Protestant Basics: The Theologian Of The Cross Versus The Theologian Of Glory

19. One is not worthy to be called a theologian (theologus) who looks upon the “invisible things of God” [invisibilia Dei; Rom. 1:20] as though they were clearly “perceptible in those things which have actually happened” [1 Cor 1:21–25]

20. But who knows the visible things and the backside [posteriora Dei; Ex 33:23] of God seen through the passions and the cross.

21. The theologian of glory [theologus gloriae] calls evil good and good evil. The theologian of the cross [theologus crucis] calls a thing what it is.

—Martin Luther, Heidelberg Disputation (1518)

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  1. It is a Protestant basics which has been forgotten even in Reformed churches. Thanks to Westminster Seminary California and the White Horse Inn Radio program for bringing it back.

    I think the unwise Scottish Presbys failure to allow the reading (translation into Gaelic or English) of the works Luther was the root cause of the Marrow controversy. Likewise, the failure to read and understand Luther (not to be confuse with later Lutheranism) has cause much problems and corruption up to today’s Reformed churches.

    • Gil, that is so true. Thank you for saying that. As Reformed believers, we all ought to be able to say: “I stand with Martin Luther!”

  2. …or one could foremost promote knowing the whole counsel of the Lord, from His Word, the Bible –so as not to be confused about man’s terms, and to see how all that He tells us fits together perfectly.. including eg :
    to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 1 Peter 4:13

  3. Thank you RSC. It just seemed very important to the make a response to prior comment which doesn’t even mention the word of God. We are kept from deceit , error, off-trackedness, bottomline and supremely, through the living and enduring word of God (not that God doesn’t allow that His work through men be important, as long as it complies with the word of God)

  4. ..and important because I’ve heard some talk fervently of ‘ Luther’s theology of cross’ yet not mention nor emphasis what God willed to make known -the riches of the glory of God’s mystery -Christ in His people- the hope of glory. Col 1:27 ,
    don’t know it that occurred because it wasn’t in that theology or was an error in conveying it

    • It wasn’t just Luther’s theology of the cross. If you’ll notice, Luther was quoting and alluding to at least three biblical passages. Further, he explained these theses at some length at the Disputation and even more fully in The Bondage of the Will (1525). Calvin and other Reformed theologians picked up this distinction and it became very important for Reformed theology.

      Luther’s point was Paul’s, that the glory of God is in the cross. The glory of God is considered foolishness by the world.

      I gave a talk on this yesterday to an adult class. Audio forthcoming.

  5. Related to this is Luther’s characterization of God as both hidden (Deus absconditus) and revealed (Deus revelatus). Richard Muller is helpful here:

    the hidden God / the revealed God; the paradox of God’s unknowability and self-manifestation as stated by Luther. The issue is not that God has been hidden and has now revealed himself, but rather that the revelation that has been given to man defies the wisdom of the world because it is the revelation of the hidden God. God is revealed in hiddenness and hidden in his revelation. He reveals himself paradoxically to thwart the proud, sub contrario, under the opposite, omnipotence manifest on the cross.”

    Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms (Grand Rapids: Baker Books), 90.

  6. Dr. Clark – would love to see some interaction with Gerhard Forde on this point – a fine theologian who nevertheless flirts with some heterdox notions. It seems Forde’s work has kept the two theologians concept in play for many while also advancing some less helpful ideas.

  7. Of course, Luther’s Theology of the Cross wasn’t original of him, he got it from the first Reformer.

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