A Jagged Contention: The End of Philosophical Ethics

“If the cross is the place where God reveals Himself, then it is further the place where God’s revelation contradicts human reason most severely. Judged by everything called wisdom by the world, the word of the cross, as already St. Paul has seen, is the most foolish doctrine a philosopher can meet. That the death of one man is to be the salvation of all, that this death on Calvary is to be the atoning sacrifice for all sins of the world, that the suffering of one innocent person should assuage the wrath of God: these are claims contradicting all ethical and religious feelings of natural man. Already beyond discussion for the world is the presupposition for these claims, namely, the doctrine of man’s universal sinfulness, because it means the end of all philosophical ethics. For all philosophical ethics rest upon the principle which has been formulated by Kant (1724-1804) in the words: Du kannst, denn du sollst, “Thou canst, for thou shalt.” Now Holy Scripture claims that just this foolish preaching of the cross is the wisdom of God, which brings to naught the wisdom of the wise of this world. Between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of this world there is a total and irreconcilable contrast. What for human reason is wisdom is foolishness for God, and God’s wisdom is foolishness for the world.”

Hermann Sasse, Theologia Crucis in Letters to Lutheran Pastors: Volume I, 1948-1951. Pg. 398


Question:

How does Sasse’s explanation of the theology of the cross impact the way one listens to a sermon? What should we be listening for? Should what we hear resonate with our usual understandings of the way the world works? Offer up some good examples of how to preach the theology of the cross in the face of the world’s wisdom.

Share your thoughts in the comments below

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2 thoughts on “A Jagged Contention: The End of Philosophical Ethics

  1. For my part, two observations . . .

    Sasse was Marquart’s “mentor” during Kurt’s 20 years down under. Explains much!

    The heart of that quote – priceless:

    “Judged by everything called wisdom by the world, the word of the cross, as already St. Paul has seen, is the most foolish doctrine a philosopher can meet. That the death of one man is to be the salvation of all, that this death on Calvary is to be the atoning sacrifice for all sins of the world, that the suffering of one innocent person should assuage the wrath of God: these are claims contradicting all ethical and religious feelings of natural man. Already beyond discussion for the world is the presupposition for these claims, namely, the doctrine of man’s universal sinfulness, because it means the end of all philosophical ethics.”

    jb
    Em.
    TX

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    1. The Theology of the Cross calls a thing what it is. It lets us be creatures, passive before God. Once our wisdom enters in the dynamic changes. We are now co-creators with God, we have eaten from the tree. We become justifiers instead of the justified. We become liberal worldly interpreters or fundamentalists, but no longer the sick in need of a Doctor.
      When Flannery O’Connor at a dinner party of intellectuals says of the Sacrament, “Well if it is a symbol than to Hell with it.”; it symbolizes the Theology of the Cross. To the worldly liberal the Lord”s body was a symbol to be used in moving ethical lines to justify his/her opinion of justice or tolerance, but to Ms. O’Connor, however, “…this is all I will ever be able to say about it, that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.”

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