Monday, December 26, 2005

Checking In With The Theologians Of Glory


You’ll notice about halfway down on my sidebar I link to two groups. The first group is titled, “The Theologians of the Cross” and the second group is “Theologians of Glory.” 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 websites. 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. This does not mean I dislike Roman apologists as “persons”- I’m sure some of them are nice people- it means I disagree with them… I disagree with their underlying theological paradigms.

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, and I plan on delving into it fully later on. These distinctions are stolen…well “borrowed” from Luther. A lot could be said, but brevity is key here.

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, doesn't it really 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:

“I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him. But the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and kept me in the one true faith.”
-Third Article, Luther’s Small Catechism

A Theology of Glory is founded on man’s wisdom and works. It is a theological 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.

A succinct statement espousing The Theology of glory:

The false gospel’s theology is what Martin Luther called a “theology of glory.” It is a theology for the strong. Despite its protests to the contrary, it believes in self-salvation: by my own power or goodness or wits. It looks for God only in symbols of victory. James and John are its patron saints, hustling to sit by Jesus’ right and left hand in glory, unaware that the cup about to be drunk is the cup of suffering (Mark 10:35ff.). To a theology of glory the cross is as much a stumbling block as it was to Greeks and as much a scandal as it was to Jews (1 Cor. 1:18ff.). Little does it know that the cross is the power and wisdom of God.”

Source: H. Stephen Shoemaker “2 Corinthians 11:1-21” Review and Expositor Volume 86 (vnp.86.3.409)

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. I attempt to keep the contrast of “Glory vs. Cross” 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.”

3 comments:

FM483 said...

James - I look forward to your posts distinguishing the theologies of glory and the cross. You defined the Theology of Glory as follows:
A Theology of Glory is founded on man’s wisdom and works. It is a theological 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.

My question to you is - isn't there a lot of the Theologian of Glory in all of us? The Old Adam within each person simply cannot totally rely on the Grace of God in Christ. Could this be a reason even why Lutherans and Calvinists disagree on certain key issues? For instance, using your definition of the Theologian of Glory, who relies upon his human reason, Lutherans cite this as a primary reason for disagreements with Calvinists. Lutherans simply rely upon the Word of God, regardless which directions it may lead and whether or not our human reason is appeased. Hence, Lutherans see paradox in Holy Writ, and Calvinists attempt to reasonably explain all apparent contradictions to the satisfaction of their human logic and reason?

FM483 said...

James - I look forward to your posts distinguishing the theologies of glory and the cross. You defined the Theology of Glory as follows:
A Theology of Glory is founded on man’s wisdom and works. It is a theological 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.

My question to you is - isn't there a lot of the Theologian of Glory in all of us? The Old Adam within each person simply cannot totally rely on the Grace of God in Christ. Could this be a reason even why Lutherans and Calvinists disagree on certain key issues? For instance, using your definition of the Theologian of Glory, who relies upon his human reason, Lutherans cite this as a primary reason for disagreements with Calvinists. Lutherans simply rely upon the Word of God, regardless which directions it may lead and whether or not our human reason is appeased. Hence, Lutherans see paradox in Holy Writ, and Calvinists attempt to reasonably explain all apparent contradictions to the satisfaction of their human logic and reason?

James Swan said...

“My question to you is - isn't there a lot of the Theologian of Glory in all of us? The Old Adam within each person simply cannot totally rely on the Grace of God in Christ.”

**Amen. I always say of myself, “I strive to be a theologian of the cross.” But upon reflection, I think it’s just something that happens to someone- by “striving” it’s only another way of glory. This is one of the profound aspects of Luther’s paradoxes. BTW, I usually describe myself as “the guy Paul is talking about in Romans 7.”***

“Could this be a reason even why Lutherans and Calvinists disagree on certain key issues? For instance, using your definition of the Theologian of Glory, who relies upon his human reason, Lutherans cite this as a primary reason for disagreements with Calvinists. Lutherans simply rely upon the Word of God, regardless which directions it may lead and whether or not our human reason is appeased. Hence, Lutherans see paradox in Holy Writ, and Calvinists attempt to reasonably explain all apparent contradictions to the satisfaction of their human logic and reason?”

***You’ve hit the nail on the head. It is one of the theological insights I’ve gleaned from Luther. In reality, I don’t think some Calvinists are too far away from exactly what you’re saying about Lutherans. The disagreements must be fought out in Scripture. I am definitely going to go into this.***

I greatly appreciate you reading and participating on this blog. I am hopeful for a situation that mirrors that of the White Horse Inn gang-
Blessings,
James