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
Watching Now
Luther's Theology of the Cross

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)

  • Dr. Isaacs summarizes the course objectives and lists the recommended textbooks.
  • 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.

Dr. Gordon Isaac
Martin Luther 
Luther's Theology of the Cross
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:02] Let's get started. Today, we're going to be talking today about Luther's theology of the Cross. And this is one of these critical turning points. If you can understand, Luther, at this point, you will really understand Luther all along the lines. So we want to get a start on it. It's not the kind of thing that one studies wants and then has it under your belt. It's the kind of thing you have to come to again and again. And that indeed might be a way of getting at the theology of the cross, because we never arrive, we are always on the way. And that is one, one key to understanding what's up. Now. Let's begin with a comment by Luther. Matthew 1038 says this Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. We must note in the first place that Christ, by his suffering, not only saved us from the devil, death and sin, but also that his suffering is an example which we are to follow in our suffering. Though our suffering in Christ should never be so exalted that we think we can be saved by it or earn the least merit through it. Nevertheless, we should suffer after Christ that we may be conformed to Him, for God has appointed that we should not only believe in the crucified Christ, but also be crucified with Him as he clearly shows in the above Scripture and in many places in the Gospels. If they have called the master of the house bells a ball, how much more will they malign those of his household? Therefore, every Christian must be aware that suffering will not fail to come beyond this.

[00:01:59] It should be the kind of suffering which we have not chosen ourselves. As the fanatics choose their own suffering. It should be the kind of suffering which, if it were possible, we would gladly be rid of suffering, visited upon us by the devil or the world. Then what is needed is to hold fast and submit oneself to it. As I have said, namely that one know that we must suffer in order that we may be thus conformed to Christ, and that it cannot be otherwise, that everyone must have His cross and suffering. Let's pass for prayer. Almighty God, our dear Heavenly Father, we come into your presence, into the presence of the crucified Christ. It is in this presence that we learn our own story. For by her calling. We have taken up our cross as well. What that means, we don't really know. And we don't know the suffering that awaits us. And we don't know perhaps even some of the suffering we've already experienced. But we pray, Lord, that we might follow after Christ. That the old Adam, that the old life in us might indeed be put to death so that the new life of faith might emerge in boldness, in truth, and in love toward the neighbor Christ name. We pray it. Amen. Okay. We're going to be talking today about Luther's theology of the Cross. And as I mentioned, this is really central and critical to understanding Luther. And if I if I can in some way underline that point here, while we're still relatively toward the beginning of our semester, I will have done well for if you understand Luther's theology of the cross, then you really are beginning to get a handle on him. I think that it's true.

[00:04:02] I think it is true that when one enters into that theological house that we might call Luther's one enters in and always in some ways proceeds through that room that one might call the theology of the cross. At every entry point into Luther's theology, one will begin to recognize the marks of this manner of doing theology. So that theology of the cross is not simply a particular theology with a particular content, but a theology of the cross is actually a manner of doing theology. Or as Luther will talk in the Heidelberg disputation that will take a look at a little bit later on, he'll talk about being a theologian of the cross, being a theologian of the cross. You see here he's not even talking about a theology of the cross as though it's something that one could put down in a book once and for all time. But rather, he's talking about what a theologian of the cross does now, a theology of the cross. Further, one has to recognize that for Luther, there are simply two ways of doing theology. Either one is a theologian of glory or one is a theologian of the cross. A theologian of glory attempts to view God as he is in His Naked Majesty, as he is behind the century world. A theologian of Glory is concerned about making mention of the universals or spiritual principles that apply always and everywhere. A theologian of glory view is in some ways what's what he sees in creation, and then through analogy, begins to hypothesize as to what God is up to in the larger scheme of things. In contrast, a theologian of the cross views God through suffering in the cross. A theologian. The cross recognizes that it is not my story, but it is rather God's story.

[00:06:24] And he has chosen to tell it in a very particular way, namely through the person and work of his only son, Jesus. A theologian of the cross then, is deeply suspicious of any way of coming to a conclusion about who God is. According to Human Reason, a theory a theologian of the cross recognizes that Christian thought is based on the fact that God reveals himself, and he does so quite apart from the ways that Human Reason might speculate about him or posit his being, his nature and his relationship to the world. So as we begin this theology of the cross, those must serve as some very sketchy kinds of thoughts about these two ways of theology. And now let's let's move through through some of the things we have here on the overhead. First of all, there's relatively little literature in English that deals with the topic. Now, there's more and more talk, interestingly enough, about a theology of the cross, and you'll find this in ecumenical circles, etc., You'll find some interesting sorts. Michael Horton I don't know whether you're familiar with some of his stuff, but anyway, he's talking about it. There are other folks that are talking about theology of the cross, but there's relatively little literature that deals with this topic. A few exceptions. One that I don't have up up here, but this little pamphlet, I think it's out of print now. Luther's Theology of the Cross by Reagan Printer. Reagan Printer. Danish Theologian. Lutheran. Interesting character. And he writes just in, you know, some 15, 20 pages and gives a bit of an overview of the theology of the cross. Primarily, he's reacting against Rudolf Boltzmann and some of the contemporary theologians of the 20th century Voltaire for love in each German theologian whose classic book on this topic appeared first in 1929 and then was translated into English in 1967.

[00:08:50] And his piece is an interesting work that is quite helpful, but it's tough going and he is trying to make some points in terms of some issues that he's facing at that time. And so his work is important for anyone who really wants to deal with this topic, but it's not altogether easy. Alister McGrath More recently, I believe in 1985 you put out a little work entitled Luther's Theology of the Cross, and his work is more focused toward the development of Luther. Moving him in this direction of the theology of the cross. And so while his work is very helpful in terms of describing that historical flow of things, his work is really not focused on describing what a theologian of the cross might be or do or think or say. Gerhard Flaherty, one of my teachers, I had the good fortune of going to Luther Seminary, and Gerhard Flaherty, systematic theologian there, started out as an historian, actually, but he writes this little piece on being a theologian of the Cross. Reflections on Luther's Heidelberg Disputation 1518. This Far and Away is the best piece on this critical topic, and I would recommend it to your reading. If you're going to go down to a CBD sale, pick it up. That's where I got this one. And boy, you could just really get a great deal. But yes, the title on this is on being a Theologian of the Cross. Interesting title, isn't it? He doesn't say a theology of the Cross says on being a theologian of the Cross. Reflections on Luther's Heidelberg Disputation 1518 And this came out very recently and it's published by Germans, came out in 97. But this is far and away the best piece, and I would recommend it to your reading if I were a pastor serving in a parish.

[00:10:54] This is a book I would want on my shelf. It's I really think it's of that kind of importance. If one wants to begin to theologies in this incredibly important manner, then having this kind of aid along the way I think is really very helpful. Now, the next thing we need to say is that the theology of the cross is notoriously difficult to discuss. It's you see the danger that we face when we begin to talk about a theology of the cross is that by using it as a nominative in this way, we begin to objectify it. And it now can simply take its place alongside other different theology theologies that attempt to describe God. Now, if this happens, then the theology of the cross is turned into an abstract theology, and the whole point of talking about a theology of the cross is really to begin to talk in a manner of speaking, where we are being acted upon. That's the point. So it's all well and good to have a theology in theory or to have a theology in a book, have a theology that one can write on the wall, but it's something else to be acted upon God so that the cross becomes our story. Now, of course, in all of this, there are a couple of dangers in talking about a theology of the cross. Certainly, we could move rather quickly to the matter of sentimentality or sentimentalism in an age in which it's it's customary to speak of the fact that we're victims. It's rather easy to to fall prey to that kind of. Of difficulty. A tendency toward sentimentalism. We are concerned, it seems, about the fact that we are victims. Jesus is sometimes spoken of as one who identifies with us in our suffering or as the one who enters into solidarity with us in our misery, the suffering God and that way, or the vulnerability of God in such platitudes, becomes the stock in trade of preachers and theologians who want to stroke the psyche of today's religionists.

[00:13:26] But this results in rather blatant and suffocating sentimentality. God is supposed to be more attractive to us because He identifies with us in our pain and suffering. Misery loves company becomes the unspoken motif of such theology. But as theologians, as prospective pastors, and as lay theologians in our churches, we need to be careful that our expression of Christianity is not reduced to some hallmark sentimentality that just talks about pious platitudes. We need to be able to speak in such a manner. Our proclamation needs to be such that it cuts through that kind of sappy marshmallow thinking and gets to the meat of the nut. And you remember in an earlier lecture, we tried to talk about Luther's manner of theology rising as trying to get to the meat of the nut. So there is a tendency towards sentimentalism, and it has to do with the way that we approach theology now, very particularly and this is another reason for asking the ongoing question, Well, what happened on Sunday morning is to get precisely at this issue, because in evangelical circles, I'm afraid we are subject our great temptation. Our great danger is to fall into some of the worst forms of sentimentality. I don't know about you, but sometimes I. I have the occasion to worship in different places because I'm out speaking occasionally. And so I see different worship services in different scenarios. But one of the things that I see from time to time is the kind of worship that is very strong. On talking about the love of God. There's very little talk about the wrath of God, and in some of these forms of worship, it would seem that the power of positive thinking is the fundamental prerequisite or the baseline for proceeding to evangelical worship.

[00:15:42] And I've heard worship leaders from time to time set forward a kind of a daddy piety. You know, God is our daddy and we simply need to approach him. And after all, the overriding problem is that we simply don't believe that he loves us. Well, you know, I think there's some fundamental problems with that approach. And I think that it reduces Christian proclamation to a one sided psychological or therapeutic presentation where God is the answer to your existential problem. Do you have anguish? Will God will take care of it? Do you have money problems? Well, God can handle that, too. Do you have do you have marital problems? Well, God is going to cure that. Now, while all those things may indeed be true, ultimately speaking, when we begin our proclamation there, there is a very serious danger for sentimental izing the proclamation of the gospel. Bradley. Is the danger in that type of theological thinking more the definition of what a daddy is about as opposed to using that specific language because the language of the father is used? Is it not the fault? Yeah, the language of our father is used. However, whether or not it means precisely what we've come to say, that it means it's another matter, that it's not so much the usage of that. Right. Right. Mm hmm. But if one presents the picture of the very familiar daddy, then one one ultimately has to drop out of the equation. The the rather significant theme for both Old and New Testaments of the fact that the God that is calling us is a God who will judge the world and he will judge us. So there are some very profound things going on there. That whole side of the proclamation drops out.

[00:17:50] Then then the proclamation of God as our daddy simply becomes. And appeal to the psyche of these individuals that we want to bring along according to some religious plan. So that's one of the dangers that we're talking about. We'll get more of that. Also, there is another danger, and that is that the language might slip. Sentimentality leads to a shift in focus and the language slips out of place. To take a common example, we apparently are no longer sinners, but rather victims oppressed by sinister victimizers whom we relentlessly seek to track down and accuse. Of course, there are indeed victims and victimizers in our culture, all too many of them. But the kind of collective paranoia that allows us to become preoccupied with such a picture of our plight cannot help but nudge the language just enough to cause it to slip and fall out of place. The slippage is often very slight and subtle and hardly noticeable, and that's what makes it so deceptive. We no longer live in a guilt culture, but we've been thrown into meaningless meaninglessness, or so we are told. And then the language slips out of place. Guilt puts the blame on us sinners. But who is responsible for meaninglessness? Surely not. We sin if it enters our consciousness at all is generally something that they did to us. As Alan Jones, dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of San Francisco, put it, Once we live in an age in which everything is permitted and nothing is forgiven. So one of the things that we need to say here is that a theology of the cross is very interested in the question of theological language. How is it that we describe and speak the word of the gospel to others? What kind of language do we use? What kind of language is appropriate? And what are we getting at when we use certain kinds of language? This is absolutely critical for those of you who will enter into a ministry of preaching.

[00:20:06] So the theology of the cross attempts to address these kinds of things. Now characteristics of the theology of the cross. We've said, and we can continue to say that the theology of the cross is not for Luther a chapter in theology, but a specific kind of theology. It's comprehensive in its framework, and it's seen throughout Luther's life and his corpus in various ways. The actual terminology does not appear too terribly often, but it is concentrated in the Heidelberg disputation. And we're going to be taking a look at that piece a little bit later on. Okay. The Theology of the Cross or in Latin, The Tale of Your Crucis is opposed to the theology of glory. Let's just spend a moment trying to unpack that and trying to get at that. It's not altogether easy to do, but I like the way that Gerhard Flaherty attempts it in his little piece. He talks about two stories. He talks about the glory story and the cross story. There are two narratives that the most common overarching story is. First, he tells us that we tell about ourselves is what we will call the glory story. We came from glory and we are bound for glory. Of course, in between we seem somehow to have gotten derailed, whether by design or accident. We don't quite know. But that's only a temporary inconvenience to be fixed by proper religious effort. What we need is to get back to the Glory Road. The story is told in countless variations, and usually the subject of the story is the soul. Philosophers speak of the soul being trapped in the world of matter, decay and death through some cosmic misadventure on the part of either the gods or mortals. The basic scheme is what Paul Ricoeur has called the myth of the exiled soul.

[00:22:02] And here, 30 footnotes. Paul Richter and his little book, The Symbolism of Evil from 1967. The soul is exiled from its home. It's slumbering or is forgotten its way. Its true destiny is to return. The way of return is by knowledge, gnosis, the awakening of the soul to its immortal destiny, and consequently behavior appropriate to that state, which usually means a purging or a shucking off of the flesh and its lusts. But through all its variations, the scheme remains pretty much the same. The exile of the soul from the one and its return. Now the glory story, this myth of the excise isle, the myth of the exiled soul, is a powerful story. It is attractive and it's comforting in many ways. And you see, it's possible to overlay that particular narrative with Christian terminology. And that's what Ferdie maintains has happened. The biblical story of the fall has tended to become a variation on the theme of the exiled soul. The unbiblical notion of a fall is already a clue to that atom, originally, pure and soul, either by nature, by or by the added gift of grace, was tempted by baser lusts and fell, losing grace and drawing all his progeny with him into a massive perdition. Reparation must be made, grace restored and purging carried out so that the return to glory is possible. The cross, of course, can be quite neatly assimilated into the story as the reparation that makes the return possible. And there we have a tightly woven theology of glory. But notice what happens to the cross in this story. The cross comes as a repair job to the primary story, which is the return of the exiled soul. So the eternal truth is the soul and its return to God.

[00:24:13] The cross simply is a help and a repair. So that that previous story can go on in uninterrupted. Now, the second story is the cross story. The theology of the cross arises out of a realization that simply disastrous to dissolve the cross in the story of glory. Jesus was crucified outside the camp, not in the temple, as the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us. The Cross insists on being its own story. It does not allow us to stand by and watch. It does not ask us to probe endlessly for a meaning behind or above everything that would finally awaken, enlighten and attract the exiled submerging soul. The cross draws us into itself so that we become participants in the story. As Saint Paul says in Galatians two, I've been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ, who lives in me and the life I now live in the flesh. I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. Just as Jesus was crucified. So we also are crucified with him. The cross makes us part of its story. The cross becomes our story. And that's what it means to say, as Luther did. The cross alone is our theology. Okay, so let's just get a handle on this and let me illustrate it for you in in another way. A theologian of glory believes that basically we're kind of like athletes. And what's happened is this. We have been doing good works and doing stuff. But, you know, everybody knows that within the best person there's bad. And so we mess up, you know, we sin. So the problem is this we've kind of fallen off our athletic regimen of good food and rigorous exercise.

[00:26:19] And in order to get back on track, we we need some help because if we're going to climb up to heaven to be with God where he is once again, heaven here is seen as a place which is which. Well, that's another topic. I'm not so sure that that's what scriptures has to say. But anyway, if this is if this is our task, then we've got this ladder and it's going up. The bottom rung is broken. And so what we need is help to get up the ladder. Well, there's there's good in each one of us, but what we need is added grace, right. In order to get where we need to go and in order really to see God. And and as Augustine might want to have us say, to have this beatific vision where we're overcome by the vision that we have of God. So what happens is we need to climb up the ladder. The bottom rung is broken. So what we have is this. We have Jesus who comes in the cross and it's a repair job so that we can continue on our pathway up here. But what it assumes is that there's remaining good in us and what we need is just some added strength to help us get get going. What's going on in the theology of Cross of the Cross is altogether different. You see, the cross in this in this scenario is simply a repair job for the ladder works or the law, which is that which is eternal. The cross just comes to repair that. What Luther wants to say in his theology of cross is something very different. We are in this closed circle. The law is not a way for us to ascend into heaven, but rather it is a voice which accuses us at every point and says you are hemmed in the cross rather than being a repair job to the Glory Road or the myth of the exiled soul is a story unto itself.

[00:28:20] The cross is precisely the new thing that God is doing in the death and resurrection of Jesus. He has provided the Gospel. That is the beginning of the new creation. It doesn't have anything to do with the previous story, but it is the story that we as Christians claim is our own. The law comes and accuses us, said there is no exit, no way out. And as a matter of fact, the end is death. Christ comes, dies on the cross and does battle with the cosmic forces, with sin, death and the devil and wonder of wonders. He emerges and breaks through the closed circle that the law imposes. And comes out the other side alive. And now we follow after him. But the cross is its own story. And so it is that Luther says the cross alone is our theology, and that's what we want to see. Okay. Now as we as we move on. We could use the language of addiction to try to to describe this. A theologian of glory is going to come up to the person who has a drinking problem and is going to say, well, listen, what you need to do is work a little bit harder, just, you know, lay off the booze, don't drink so much. And you know what? I'll give you some help and I'll call you up on Tuesday afternoon so that you don't fall into this dreadful habit. Theologian of Glory is wants to promote the self-esteem of the individual and give them a little bit of aid along the way as they climb the ladder to success. However, to find a theologian of the cross recognizes that something more drastic has to happen to use the language of addiction. That individual has to bottom out.

[00:30:29] They have to realize there is no way out that they are an addict. So instead of trying to appeal to the already operating will of the individual, that's more or less antagonist is flawed, but it's more or less intact. A theologian of the Christ is going to say, Your will is the problem. It's done in, it is curved back on itself. And that's one of the phrases that Luther uses in Cravat to say it's curved in upon itself. It can only will what it wants to will. An addict can only want to drink to drunkenness. That's the definition of an addict. So a theologian of the cross is interested in calling a thing what it is saying. That is the problem and we need to get at it. Now, then, let's take a look at the Heidelberg disputation and we'll make a few comments on this piece as we move along to try to identify just a little bit more clearly what the theology of the Cross is all about. If you've got your edition of LOL, you can open to that. Okay. The Heidelberg disputation is is in your local edition and we can kind of take a peek it at some of these things. We're just I'm just going to we don't have enough time to do a full presentation of this rather important disputation, but I want to make some comments on it so that we begin to think along with Luther on this critical issue. When you take a look at the the Heidelberg disputation, you'll find that it's it can be divided in four actually five sections. Theses one through 12 deal with the problem of good works. And in this section, we have to remember that we're talking about works and we're talking about good works.

[00:32:39] Even a theologian of glory would say that bad works don't get you where you need to go. So there there's no dispute on that particular issue. What we're talking about is the nature of good works and what part and what role they play in the life of the theologian. The second section, theses 13 through 18 deal with the problem of the will. What does the the the story of the cross say about human will? A theologian of glory is going to say that the human will, while certainly flawed in some manner, is in some manner still operative. And it's precisely to that will that a theologian of glory will appeal. Theologian of the cross has another view. The next section thesis 19 through 24, we can entitled The Great Divide The Way of Glory versus the Way of the Cross, and the final section that will be touching on today, and we probably won't even get to that. Seeing where our time is now is God's work in us the righteousness of faith. So as you take a look at this disputation and I would highly recommend that you move. This is the kind if these theses are terse and very compact and it's not easy reading. So if you're used to thinking about reading in terms of, well, I'm going to read 100 pages an hour and you know, that's not going to be the way you're going to be able to read through the theses. It just doesn't work that way. So let's let's take a quick peek here at. At these places and we'll see what comes out of it, will make a few comments and try to and try to give some kind of explanation for this presentation of theology. The cross problem of Good Works Thesis one The Law of God, The most salutary doctrine of life cannot advance humans on their way to righteousness, but rather hinders them.

[00:34:51] It's kind of an interesting way of beginning the whole thing, isn't it, When you say I mean, now notice there's a paragraph just before this that talks about the fact that Luther's attempting to set forward his own wisdom, not his own wisdom, but the wisdom of Scripture. And he is using these theological paradoxes in order to step forward as theology. Luther is known for the paradoxical manner in which he goes about his theology rising, and we can see that operative in these disputation, in this disputation. Now, the first one, the Law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him. This is a direct attack already on the use of good works as a means to advance someone on their way to righteousness. That's an interesting way of thinking about the matter further. You know, it's not enough simply for Luther to say that good works won't get you where you need to go. Good works don't reach. Finally, the ultimate goal. But notice that last phrase, he says. Good works actually hinder a person in righteousness. Fascinating thought. Now, if you take a look at the proofs, you'll find that Luther goes through a whole series of scriptures here that talk about the fact that the law came to increase the trespass. You see, it's not simply the the law is the expression of God's standard of holiness. And so the law is given to us that will know the right works to do. But notice what Luther is underlining here. The Apostle Paul says in the book of Romans Law intervened to increase the trespass. That's the purpose of law. And so Luther here is getting at a rather profound point, one that you probably don't hear preached in an evangelical church very often.

[00:37:06] What's the purpose of the law? Well, it's to help us know what we're supposed to do for daily living, right? There's a theological use of the law that Luther's getting at. The law comes to accuses. It increases laws. It's not simply that it reveals our sin, but it actually increases our sin. And the law has a very particular theological purpose, and that is to drive us to Christ. So in this first thesis, Luther is making an all out attack on the old life, the old Adam, and all of the presumption of the old man. You see, in our old fashioned way of thinking, we think that when we're thinking religiously at all, that if we do good works, that that's going to going to find us favor in the side of God. And when we become religious people, we still think that. And Luther is trying to dislodge this thought. The first crack out of the bang. So it's a very interesting opening salvo to this, to this disputation. You know, it's possible for Luther in his writings to talk about civil righteousness. If we pay our taxes on time. If we stop it, stop signs, if we do all of those things that civil law requires of us, then we have a righteousness. But it's a civil righteousness. It's not a righteousness that stands before God. Good works done in order to appease God. Don't get us that kind of righteousness. And that's what Luther is trying to get out here at the first. First thesis here, second thesis, much less can human works, which are done over and over again with the aid of natural precepts, so to speak, lead to that end. So in the first thesis, he's talking about works presumably done by the grace of God.

[00:39:07] In the second thesis, he's talking about works which are done, which are urged upon us simply by that function that we call natural powers or natural precepts. The point of this thesis is that if the revealed law of God cannot advance fallen beings toward righteousness, natural powers under the prodding of the moral law within are much less able to do so. So theses one and two thus mirror Paul's argument in Romans two and three about the failure of both Jews under the revealed law and Gentiles who show that they have the law written in their hearts. Both are under indictment and have gone astray in the proof. This is what Luther says since the Law of God, which is wholly and unstained true, just etc., is given to man by God as an aid beyond his natural powers to enlighten him and move him to do the good. And nevertheless, the opposite takes place. Namely, that he becomes more wicked. How can he left to his own power and without such aid, be induced to do good? If a person does not do good with help from without, he will do even less by his own strength. Therefore, the apostle in Romans three calls all persons corrupt and impotent who neither understand or seek God. For all he says, have gone astray. Okay. The third thesis and actually theses three and four go together. Take a look here. Although the works of man always seem attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins. Although the works of God always seem unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really eternal merits. These two theses can be taken together and they really form a marvelous comparison and contrast in theses three. You've got the works of human beings in theses four, you've got the works of God.

[00:41:24] And notice the way that these run in parallel. The works of humans always look splendid. So you have someone who does a particularly pious action that looks good, that appears righteous. And notice, too, that Luther is using the terminology of seeing or looking on something. The works of human beings, although they appear to be good, are nevertheless, in all probability mortal sins. The works of God always look deformed, appear to be bad, or nevertheless in very truth, immortal merits. That's right. Mm hmm. The works of God. That wouldn't cause me to think that they looked awful. Sure. Let's talk about. Let's talk about the person and work of Jesus Christ as described as the scriptures attributed to him from the Book of Isaiah. He is one uncommonly in form. Men do not desire to look upon him. When you take a look at the cross, it's a terrible event. It's not particularly attractive. We turn our heads away. But that's precisely where God is at work, doing his work. So He reveals his life in death. He reveals his righteousness by means of one who is dying in between to thieves. There's a very interesting kind of reversal here. It's unattractive, but nonetheless it's the eternal merits. So on the other hand, we can talk about acts of, you know, we might talk about someone in the 16th century who contributed money to establish an altar or someone who gives money so that a cathedral or a portion of a cathedral could be built. That looks like a good work. But if it's done with the thought that I am doing a good work and I don't need to rely upon the unattractive works that God has shown, then this work is actually a mortal sin.

[00:44:04] It's not a good work at all, although it looks to be religious and righteous. And so that's what that's what Luther is getting at. God's revelation you see here in this instance is revealed only under the form of its opposites Sub contrario. As Luther puts it, God does his alien and wrathful work before He does his proper and loving work. He makes a live by killing brings to heaven by going through hell, brings forth mercy out of wrath. Consequently, these theses are indispensable for the theologian the cross. They set forth what has to guide the language of the theologians of the cross if they are to speak the truth about human and divine works to say what a thing is. Each member of one CC of one thesis finds its contrary in the other, and furthermore, within each thesis there's a further contrast between appearance and reality. Okay to get more at this question that Bradley's asked the proof. Take a look at the proof for thesis for. And Luther will. He puts together a string of scriptures and also for those of you that are interested in Luther's approach to Scripture, the manner in which he handles scripture, this is really typical. He'll take passages of Scripture and string them together, as in the medieval tradition, in order to get to his fundamental point. Notice what he says that the works of God are unattractive is clear from what is said. And Isaiah 53, he had no form of completeness. And in four Samuel two the Lord kills and brings to life. He brings down to Sheol and raises up. This is understood to mean that the Lord humbles and frightens us by means of the law in the sight of our sins, so that we see in the eyes of men as in our own, as nothing foolish and wicked.

[00:45:57] For we are in truth, that insofar as we acknowledge and confess this, the these is no form of beauty in us, but our life is hidden in God, finding in ourselves nothing but sin, foolishness, death and hell. According to that verse of the Apostle and Second Corinthians six, as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing as dying and behold we live, and that it is which Isaiah 28 calls the alien work of God that He may do his work. That is, he humbles us thoroughly, making us despair so that he may exalt us in his mercy, giving us hope. Just as back three states in wrath remember mercy. Such a man, therefore is displeased with all his works. He sees no beauty, but only as ugliness. Indeed, he also does those things which appear foolish and disgusting to others. Okay, so that begins to describe just a little bit about what Luther's trying to get at here. The alien work of God, where he declares us sinners in order to pronounce us righteous. He must do that alien work before he does his appropriate or his his proper work. And so that's the kind of thing that's going on here in these two theses, comparing the works of humans in the works of God. Okay. Also, we're going to find particularly more so in in theses five and six. But the issue also for Luther is that we are simultaneously sane and center and we need to recognize that fact. Let's take a quick look here. Five and six. The works of men are thus not mortal. Since we speak of works which are apparently good as though they were crimes. So in other words, he's talking here about good works and he's not working about he's not talking about these works that are moral sins or deadly.

[00:47:55] It could be it could be endowing, you know, an altar that that's not a crime. And people looking on would say, well, that's a righteous work. That's really a good thing for him to do. But if it's done in an effort to appease God, then it is in fact, a mortal sin. But it's not a crime. Okay. So he's talking here about those kinds of works that are good works. Six The works of God, we speak of those which he does through man are thus not merits as though they were sinless. Here he is talking about the works that God does through us, through His grace. He's enabling us to do these works. But we have to recognize that even these works that are done with the aid of grace are not without sin because we are simultaneously saint and sinner. So even the good works that we do, according to the grace of God, are not without flaw. And that's one of the things that Luther but I think I stop right. And and ultimately that's where Luther's theology goes. However, it is possible to make a distinction between two kinds of righteousness. There's let's put it this way we have ability in things below us. And so if we work hard, you know, we can get ourselves to the place where we do stop it, stop signs always. And we can make progress in certain kinds of those those kinds of things that are underneath us. So there are certain kinds of of of works that we can say that's, you know, that's that's righteous, that's civil righteousness. But that's all that it is. It's in things underneath us, but in things above us. If we were attempting to use our works in order to establish a relationship with God or to appease God or to attain hazzan by virtue of those works, he says, that's quite impossible.

[00:49:53] And he's beginning to show, you see, and in the Catholic system of the time, and this is one reason why the disputation is rooted as it is, it's in the Roman Catholic system in which there's a distinction between a mortal sin. If you if you commit a certain kind of sin, that's a deadly sin, that's a mortal sin. And if you commit a different kind of sin, you know, that can be overcome through certain acts of penance and that sort of thing. In this particular instance in theses five here he's talking about just he's just talking about works in general and he's talking in this connection will we'll see in in theses seven there's kind of a turning point here. But here he's talking about works and how they're to be understood. And basically what he's saying is that. A theologian of glory, looks out in the world and says, Oh, well, there's a good work, and thinks that by viewing it, he can say, that's what's good. What Luther is saying is that there's something else here. We're going on appearances and we're not going upon the basis of what God has revealed. And so he's making a distinction about what we about morality, about the way we determine morality and the way God determines it until he's making a distinction. Now, let's move on. Let let me just point out, this is seven. The works of righteousness would be mortal sins if they would not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God. In other words, it would be possible for a righteous person through the aid of grace, to do a good work. But if that person who does the good work does not stand in the fear of God while doing it, then that good work becomes a deadly sin.

[00:51:54] So what Luther is trying to say is here all of our works, no matter what stripe, it must be done within the context of the fear of God. And that's what's critical in all of this. So he's saying that, you know, a righteous work is a moral sin if it's not done within the context of the fear of God. Now, take a look here. Eight by so much more are the works of man mortal sins. When they are done without fear and in unadulterated evil self security. Okay, that's self-evident. Now, to say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal appears to constitute a perilous surrender of the fear of God. This thesis actually has to do with the question regarding people who are outside of the faith, who do good works. We all know folks that aren't Christians who are moral, upright people and do wonderful things. So what about them? Now, apparently, according to one Roman Catholic distinction, it was possible to say that those acts, because the person is not in Christ, is not a Christian, are dead. They don't you know, it's they don't have real purpose. They don't have real life to them. But because it's a good work, it's not a mortal sin for that person. It's a distinction that they used in the 16th century, and it's a distinction, quite frankly, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. How can a work be dead and not deadly? You know what I'm saying? See, it's interesting here that this kind of question comes up and it's a question that comes up from time to time, no doubt, in some of your classes, because students constantly worry about the benevolent pagan. The scholastic tradition tried to handle this as usual by making a distinction between works that are dead but not deadly or mortal.

[00:54:03] Good works done without Christ are said to be dead in the sense that being without grace, they're not meritorious. But still they were not such as to be moral that is deserving of eternal condemnation. See what's happening here in theses nine and ten is the theologians of Glory are always looking for loopholes. There's always some way of saying, Well, isn't there some good to that work? What is one to say of works that are generally genuinely good but done by nonbelievers that as works without Christ? Are they also simply mortal sins? And this is a question that comes up again and again. But Luther's trying to close the door to say, no, we need to we need to recognize that theological attempts to be gracious to the nonbeliever only lead to further disaster by trying. You know, there's one theologian, Carl Reiner, who speaks about anonymous Christians, those who are not a part of the church now, but who, because they reveal a certain kind of righteousness then are probably going to get the nod from God because they after all, they're anonymous Christians. They don't know it yet, but they're at work. I think that, you know, however hard we try at dealing seriously with the question of what happens to nonbelievers, we need to be very careful that we're not patronizing in the way that we handle these kinds of issues. Sorry to raise an interesting question then not to get on to it, to finish it. But but we need to keep moving here. Now, let's take a quick look here at these next set of 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.

[00:55:58] This is a sharp kind of comment to make, but it's one that Luther really means to make. He's trying to get at this question of the will, and he's basically saying that if you deal seriously with the sin problem, you have to say that the will has been struck a death blow or to use the language of addiction, the will is curved back on itself. We are unable to will the will of God. And that's the nature of sin. In Romans chapter three, the Apostle Paul says that all have fallen short of the glory of God. No one has sought after God. No, not one. That's a description of the human will and sin. That is a description of bondage. There is nothing left there to retrieve a theologian of glory attempts to appeal to the free will of the human being in order to give to give religious advice of one sort or another. But a theologian of the cross tries to call a thing what it is, and the will in the midst of sin is in the grips of a terrible bondage. And it is only the work of God which can ultimately come and retrieve that will in order to bring it into saving relationship with the Almighty. So it's you know, a part of this has to do with the question of the will and its freedom over and against God and his sovereign grace. And of course, this raises up all of those questions that you probably get from time to time in some of your classes. Well, we aren't puppets, are we? If everything happens by divine will, how can we be held responsible? We just can't accept such a god. There must be some freedom of choice, isn't there? Isn't there something we must do? Decide for Jesus or something that we have to do in order to achieve salvation.

[00:58:04] But the point that the point of this thesis and the point of Luther's line of argumentation is that this kind of protest is precisely the proof that the will is bound. It is evidence of the theologians of glory at work defending themselves to the end. They actually admit that they cannot and will not will God to be God. Theologians of the Cross who see what a thing is perceive what is going on here. They see finally that the will is bound to itself and cannot will God. This is just an honest observation of the truth of the matter. Seeing the way things are, the will cannot move. It must say no to God. It wills to do so and so will do it. If there is to be salvation. It cannot come by the wills own movement. That means there must be a death and a resurrection. The cross stands behind the question of the will, and the cross itself is the evidence that we did not choose him, but that he nevertheless chose us since John 1516. So we'll get more to. Others approach to the question of the will. When we read that classic work bondage of the will. But in this set of theses you see that he is saying free will really means nothing in this age insofar as the will is bound to sin and cannot will anything other than that. So to appeal to a will which is bound to sin is not the approach for Luther. As a theologian of the cross, he would say. What I do is preach not so that the free will has a choice but to preach in such a manner that the will recognizes that it has no choice but to believe that God is all in all.

[01:00:01] And finally, for that will to be grasped by the one who saw it after that one. For we have not saw it after God, but it's God who seeks after us. So that proclamation, you see, is a proclamation, not an appeal to the free will, which is wounded and bruised or whatever, but still has some life in it. But rather, a theologian, La Crosse, will preach in such a manner so that the person hearing will hear the preaching of Christ. That word will come and reside in their lives, and thus faith will be engendered. So ultimately, for Luther, you begin to understand that definitions are very different. Faith is not the exercise of one's free will, but faith for Luther is the response that comes when a new life of faith is created by the Word of God. For the Word of God is a living word, and it creates something out of nothing. And that's what Luther is trying to get at. And all of the medieval discussions, the scholastic discussions about the relationship between the sovereignty of God and the so-called human will, then are set off to one side. So you can begin to see how in this disputation of Luther's, he is actually going after scholastic theology to oppose it at every point. And he's doing a new thing here. Okay. Now, let's take a quick peek here at the critical passage. He moves after the free will in the middle sections of the disputation. And now we come up to the critical piece here, the theologian of glory, the theologian of the Christ Thesis 19. That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who claims to see into the invisible things of God by seeing through earthly things.

[01:01:47] Events works. But that person deserves to be called a theologian who comprehends what is visible of God through suffering and the cross. Theses 21. The theologian of glory calls evil, good and good evil. The theologian of the cross says, What a thing is. This is the heart of Luther's presentation in this disputation. And quite often when you get a description of the theology of the cross, these theses are taken and sometimes out of context of the rest of the of the of the work. But what we want to see here is that the focus here is on theologians and their mode of operating, not on theology as such. The great divide is, first of all, in the way they look for God in the world in their seeing. And then secondly, and consequently in their speaking, faulty or misdirected sight results in false speaking. What Luther wants to say here is that there's a fundamental presupposition about site involved, a theologian of glory views things and notice kind of the paradox here. It says, who claims to see into the invisible things. How can you see invisible things? I think that's one additional way in which Luther is trying to show the great presumption of theology of glory that attempts to see things in the world and say, well, on the basis of what we see here in the world now, we can make certain statements about God, according to analogy, recognizing that what we see on Earth is just an image, an incomplete picture, but it's pointing in the right direction toward who got really is. A theologian of glory, sees earthly things, events and works, and then translates that into religious kind of terminology. A theologian on the cross is one who comprehends what is visible of God through suffering in the cross.

[01:04:02] And there's a twofold understanding of what the suffering in the cross is. We know God through his revealing work in the cross, in the death of Jesus Christ and His resurrection as well. But also this has a double meaning in that the suffering in the cross does not leave us unaffected. You know, it's possible to do theology in such a way that you create a systematic theology and it's perfect. It's got symmetry. It you know, you know, it's really wonderful to read and to work with, but it leaves you as a theologian quite unaffected by it. The point here that Luther is trying to say is that real theology is something which happens to us. Theology is not something that we necessarily do with our minds only, but theology is something which is lived out in reality. And so the suffering in the Christ is first and foremost the suffering in the cross of Jesus Christ. But it is also our suffering and our cross. Even as the introductory meditation for this, this class session indicated. Now, if you think in this sort of a way, a theologian of the cross consequently moves to a manner of speaking, and that manner of speaking is critically important for just as the Apostle Paul talks about preaching folly to save those who would believe. That's the kind of speaking that a theologian of the cross wants to utter. And what we have here is that Luther is trying to differentiate then between these two manners of speaking. A theologian of the cross says what a thing is. On the other hand, a theologian, a theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. Now, how does that happen? A theologian of glory, insofar as they say that a work that is done with the aid of grace is meritorious.

[01:06:09] While that thing looks good, it's actually evil. So when a theologian of Glory says that's a good work, as evidenced by how I see it, they're actually calling something which is evil good. And when they look at the suffering in the cross and they say, well, that's you know, there's there's a universal truth behind that. Then they're calling something which is good evil and bypassing that important revelatory moment in the life of God. So here we have this contrast between the theology or a theologian of glory and a theologian of the cross. But what we have not discussed are the philosophical theses at the end of the Heidelberg disputation and those theses, the philosophical theses 29 through 40. And here he here Luther is making a contrast between theology and philosophy. And this is an interesting bit here, but for our purposes it's not one that we're going to spend a whole lot of time on because there are two different ways of knowing God through sight and through God's revelation. It's possible for there to be two different disciplines which deal with the question of God. As a philosopher, I will describe God according to how I see things in the world. That's the you know, that's the tool that I have to use. And so a philosopher is going to describe God in a very different way than a theologian of the cross who is committed to to God's revelation in that very specific sort of a way. Luther makes a distinction between a legal knowledge of God and an evangelical knowledge of God. And so there's a distinction along those lines. Luther, interestingly enough, if you if you trace out these these theses has little use for philosophy within the realm of theology.

[01:08:23] He says this Indeed, no one can become a theologian unless he becomes one without Aristotle. And here his in sharp opposition to scholasticism philosophical truth is to theological truth as law is to gospel or as human righteousness is to divine righteousness. In outward things, the law and reason rule. But the judgment that is true for us is not true for God. For God judge us differently. The subject of both theology and philosophy is the same. And this means that for Luther, there's a relationship between these two disciplines. But that relationship is not one of simple continuity. Rather, it's the relationship that exists between the general or legal knowledge and the proper or evangelical knowledge of God. So there is a distinction that Luther makes in terms of philosophy and theology.