We live in an age when theology is devalued. At best, it is seen as an academic hobby for the religious intelligentsia. At worst, it is perceived to be downright divisive – an encumbrance that causes godly Christians to debate each other (gasp!). When it really comes down to the nitty gritty details of life, does it matter what you think about predestination or election or providence? Most would say no. My time in a hospital room yesterday suggests otherwise.
The hospital room belongs to Mike, a founding father of Coram Deo who is in critical condition in a Denver hospital after a life-threatening car accident. I spent the day there yesterday. Mike and his wife Brenda share a deep love for the soft and strong theology of the Reformation that undergirds Coram Deo. They actually believe the biblical truth that you are saved because God chose you, not because you chose him. They actually believe that God rules the universe in glorious sovereignty and that nothing happens outside of his design. They actually believe that God’s irresistible grace is strong enough to soften even the hardest heart and secure the salvation of his elect people. I say “actually believe” because Mike and Brenda have done the biblical and spiritual work to hold these convictions as their own. They didn’t just hear a sermon or read a book.
I know lots of people who can win an argument with their theological convictions. And I say: so what? The question is: does your theology anchor you when it really matters? Can it?
I have been in a lot of hospital rooms. I have talked with a lot of people who believe in “the sovereignty of God” in a vague, amorphous way – as in, “God exists, so there must be some reason for this tragedy.” Yesterday, I had the privilege of worshipping God with a family who believes in the sovereignty of God the way the Bible declares it. I sat next to a wife who said, “Bob, this is God’s plan, and we receive it with joy.” I spoke with a son whose first words to his mom were, “Mom, God is sovereign and good, no matter what happens.” I prayed over a man, immobile in a hospital bed, whose first words upon awakening will not be, “Why, God?” but rather, “Hallowed be Thy name.”
I walked into a situation of tragedy, and I worshipped. We worshipped. That is why theology matters! Because God must be worshipped in all things! “I am the Lord, that is my name; I will not give my glory to another, nor my praise to graven images” (Isaiah 42:8). If your theology leaves any situation where God cannot be worshipped and adored and trusted, then it is not the theology of the Bible. On the other hand, if your theology causes you to delight in Christ even in pain and tragedy and confusion… then I daresay it is beautiful and biblical.
Brenda reminded me of a phrase that a mutual friend of ours likes to say: “Our theology is all we have.” And Brenda’s strength today comes not from the pious platitudes of gift-shop Christianity, but from the deep truths of the Reformation. She called just a few minutes ago to share the hymn she’s singing tonight:
Whate’er my God ordains is right,
Here shall my stand be taken
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
Yet I am not forsaken
My Father’s care is round me there
He holds me that I shall not fall
And so to Him I leave it all
(Whate’er My God Ordains is Right, Samuel Rodigast, 1676)