1 This paper examines Martin Luther’s theology of the cross and discusses how it has impacted North American religious life.
Martin Luther’s Theology of the Cross In Protestantism, there are two distinct guiding philosophies that are normally used as the foundation for the teaching and worship of the church. These philosophies are the theology of glory and the theology of the cross. Which philosophy a church practices is up to the individual church; however, it is rare, possibly even unheard of, for both philosophies to be utilized together in the same church. The theology of glory and the theology of the cross are both so very different from one another, that to mix them would be a challenging enterprise. The theology of the cross was
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Out of the gospel, one’s faith is strengthened, and out of this faith the good works that define a Christ-like life are produced.9 Further, in the theology of the cross, there is never meant to be any feeling among anyone that they are better than anyone else. The theology of glory is meant to show people the extent of their holiness, but the theology of the cross is meant to show people the depth of their sin.10 This awareness of just how much one has sinned is meant to make one even more in awe of the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. Therefore, instead of witnessing to people about getting saved, one witnesses about the work of the cross and the grace of God. There is no step toward God or increase in holiness for someone under this theology, only the saving grace of God. The theology of glory turns one toward oneself, while the theology of the cross turns one away from oneself. The theology of the cross is really a theology of humility and suffering, of realizing that we are nothing compared to God and that we have deeply offended Him through our sins. Upon realizing this, the theology of the cross is meant to make us contrite through the horror of the knowledge of the enormity of our sins. Once we realize
Ibid. Ibid. 10 Ibid.
5 our sins and are contrite regarding them, then God will reveal Himself to us, through the hiddenness and lowliness of the cross