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Luther’s Theology of the Cross: Conclusion (Part 5)

5 July, 2008


According to Luther the theologian of glory, the medieval scholastic theologian, had a “visio-phonetic” problem. His kind of seeing and resultant speaking took its cues from the wisdom of the created order: natural revelation via naked reason. Luther believed this kind of theologian labored in vain to pry into the being of God, his philosophical vices leading to an inversion of values and an inability to grasp how things could be. Thus, the grammar of the glory road was bound to call suffering bad and works good. Consequently Luther consigned this way of righteousness to being a self-constructed one: an unmediated ascent into the Godhead by “doing that which is within.”

On the other hand or “way,” the language of Luther’s the theology of the cross, as exegeted from Theses 19-24 of his Heidelberg Disputation, was one dictated by special revelation. Luther believed that God had chosen to descend to man and had acted in the person of Jesus Christ. This was not expected, but nonetheless the true revelation of God. Confounding the wisdom of this age, God had revealed himself in paradoxical fashion. Luther argued that in hiding himself under a veil of suffering, God had made himself known and accomplished his work of redemption. Furthermore, he contended that the faith of those schooled in suffering, penetrated through the veil of God’s alien work and laid hold of his proper work: justification by faith alone, through the sufferings and cross of Christ alone.[1] Luther lived and died believing that things are other than they seem.


[1] In the end Luther contended that theologia scholastica was always to be opposed to theologia crucis. With typical eloquence, he made the following statement in philosophical thesis 2 of the Heidelberg Disputation, “In the same way as the evil of sexual desire cannot be used well except by those who are married, so no-one can philosophize well unless he is foolish, that is, a Christian. The reason is that, as sexual desire is a perverted wish for pleasure, so philosophy is a perverted love of knowledge, unless helped by the grace of Christ; not because philosophy or pleasure are evil in themselves, but because desire for either is wrong unless it be Christian. Indeed, all our bodily and spiritual powers are such that they pervertedly desire their object, namely God’s creation (rather than God himself)” (Martin Luther, D. Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtuasgabe, ed. J.C.F. Knaake, vol. 59 (Weimar: Bolahu, 1883), 59:409.20-10.6.) See also Bagchi, “Sic Et Non”, 14-15.

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