Martin Luther - Lesson 7

Luther's Theology of the Cross

The work of Christ when he allowed himself to be crucified on the cross, teaches us about God's nature, our nature and our relationship to God.

Gordon Isaac
Martin Luther
Lesson 7
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Luther's Theology of the Cross

Luther's Theology of the Cross

Luther, the Pastor: Matthew 10:38

Luther's Theology of the Cross: Only two options for doing theology - theology of the cross or glory


I. Introductory Remarks

A. There is relatively little literature in English that deals with the topic.

1. von Loewenich - classic translated in English 1967

2. McGrath - 1985 Luther's Theology of the Cross

3. Forde - On Being a Theologian of the Cross - Reflections on Luther's Heidelberg Disputations 1997

B. The Theology of the Cross is notoriously difficult to discuss

1. Abstract theology vs. being acted upon

2. Tendency toward sentimentalism - In age that quickly endorses the idea that we are victims, we are specifically vulnerable to this. Sometimes the theology that is communicated limits God as only Daddy and leaves out the God of wrath and supreme judge.

3. Slippage of theological language - What kind of language is appropriate?


II. Characteristics of the Theology of the Cross

A. The Theology of the Cross is not for Luther a Chapter in Theology but a specific kind of Theology

1. Comprehensive framework

2. Seen throughout Luther's work

B. The Theologia crucis is opposed to the Theologia gloria.

1. The two narratives. Forde discription:

a. Theology of Glory - Cross becomes a repair job that will allow the soul to continue on its journey to glory

b. Theology of Cross - Cross insists on being its own story. No longer I who live but Christ crucified in us.

2. The language of addiction. You have to bottom out. Realize you are an addict. Your will is the problem. It curves in on itself.


III. The Definitive Statement of Luther's Theology of the Cross Appears in the Heidelberg Disputation of 1518

A. The Problem of Good Works (Theses 1-12)

1. Theses 1 - Luther makes an all out attack of the old way of life. The law not only divulges our sin, it increases our sin. Good works designed to appease God do not work.

2. Theses 2

3. Theses 3 and 4

a. Theses 3: The Works of Humans: Always look splendid, Appear to be Good, Are nevertheless, in all probability, Mortal sins

b. Theses 4: The Works of God: Always look deformed, Appear to be Bad, Are nevertheless, in very truth, Immortal merits.

4. Discussion of Proof for Theses 4

a. Alien work of God - opus alienum

b. Proper work of God- opus proprium

c. Saint and sinner - simni justus et peccator

5. Theses 5

6. Theses 6

7. Theses 7: "The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they would not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God."

8. Theses 8: "By so much more are the works of man mortal sins when they are done without fear and, if unadulterated, evil self-security.

9. Theses 9: "To say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal, appears to constitute a perilous surrender of the fear of God."

B. The Problem of the Will (Theses 13-18)

1. Theses 13: "Free will, after the fall, exists in name only, and as long as it does what it is able to do, it commits a mortal sin."

2. John 15:16

C. The Great Divide: The Way of the Glory versus the Way of the Cross (Theses 19-24)


Theologian of Glory

Theologian of the Cross

Theses 19

Theses 20

That Person does not deserve to be called a theologian

But [that person deserves to be called a theologian]

Who claims to see into the invisible things of God

Who comprehends what is visible of God (visibilia et posteriora Dei)

By seeing through earthly things (events, works)

Through suffering and the cross

In Thesis 21 The theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil vs.

In Thesis 21 The theologian of the cross says what a thing is.


D. God's Work in Us: The Righteousness of Faith (Theses 25-28)

All Lessons
  • Introduction to the life and theology of Martin Luther.

  • Luther expressed his views in a way that was shaped by his theology and the culture.

  • Martin Luther was born in Germany in the late 15th century, just after Guttenberg developed his printing press.

  • When Martin Luther posted the 95 theses, his intention was to discuss and debate the misuse of indulgences, but it was interpreted by the church heirarchy as an attack on the power of the papacy.

  • Luther's writings demonstrate his ability to understand and articulate issues that are at the core of the nature of God and man. His theology is distinct from philosophy and consists of many comments on passages in Psalms and Romans.

  • Faith alone justifies. By faith the Christian is made to love God, therefore a person does good works because they cannot remain idle.

  • The work of Christ when he allowed himself to be crucified on the cross, teaches us about God's nature, our nature and our relationship to God.

  • Luther's fourfold sense of scripture focused on historical (literal), allegorical (figurative), tropological (moral), and anagogic (future).

  • Luther's view of the atonement differs from classical views taught during his time and view held by the scholastic tradition.

  • Luther's teaching on justification by faith is central to his theology.

  • Theology of the cross assumes bondage and moves to freedom.

  • Four positions on predestination include the Calvinist, neo-Protestant, intuitu fidei, and Gnesio-Lutherans.

  • Luther's commentary on Galatians is an attempt to set "Law" in its proper setting.

  • The sacraments are an external expression of an internal reality.

  • Luther's teachings on the importance of baptism and arguments for infant baptism.

  • Luther's view of the theological and personal significance of the Lord's Supper.

  • The kingdom of God and secular government have areas of unity and areas of differences.

  • Luther gives a definition of the church and describes characteristics of the church.

  • Luther developed a catechism to help people focus on the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith.

  • Martin Luther's writings can encourage people to pursue their relationship with God on a deeper level.

This course is an introduction to the life and writings of the great German reformer, Martin Luther. There are 20 lectures totaling approximately 18 hours. These lectures were given at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.