a cross

Gospel preachers are theologians of the cross

Among the many spiritual ills that afflicted the Corinthian congregation was a class of leaders, self-appointed “Super Apostles” (2 Cor 11:5, 12). These so-called “Super Apostles” compared themselves to the Apostle Paul and claimed to be superior to him. Where Paul’s speech was imperfect, theirs was polished. Where he was arrested for the sake of Christ, they had suffered no such shame. Reading between the lines, their message seems to have been not very different from what we hear from the likes of Joel Osteen or the so-called “health and wealth” preachers who take this-worldly prosperity as a sign of divine favour and suffering for Christ as a sign of divine disfavour. Remarkably, we know from the writings of the early post-apostolic Fathers, e.g., 1 Clement, who also wrote to the same congregation, that these same problems continued to plague them for decades. Indeed, as far as I know, they never went away.

In the Reformation Martin Luther called these sorts of teachers “theologians of glory”. Later scholars would go on to speak about a “theology of glory” as distinct from the “theology of the cross”.  Luther contrasted the theologian of glory” with  “theologian of the cross” as part of a 1518 academic event known as the Heidelberg Disputation. He argued:

One is not worthy to be called a theologian who looks upon the ‘invisible things of God’ [Rom. 1:20] as though they were clearly ‘perceptible in those things which have actually happened’ [1 Cor 1:21–25]. But the one who knows the visible things and the backside [Ex 33:23] of God seen through the passions and the cross [is a theologian]. The theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. The theologian of the cross calls a thing what it is.

Read the full article by R. Scott Clark.