Reformed Articles

What’s Wrong With A Theology Of Glory? (1)

At the 1518 Heidelberg Disputation (academic presentation), Martin Luther (1483–1546), the father of the Protestant Reformation, as he was coming to his Protestant convictions, argued: “One is not worthy to be called a theologian who looks upon the ‘invisible things of God’ [Rom. 1:20] as though they were clearly ‘perceptible in those things which have actually happened’ [1 Cor 1:21–25] But the one who knows the visible things and the backside [Ex 33:23] of God seen through the passions and the cross [is a theologian]. The theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. The theologian of the cross calls a thing what it is.” These are some of the most important words that any theologian in the Christian tradition have ever written. Sadly, they are mostly unknown to contemporary Christianity largely because many Christian leaders have decided that Luther was wrong. Many Christian laity, however, have never been exposed to these words nor to the ideas they mean to teach.

Luther explicitly mentioned theologians but he was implicitly addressing a doctrine, the theology of glory. This is not a reference to a 1989 film, of course. It is not a denial of the existence of heavenly glory. Luther certainly believed in heaven and in glory. By these short statements, Luther was criticizing three things that still need to be criticized:

Rationalism: What My Net Cannot Catch Is Not A Butterfy

The first aspect of a theology of glory is rationalism. The rationalist thinks that his mind (intellect) is the measure of all things. He might think too that God agrees with him, that he knows what God knows, the way God knows it. By contrast, even the great medieval theologian, Thomas Aquinas (c. 1224–74) taught that we are analogues to God and that our understanding of things is like God’s but it is not God’s. He argued that we cannot know what God knows, the way he knows it, because we are not God. This is what the Dutch Reformed theologian, Cornelius Van Til (1895–1987) called the Creator/creature distinction. To be sure, Thomas was not always consistent in this theology with this distinction and that created serious problems that had to be remedied by the Reformation. Read more»

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