Would the Theologians of the Cross Please Stand Up

It's a good question... (credit to Paul McCain)
It’s a good question…
(credit to Paul McCain)

Hang around some Lutherans enough and you will eventually here the phrase “theology of the cross” and it is always contrasted with a “theology of glory.” What does all that mean? Well it’s kind of hard to explain, but an easy explanation is that a theology of glory and a theology of the cross are two different ways of understanding how God is seen and works in the world. Quickly, a Theology of glory says that God works and is clearly seen in the powerful and awesome places. Opposite of that, a theology of the cross argues that our God is the crucified God who is best seen and works in weakness. We probably need a little more than that though. so here are two ways you can tell if you are a theologian of glory

You might be a Theologian of Glory if…

1) You try and explain everything

It’s a natural human desire, but theologians of glory seem to really want to try and explain absolutely everything about God and the world. Why did that hurricane happen? God was punishing us. Why did that person have to die? God needed another angel in heaven. Why did X happen to Y? well it was God’s will. Theologians of Glory seem to have all the answers about all the tough subjects.

I'm glad someone does cause I don't...

I’m glad someone does cause I don’t…

On the surface this seems comforting, but if we look deeper we can see a one big problem (among many others) with this desire to answer everything: there is just so much we don’t know. You see, at the heart of Christianity is a belief that there is only so much we can understand. So much of Christianity is a mystery. After all, at the very heart of our faith is  belief that God is “three in one and one in three.” That is really a mystery! Human beings can only know so much. Theologians of the cross want to remain in the mystery. They want to admit our limited knowledge. Luther says that a person “doesn’t deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly visible in the things that had already happened.” What does that mean? very simply this: be suspicious anytime someone claims to know God’s will or have all the answers.

2) You identify God with the powerful and awesome places

Theologians of Glory want to clearly see God in all the powerful places. Theologians of Glory want to say that God is clearly with the powerful. Therefore God is clearly with the power of our country and with the awesome beauty of our mighty cathedrals for example. God can be best seen in beauty, in large churches, in rich churches, in the hierarchy of the Church, and etc…

That's not quite what I think the Bible means....

That’s not quite what I think the Bible means…

A theologian of the cross looks at all this and is suspicious though. Why? Well at the heart of it is this: we worship the crucified God. God wasn’t born to a king and queen, but two peasants who didn’t have their own room. God wasn’t found in a palace or in a mighty fortress, but in a manger. Jesus didn’t spend time with the kings and nobility, but with lepers, sinners, tax collectors, the poor, and all the other undesirables of society. Jesus didn’t go out and conquer the world, but “was crucified, died, and was buried.” A theologian of the cross will look at the world and say that it is exactly in the messy, gross, awful, and weak places that God can be found.

About dkamphuis

I'm an ELCA pastor preaching, teaching, thinking, and writting about what it means to be the church today.
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