Theology of the Cross, Power and Language (#2)

Carl Trueman in his article Luther’s Theology of the Cross we introduced yesterday, on the “revolutionary implications” of this insight, that God is to be known only in Christ crucified:

Luther is demanding that the entire theological vocabulary be revised in light of the cross. Take for example the word power. When theologians of glory read about divine power in the Bible, or use the term in their own theology, they assume that it is analogous to human power. They suppose that they can arrive at an understanding of divine power by magnifying to an infinite degree the most powerful thing of which they can think. In light of the cross, however, this understanding of divine power is the very opposite of what divine power is all about. Divine power is revealed in the weakness of the cross, for it is in his apparent defeat at the hands of evil powers and corrupt earthly authorities that Jesus shows his divine power in the conquest of death and of all the powers of evil. So when a Christian talks about divine power, or even about church or Christian power, it is to be conceived of in terms of the cross—power hidden in the form of weakness.

For Luther, the same procedure must be applied to other theological terms. For example, God’s wisdom is demonstrated in the foolishness of the cross. Who would have thought up the foolish idea of God taking human flesh in order to die a horrendous death on behalf of sinners who had deliberately defied him, or God making sinners pure by himself becoming sin for them, or God himself raising up a people to newness of life by himself submitting to death? We could go on, looking at such terms as life, blessing, holiness, and righteousness. Every single one must be reconceived in the light of the cross. All are important theological concepts; all are susceptible to human beings casting them in their own image; and all must be recast in the light of the cross.

This can be the key to a new apologetic to postmodernists, who assume that truth is nothing more than a language game that masks the imposition of power. Here is another kind of Word and another kind of Power, one intent not on controlling but on redeeming.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Nemo

    So, for clarification, do you believe that Truman is correctly interpreting Luther in this article?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Can’t speak for Veith, but I tend to think he is accurately interpreting Luther, and that is after reading quite a bit of Luther.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    I also think Truman understands Luther rightly.

    It sounds as if he (Truman) has a good grasp of this ‘hidden beneath it’s opposite’ thing…otherwise known as the theology of the cross.

    This understanding highlights the chasm that exists between how man would handle all of this and how God actually did handle it.

    It is so ‘otherly’…we would never have cooked it up!

  • http://lutheranguest.blogspot.com/ Jim

    Seeing that Trueman teaches at Westminster Theological Seminary — ground zero for scholarly Calvinism in the U.S. — I’d be interested to have him discuss the implications of the absence of the “theology of the cross” in Reformed theology. (Or might he argue that it’s there implicitly?)

  • Manxman

    Redemption is only part of God’s purposes – He’s also interested in “control” -

    But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all

  • Nemo

    Isn’t Trueman (and by extention Luther) claiming a bit more than Scripture warrants here?

    when a Christian talks about divine power, or even about church or Christian power, it is to be conceived of in terms of the cross—power hidden in the form of weakness.

    Of course that is the conclusion you would come to if our only example of divine power is at the cross, but such a view is too limited. It leaves out all the examples of divine power in the Old Testament (Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samson, etc.). It leaves out Christ’s miracles. It leaves out the transfiguration. It leaves out the resurrection. It leaves out Christ’s return. At the cross divine power was hidden in weakness, but it is not always so. “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27)

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Nemo,
    What you are suggesting is that the cross is just one event among many. What Luther, and Trueman are suggesting is the Cross is THE EVENT in Scripture, the central and defining event of the Heilsgeschichte. It is not one event among many, but the one event that gives meaning, purpose and fulfillment to all other events. Which is why Christ says
    “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,” (John 5:39 (ESV)
    And Paul and Apostle of Christ tells the Corinthians
    1 Cor. 1:23 (ESV)
    but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
    1 Cor. 2:2 (ESV)
    For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

    So no it isn’t the conclusion you come to if your only example is the cross. It is the conclusion you come to when you put the cross in the proper perspective the Bible gives it.

  • Nemo

    On the contrary, the cross is the event of history (the time behind us) that makes possible the event of creation–Christ’s return to claim his bride.

    Or is the paying of the bride price of more significance than the wedding?

    Christ crucified means nothing without Christ risen (1 Corinthians 15:17-20)

  • Bryan Lindemood

    You might be at the wedding already, Nemo (tell us your secret for escaping death now and still being able to comment on this blog) – but for most of the rest of us, there is still some faithful waiting that must be done.

  • Nemo

    Huh what?

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Don’t worry, Nemo. Christ crucified (and risen) will keep your lamp trimmed and burning brightly!

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Dr. Veith,
    My wife and I are enjoying today how the writing for today in TDP (“Treasury of Daily Prayer” – Concordia Publishing House, 2008) so well reflects this wonderful post today. Plus it shows that if Luther gets this theology of the cross stuff wrong – well then he got it wrong from the faithful who walked before him. But I think not. Here’s the writing for those who do not yet have this wonderful devotional resource:

    “Jesus goes up out of the water…for with Himself He carries up the world…and sees heaven opened, which Adam had shut against himself and all his posterity, as the gates of Paradise by the flaming sword. And the Spirit bears witness to His Godhead, for He descends upon one that is like Him. So also does the voice from heaven, witness to His Godhead. And the Spirit comes like a dove, for He honors the body of Jesus, for this also was God through its union with God, so the Spirit is also seen in a bodily form. Moreover, the dove has from distant ages desired to proclaim the end of the deluge. But if you are to judge the Godhead by bulk and weight, and the Spirit seems to you a small thing because He came in the form of a dove, O man of contemptible littleness of thought concerning the greatest of things, you must also to be consistent despise the kingdom of heaven because it is compared to a mustard seed. And you must exalt the adversary above the majesty of Jesus, because he is called a great mountain and leviathan, king of that which lives in the water, whereas Christ is called the lamb, and the pearl, and the drop of rain that comes from heaven, and similar names.”
    – Gregory of Nazianzus

  • Booklover

    “power hidden in the form of weakness.”

    It seems that God is always displaying His power through what the world sees as weakness. Take the woman who forgos birth control for the birth of her fourth or fifth child. The world looks on her as being poorer and powerless, but her child is God’s creation. Or the woman who stays home to make a home and be a mother and wife while the world looks at her as being one lost paycheck. Or even Issues, Etc., which was kicked off the air and the uproar gave them more publicity than they would have gotten otherwise. Or Bach, who didn’t write a lot of “worldly music” to be performed at the opera house or theatre for fame and fortune, yet hundreds of years later we are hearing his spiritual message across vast oceans. God’s Power is hidden in the form of weakness.

  • FW

    #7 Bror

    THIS. exactly as bror is stating it is THE one true apostolic faith. Therefore the differences between lutherans and baptists and others is not merely a matter of putting a menu of doctrines side by side and seeing where they differ. It is not even saying “christ centered”. that is NOT radical enough. Christ is not one of many doctrines, the chief doctrine or even really, a doctrine. He is the son of mary, the mother of God, true god and man. The world can only exist within his existence. The very person of Christ is THE existence-ial truth that doctrine exists solely with the purpose of revealing that existence and it´s meaning FOR us sinful men and FOR our salvation.

    It is seeing that the Lutherans (and all christians) really only have ONE doctrine: the holy gospel. This Gospel is specifically the life, death and resurrection of jesus for the forgiveness of sins. No it is more than that. It is the VERY PERSON of christ our lord. who he is, what he did and why he did it (as the 2nd article of the luther small catechism puts it so very neatly).

    There is, for this very reason, NO doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church that does not drive directly and forcefully to Christ and him crucified and how the benefits of that event of 2000 years ago are delivered to us now in 2009 as a physical historic act that occurs in the life of each christian. He who is time-less, and exists outside of the time and space created in genesis chapter one, a God who comes to us in creaturely form in creaturely time and space.

  • Kirk

    Nemo,

    I think the point is that the Christ’s death on the cross is victory won, the return of Christ is merely the realization of that victory in its most complete terms. Meaning, justification is the goal, because it allows God to retain His righteousness and wholeness by demonstrating fully his Mercy and His Wrath. For me, the ultimate codification of what the crucifixion mean in scripture is Romans 25-26: “[Christ,] whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

  • Nemo

    Kirk,

    Read further in Truman’s article, he claims it was God’s love for Christ poured out on the cross (no reference to wrath).

    “Jesus Christ himself, was revealed as blessed precisely in his suffering and death. And if that is the way that God deals with his beloved son, have those who are united to him by faith any right to expect anything different?”

    Christ is no longer taking the wrath of God for us. He is our example of what to expect from God.

  • FW

    #5 manxman

    “When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all”

    I think this is off the mark manxman. Jesus was “given” what he already had and what was already his as God and as Creator of the universe. There is therefore nothing to “give back” to the father in the sense that you mean.

    In the temptation of Jesus in his 40 days in the wilderness, the second adam was tempted in exactly the same way as was the first: “prove that you are God, usurp God´s authority. Do something god-like.”

    Jesus, was the only fully-human One who could resist this. It would be like someone trying to bribe you to do something with the money that is already in your wallet or bank account that was already in your full possession.

    The point of the second adam submitting to the authority of the Father was that this was an exact and passive un-doing of what the first Adam had done.

    Christ redeemed us not only by his passive obedience on the cross, but also by what Lutherans call his “active” obedience which was where he lived the life of obedience to the Father that the first Adam and his spawn did not. The ultimate Rule of Law from which all other order in the universe has it´s being and compass.

  • http://lutheranguest.blogspot.com/ Jim

    Nemo,

    I think you pose some good questions.

    But I think that the “theology of the cross” can accommodate much of the data that you’re asking about.

    I call it the “divine inversion.”

    Think of the “unnaturalness” of so many OT themes:

    * What worldly wisdom would choose to create a great nation the way God chose to? I.e., God chose to creates a nation as countless as the stars by starting with a barren 90 year-old women, and a 100 year-old man. (Think more generally of all of the barren women who give birth in the divine line, ushering up to the unnaturalness of a virgin giving birth.

    * Further, the “sign” for the promised multitudes, is that the men must mutilate their organ of regeneration.

    God’s redeeming seed does not come via earthly generation.)

    * Along the same lines, recall all the inversions of the natural birth order — the younger inherits instead of the older.

    * The Canaanites had all of the power early on, in Judges and 1 Samuel. Yet God delivered the weak Israelites against their stronger foes. (Sometimes ordering the army to be made smaller; sometimes not even needing human intervention (e.g., the hilarious story in 1 Sam 6 & 7).

    * Prisoners and exiles who effectively become national rulers (Joseph & Daniel).

    * God forbids his kings from multiplying wives, wealth, and military might Dt 17.16-17.

    * Or consider all the inversions in Hannah’s song in 1 Sam 2:

    “The bows of the mighty are shattered, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry cease to hunger. Even the barren gives birth to seven, but she who has many children languishes. . . . He raises the poor from the dust, he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and inherit a seat of honor.”

    Examples from the OT could be multiplied almost endlessly (Jacob v. Esau; David v. Saul, etc., etc., etc.).

    If I might then rephrase your question: Is the “theology of the cross” only one of many “themes” in the Scriptures — something that I suspect you, and most non-Lutherans, would be willing to grant, or is it an elemental structuring concept or theme?

    The second claim is a lot stronger than the first claim.

    Luther, and Trueman, seem to want to advance the second claim. And I am attracted to the stronger claim myself.

    At the same time, I confess that I have looked and have not found any extended and systematic exposition or defense of the “theology of the cross.” (The only decent extended treatment I’ve found to date is Gerhard Forde’s “On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, 1518.” But the subtitle has it: it’s more Forde’s “reflections” on what the Disputation means to him that it is an extended exposition or a systematic defense of the concept from the Scriptures.)

    I do think there are difficulties that the idea needs to be able to accommodate. E.g., Jesus returning at the final judgment. That seems to be power through power, and not power through weakness. Or the idea that Jesus suffered, but now is crowned with glory and honor (e.g., Heb 2.9), in which case, as you suggest, there seems to be some sort of movement beyond the cross, albeit, as a result of the cross.

    I also have a question related to Luther scholarship — just how systematically did Luther employ this idea in his theological and biblical exposition? To be sure, I know that the concept pops up in Luther’s work through out his life. But I have to say that, based on my not-at-all-comprehensive reading of Luther and Lutheran theology, I have not seen it as the kind of structuring concept that Trueman (and Forde and other) seem to want to make it.

    So I think that there are some big questions that remain for scholars to answer about this compelling concept.

  • FW

    #5 manxman

    “Redemption is only part of God’s purposes – He’s also interested in “control” -

    complete disagreement. God is always completely in control.

    Yet in God´s time on earth, God was a perfect picture of passivity in every way. even in his physical appearance. He had to be pointed out in a crowd.

    This is EXACTLY the point it seems that possible the good Dr Vieth is pointing to.

    So kudos to you Manxman for disagreeing and articulating exactly what the difference is between the theology of the cross and the theology of glory in layman´s terms. I do believe you hit the nail right on the head in articulating the “theology of glory” in it´s essence.

    I would be interested in hearing Dr Vieth in case I have it wrong here. This is so very important! :)

  • Nemo

    FW,

    You do realize that the claim you accuse Manxman of taking to far is a quotation from the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15), right? (post #17)

    Yet in God´s time on earth, God was a perfect picture of passivity in every way. even in his physical appearance. He had to be pointed out in a crowd.

    Every way? You want to rephrase that?

    Casting out demons = passive; throwing out the money changers = passive; healing sickenss = passive; insulting the religious leaders repeatedly = passive? Oh he was certainly passive at times, just like God reveals his strength and power through weakness at times. But such does not mean the He is always that way.

    ***
    Jim,

    I am very much on the side of claiming the cross is central, but not to the exclusion of the rest of Scripture nor to the denial of the other truths revealed therein. Any extrapolated theory or theology that casts doubt on either the victory of the resurrection or the triumphal and glorious return of Christ should be immediately suspect (to say the least).

  • FW

    #8 Nemo.

    Time and space are creations of God. They did not exist prior to the creation of the universe.

    You are thinking of God entering the fabric of time and history like a needle of a sewing machine periodically piercing fabric and then becoming absent and removed once again.

    Think instead of the presence of God in the context of time as an iceberg that is always and everywhere in with and under the surface of the water we call time, and every now and then that presence, that is always there (that literally “fills all things”), is made visible or manifest. what is always and ever there pokes briefly through the water´s surface that we call time.

    Historically christians have called these visible, utterly tangible and physical appearances or manifestations of something that is already truly present in, with and under every place and every time: “sacramental”.

    So then bread, wine, baptismal water, the feel of the hand of a sent-one and the sound of the Word of Forgiveness hitting your eardrum are more than mere signs or symbols. They actually GIVE, here in time, right now, in your time, what “was” done 2000 years ago. Just like it were happening right now.

    Christ is no more present before during or after holy communion. He is however present differently. visibly. tangibly. sacramentally. truly. FOR YOU. FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF YOUR SINS. Which forgiveness you also have before, during and after that holy communion. Which, in fact, you fully possessed before there was time. But which forgiveness you can only have visibly and tangibly and sacramentally where Christ has promised you that you will find Him that way and where he has specifically commanded you to go look for Him. For YOU. In 2009. In Time. A glimpse of the fabric of eternity that is hidden behind time. For YOU.

    Your baptism 30 years ago is the SAME iceberg as Jesus baptism and that of your children this year.

    Or you can think of time as a line drawn on a piece of paper between two dots. each dot at opposite ends of that piece of paper. and then imagine God bending that piece of paper to put those two dots right next to each other. The line of time between the two dots is still there. One dot could be your death and the other dot the resurrection. or… one dot could be our Lord´s baptism in the river jordan, and that other dot could be your own baptism.

    This of course is all speculation. What is NOT speculation is this: God is outside of time and space and the Lord of it. He is not bound by time in any way.

    When you die, you will leave time. You will enter what the bible calls “eternity”. Christ will be your sun. In “the twinkling of an eye” you will be with Christ WITH your body. You are not fully you without your body. Christ is not fully christ without HIS body. You will not float around as some disembodied soul for a long time waiting for the time of the resurrection to come around. This would imply that your body is a mere container for the REAL you would it not? This is greek/eastern/new age stuff. The Hebrews did not distinguish between body and soul really.

    The body you have right now will be the one you spend eternity with in it´s glorified form (whatever that means we are not exactly told. We will be with Jesus. THAT is what is important to know). So take care of it. Honor it. Be chaste. Enjoy it. Somehow, being ashamed of our physical selves is a result of the fall. It is not a proper part of true piety.

    To us left behind, and still only able to see time, you will appear to be separated from your body. Your body will return to dust. It really will in time.

    From God´s perspective, there is not time that will pass between now and the resurrection. Christ IS the beginning and the end. Right now. “Is now and ever shall be. ” This is not stated as “was” the beginning and “will be ” the end. Time and space and all things only exist in him.

    Some read the book of Revelation in time when they read there “and then…”. And they spin from that a certain millenial theology that has God doing alot of waiting around.

    It makes good sense to me that a revelation that happens and is set in “eternity” would look more like us observing something in the middle of a spiral staircase that we are ascending.

    It is no accident therefore I don´t think that the Holy Liturgy draws large elements from the Book of Revelation being a foretaste of the timeless feast to come.

    Eternally relevant without need for pastors in hawaiian shirts.

  • inexile

    Trueman’s point that common theological terms may need to be replaced is a good way of restating Luther’s theology of the cross – God hides behind the opposite.

    Real power is real weakness and real weakness is real power. Confusing stuff for people who define ‘power’ and ‘weakness’ according to society’s definition. God is actually not ‘hiding behind the opposite’ from His own point of view. He always sees things exactly as they are. God sees real reality. We have got things so screwed up that we call things by their opposite. We call that which is powerful – ‘weak’ and what is weak, ‘powerful.’ The martyrs of the faith saw things much differently than this.

    God does not desire to hide Himself from us but He will not be dishonest to Himself. He is who He is. So, He is the “power and wisdom of God,” but we see it and call it “the foolishness of Christ and crucified.” Faith of course sees things as they really are.

    When Manxman says that there’s got to be something more than the cross to God’s nature, I’m afraid he’s not he’s not seeing things as God does. From the cross He says, “It is finished.”

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    FW@21: What good descriptions of eternity and of the ubiquity of Christ!

    We are in very deep waters, and thanks to all for your comments. Nemo and Manxman, thanks in particular for your criticisms. Luther’s theology of the cross is supposed to be controversial. This is one area that separates Lutheran theology from all others, though I think even non-Lutherans can profit from and agree with much of what he says, even if they can’t go all the way with him. I am struck that Prof. Trueman, though, is not a Lutheran but a Calvinist. It can take a Calvinist to teach Lutherans their own theology.

    One thing, though, Nemo, the theology of the cross by no means denies God’s wrath. His wrath against sin is even more terrible than we realize. And yet, to keep up the inversions of the cross, He pours it out not on us sinners who deserve it, but on the one innocent person! And not on us, but on His son!

    The Cross does not deny God’s other purposes and attributes, but fulfills them: the Cross is His glory, His power, His control, His judgement, His grace, His righteousness, His victory.

    There will indeed be a time when Christ returns “in glory,” but even then, He will bear His wounds.

  • FW

    #20 NEMO

    “You do realize that the claim you accuse Manxman of taking to far is a quotation from the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15), right? (post #17)”

    Yes I sure do. I fully agree with the Holy Apostle Saint Paul. (by the way, Paul, chief of sinners, gets the trifecta “holy/apostle/saint” purely because of the office God placed him into and not at all because of his personal qualities, beyond of course that robe of righteousness he has from his Lord). Manxman is saying (#5) that St Paul is saying here: “Redemption is only part of God’s purposes – He’s also interested in “control”

    I am not saying manxman has gone “too far”. I am saying that this is not a distillation in any way of the passage he quotes or the point that St paul is making in the quote or even what is going on between the father and the son or even between father son and us sinners.

    #17…”Yet in God´s time on earth, God was a perfect picture of passivity in every way.”

    “Every way? You want to rephrase that?”

    No. Not even a little teeny weeny bit.

    Unlike us, Jesus had the power AND authority to fix and not just “fix” anything he wanted to. He felt no necessity to do anything at all. Even with his best friend Lazarus stinking in the grave. There was not a hint of the urgency of the religious to ….”DO SOMETHING!” Jesus knew his place. Unlike the first adam and his gal eve.

    It is better to obey than to sacrifice. Jesus life was a perfect picture of passive OBEDIENCE to the Father. So now I have to admit you are right in a sense. The passivity was not for it´s own sake. The word “obedience” must be added to the word “passive” to be right. Think here first adam and second adam. You must draw the parallel completely exactly as Saint Paul does.

    Very rarely is it safe to use the word “completely” or “always” or “totally” in theology or life. This IS one of those safe times. Necessary in fact. Let´s go there.

    Obedience is a passive thing isn´t it? even soldiers in war are passive in the true sense that they are not making decisions or following their own will they are followers. followers are sheep. to the slaughter (ala isaiah). they are not leaders. “follower” does not evoke images of glory or aggressiveness or whatever is the opposite of passive. Even the generals are followers if they are good ones without dictatorial dreams. they follow orders.

    put the miracles and the cleansing of the temple in that context.

    Jesus was a passive actor in the passion play that he allowed his Father to direct completely. He placed himself in the hands of his father every minute of every day. perfect. passive. obedience.

    but why. by one man sin entered the world. but by the obedience of that second adam the disobedience of that first adam was exactly and completely reversed. forever. active disobedience. rebellion. meets. passive obedience. fidelity. image of God restored. by God. In the image of God Jesus who IS Man AND God. Even Now. God-in-carn-ate.

    All of this is really too wierd for words. which is the point of this series of posts I do think. Nobody could make this stuff up. It is that wierd and un-god-like.

  • FW

    I also have enjoyed nemo and manxman´s criticisms and comments. they are spot on in being articulate in voicing the dissenting view of “glory” contrasted with “cross”

    they have increased my understanding in what non-lutherans find missing in Lutheran theology and why.

    Thanks!

  • Manxman

    I’m not saying that God does not display an astonishing amount of power, beauty, glory, purpose, control, etc. in what Jesus did on the Cross.

    What I AM saying is that Scripture shows that God has displayed these same things in the past, in a different way as YHWH Sabaoth, Lord of Hosts, and that these things will be displayed again by YHWH/Jesus in a very different way from the Cross when God wraps this whole thing up in the future.

    I feel the Lutheran theology of the Cross expressed here is blind to certain parts of scripture (see the revelation of YHWH in the 40th Chapters of Isaiah for example) that don’t fit in with its speculative definition of glory. I also feel that it puts God in a theological box and presents an unbalanced picture of the Trinity.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Manxman,
    Why then did St. Paul refuse to preach anything but Christ and Him crucified?
    The theology of the cross does not ignore these other parts of scripture, not by a long shot. A person could preach on Genesis 1 (an awesome depiction of God’s power and glory) and still bring it back to the cross. In fact I would say that if he hasn’t brought it back to the cross, he hasn’t preached Genesis 1. Same with the 40th chapter of Isaiah (which I am fairly certain Paul preached on, certainly did not ignore it, but he preache Christ, and Him crucified).
    This is why Jesus says things like “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” Or “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” or “You search the scriptures because in them you think you have eternal life, but they are these that testify me.” or after he rises from the grave he teaches the disciples on the road to Emmaus saying:Luke 24:25-27 (ESV)
    “And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! [26] Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” [27] And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. ”
    So it comes down to this. Without the cross we have no reason to believe, because without the cross we have no salvation. And for Nemo’s sake we ought not get the victory confused with the victory feast.
    But seriously Manxman, how do you read the 40th chapter of Isaiah without seeing the cross? Is the veil of Moses wrapped that tightly around your eyes?

  • JonSLC

    This has been a fascinating discussion.

    To add just a little to what’s been said:

    Even when God displays his power in the OT, he often does so in a way different that what we might expect. Likewise in the NT and at his coming in glory.

    For instance, YHWH at the burning bush. The Almighty speaks via shrubbery?

    Then YHWH speaks through Moses and Aaron, rather than directly to Pharaoh. At this point we already know Moses has some serious flaws; we’ll see before long that Aaron does, too. Yet these are the spokesmen even as YHWH displays his dread power through the plagues.

    And in the NT, Jesus’ ascension shows the power/weakness paradox. Jesus is taking up the full use of his divine power at this time, yet he is doing so by becoming invisible to human eyes. He will fill and rule everything, yet be accused of being absent and even of being imaginary. How will he exert his power in the post-ascension age? Yes, sometimes more openly through forces of nature, governments and military might, etc. — to us, more conventional displays of power. But he will also exert his power over hell and death via his motley crew of apostles, via word, water, bread and wine administered by those who themselves need his rescue.

    And even at his glorious coming, don’t we hear echoes of the cross? “Worthy is the Lamb, WHO WAS SLAIN, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.”

    More examples are coming to mind, but this is perhaps a sampling of how Lutherans see the incarnation and cross of Christ as definitive in respect to how God interacts with humanity.


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