Friday, November 4, 2011

Luther's Forgotten Insight

Dr. Carl Trueman has a helpful piece about the Protestant Reformation and one of its most important aspects.  Drawing from Luther's Heidelberg Disputation Trueman compares and contrasts the theology of glory to the theology of the cross. 

One of the things that is so striking about the current revival of interest in Reformation theology, broadly conceived, is the absence of perhaps the most glorious contribution of Martin Luther to theological discourse: the notion of the theologian of the cross.

At a meeting of the Saxon Chapter of the Augustinian Order in the city of Heidelberg in 1518, a monk called Leonhard Beier presented a series of theses which Luther had prepared, whilst Dr Martin himself presided over the proceedings. The Heidelberg Disputation was to go down in history as the moment when Luther showcased his radical new theology for the first time.

At the heart of this new theology was the notion that God reveals himself under his opposite; or, to express this another way, God achieves his intended purposes by doing the exact opposite of that which humans might expect. The supreme example of this is the cross itself: God triumphs over sin and evil by allowing sin and evil to triumph (apparently) over him. His real strength is demonstrated through apparent weakness. This was the way a theologian of the cross thought about God.

The opposite to this was the theologian of glory. In simple terms, the theologian of glory assumed that there was basic continuity between the way the world is and the way God is: if strength is demonstrated through raw power on earth, then God's strength must be the same, only extended to infinity. To such a theologian, the cross is simply foolishness, a piece of nonsense.

Read the rest here. 

Personally, I am still coming to grips with this distinction as it relates to my personal life, my church, my denomination, and my overall understanding of mission.  I would love to see more of my colleagues do the same. 

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