon Review –
“A very helpful game plan for living the intentional Christian”
Aaron Armstong provides a very helpful game plan for living the intentional Christian life, characterized by contending for the faith, with his new book Contend. Aaron walks the reader through the book of Jude, illuminating the importance of defending the Christian faith by freely dispensing mercy on those whom intentionally or incidentally teach false doctrine. Armstong reminds his Christian brothers and sisters, “There is a tension in contenting that requires us to uphold both people and doctrine. We cannot contend without love for people any more than we can contend without a love for truth.” He challenges readers to examine today’s context of Christian living and reminds us of the great danger of hidden reefs (false teachers) in our midst. We live in a time when people within the Church look so longingly towards unity that they are willing to sacrifice truth to gain this unity. At the same time others choose dividing over contending because they lack the love and mercy required of those who are defenders of the faith. In either case false teachers are either accepted or neglected but not contended.
The church could use a healthy dose of instruction on how to contend for the faith. For the most part, we are ill-equipped. If you think I am mistaken on this assessment, I heartily encourage you to take up my exhortation to give this book a read. I too felt overly confident in my ability to contend, and quickly was humbled as I listened to Armstrong’s reproof of what biblically contending is and isn’t. When we contend, we fight the enemy within our midst. Contending for the faith is not about waging wars against those who do not believe, it is about uncovering the double agents in our midst. Contending is about discerning false teacher that are teaching differently about God, the gospel, the scripture, then what was “once for all delivered to the saints.” Rather than merely disposing these double agents, the goal is to give mercy and correction in order to restore them to a rightful place in the assembly. Aquilla and Priscilla’s correction of Apollos comes to mind here.
Armstrong points out, “Scripture consistently warns us that the most severe threats to the gospel come from within the church.” We may have tons of head knowledge concerning doctrine. We may even know how to wage the war of apologetics. However, we often lack the discernment necessary to test the teachings of our “brothers” and pick out what false teachers and teachings lie hidden beneath the waters of our own church. We also lack the tact to do so in a loving and merciful way garnered with prayer. We lack training and have not planned properly for how we can rightly contend for the faith.
Furthermore, have you ever said, “I don’t see what the big deal is anyway!” Have you ever thought, “I don’t really have time or desire to discuss this issue with this brother or sister.” Armstrong rightly challenges us to consider, “If we love anything – our comfort, our reputations, even our families – more than we love Christ, we will fail to contend for the faith.” He also says, “…there are uncomfortable things we must all be prepared to do – and do in a very Christian way – if we are really going to take our faith seriously. And that, at its most basic level, is what it means to contend.” Brothers and sisters, in today’s world we do not have the luxury of a lazy faith. This book, Contend, comes in handy as we strive to be alert and watchful over our churches and families so as to defend the faith in a fallen world.
Armstrong’s book Contend offers an assessment of context, bringing the reader up to speed on some of the hot-bed issues and concerns that are tied to the millennial generation, which is built on values of pluralism, relativism, and tolerance. Contend provides a framework for the core doctrines of God, the Gospel, and Scripture that are worth defending. Contend also discerns and discriminates between what are primary and secondary matters of importance and how to approach these matters with a heart of prayer and mercy. Contend trains pastors to feed, correct, and protect their flock. Contend trains congregations to build up, persevere, and wait as they contend for the faith. Ultimately Contend brings meaningfulness to reproving false teaching and challenges the Church to see this as a worthwhile endeavor. I give this book a hefty recommendation. It will certainly sharpen each reader as they discern the huge importance of how their individual spiritual life plays into the vitality of preserving the true faith of the Church at large.
Start reading Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World by Aaron Armstrong today. You may order it from Amazon or direct from Cruciform Press. I recommend purchasing a subscription from Cruciform Press. They crank out a high quality book regularly.
Joey Cochran, in a review on Amazon