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Luther's Theology of the Cross

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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 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)

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