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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Speaking of Crosses

Martin Luther talked about a profound distinction between different types of theologies. Simply put, he said that some are theologians of glory and others are theologians of the cross. His famous Heidelberg Theses remain some of the Reformer's most important insights.

The one on my mind today is thesis #21:
A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.

As he stands before God, a theologian of glory boasts of his own righteousness. He thinks his personal holiness commends him to God while the theologian of the cross realizes that his own righteousness is like filthy rags (Is 64:6).

We see this principle manifested in other ways as well. The hyper-pious insist that true faith sees all things as grace (gifts). Surely God can use terrible things to bring about a good result, but that doesn't make the terrible things any less evil. God is not the author of evil. The death of Christ saves us. But death is a curse, not a blessing. The painful sufferings you endure in this corrupted world can draw you closer to God. Sufferings can purify us. The eyes of faith do learn how to see God at work in every kind of circumstance. But some falsely pious Christians take this to a faulty conclusion, that evils such as injury, death and trouble are good things.

To suffer well - that is, in a way that leads to health and life - one must know how to "call a thing what it actually is." Name the enemy. He has won ground if we begin to count him our friend.

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