What gets you through the hard times

As I approached this recent surgery, friends would ask me, "Tell me, what are you learning? What is God teaching you through this trial?"

My answers to these kinds of questions seemed to be disappointing to some. They wanted to hear a tremendous new revelation, something direct-from-Godish that would be earth-shaking.

The simple answer: My theology is getting me through this hard time.

In an age where Joel Osteen smiles and blinks (a zillion times) into the camera and says that “God didn't make a mistake when He made you. You need to see yourself as God sees you” (see more Osteen quotes here), my theology of Creation-Fall-Redemption got me through.

Why is that?

Because the simplistic worldview that many Christians buy into (echoed in Osteen) is to emphasize only one of the parts of the story. If we simply believed that “God makes no mistakes in making us,” then why did I have an aortic dissection that nearly took my life back in February? Though the doctors are still unclear as to its cause, they are sure that it was caused by a congenital defect (that is, something present at birth) in my connective tissues coupled with an insufficient aortic valve.

If God “makes no mistakes,” then what the heck happened here? Saying "God makes no mistakes" does not satisfy the reality of life.

Some other Christians have another simplistic worldview: We and our world are fully evil (depraved) and under the righteous wrath of God. Under this umbrella statement, God’s good Creation is no longer good, must be destroyed, and we must escape this worldly existence into a spiritual existence. This worldview has more in common with Greek philosophy (Plato) than with the Bible. When we fail to separate out the Creation from the Fall (conflating the two into one ontological entity), our theology suffers.

My theology of Creation-Fall-Redemption got me through this trial. As my pastor prayed with me the night before the surgery, I asked him to do something that helped so much: I asked him to reaffirm with me that God is good, and that what he created is good. I asked him to help me remember that the Fall causes terrible suffering, from a crazed man killing Amish girls to Hurricanes to aortic aneurysms.

And then I asked him to pray for redemption to take place:
  • That we could see in the here and the now a glimpse of the full redemption to come.
  • That this aortic aneurysm will not win this time.
  • That Christ's redemptive power will win this time.
And redemption did win this time. Redemption in the form of a successful surgery to overcome the effects of the Fall. This is gospel; this is good news. We overcome the Fall by being redemptive in all aspects of life - be it in helping the poor, caring for the victims, feeding the hungry, sharing Christ to the lost, making people aware of the trappings of materialistic consumption, bringing comfort and healing to the sick and dying (especially those with HIV/AIDS in Africa), and, of course, through medical advances that allow for a St. Jude mechanical valve plus a synthetic replacement of my ascending aorta.



Ted Gossard said...

Bob, Great to see you back!

Wow. Breathtaking. Yes, we certainly need the theology found in the Story of God in Scipture in the way you express here. I think wrong thinking has set up many people for the destruction of their faith. And right thinking according to Scripture and the Story therein is surely important. Somehow I think that is why Christians turn to other sources of help in time of need, including watered down and syncretistic theologies.

Ted Gossard said...

I mean other sources taht they should not, such as many of the self-help stuff in bookstores.

ScottB said...

Wow, Bob, this is the best thing I've read in ages.

Glad to have you back safely.

Miche said...

"Lord of the Starfields," thank YOU for this example of your redemption in my friend's life!



Andy Blanks said...

You wrote: "I asked [my pastor] to reaffirm with me that God is good, and that what he created is good. I asked him to help me remember that the Fall causes terrible suffering, from a crazed man killing Amish girls to Hurricanes to aortic aneurysms.

And then I asked him to pray for redemption to take place . . ."

Wow . . . what incredible wisdom in the face of suffering. Maybe more eloquent than you know.

It seems that in the haste to awaken the American church (which I believe is definitely happening) so many want to leave sound theology behind. I think to many it feels restrictive. But I think that is only because it has been used by so many as a stick to beat people back in line with.

What a refreshing, practical application you have shown of the wonderful reassurance that comes in knowing God and His Word. Thanks.

Jim Martin said...

Your post is a keeper. Thanks for passing on what was helpful to you. What you shared was some valuable pastoral wisdom.

Glad you are on the other side of your surgery.

Anonymous said...

I think Creation-Fall-Redemption is better labelled the Biblical "meta-narrative", Bob. Technically speaking, a theology would have to be more than just that...

Though, I am glad you are doing well. I am dying to myself and glad. I will no longer need to stay up at night with my grandfather, which is good for me, but he will probably die within days. But he's 91 and we've known it was coming for a long time and I think we've been able to anticipate and prepare ourselves for the event...

I had some amazing time praying for him last night as I stayed up with him non-stop. He is blind and cannot stand and yet he kept wanting to get out of bed and so I gave him some meds and stopped him from getting out of bed and prayed for him, I sang for him some too and I got him to pray some, simple prayers like help me lord. It was quite intense but I think it helped me deal with my own anxiety problem...


Bob Robinson said...


I'd agree with you that Creation-Fall-Redemption is the biblical meta-narrative (or the biblical worldview), but now that I've read Kevin VanHoozer, I think all theology is best understood as Theo-Drama. Systematic Theology, which had its hey-day in modernity, will give way to Theodrama in a postmodern context. Therefore, I see C-F-R as "theology" now, more than merely "meta-narrative."

I've prayed for you and your grandfather. It is a difficult thing to go through!

DLW said...

My pov is that all theology has been historical and contextual and that us becoming cognizant of that fact is a good thing.

It's a way of laying our cards on the table. From my time in Seminary, I find that often it is what is not said than what is said that disturbs me some about modern theologies.

So I don't like theo-drama as much if it undermines the critical importance of theology for guiding our praxis.

I am interested in seeing what Jurgen Habermas has to say. I think I can appreciate his preference for Thomas Aquinas over more recent theologies, as it is more holistic and less polemical. It is the way theology was done prior to the Protestant-Catholic Schism and the 30 years war.

My grandpa has now passed away and I've been blessed by my time spent with him, as you can read at my blog.

I also am hoping to get a 2-5 year economics teaching position at St Thomas in MN for next year that is not too far from my family.