Martin Luther coined the phrases Theologian of Glory and Theologian of the Cross. At first glance, both titles seem praiseworthy. Yet these two theologians stand in opposition to one another. The message conveyed by Luther, is the biblical notion that God has hidden His glory in suffering. It is at the cross where all other things fade and God’s glory shines forth bright and vibrant.
The theologian of glory does not understand this concept, for deep down, this person seeks honor only for themselves. Such a theologian searches for the visible objects of this world and/or for things within as signs of their own salvation. This manifests itself in many forms. Some seek salvation through their own good deeds. Others look to wealth and prosperity. Many find security in an emotional/spiritual encounter. And still some find fulfillment in living a life of purpose. When such a theologian opens up the Word of God, they view themselves as the central figure in the story. They give lip service to Jesus and the cross, but it is a means to an end. They do not truly understand God and His glory.
On the other hand, the theologian of the cross sees suffering as God’s unique way in which He displays His splendor. This being the case, the theologian of the cross, does not run after the things of this world as described above, instead, they truly understand that it is for God’s glory that salvation has come to man. When they come to the Word of God, they stand in awe of the wonder of Yahweh. Their hermeneutical lens is that of a God who intervenes throughout history, rescuing His people, despite of their countless failures. The theologian of the cross comes away from such a reading seeing their own sin magnified, yet they tremble with joy at the knowledge that Christ paid for it all upon the cross. The sufferings of the Son of Man reveal the magnificent grace and love of their God. It is to the cross that such a theologian goes and cries out, “Soli Deo Gloria!”
This November, at the 2016 SEANG Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, we will be discussing issues such as these opposing theologians, along with other topics, as we consider the role Soli Deo Gloria plays in 21st Century Southeast Asia. We would love for you to attend and join in the discussion.
photo credit: Winry Armawan (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WsaragihJakarta.jpg)