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Martin Luther's Theology of the Cross
Luther's understanding of the cross functions as a critique of all 'theologies of glory' and as such is widely being retrieved to inform Christian formation.
By Ed Knudson
The phrase "theology of the cross" will often be found if one sits down to read some books on theology today, especially books which are informed by the traditions emerging from the Reformation period in the 16th century. Martin Luther was a key figure of the Reformation. In fact, his action of putting forward 95 critical theses of certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church in 1517 is considered the beginning of the Reformation, from which all of the various Protestant denominations trace their origins. This year, 2017, is the 500th anniversary of that event. And today, as I indicated, one of the theological themes that continues to be relevent to our own times is that known with the phrase "theology of the cross".
So on this webpage I am going to begin to place material I run into on this theme to demonstrate how it is being interpreted today. Notice that Luther speaks of the theology of the cross, perhaps most directly, in his "Heidelberg Disputation".
Jason A. Mahn who teaches religion at Augustana College has written an article in the journal Currents of Theology and Mission called Reforming Formation: The Practices of Protestantism in a Secular Age, the October, 2013, issue. In the article from which this passage is taken Mahn refers to Charles Taylor who wrote the book A Secular Age.
The “thin tradition” of Luther’s theology of the cross39 provides a corrective to this proclivity toward abstractions and the avoidance of the particularity and suffering of others. For Luther, the only true theologians are theologians of the cross—those who comprehend “the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.”40 The alternative (enacted by “theologians of glory”) is the habit of looking upon “the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible,” but perceptible in abstractions such as “virtue, godliness, wisdom, justice, goodness, and so forth.”41
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