A theology of the cross

Martin Luther in the Reformation taught that there are two approaches, two ways to view God and the world. You can embrace a theology of glory or a theology of the cross. 

The theology of glory essentially creates a picture of God which reflects our own expectations and desires. We have certain hopes and expectations, and a theology of glory says that God basically lives according to our expectations. For example: we expect that God rewards those who do good things. Those who do well will enter heaven. And this is because they think God’s idea of justice is just like their own.

The theology of the cross does not start with human expectations. It starts with God’s self-disclosure; divine revelation. And according to Luther, God reveal himself most stunningly and most clearly at the cross. This idea has paradigm-shifting implications. 

Carl Trueman writes about this and he asks, what do we see when we see the cross?

What does the theologian of glory see there? Well, based on upon rational, empirical enquiry, one would have to say that the man on the cross is a filthy criminal of some kind. Why else would he be dying such an indescribable death as a punishment? The cross is a disgrace, both by the standards of Roman law and Jewish custom, and thus the one upon whom such punishment is inflicted must be the lowest kind of criminal imaginable. In addition, one would have to say that he is broken, crushed, defeated. As he dies upon the cross, we see no king, no victory over sin, no cause for rejoicing or glorifying the one who hangs there. The eyes of reason, judging on the basis of what we as humans expect, would have to see the scene as one of darkness, pain, and deep personal tragedy…The theologian of the cross, however, approaches the event with the eyes of faith and with the criteria provided by God’s revelation of himself, sees the a very different picture: not a sinner, but the only sinless man; not defeat, but triumph; not wrath, but mercy. What we have on the cross is not the defeat of a criminal, but the triumph of the king of glory; not the victory of the powers of evil, but the victory of good over evil; not the hopeless curse of God, but the blessings of God by which all may be saved.”

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