No Longer Spectators
When we watch a sporting event, we are often caught up in the action because we understand the storylines that have brought us to this point. We know the players and the teams. We know their history and what their season has been like. We know their story. However, we also understand the rules of the game, and as we watch we are caught up in the emotion. Knowing the rules help us understand what is necessary to win the game or even just witness a good game. We can get caught up in the pageantry and have no clue what is going on, but then our emotion is vacuous and in the end the event is quickly forgotten.
Take this weekend with the Super Bowl for example. The drama of the game is that Tom Brady is going for his fifth Super Bowl Championship. This will cement his legacy as the greatest player in football history. Bill Belichick will be considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, coach ever or at least in modern football history. The Falcons opened the year 40:1 odds in Vegas to win the Championship and after the first week they were 80:1. They have never won a championship before and this one could put Matt Ryan in the conversation of elite quarterbacks in the game. The entire season comes down to this. The game is set for this Sunday and there are rules by which each team needs to play. There will be a coin toss. There will be four quarters of equal length with a half time. Take any of that away and the game is a mess. All of that leads then to us watching and emoting. Cheering when something good happens and yelling when something bad happens. There are rituals that we will follow. When we turn on the game. When we bring out the food. When we buy the pizza. All of these rituals are tied to the experience of knowing and watching the game. In a sense we are no longer spectators, but participants in the action. Our team wins or loses and thus we feel we have either won or lost.
What I am explaining here by way of analogy is the interplay between drama, doctrine, and doxology. When we move from the drama (the storyline leading up to the game) to the doctrine (the rules of the game), we must go to doxology (the participation in the drama). We are no longer just sitting on the sidelines, but we are participating in the action. However, our participation must be informed by our doctrine (which is rooted in the drama). That is to say our worship, our doxology, must flow out of what we proclaim about God. Therefore there is a sense in which all our theology must lead to doxology.
Herman Bavinck puts it this way in this rather lengthy quote:
Dogmatics (another word for theology or doctrine) shows us God, who is all-sufficient in himself, nevertheless glorifies himself in his creation, which, even when it is torn apart by sin, is gathered up again in Christ (Eph. 1:10). It describes for us God, always God, from beginning to end—God in his being, God in his creation, God against sin, God in Christ, God breaking down all resistance through the Holy Spirit and guiding the whole of creation back to the objective he decreed for it: the glory of his name. Dogmatics, therefore, is not a dull and arid science. It is a theodicy, a doxology to all God's virtues and perfections, a hymn of adoration and thanksgiving, a 'glory to God in the highest' (Luke 2:14).
What Bavinck is getting at is that our doctrines must lead us to praise. We see this over and over again in the Bible. What does Paul do in Romans 8?
What shall we say to these things? - The things Paul is talking about is the entire Gospel that he has explicated in Chapters 1-8.
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In response to the drama and the doctrine Paul breaks into praise. What do the psalmists do? They regularly tell us of the deeds of God or who God is and then they tell us to praise him because of these things. The drama and the doctrine lead us to doxology. They lead us to praise. If our doctrine does not do this, then we do not understand it. If our doxology is not conditioned by the drama and the doctrine it is empty.
All theology must be doxological in nature. It must lead us to praise the Triune God for who he is and what he has done. That praise then must be conditioned by our doctrine. It is only in turning to doxology, but not leaving the sure footing of the drama and the doctrines that we move from spectators to participants in the drama of redemption.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.
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