Book Review: Contend
What is it to contend for something? It’s almost outdated language for us. We don’t often hear the word “contend” anymore. I was curious, so I did a Google search of the term. Surprisingly there aren’t many results. Roughly the first ten search entries were dictionary and thesaurus definitions. I quickly clicked over to the images page and found a little more of what I expected, sports images: boxing, football. These associations we understand a little more clearly. Contending for a title.
But what does it mean to contend as Christians? Armstrong offers this definition in his latest book:
“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 picks up Jude’s theme of contending from the following verses and uses it as the main thesis for his book. “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
The beginning of the book paints a picture for us of how the church got where it is today. This book is definitely written to a contemporary audience, so Armstrong doesn’t go too far into the past. He addresses a few of the most recent movements and the reactions to those movements–movements of their own–to help us understand where we find ourselves, the primarily evangelical West.
Armstrong’s primary audience is the church. Just as Jude encouraged the Christians in his day, those who have a “common salvation,” so Armstrong attempts to encourage the church our day to contend.
Evidently we are to contend as Christians, but what is it we contending for? This question Armstrong addresses in the following chapter. He lays out broadly and then more specifically what we are to contend for. Nest he tells suggests exactly “how” we are supposed to contend as Christians. Mainly referring to the attitude with which we contend, because as contending deals with relationships, it can get uncomfortable and messy. Armstrong raises the issue of the Internet and how it can be and how it has been hotbed for heated debate in recent days. These references to modern struggles throughout the book, some very personal as Armstrong is not averse to naming specific names, are helpful.
The final few chapters are about the realm in which we contend. Armstrong first talks about church leaders and their role in contending and then addresses the congregation’s role. We are to function in the body so as to encourage and spur one another on to contend. He concludes with a summarizing and final challenge for us to contend as Christians.
Aaron Armstrong has written a helpful modern manifesto on contending for the gospel, and Cruciform Press with this volume yet again continues to publish tracts for our times.
I would recommend this book for those who are struggling with living the Christian life in these last days. Often it’s difficult to understand how our faith integrates into the world around us. Armstrong really helps to answer these questions and gives a context where it occurs.
This would be a great book for small group study. Not only to better understand what it means to contend, but also in order to hold each other accountable to this active task that we’ve been called to.
*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.*