Sunday, December 25, 2005

Checking In With The Theologians of Glory: Catholic Apologists

You’ll notice about halfway down on my sidebar I link to two groups of people. The first group is titled, “The Theologians of the Cross” and the second group is “Theologians of Glory.” These distinctions are stolen…well “borrowed” from Luther. You’ll notice that the second group is comprised of Roman Catholic apologists. Some of you may wonder why I as a Protestant would link to such folks (by the way, I have more i'd like to link to eventually). Is it because I have a spirit of ecumenicalism? The answer is blatantly “no.” I do not believe that the Roman Catholic Church preaches the Gospel, thus by extension, I do not agree with those who devote their lives to defending her.

But what do I mean “Theologians of Glory”? I assume, not everyone knows what i'm talking about. The subject of The Theology of the Cross vs. Glory is a lengthy subject. Here though, is the briefest overview I can put forth, (based on my notes from the lectures of Robert Kolb):

In 1518 Martin Luther was invited to Heidelberg to present his teaching. He presented his paradigm: “The Theology of the cross” vs. “Theology of Glory”. This disputation of 1518 created quite a stir and attention.

The Theology of the Cross is a theology of “foolishness.” It denies man’s wisdom and works; it rests totally upon Christ’s work. Indeed, it really does sound silly to think that salvation is found only through faith alone. All the worlds’ religions “reason” that God can only be appeased by some “work” on our part. But a Theologian of the Cross finds it is only in God’s action where we find salvation.

The Theology of Glory is founded on man’s wisdom and works. It is a worldview that seems “sensible and right” by worldly standards. Glory theologians have to understand by the use of reason, and they have to “do” by their own moral energy to be right with God.

The late medieval church that Luther was confronted with was a church filled with “glory.” By “glory,” Luther meant that the emphasis was not on the achievements of Christ, but on the achievement of the Roman Church, and those achievements were accomplished by the churches’ own power. Luther encountered the Theology of Glory in three different ways.

First he encountered the glory of “human reason” expressed in his earlier scholastic training. Scholastic theology had been strongly influenced by Aristotelian metaphysics, and this influence had misshaped the Biblical method.

Secondly, Luther was confronted with the glory of human effort (works). He encountered this in his monastic order. Neither Scholastic theology nor monasticism helped him escape his psychological burdens and sin.

Thirdly, he also rejected the “glory of the church” and said the church is a suffering church, rather than a church of beauty and splendor. The church is not supposed to be a “glory” of political power and luxury.

So why link to Roman Catholic apologists on this blog? I do so because I think one of the best ways to understand Protestant theology is to contrast it with Roman Catholic theology. The contrast of “Glory vs. Cross” is always in the forefront of my evaluations. The Reformation exploded onto the scene of history because of the Roman Catholic Church. In my own studies, I have learned a great deal about my own beliefs by comparing and contrasting it with the perspective of Rome.

Secondarily, I have also learned about my own beliefs by checking in with those contemporaries who defend Rome: modern-day Catholic apologists. It’s important to see the new ways they defend their beliefs and attack mine. So, from time to time on this blog, I’m going to run a feature called, “Checking In With The Theologians of Glory.”

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