You cannot fully understand Martin Luther’s work unless you understand his distinction between the theologian of the cross and the theologian of glory. This distinction is also important for us today especially when some are leaving the biblical truths of the Reformation for the traditions of Rome. I myself will not and cannot go to Rome because I believe the five solas are eminently biblical, and also because I believe Luther was right in declaring that Rome taught a theology of glory in opposition to the theology of the cross.
Interested in this discussion? You should be. And you should get this outstanding book, On Being A Theologian of the Cross by Gerhard Forde. The book is sort of a commentary on Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation of 1518. Though it is only around 100 pages long, it is one of the most profound discussions of the cross and salvation you’ll ever read. The book will not only lead you away from Rome’s theology of glory, it will also lead you away from yourself (your own righteousness, good works, and fig leaves) and lead you away from the things of this world. It will lead you to the cross, and the cross alone.
I’ve blogged on this book before, so I won’t go into all the details. But I do want to give an example of the contents of the book. Here’s a small sample.
“The cross is the death of sin and the sinner. The cross does the ‘bottoming out.’ The cross is the ‘intervention.’ The addict/sinner is not coddled by false optimism but is put to death so that a new life can begin. The theologian of the cross ‘says what a thing is.’ The theologian of the cross preaches to convict of sin. The addict is not deceived by theological marshmallows but is told the truth so that he might learn at last to confess, to say, ‘I am an addict,’ ‘I am an alcoholic,’ and never to stop saying it. Theologically and more universally all must learn to say, ‘I am a sinner,’ and likewise never to stop saying it until Christ’s return makes it no longer true.”
“It is commonplace among evangelical Christians to believe that we can’t perfectly fulfill the law, but we often try to because we assume that if we only could we would do it. Some believe that we must try to do something at least, and then, it is assumed, Christ will make up for our ‘shortcomings.’ But here is the bombshell: doing the law does not advance the cause of righteousness one whit. It only makes matters worse.”
“The law is not a remedy for sin. It does not cure sin but rather makes it worse.”
“Thesis 25. He is not righteous who works much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ.”
“Thesis 26. The law says, ‘do this,’ and it is never done. Grace says, ‘believe in this,’ and everything is already done.
I could go on and on. Again, trust me when I say that you need to get (and read!) this book if you haven’t yet: Gerhard Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross. And if you have read the book, feel free, as always, to comment below.