by Scott Keith –
** Warning!!! **
This Content May Be Offensive to Those Who Continue to Bind Themselves to the Law!
–– Don’t Worry: There is Help! Read Romans 10:4 ––
I was truly confused last week over the reaction to my blog about giving things up for Lent. I was apparently misguided. You see, I thought that this was just something that people did as “part of the season,” like Christmas caroling or drinking egg nog at Christmas parties. I totally underestimated the adverse reaction people would have. Further, I was set on my heels to hear that people truly did see this as some sort of good work that equated to piety and or “true” penance on their part. At one point during the flurry of comments that resulted from the post, I texted Paul and asked him why people were so upset. His response was simple: “You’re stealing their glory.” Just then it hit me. The reason this is such a battle is because this is the theology of glory verses the theology of the cross.
A theology of glory recognizes the cross of Christ, but views it first and foremost like some sort of Machiavellian “ends justify the means” scenario. At best, the cross becomes a somewhat distasteful thought; a most likely needed step on the way to personal growth, the metamorphosis of our inward human will. The cross becomes primarily a means to change the way we view ourselves rather than the way God views us on account of Christ. Luther describes the theology of glory by saying that he (the theologian of glory) “does not know God hidden in suffering. Therefore he prefers works to suffering, glory to the cross, strength to weakness, wisdom to folly, and, in general, good to evil.” Any theology of glory is of the Law and is our inherent and innate go-to position. The theology of glory is how we think, and it is why the Gospel is always referred to as a stumbling block. We are out rightly addicted to the idea of our own self ascendancy and live our lives according to a precise system of self-measurement. The Gospel robs us of the ability to measure ourselves positively before God. The theology of glory makes us the captains of our own ship, even if that ship is just our sanctified Christian life. And we like it!
In contrast, the theology of the cross does not see the cross as an end, but rather as the end. The end of all attempts of self-penitence. The end of all attempts of self-piety. In the cross of Christ the addict of self-ascendancy and merit is confronted with their addiction to self and put to death in order to rise again in Christ. This talk of arbitrary personal sacrifice gives way to being “little Christ’s’” to the world. No longer is there any reliance, even in our sanctified Christian lives, on our own ability to do anything which might “help” us before God, or “bring us closer” to a God who has come to meet us in Christ. The theology of the cross means that the sacrifice has been completed once and for all in Christ and no more sacrificial appeasement of any kind is necessary. As Forde said so well:
“in short a theologian of the cross sees the cross as the end where we die to our sin with Christ and are raised a new creation with Christ. The work is truly finished as Christ promised and there is no moving on from His cross.”
So at the encouragement of many of my good friends, I apologize for any offense given by means of my blog last week. It was not my intent to rob anyone of their glory; Christ has already done that! Peace be with you during this Lenten season.