Luther's Theology of the Cross

Are there any Lutherans here who have read Alister McGrath’s “Theology of the Cross”? I emerged from reading it with some assertions I would like to run by you:

  1. Luther basically was reacting not against Thomism as much as the via moderna.

  2. I object to the idea that Christ is revealed solely through the cross. Is that really Luther? I think we have 33 years of Christ on earth revealing God to man, plus the OT.

I have some additional things but I won’t waste typing if no one has read the thing. :slight_smile:

Curious, methinks, for a Reformed Christian to go Luther-bashing on a Catholic forum. :smiley:

I’ve never read it, but I have some knowledge about Lutheran theology/Luther (former Lutheran). Does that count as ok? :slight_smile:

  1. Luther basically was reacting not against Thomism as much as the via moderna.

Mainly right. I think it’s generally accepted that Luther’s main issue was with how Biel and Occam approached justification (which bordered if not crossing into pelagianism). Some have said if Luther had been taught “pure” Thomism, the reformation never would’ve happened as he would’ve had a clearer understanding of the Catholic understanding of grace. I don’t know what to think of that as he generally was against any kind of Scholastic influence Melanchthon or others wanted to bring into Lutheranism, but it’s an interesting hypothesis.

  1. I object to the idea that Christ is revealed solely through the cross. Is that really Luther? I think we have 33 years of Christ on earth revealing God to man, plus the OT.

Sounds about right. Luther’s main point is that everything in Christ’s life and the OT revolves around the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, and that it is only with the Cross in view that the other aspects of his life make sense. It’s not too unlike St. Paul’s theology of the Cross that had a resurgence in Catholic theology with Benedict XVI.

Curious, methinks, for a Reformed Christian to go Luther-bashing on a Catholic forum. :smiley:

I don’t think this really counts as Catholic bashing. :slight_smile:

Lutherans are the Church of Good Friday

Luther was an early reformer. Melanchthon and the framers of the Lutheran confessions then took some unfortunate turns with respect to doctrines, and of course we have the rather confused confessional Lutheranism of today, which wants to have its cake and eat it with respect to:

  • atonement and predstination;
  • sacraments and sola fide;
    but the Lutherans still possess the true gospel. Luther’s teachings were further developed and refined by later Reformers and I think reach their maturity by the time of the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards.

Luther is an undoubted saint, nevertheless.

[quote=Indifferently;12170540 Lutheranism of today, which wants to have its cake and eat it with respect to:
]

Hey! We Lutherans are comfortable with ideas that seem to be paradoxical for us humans. :slight_smile:

To the OP - the Lutherans I know tend to view the Cross as a lens to see better most aspects of the faith. One Lutheran pastor urged me to read the bible backwards - with the NT firmly in mind, the OT has more Gospel than one would initially suppose.
[/quote]

That’s because God gives us the cake and lets us eat it, too. I’m sorry that you’re content with the symbol of a cake.

but the Lutherans still possess the true gospel. Luther’s teachings were further developed and refined by later Reformers and I think reach their maturity by the time of the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards.

Luther is an undoubted saint, nevertheless.

And he wouldn’t have agreed with any of them.

Lutheranism - Jesus died for all men and calls everyone to repentance and everyone has an opportunity to do it AND YET those who do come to faith do so by grace alone??? That simply doesn’t make sense. The definite (limited atonement) and (double) predestination models are a much better fit to the biblical data and the Reformation solas.

I didn’t think we did theology by what “makes sense.” Is your standard for theological truth logic or what the Bible actually says?

The definite (limited atonement) and (double) predestination models are a much better fit to the biblical data and the Reformation solas.

How do you know Jesus died for you?

God is never completely incomprehensible, and will always remain a mystery, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do coherent and rational theology. Belief in a God who is Logos presupposes the possibility of at least a little rational engagement with God’s self!

Faith may not be limited by rationality, i.e. we can legitimately believe some things whose mystery we don’t understand, but I’d say that theology certainly can and should be rational, in the sense of internally coherent.

That’s not to say I agree with Indifferently’s interpretation of Luther or Christian doctrine though… :stuck_out_tongue:

Yep… it doesn’t make a sense. Seriously… I’m not joking… we know it doesn’t make sense from a human standpoint.

But it’s what God has told us, so we proclaim it.

To quote Luther "This is how I have taught …] that a distinction must be made when one deals with the knowledge, or rather with the subject, of the divinity. For one must debate either about the hidden God or about the revealed God [ie, God as we know Him through Christ, a God of mercy]. With regard to God, insofar as He has not been revealed, there is no faith, no knowledge, and no understanding. And here one must hold to the statement that what is above us is none of our concern. For thoughts of this kind, which investigate something more sublime above or outside the revelation of God, are altogether hellish. With them nothing more is achieved than that we plunge ourselves into destruction.”

We simply don’t know how this paradox (from a human standpoint) can be resolved save though proclaiming God’s word and trusting in His mercy.

Correct. That is a different subject, however. One can draw on what the Scripture says and use some degree of human reasoning or philosophy in order to better make sense of the subject. That isn’t what I am referring to, though.

That is different than saying, “That doesn’t make sense” even though the Bible attests to it.

benjohnson and Per Crucem you are positing that God is illogical. This is the problem with Lutheranism. God is the author of logic. His Word is logical. The biblical data fit much better to the Reformed teaching of double predestination, which Luther himself taught, than to a nebulous Lutheran “paradox”.

Really? The Trinity; the hypostatic union, the hypothelitic union; Yep, nothing paradoxical about Christianity at all.

God is not illogical. He is just not subject to your fallen logic.

How do you know Jesus died for you?

I’d say that those are mysteries, but not paradoxes. What is contradictory about any of them? They’re mysterious but still coherent.

A paradox is not a contradiction.

Alright, apparent contradiction.

Right. As is Indifferently’s issue with the biblical understanding of salvation by grace through faith, and Jesus dying for all and calling all to repentance.

Because it doesn’t make sense “logically,” Calvinists have an issue with it. Calvinism, as a system, has very little room for paradox.

Yet Biblical truth is not subject to our fallen logic. Our logic must take a ministerial role and not a magisterial role over Scripture.

Where did you get THAT? Source, please.

I wasn’t quoting anyone. It’s apparent in the system itself.

There’s no evidence that Luther read Aquinas or had solid knowledge of Thomism, indeed. John Farthing wrote a book asking how much Luther would have known of Aquinas if he only had Gabriel Biel (the systematic theologian whose work Luther studied most intensively) to go on. Farthing concluded that Luther would have had a quite distorted view of Aquinas from that source.

On the other hand, other Protestant Reformers such as Carlstadt, Bucer, Vermigli, and Zanchi did study Aquinas, so one can’t (as some Catholics have tried to do) simply “blame” the Reformation on ignorance of Aquinas!

  1. I object to the idea that Christ is revealed solely through the cross. Is that really Luther? I think we have 33 years of Christ on earth revealing God to man, plus the OT.

I think the way I’d put it is that the Cross is the key that unlocks everything else. But yes, there is a real difference here from the Reformed position. In my opinion, the Reformed “flatten” Scripture and play down or abandon traditional Christocentric principles of interpretation, and this has led to some devastatingly bad effects.

I have some additional things but I won’t waste typing if no one has read the thing. :slight_smile:

I’m not sure I’ve read every word of it. I’ve certainly skimmed/partially read it.

Edwin

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