Theologians of the Cross

Another non-Lutheran discovers a Lutheran insight.  Carl Trueman, professor at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, posts about theologians of the cross as opposed to theologians of glory.  He explains it pretty well, I think:

One of the things that is so striking about the current revival of interest in Reformation theology, broadly conceived, is the absence of perhaps the most glorious contribution of Martin Luther to theological discourse: the notion of the theologian of the cross. . . .

At the heart of this new theology was the notion that God reveals himself under his opposite; or, to express this another way, God achieves his intended purposes by doing the exact opposite of that which humans might expect. The supreme example of this is the cross itself: God triumphs over sin and evil by allowing sin and evil to triumph (apparently) over him. His real strength is demonstrated through apparent weakness. This was the way a theologian of the cross thought about God.

The opposite to this was the theologian of glory. In simple terms, the theologian of glory assumed that there was basic continuity between the way the world is and the way God is: if strength is demonstrated through raw power on earth, then God’s strength must be the same, only extended to infinity. To such a theologian, the cross is simply foolishness, a piece of nonsense.

Now, some will respond: But the theology of the cross has not been forgotten; it is often talked about and discussed and even preached. But here’s the rub: in the Heidelberg Disputation Luther actually refers not to a theology of the cross but to theologians of the cross, underscoring the idea that he is not talking about some abstract theological technique or process but rather a personal, existential, real way that real flesh-and-blood theologians thought about, and related to, God. A person’s theology, whether true or false, good or bad, is inseparable from the individual’s personal faith.

At this Reformation season, we should not reduce the insights of Luther simply to justification by grace through faith. In fact, this insight is itself inseparable from the notion of that of the theologians of the cross. Sad to say, it is often hard to discern where these theologians of the cross are to be found. Yes, many talk about the cross, but the cultural norms of many churches seem no different to the cultural norms of — well, the culture. They often indicate an attitude to power and influence that sees these things as directly related to size, market share, consumerist packaging, aesthetics, youth culture, media appearances, swagger and the all-round noise and pyrotechnics we associate with modern cinema rather than New Testament Christianity. These are surely more akin to what Luther would have regarded as symptomatic of the presence and influence of theologians of glory rather than the cross. An abstract theology of the cross can quite easily be packaged and marketed by a theologian of glory. And this is not to point the finger at `them’: in fact, if we are honest, most if not all of us feel the attraction of being theologians of glory. Not surprising, given that being a theologian of glory is the default position for fallen human nature.

The way to move from being a theologian of glory to a theologian of the cross is not an easy one, not simply a question of mastering techniques, reading books or learning a new vocabulary. It is repentance.

via The Forgotten Insight – Reformation21 Blog.

What are some other applications?  If there is no “basic continuity between the way the world is and the way God is,” what happens to natural law?  natural theology?  How would this factor into various theological controversies today?

HT:  Joe Carter

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.

  • Eric Brown

    Too often, in my opinion, people will focus on Natural Law not as a way of understanding truth and seeing their own lack but as a tool to exercise power and influence over others in the world, especially over and against those who do something that annoys them. It becomes a stick simply to try to force people to act in a certain away. Or in other words, it is Law — and the Law is fine.

    However, it is the world that expects rules to effect changes in people – change a regulation and everything will be all better. That isn’t the approach of a theologian of the Cross. The TotC does not meet the power of sin with the power of the world, the power of the law. We do not expect the Law to effect change – at best it can curb outward behaviors… which does nothing for the heart nor anything for private behavior — the best the Law will do is throw things back behind closed doors; at worst it will create defiance (especially when too often the use of Natural Law doesn’t rely upon reason or consequences but simply, “this is obvious and if you don’t get it so you are bad.”)

    While there is Natural Law, it doesn’t do a hill of beans of good unless there is a proclamation of the Gospel – unless repentance and forgiveness in Christ are proclaimed. Natural Law is a good, wonderful thing – but anytime the Law is detached from the proclamation of the Gospel, any time the Law is seen to be where it is at, where the real social change will come, we have fallen into a theology of Glory. We have started to crave the power of the world and disdain the foolishness of the Cross — and this is done not for the supposed sake of our neighbor but rather because if *they* just stop doing *that* things are more comfortable for me.

    Or in other words, any plan for societal improvement that doesn’t center around the proclamation of the Gospel and forgiveness is ultimately a theology of glory that will ultimately fail. The Law shows sin – is does nothing to release or free one therefrom.

  • Eric Brown

    Too often, in my opinion, people will focus on Natural Law not as a way of understanding truth and seeing their own lack but as a tool to exercise power and influence over others in the world, especially over and against those who do something that annoys them. It becomes a stick simply to try to force people to act in a certain away. Or in other words, it is Law — and the Law is fine.

    However, it is the world that expects rules to effect changes in people – change a regulation and everything will be all better. That isn’t the approach of a theologian of the Cross. The TotC does not meet the power of sin with the power of the world, the power of the law. We do not expect the Law to effect change – at best it can curb outward behaviors… which does nothing for the heart nor anything for private behavior — the best the Law will do is throw things back behind closed doors; at worst it will create defiance (especially when too often the use of Natural Law doesn’t rely upon reason or consequences but simply, “this is obvious and if you don’t get it so you are bad.”)

    While there is Natural Law, it doesn’t do a hill of beans of good unless there is a proclamation of the Gospel – unless repentance and forgiveness in Christ are proclaimed. Natural Law is a good, wonderful thing – but anytime the Law is detached from the proclamation of the Gospel, any time the Law is seen to be where it is at, where the real social change will come, we have fallen into a theology of Glory. We have started to crave the power of the world and disdain the foolishness of the Cross — and this is done not for the supposed sake of our neighbor but rather because if *they* just stop doing *that* things are more comfortable for me.

    Or in other words, any plan for societal improvement that doesn’t center around the proclamation of the Gospel and forgiveness is ultimately a theology of glory that will ultimately fail. The Law shows sin – is does nothing to release or free one therefrom.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    If there is no basic continuity between the way the world is and the way God is,” and we take that no to be absolute, there cannot be natural law or natural theology. However, since Scripture assures us that there is a natural law and natural theology, it also assures us that the “no” is not absolute. It’s also good that the reformers obviously did not take that “no” to be absolute since they clearly believed in a natural law.

    A basic knowledge of God and the Law is written on our hearts and on creation, but creation is cursed and the minds that process it are corrupted by sin. So on one hand, we can never allow these things to override Scripture because our use of them is prone to error. So when Scripture tells us God was executed on a cross, we believe that no matter how much our natural theology screams. On the other hand, God redeemed creatures on whose hearts He wrote knowledge of Himself. So no effort in the world will expunge the natural law from our minds. Our only option is to learn to use it well instead of poorly–just like every other facet of ourselves to which our old man clings.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    If there is no basic continuity between the way the world is and the way God is,” and we take that no to be absolute, there cannot be natural law or natural theology. However, since Scripture assures us that there is a natural law and natural theology, it also assures us that the “no” is not absolute. It’s also good that the reformers obviously did not take that “no” to be absolute since they clearly believed in a natural law.

    A basic knowledge of God and the Law is written on our hearts and on creation, but creation is cursed and the minds that process it are corrupted by sin. So on one hand, we can never allow these things to override Scripture because our use of them is prone to error. So when Scripture tells us God was executed on a cross, we believe that no matter how much our natural theology screams. On the other hand, God redeemed creatures on whose hearts He wrote knowledge of Himself. So no effort in the world will expunge the natural law from our minds. Our only option is to learn to use it well instead of poorly–just like every other facet of ourselves to which our old man clings.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    Eric,

    As you say, the law can curb outward behavior. Even if the would-be murderer’s heart doesn’t change, if my wife is not murdered as a result, I would describe that as a wonderful gift of God rather than a hill of beans. Furthermore, it’s a social change I can get behind.

    On the other hand, it is quite dangerous to turn the Gospel into a vehicle for social change. It’s there to declare us righteous, not to make this dying world a better place.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    Eric,

    As you say, the law can curb outward behavior. Even if the would-be murderer’s heart doesn’t change, if my wife is not murdered as a result, I would describe that as a wonderful gift of God rather than a hill of beans. Furthermore, it’s a social change I can get behind.

    On the other hand, it is quite dangerous to turn the Gospel into a vehicle for social change. It’s there to declare us righteous, not to make this dying world a better place.

  • larry

    The crux of the disputation for the theologian of glory versus the theologian of the cross is at thesis 19 & 20:
    19. That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened [Rom. 1.20].
    20. He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.
    These thesis over throw how one naturally fallen knows God at every turn. The Cross as the reformed writer identifies is the most bright evidence of this, but it is always connected to justification, the pro me forgiveness – this is the heart beat of Luther’s insight that was linked to his search for “where do I find and have for me the gracious God who forgives MY sin” not in sign or symbol but reality.
    The application to theology false (gross and heterodox) and orthodoxy is much more than the writer identifies.
    Thus, in 19 what is identified is all searchings for God, even one might say a “gracious God” meaning “gives the power to do something” whereby fallen man in gross false religions or heterodoxy seeks out God’s invisible things and assumes them to be visible quite clearly in things that have happened. This would include for example “knowing I am saved/elected and have been given the power of grace (looking upon the invisible things of God) by certain measures of post conversion fruits/works/etc… (as though they were clearly perceptible in the things that have happened). This theologian is in reality no theologian for he is not saying the things God is saying but his own vain imaginations (= the idolatry Paul is speaking of in Romans 1:18-ff). This person sends man away from God’s Words spoken, via a doctrine, to seek God in the nude…i.e. His majesty and not His backside.
    Thesis 20, lays this to waste, by saying that one speaks the words of God truly (the theologian says what God actually says), and they are in fact His Word that have power not just signs or repetition of them, who comprehends (nude faith in the Words of promises of God “pro me” which is to suffer/passive/passion, one suffers a promise not what he HAS) the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross. For example God’s forgiveness of one’s sin pro me in reality (the visible and manifest things of God) are seen through suffering and the cross of baptism. How? The suffering (ours) is the accusation of the enemy, the flesh, the world and false doctrines that say “see no change, still a sinner just as much as before and palpably so as we speak” (hidden part), linked to the promise of the worded water “forgiven, saved, reborn, etc…). I.e. the sneering accusation, “just looks like water or a sign” against the Worded reality (the theologian of the Cross). This suffering and cross (ours) via the Worded water is in reality and truth connected to the suffering and Cross of Christ.

    In short it is an expression of Luther’s God hiding all articles of faith (things comprehended), i.e. where the Word is (the visible and manifest things of God) under places reason is offended to find God (seen through suffering and the cross). Things are hidden most, said Luther, especially under things where reason assesses nothing is hidden (thesis 19) so that “room is made for faith (nude trust pro me in the Word/promise as fact) or so that the comprehension of God’s visible and manifest things (His actual Word, the preached God) along can “see them”. This faith suffers the hidden mask that reason laughs at, faith knowing that under the mask is the Word of God’s promise, forgiveness, eternal life. Thus, with Christ this faith suffers the laughter and jeers of reason (world, flesh, devil and all false teachings to the contrary), is crucified, while it clings nakedly to the Word nonetheless.

    Thus, whether it is laughter (persecution) of the world against Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection or the same against a sacrament – these are all the same and the battle raging between the two theologians identified in thesis 19 and 20.

  • larry

    The crux of the disputation for the theologian of glory versus the theologian of the cross is at thesis 19 & 20:
    19. That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened [Rom. 1.20].
    20. He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.
    These thesis over throw how one naturally fallen knows God at every turn. The Cross as the reformed writer identifies is the most bright evidence of this, but it is always connected to justification, the pro me forgiveness – this is the heart beat of Luther’s insight that was linked to his search for “where do I find and have for me the gracious God who forgives MY sin” not in sign or symbol but reality.
    The application to theology false (gross and heterodox) and orthodoxy is much more than the writer identifies.
    Thus, in 19 what is identified is all searchings for God, even one might say a “gracious God” meaning “gives the power to do something” whereby fallen man in gross false religions or heterodoxy seeks out God’s invisible things and assumes them to be visible quite clearly in things that have happened. This would include for example “knowing I am saved/elected and have been given the power of grace (looking upon the invisible things of God) by certain measures of post conversion fruits/works/etc… (as though they were clearly perceptible in the things that have happened). This theologian is in reality no theologian for he is not saying the things God is saying but his own vain imaginations (= the idolatry Paul is speaking of in Romans 1:18-ff). This person sends man away from God’s Words spoken, via a doctrine, to seek God in the nude…i.e. His majesty and not His backside.
    Thesis 20, lays this to waste, by saying that one speaks the words of God truly (the theologian says what God actually says), and they are in fact His Word that have power not just signs or repetition of them, who comprehends (nude faith in the Words of promises of God “pro me” which is to suffer/passive/passion, one suffers a promise not what he HAS) the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross. For example God’s forgiveness of one’s sin pro me in reality (the visible and manifest things of God) are seen through suffering and the cross of baptism. How? The suffering (ours) is the accusation of the enemy, the flesh, the world and false doctrines that say “see no change, still a sinner just as much as before and palpably so as we speak” (hidden part), linked to the promise of the worded water “forgiven, saved, reborn, etc…). I.e. the sneering accusation, “just looks like water or a sign” against the Worded reality (the theologian of the Cross). This suffering and cross (ours) via the Worded water is in reality and truth connected to the suffering and Cross of Christ.

    In short it is an expression of Luther’s God hiding all articles of faith (things comprehended), i.e. where the Word is (the visible and manifest things of God) under places reason is offended to find God (seen through suffering and the cross). Things are hidden most, said Luther, especially under things where reason assesses nothing is hidden (thesis 19) so that “room is made for faith (nude trust pro me in the Word/promise as fact) or so that the comprehension of God’s visible and manifest things (His actual Word, the preached God) along can “see them”. This faith suffers the hidden mask that reason laughs at, faith knowing that under the mask is the Word of God’s promise, forgiveness, eternal life. Thus, with Christ this faith suffers the laughter and jeers of reason (world, flesh, devil and all false teachings to the contrary), is crucified, while it clings nakedly to the Word nonetheless.

    Thus, whether it is laughter (persecution) of the world against Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection or the same against a sacrament – these are all the same and the battle raging between the two theologians identified in thesis 19 and 20.

  • Eric Brown

    Matt,

    First – It’s nice if people don’t do things if they know that it is wrong. It’s great that the Law is written upon their hearts — but if people have so squashed their consciences that they are turned over to their baser lusts… natural law isn’t going to do anything. Saying, “That goes against nature” won’t stop anything. If you have to point out that something violates nature… then it’s lost its curbing effect already. Natural Law then only means that at judgment day they will be without excuse — so it doesn’t really do a whole bunch of good for them, does it.

    Second, if you want to actually use Law that forces another’s hand in terms of behavior, you need to demonstrate consequences. Natural Law works only when people realize that its obviously bad to do it. Otherwise, for a law to be an effective curb, there needs to be a downside, otherwise it won’t curb behavior. A law without teeth is no law. So appealing to Natural Law as a curb, or the way to put the breaks on a society already careening out of control is a day late and a dollar short.

    Third, of course the Gospel brings about change. The problem is when people spout off about “social change” they aren’t speaking of the changes the Gospel brings… they are talking about their own sinful, selfish agendas which often involve manipulating political and economic goals — or in other words bring about force. So it becomes a question of why – why are you speaking in the first place? Is it a selfish attempt to make things easier for you now by making sure your neighbor doesn’t mess with your blessings, or is it a matter of actually showing love and seeking the salvation of your neighbor?

    If your concern is primarily for how things impact you and not for your neighbor’s salvation, everything will be twisted and corrupted and fall. It will be nothing – for without love, it is nothing, a la 1 Corinthians 13.

  • Eric Brown

    Matt,

    First – It’s nice if people don’t do things if they know that it is wrong. It’s great that the Law is written upon their hearts — but if people have so squashed their consciences that they are turned over to their baser lusts… natural law isn’t going to do anything. Saying, “That goes against nature” won’t stop anything. If you have to point out that something violates nature… then it’s lost its curbing effect already. Natural Law then only means that at judgment day they will be without excuse — so it doesn’t really do a whole bunch of good for them, does it.

    Second, if you want to actually use Law that forces another’s hand in terms of behavior, you need to demonstrate consequences. Natural Law works only when people realize that its obviously bad to do it. Otherwise, for a law to be an effective curb, there needs to be a downside, otherwise it won’t curb behavior. A law without teeth is no law. So appealing to Natural Law as a curb, or the way to put the breaks on a society already careening out of control is a day late and a dollar short.

    Third, of course the Gospel brings about change. The problem is when people spout off about “social change” they aren’t speaking of the changes the Gospel brings… they are talking about their own sinful, selfish agendas which often involve manipulating political and economic goals — or in other words bring about force. So it becomes a question of why – why are you speaking in the first place? Is it a selfish attempt to make things easier for you now by making sure your neighbor doesn’t mess with your blessings, or is it a matter of actually showing love and seeking the salvation of your neighbor?

    If your concern is primarily for how things impact you and not for your neighbor’s salvation, everything will be twisted and corrupted and fall. It will be nothing – for without love, it is nothing, a la 1 Corinthians 13.

  • Eric Brown

    Or to put it this way — if you are dying from a disease and instead of giving you the medicine that cures you, I simply give you a cough suppressant, well, it might make your death a bit less noisy (and certainly less annoying to me if I’m trying to get some sleep but you keep making all this noise!), but I haven’t really done anything for you, have I?

    Likewise, if I merely apply the Law so that outward behaviors are changed for just a short, brief span of years in this life, I’ve really done nothing for you, have I?

  • Eric Brown

    Or to put it this way — if you are dying from a disease and instead of giving you the medicine that cures you, I simply give you a cough suppressant, well, it might make your death a bit less noisy (and certainly less annoying to me if I’m trying to get some sleep but you keep making all this noise!), but I haven’t really done anything for you, have I?

    Likewise, if I merely apply the Law so that outward behaviors are changed for just a short, brief span of years in this life, I’ve really done nothing for you, have I?

  • http://www.christlutheran.net Jeff Samelson

    Everybody, just read what I consider one of the best books written in the last decade (or more): Daniel Deutschlander’s
    The Theology Of The Cross:Reflections on His Cross and Ours.
    http://online.nph.net/p-1532-the-theology-of-the-cross.aspx

    After a good, reflective consideration of all he discusses these discussions become so much clearer!

  • http://www.christlutheran.net Jeff Samelson

    Everybody, just read what I consider one of the best books written in the last decade (or more): Daniel Deutschlander’s
    The Theology Of The Cross:Reflections on His Cross and Ours.
    http://online.nph.net/p-1532-the-theology-of-the-cross.aspx

    After a good, reflective consideration of all he discusses these discussions become so much clearer!

  • Geo

    I second Jeff’s comment. Every pastor needs to read Deutschlander’s book.

  • Geo

    I second Jeff’s comment. Every pastor needs to read Deutschlander’s book.

  • Trey

    There seems to be some confusion here. Natural Law is what God designed this world to be (imperative). Since sin entered the world, God must act according to what is (indicative). Thus, he acts contrary to how our sinful state would think (natural theology).

  • Trey

    There seems to be some confusion here. Natural Law is what God designed this world to be (imperative). Since sin entered the world, God must act according to what is (indicative). Thus, he acts contrary to how our sinful state would think (natural theology).

  • cruxsola

    Deuthchalnder’s book is good. But in my opinion, Forde’s On Being A Theologian of the Cross is the best – a life-changing book on this topic.

  • cruxsola

    Deuthchalnder’s book is good. But in my opinion, Forde’s On Being A Theologian of the Cross is the best – a life-changing book on this topic.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    A professing Christian who fails to connect Christianity with the world around him has either bad theology, weak faith, or is not a Christian. To divorce faith from life (as explained in Mr. Trueman’s article) is to bear witness against ourselves and our testimony.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    A professing Christian who fails to connect Christianity with the world around him has either bad theology, weak faith, or is not a Christian. To divorce faith from life (as explained in Mr. Trueman’s article) is to bear witness against ourselves and our testimony.

  • Jerry

    I totally agree with cruxsola @10. If you haven’t read Forde’s book you really shouldn’t be discussing the theology of the cross.

    Furthermore as expressed in several of the comments, the theology of the cross is very much tied to both the hiddenness of God and the distinction of law and gospel. The theology of the cross embodies the distinctiveness of Lutheran theology and as is implied is 180 degrees from reform theology. It’s not simply repenting and looking to the cross for salvation. It’s God hiding himself in ordinary things such as the cross, bread and wine, water, and birth to a totally nobody virgin.

    God is everywhere and is tied to the natural world, but he wants us to look for Him only in those places where he has revealed himself by essentially hiding himself.

  • Jerry

    I totally agree with cruxsola @10. If you haven’t read Forde’s book you really shouldn’t be discussing the theology of the cross.

    Furthermore as expressed in several of the comments, the theology of the cross is very much tied to both the hiddenness of God and the distinction of law and gospel. The theology of the cross embodies the distinctiveness of Lutheran theology and as is implied is 180 degrees from reform theology. It’s not simply repenting and looking to the cross for salvation. It’s God hiding himself in ordinary things such as the cross, bread and wine, water, and birth to a totally nobody virgin.

    God is everywhere and is tied to the natural world, but he wants us to look for Him only in those places where he has revealed himself by essentially hiding himself.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    J. Dean, the point is not about not connecting Christianity with the world! I would say that the Theology of the Cross does that far better than the various theologies of glory. Theology of the Cross has to do, as one of Luther’s Heidelberg theses puts it, with “calling a thing what it is.” Total honesty, total realism. What the post describes is the truth that “God’s ways are not our ways,” as it says in Scripture. That God is not to be confused with the world.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    J. Dean, the point is not about not connecting Christianity with the world! I would say that the Theology of the Cross does that far better than the various theologies of glory. Theology of the Cross has to do, as one of Luther’s Heidelberg theses puts it, with “calling a thing what it is.” Total honesty, total realism. What the post describes is the truth that “God’s ways are not our ways,” as it says in Scripture. That God is not to be confused with the world.

  • Abby

    Also by Carl Trueman:

    “Luther’s Theology of the Cross” October, 2005 http://www.opc.org/new_horizons/NH05/10b.html

  • Abby

    Also by Carl Trueman:

    “Luther’s Theology of the Cross” October, 2005 http://www.opc.org/new_horizons/NH05/10b.html

  • Ryan

    From the article cited, ‘ Sad to say, it is often hard to discern where these theologians of the cross are to be found.’.

    Umm… Talk to any Lutherans lately? Yeah, we struggle at time with this, but the Theology of the Cross is taught, lived, preached in our circles with a good regularity.

  • Ryan

    From the article cited, ‘ Sad to say, it is often hard to discern where these theologians of the cross are to be found.’.

    Umm… Talk to any Lutherans lately? Yeah, we struggle at time with this, but the Theology of the Cross is taught, lived, preached in our circles with a good regularity.

  • http://www.caryschwarz.com saddler

    ” being a theologian of glory is the default position for fallen human nature.”

    True that.

  • http://www.caryschwarz.com saddler

    ” being a theologian of glory is the default position for fallen human nature.”

    True that.

  • Art Going

    Thanks, Abby, for the link to Carl’s article. This is not a new discovery by Trueman, or, for that matter, on the part of many other non-Lutheran lovers/students of Luther. I have long argued that Lutherans have no corner on Luther. He is widely revered and perceived as integral to all Reformation-era traditions (well, not the Anabaptist strains).

  • Art Going

    Thanks, Abby, for the link to Carl’s article. This is not a new discovery by Trueman, or, for that matter, on the part of many other non-Lutheran lovers/students of Luther. I have long argued that Lutherans have no corner on Luther. He is widely revered and perceived as integral to all Reformation-era traditions (well, not the Anabaptist strains).

  • larry

    I would whole heartedly recommend Forde’s book on Being A Theologian of the Cross. And I would read after that Luther’s Theology Of the Cross by Walter Von Loewenwich much of which Forde based his upon. But I’d read Forde first as its more initially user friendly, the Loewenwich that goes much more in depth. Loewenwich goes much deeper beyond our ToG as to the legal scheme and into what is idolatry, original sin, etc…

  • larry

    I would whole heartedly recommend Forde’s book on Being A Theologian of the Cross. And I would read after that Luther’s Theology Of the Cross by Walter Von Loewenwich much of which Forde based his upon. But I’d read Forde first as its more initially user friendly, the Loewenwich that goes much more in depth. Loewenwich goes much deeper beyond our ToG as to the legal scheme and into what is idolatry, original sin, etc…

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    Eric,

    I think you mistakenly assume that the only way to apply natural law is to tell somebody that x is wrong because x is against nature. You’re right that such an approach is rarely effective and you’re right about why. You’re wrong that such an approach is actually an application of natural law. It is, in fact, an application of natural law theory. An actual application of natural law does not inform anybody that x is wrong; it reminds them that they already know x is wrong. It brings to mind latent knowledge that they already possess; it does not give them new knowledge.

    It is analogous to recovering an old memory. Say, for instance, you want to remind your friend John that he has been to a particular place once–the McDonald’s on 2204 E. 22nd street–when he was a very young child. If you simply ask whether he’s ever been there, he’d probably say no–young children don’t usually note street addresses. If you just tell him he has been, he might even deny it.

    So what you do instead is ask about something associated to that trip to McDonald’s that’s more memorable: “Hey John, remember that time little Billy peed in the back seat of your mom’s car on the way to your birthday party?” Then you discuss the other details you each remember about the event and piece together that it was at a McDonald’s, in a particular town, near a particular landmark, etc. Then your friend remembers that he has been there, even if he would have denied it initially.

    You can do the same thing with the natural law. You don’t just tell somebody that nature says premarital sex is wrong. You remind him of how he condemned his ex-girlfriend for cheating on him, how he just knows that rape and pedophilia are wrong, how he made fun of the guy caught masturbating in his dorm bathroom, how he was concerned about how many people his new girlfriend has slept with, etc. If you do it right, your friend will realize that even though he would have said that any sexual act is ok as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, half of his beliefs about sex don’t fit that statement at all. Go a bit further and begin to connect the dots, and “no sex before marriage” will begin to make a kind of sense to him that it never made before.

    That is an application of natural law. Not the half-hearted watered-down application of theory that you and so many others use to dismiss natural law’s usefulness.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    Eric,

    I think you mistakenly assume that the only way to apply natural law is to tell somebody that x is wrong because x is against nature. You’re right that such an approach is rarely effective and you’re right about why. You’re wrong that such an approach is actually an application of natural law. It is, in fact, an application of natural law theory. An actual application of natural law does not inform anybody that x is wrong; it reminds them that they already know x is wrong. It brings to mind latent knowledge that they already possess; it does not give them new knowledge.

    It is analogous to recovering an old memory. Say, for instance, you want to remind your friend John that he has been to a particular place once–the McDonald’s on 2204 E. 22nd street–when he was a very young child. If you simply ask whether he’s ever been there, he’d probably say no–young children don’t usually note street addresses. If you just tell him he has been, he might even deny it.

    So what you do instead is ask about something associated to that trip to McDonald’s that’s more memorable: “Hey John, remember that time little Billy peed in the back seat of your mom’s car on the way to your birthday party?” Then you discuss the other details you each remember about the event and piece together that it was at a McDonald’s, in a particular town, near a particular landmark, etc. Then your friend remembers that he has been there, even if he would have denied it initially.

    You can do the same thing with the natural law. You don’t just tell somebody that nature says premarital sex is wrong. You remind him of how he condemned his ex-girlfriend for cheating on him, how he just knows that rape and pedophilia are wrong, how he made fun of the guy caught masturbating in his dorm bathroom, how he was concerned about how many people his new girlfriend has slept with, etc. If you do it right, your friend will realize that even though he would have said that any sexual act is ok as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, half of his beliefs about sex don’t fit that statement at all. Go a bit further and begin to connect the dots, and “no sex before marriage” will begin to make a kind of sense to him that it never made before.

    That is an application of natural law. Not the half-hearted watered-down application of theory that you and so many others use to dismiss natural law’s usefulness.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    As for your medicinal analogy, there is a place for cures and a place for treating symptoms. Why not do both as our different vocations direct us?

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    As for your medicinal analogy, there is a place for cures and a place for treating symptoms. Why not do both as our different vocations direct us?

  • fws

    eric,

    I have to say I am with Matt on this one. maybe it will help to remember two things..

    The entire effect of the Law is negative (it ALWAYS accuses and kills) . it is by nature about doing sacrifice. it is the smell of burning flesh and when properly applied, the burning flesh we smell is our own and not that of others.

    But even though the entire effect of the Holy Spirit with the Law is to kill us, the purpose of this effect is to extort Fatherly Goodness and Mercy out of Old Adam.

    Please keep in mind Eric that the gifts in the First Article of the Small Catechism are produced by the Law extorting it out of the Old Adam of all of us. It does this literally by whitewashing the sepulcher that is Old Adam. And so you are right that this will all die. St Paul in Romans 8 confirms the very point you are making.

    Luther’s two kingdoms doctrine, which is really just a different modality of Law and Gospel distinction says that God’s eternal will is for Goodness and Mercy to happen among men.
    He works this in two ways, by extorting Goodness and Mercy out of Old Adam (cf Luke 18) and then he also restores the Original Righeousness of Goodness and Mercy through the death of his Son which is the Holy Gospel.

    Same Goodness and Mercy! And Mercy is always undeserved. isthat is why many confuse earthly works men do under the Law with that Mercy that is alone in Christ. Mercy is not the Gospel even though it looks like it.

    So stop thinking of the Law of God only as to it’s killing and negative effect. God’s will with the Law is not sacrifice but rather mercy. that is what Jesus was aiming at when he quoted this passage. That is why Love is the fulfillment of the Law. Love is the Sum of the Law.

    It is true that ALL the earthly love, including the preaching of the Law and Gospel will perish with the earth. But that same Love that is in Christ and that we have by faith will never perish. This is not either or eric. It is both and.

  • fws

    eric,

    I have to say I am with Matt on this one. maybe it will help to remember two things..

    The entire effect of the Law is negative (it ALWAYS accuses and kills) . it is by nature about doing sacrifice. it is the smell of burning flesh and when properly applied, the burning flesh we smell is our own and not that of others.

    But even though the entire effect of the Holy Spirit with the Law is to kill us, the purpose of this effect is to extort Fatherly Goodness and Mercy out of Old Adam.

    Please keep in mind Eric that the gifts in the First Article of the Small Catechism are produced by the Law extorting it out of the Old Adam of all of us. It does this literally by whitewashing the sepulcher that is Old Adam. And so you are right that this will all die. St Paul in Romans 8 confirms the very point you are making.

    Luther’s two kingdoms doctrine, which is really just a different modality of Law and Gospel distinction says that God’s eternal will is for Goodness and Mercy to happen among men.
    He works this in two ways, by extorting Goodness and Mercy out of Old Adam (cf Luke 18) and then he also restores the Original Righeousness of Goodness and Mercy through the death of his Son which is the Holy Gospel.

    Same Goodness and Mercy! And Mercy is always undeserved. isthat is why many confuse earthly works men do under the Law with that Mercy that is alone in Christ. Mercy is not the Gospel even though it looks like it.

    So stop thinking of the Law of God only as to it’s killing and negative effect. God’s will with the Law is not sacrifice but rather mercy. that is what Jesus was aiming at when he quoted this passage. That is why Love is the fulfillment of the Law. Love is the Sum of the Law.

    It is true that ALL the earthly love, including the preaching of the Law and Gospel will perish with the earth. But that same Love that is in Christ and that we have by faith will never perish. This is not either or eric. It is both and.

  • fws

    matt: by the way Matt, a critical argumentative thread in our Apology art IV and III states that the Natural Law is Reason. The Law is written in Reason and Conscience of ALL men, even those without bibles. This is why Reason agrees with the Decalog art IV tells us. It is the SAME Law.

    Then there is that part of the Law that is veiled by the veil of Moses that deals with new heart movements that are regeneration and this Law is “peculiarly ” found in the first table of the Decalog. Reason cannot see this Law because it is veiled by the Veil of Moses that informs it that the Law can be kept by doing it.

    Then the Law is written in the hearts of men ONLY when the prophecy in Jeremiah 33 is fulfilled by baptismal regeneration. (apology III)

    This is such an important argument in our confessions that I would encourage you to think of modifying your presentation.

    This point and distinction is just that extremely important Matt.

    Note that romans 2:15 does NOT say that the Law is written in the hearts of men. It says it is written in men’s Reason . The prime argumentative thread of the Apology balances very neatly upon this exegetical point.

  • fws

    matt: by the way Matt, a critical argumentative thread in our Apology art IV and III states that the Natural Law is Reason. The Law is written in Reason and Conscience of ALL men, even those without bibles. This is why Reason agrees with the Decalog art IV tells us. It is the SAME Law.

    Then there is that part of the Law that is veiled by the veil of Moses that deals with new heart movements that are regeneration and this Law is “peculiarly ” found in the first table of the Decalog. Reason cannot see this Law because it is veiled by the Veil of Moses that informs it that the Law can be kept by doing it.

    Then the Law is written in the hearts of men ONLY when the prophecy in Jeremiah 33 is fulfilled by baptismal regeneration. (apology III)

    This is such an important argument in our confessions that I would encourage you to think of modifying your presentation.

    This point and distinction is just that extremely important Matt.

    Note that romans 2:15 does NOT say that the Law is written in the hearts of men. It says it is written in men’s Reason . The prime argumentative thread of the Apology balances very neatly upon this exegetical point.


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