The Truth of Biblical Language Must Be Vigorously Protected With Non-Biblical Language

In today’s Post-modern culture, I found the following quote by John Piper quite relevant…

“Athanasius’ experience was critically illuminating to something I have come to see over the years, especially in liberally minded baptistic and pietistic traditions, namely, that the slogan, “the Bible is our only creed” is often used as a cloak to conceal the fact that Bible language is used to affirm falsehood. This is what Athanasius encountered so insidiously at the Council of Nicaea. The Arians affirmed biblical sentences. Listen to this description of the proceedings:

The Alexandrians . . . confronted the Arians with the traditional Scriptural phrases which appeared to leave no doubt as to the eternal Godhead of the Son. But to their surprise they were met with perfect acquiescence. Only as each test was propounded, it was observed that the suspected party whispered and gesticulated to one another, evidently hinting that each could be safely accepted, since it admitted of evasion. If their assent was asked to the formula “like to the Father in all things,” it was given with the reservation that man as such is “the image and glory of God.” The “power of God” elicited the whispered explanation that the host of Israel was spoken of as dunamis kuriou, and that even the locust and caterpillar are called the “power of God.” The “eternity” of the Son was countered by the text, “We that live are alway (2 Corinthians 4:11)!” The fathers were baffled, and the test of homoosion, with which the minority had been ready from the first, was being forced (p. 172) upon the majority by the evasions of the Arians.

R. P. C. Hanson explained the process like this: “Theologians of the Christian Church were slowly driven to a realization that the deepest questions which face Christianity cannot be answered in purely biblical language, because the questions are about the meaning of biblical language itself.” The Arians railed against the unbiblical language being forced on them. They tried to seize the biblical high ground and claim to be the truly biblical people—the pietists, the simple Bible-believers—because they wanted to stay with biblical language only—and by it smuggle in their non-biblical meanings.

But Athanasius saw through this “post-modern,” “post-conservative,” “post-propositional” strategy and saved for us not just Bible words, but Bible truth. May God grant us the discernment of Athanasius for our day. Very precious things are at stake.”

-John Piper, The Life and Ministry of Athanasius

One thought on “The Truth of Biblical Language Must Be Vigorously Protected With Non-Biblical Language

  1. This interesting article brings to the front the concept of semantics, word meanings and stipulation. In the time of Athanasius and Arius the issue boiled down to the presence of a Greek “iota” and whether Jesus was actually the Son of God or seemed to be a son of God. Its easier to dismiss the claims on my life of one who “seemed to be a son of God,” than to kneel at the feet on One who is the actual Son of God and surrender to Him my life and my all.
    Any and all cult leaders usurp this authority for the purpose of gaining power and control over their followers. For them Christ is who they define Him to be, and their definitions of Him take their followers away from His Cross and submission to Him.
    Subversion of language through semantics and stipulation are the tools of cult leaders. They sound good on the surface, but after close examination their lies are apparent.


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