As promised, I am going to post this week excerpts from an article by Carl Trueman, professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, on Luther’s Theology of the Cross. Prof. Trueman sets up the context of the Heidelberg Disputation, which was held not long after the 95 Theses were posted, at which Luther developed a revolutionary theological insight:
At the heart of his argument is his notion that human beings should not speculate about who God is or how he acts in advance of actually seeing whom he has revealed himself to be. Thus, Luther sees God’s revelation of himself as axiomatic to all theology. . . .
God revealed himself as merciful to humanity in the Incarnation, when he manifested himself in human flesh, and the supreme moment of that revelation was on the cross at Calvary. Indeed, Luther sometimes referred enigmatically to Christ crucified as “God’s backside”—the point at which God appeared to be the very contradiction of all that one might reasonably have anticipated him to be.
The “theologians of glory,” therefore, are those who build their theology in the light of what they expect God to be like—and, surprise, surprise, they make God to look something like themselves. The “theologians of the cross,” however, are those who build their theology in the light of God’s own revelation of himself in Christ hanging on the cross.
Thus, Luther had little use for turning God into an abstraction (as in much philosophical theology) or an idea to prove or disprove or speculate about (as in much common conversation) or a mere transcendent deity looking down on human suffering from above (as in Deism, other monotheistic religions, and much popular Christianity). Rather, we are to think of God always in light of His incarnation in Christ crucified.
As Prof. Trueman goes on to show and as we will post about in the days ahead, doing so has stupendous implications.