Friday, January 09, 2009


The following article is from the Lutheran radio show Issues, Etc. I am sick of the Theology of Glory. I can't get enough of Luther's Theology of the Cross.

A Theology of Glory and a Theology of the Cross

Everyday in every way we are getting better and better. Really?

by Don Matzat

Theology is systematic. All the pieces are supposed to fit together. Within Protestantism there are two very distinct systems of theology. One is a Theology of Glory and the other is a Theology of the Cross.

I believe that it is very important that we understand the differences between these two ways of thinking. In so doing, I believe we will arrive at the conclusion that these two systems cannot be mixed.

The Place of the Gospel

The Protestant theology of glory begins with a one-time trip to the Cross of Jesus Christ. The preaching of human sin and divine grace is only directed at the unbeliever in order to "get him saved." The person who gets saved can sing, "At the Cross, at the Cross where I first saw the light and the burden of my sin rolled away . . . and now I am happy all the day."

Very often, when discussing on Issues, Etc. the place of the Gospel in preaching and teaching, someone will call-in and say, "I’ve already been to the Cross. I’ve heard the Gospel. I’m saved." In other words, in the thinking of that person, the preaching of the Gospel is directed at unbelievers. Once unbelievers are saved the Gospel in no longer relevant.

The theology of the Cross is quite different. The preaching of sin and grace or Law and Gospel is not only intended to convert the unbelieving sinner but is intended to produce sanctification in the Christian. The preaching of the Law continues to convict the Christian of sin, leading to contrition, and the Gospel continues to produce faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ.

The Definition of Repentance

A theology of glory defines repentance as a sinner being sorry for his sins and determining not to sin anymore. Repentance is the determination of the sinner to live a better life. Before being saved, the sinner is required to repent of all known sins. Incomplete repentance will cause a person to doubt whether or not they have really been saved.

Alternatively, the theology of the Cross defines repentance as contrition and faith rather than contrition and human determination. While the preaching of the Law will lead to contrition or sorrow over sin, the preaching of the Gospel will produce faith in the redemptive work of Christ Jesus.

Repentance is therefore not a singular act that precedes "getting saved" but defines the totality of the Christian life. The preaching of Law and Gospel produces repentance – sorrow over sin and faith in Christ Jesus.


A theology of glory separates the Christian life from the Gospel. Once you are saved you are given a list of do’s and don’ts. More often than not, these are "evangelical house rules." If you continue to break the rules or backslide, the solution is the rededication of your life to God or, in some cases, the emotional determination to keep your promises. You wouldn’t go back to the Cross again because you already did that when you got saved. Rather, you rededicate your life, because "once saved, is always saved."

The theology of the Cross never gets you past the Cross. The preaching of the Law is not intended to provide you with a list of do’s and don’ts. Rather the preaching of the Law is intended to drive you back to the Cross through the hearing of the Gospel. As a result of the Gospel, your faith is strengthened. Out of faith, the good works defining the Christian life are produced.

Those who mix the theology of glory with the theology of the Cross may initially preach Law and Gospel but will end the sermon with Law, principles, or house rules. This is usually introduced with "May we" or "Let us." Such a sermon will cause you to go home, not rejoicing in forgiveness, but determined to live a better life.


A theology of glory produces people who think they are better than other people. "Getting saved" moves you to a higher level. You are now a better person, a step above those who are not saved. You can think of yourself as a part of the "moral majority" as opposed to the "immoral minority." You share your testimony so that other people will get saved and be a good person just like you are.

The notion of getting saved as taking a higher step on the ladder of holiness begets other steps. Some teach that getting saved is merely the first experience, now you have to get sanctified. This is the "second work of grace." This second work removes your old sinful nature so that you are no longer a sinner.You now add to your testimony your experience of perfect sanctification. You not only witness to unbelievers, but you tell other Christians who still refer to themselves as "sinners saved by grace" that you are no longer a sinner. You have taken the next step. They should do the same.

The Pentecostals (and Charismatics) add another step on the ladder of holiness. They promote a baptism in the Spirit with speaking in tongues which gives you spiritual power that you didn’t have before. Former Southern Baptist pastor Charles Simpson said, "Before I got baptized in the Spirit I almost wore out my rededicator." In other words, now that he has received power, unlike other Baptists, he no longer has to rededicate his life. There may be many more steps and experiences for you to take. The popular Charismatic showman Benny Hinn speaks of four or five different anointings awaiting you as you climb the ladder of holiness. The so-called revivals that have broken out in Toronto and Pensacola offer a wide variety of experiences from being "slain in the Spirit," to being "drunk in the Spirit," to simply standing in one spot and shaking your head back and forth. According to testimonies, these experiences will produce in you higher levels of spirituality and holiness as you move on to glory.

Your testimony will now focus on trying to convince other Christians that they should come to where you are and get baptized in the Spirit, speak in tongues, and seek these other experiences. Even though you don’t say it, everyone knows that you think you are a better Christian, because you have taken the next step.

Living in a theology of the Cross never makes you any "better" than anyone else. Every day in every way you are not getting better and better. In fact, the preaching of Law and Gospel will not lead you to an awareness of your holiness, but rather to greater awareness of the depth of your sin. As a result, you will develop an ever-increasing faith in and appreciation for the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.

Your witness will focus upon the work of the Cross, not upon your experience of getting saved, sanctified, or becoming more spiritual. You have taken no step toward God or arrived at any higher level of holiness. You don’t talk about your spirituality. You talk about the grace of God in Christ Jesus.

When dealing with these issues on the radio, I often encounter opposition. People will fight to defend their theology of glory. I often challenge them to share their testimony without ever talking about themselves. I have developed the pet phrase, "This thing called Christianity – it’s not about you!"

Martin Luther accurately defined sin as man turning in on himself. While a theology of glory continues to turn you to yourself as you measure your growth in holiness against a plethora of spiritual experiences, the theology of the Cross turns you away from yourself. As a result of the conviction of the Law, you forsake your own good works and spiritual experiences and cling to the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Which is Correct?

Any reading of the New Testament will demonstrate that the systematic theology of the Apostle Paul was a theology of the Cross. His focus was not upon his spirituality but upon the Cross of Christ. He boasted of his weaknesses. He referred to himself as the "chief of sinners" and a "wretched man." As far as he was concerned, his holiness and goodness was manure compared to the righteousness of Christ. For the Apostle, the dynamic of both justification and sanctification was "not I, but Christ."

The Reformation theology that characterizes both Lutheranism and traditional Calvinism is a theology of the Cross. There is no doubt that the theology of glory appeals to natural man. It is a theology of Adam. It is self-focused. It defines "popular Christianity." The reality is, it is not biblical Christianity.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for that Josh!

You might also be interested in three posts about theologies of glory vs. cross. Here's number three, and you can work back to two and one with the links at the beginning of each.

I would also highly recommend Horton's article about the significance of the ascension.

Josh Brisby said...

Thanks brother for those articles. BTW, when and where is the next Hoagies and Stogies??

Jay Dyer said...

entioOther reformed dudes are realizing the problem with saying Adam was not given supernatural grace:

Jay Dyer said...

Jay Dyer said...

add pdf to the adress.

Anonymous said...

BTW, when and where is the next Hoagies and Stogies??

Good and timely question. I have been procrastinating, but watch your inbox for the next invite, which should be forthcoming. I haven't settled on a where yet, but the when is March 7, and the what is Lutheran vs. Reformed communion (real physical vs. real spiritual presence)

markymark said...

would Jesus smoke cigars and drink beer?

Josh Brisby said...

MarkyMark (my brother Mark? or another Mark?),

Yes. "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, but the Pharisees called him a glutton and a tax collector."

Fundamentalism and much of evangelicalism place rules on people that God has not placed. Our Lord's first miracle was turning water into wine, and not just any wine, but the best wine.

Josh Brisby said...


I am excited about that! I have been studying Luther's thought a lot lately. That should be a good one. I am also re-reading Mathison's book on the Eucharist, Given For You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper."

I wonder what many modern-day Lutherans think of the White Horse Inn guys. I know many like them. (Of course they like Rosenbladt.) I know of many Lutherans who are extremely anti-Calvinistic, but I wonder if there are some who appreciate the WHI Calvies on that show.

Josh Brisby said...


I almost forgot, I wanted to mention something about the "what would Jesus do" idea. "Would Jesus do this" and "would Jesus do that" I think misses the whole point of our Lord's work *for* us. Again, evangelicalism and fundamentalism are obsessed with do's and don'ts, and they create rules that God never intended (don't drink, don't chew, and don't go with girls who do, don't dance, don't play cards, don't smoke, etc., etc.).

Yet, I think the correct question is What *Did* Jesus Do? WDJD? That's the one the Bible answers. The Bible is a storybook of history about God's plan of redemption in Christ Jesus for sinners. Jesus Christ is on every page of Holy Scripture. In fact, a sermon is not even a true sermon if it is not Christ-centered.

Church is not about how we can be better people. What would be the difference between us, and unbelievers in that case? Unbelievers "better" themselves all the time.

This kind of theology of glory needs to be shown for the sham that it really is: man-centered.

The theology of the cross doesn't ask "what would Jesus do." It asks "what DID Jesus do for me?".

Josh Brisby said...

Pardon me, BTW, it should read "the Son of Man came eating and drinking, but the Pharisees called Him a glutton and a *drunkard.* Would hardly make sense if He didn't enjoy alchohol.

Michael said...

This is my first introduction to your blog. I agree in concept w/ the TOC, but is it that black and white? How do you account for the "perfection of holiness in the fear of God"? This is a gospel imperative as well as a promise. We have a role to play in our sanctification; if I'm not growing in grace (this includes behavior and attitudes) we have a problem. I think it's a little more nuanced than what you describe.

markymark said...

are you not causing your brother to stumble with your hoagies and stogies? Your body is a temple, and you should treat it as such. Hiding behind grace as an excuse to indulge in practices which are secular and do not invite others to view us as "peculiar" and want to learn more about Christianity cannot be the intention of God. If you view all this as simply Old Testament Jewish laws, then why for example do we not today indulge in multiple wives? And other various practices done in the OT? The answer is because God gave the stubborn people over to the hardness of their own hearts, much like an exasperated parent throwing up their hands. You and I both know that this particular example cannot work, because God intended marriage for one man and one woman, and it has really been his intention forever, He knows what works and what doesn't, but folks in their stupidity chose their own path. Do you honestly think that God approves of gluttonous practices? Are you free to do whatever you wish to your body since you are supposedly under grace?

Josh Brisby said...

Michael (my friend from Ohio Michael or another Michael?),

Welcome to my blog.

The Law/Gospel distinction accounts for such passages as those you mentioned, but it's just that we give them their proper place. Those passages do not say "I have to do this so that I can gain eternal life." Instead, they are the proper response to what God has already done for us in Christ.

Notice the way the apostle lays it out, for example, in Romans. First, he brings man's guilt (Law--chapters 1-3). Then, he brings God's solution in Christ (Gospel--chapters 4-6). In chapters 7 and 8 he speaks of the normal Christian life in response to this--which is filled with struggles with sin and wretchedness. Yes, that is the *normal* Christian life.

Yes, we grow, but the more we grow, the more sin we become aware of. This is Luther's TOC. The paradox is this: the more I grow in my sanctification, the more sinful I become.

Of course, that is to say the more I realize the sinner I have always been.

It's not until Romans 12 that Paul gives the imperatives. But it is always a "therefore." It is not a "for there" as in "in order to get there."

Josh Brisby said...

Markymark (again, my brother Mark from GA, or another Mark?),

We're getting off topic really about what the blog post was about (namely, Luther's Theology of the Cross), but I will respond nonetheless.

You wrote:

"are you not causing your brother to stumble with your hoagies and stogies?"

You might look in context of Romans 14 for what it means to "cause your brother to stumble." The context clearly says that causing him to stumble means causing him to drink or eat meat when in their *conscience* they do not yet recognize that they have the freedom to do so. If they go against their conscience, they sin. It does *not* mean offending someone who doesn't like drinking or smoking.

You wrote:

"Your body is a temple, and you should treat it as such."

I agree, but not in the way you mean. In your line of thinking, I suppose I'd better never eat a cheeseburger again and stay completely away from processed foods. Perhaps we should follow the OT dietary laws, because we'd certainly be a lot healthier if we did. Do you really want to go there?

You wrote:

"Hiding behind grace as an excuse to indulge in practices which are secular and do not invite others to view us as "peculiar" and want to learn more about Christianity cannot be the intention of God."

This is exactly the kind of Pharisaism present in evangelicalism and fundamentalism that I am talking about. You beg the question as to whether the practices are "secular." So is chewing gum. Who are you to say that drinking in moderation is evil or worldly? Where does the Bible say that? How dare you place rules on others that the Bible does not place! That's the kind of burden that the Pharisees placed on the backs of their hearers. And are we Christians really "peculiar" because we are "better" than others?? No wonder others don't want to come to Christ--because they think that Christianity is all about being a "better" person. This is exactly the kind of disgusting theology of glory that Luther opposed, and rightly so.

You wrote:

"If you view all this as simply Old Testament Jewish laws . . . "

Not sure why you would say that. Certainly in the Passover liturgy itself the Jews drank *four* goblets of wine in the liturgy alone! Perhaps they were causing their brothers to stumble. :0)

Your analysis of polygamy and God's allowing of it is correct. I don't see the connection to the matter at hand.

You wrote:

"Do you honestly think that God approves of gluttonous practices?"

Did anyone speak of gluttony here? I'm not sure I ever said that.

You wrote:

"Are you free to do whatever you wish to your body since you are supposedly under grace?"

Again, not sure what you mean by "whatever you want." Of course I cannot do "whatever I want" to my body without sinning. But again, you continue to beg the question here as to smoking, drinking, chewing, dancing, card playing, etc., etc., is sin. I think you'd be pretty hard-pressed to demonstrate that it is.

Paul's words are clear: "Do not pass judgment over disputable matters. Each one of you should be fully convinced in his own mind."

Evangelicalism would do well to focus on Christ and what He did than to continue to load heaps of lists of more man-made laws and do's and don'ts on their sheep. In my judgment, when there's not much of a difference between what "works" for an unbeliever and what "works" for a believer to make them "better people," something is seriously wrong.

It's not about being a better person. It's about looking outside of yourself to the only One Who is good, because we are all wretched sinners. And Mark, we're still wretched sinners. Not just sinning here and there.

We ARE sin.

markymark said...

"It's not about being a better person. It's about looking outside of yourself to the only One Who is good, because we are all wretched sinners. And Mark, we're still wretched sinners. Not just sinning here and there."

"We ARE sin."

Wrong. If we ARE sin, you think God would have created us in His image? I would say we are capable of sin, obviously, but we are not sin itself.

"Yes, we grow, but the more we grow, the more sin we become aware of. This is Luther's TOC. The paradox is this: the more I grow in my sanctification, the more sinful I become." That is the most backwards statement I've ever heard. Josh, you are way too wrapped up in theology, and I wish you would concentrate on why you are here on this earth, and I'll say it like this: There has often been the question as to what happens to someone who has never heard of Christ when they die, and the answer is that no man is excused, even if he never heard of God, because Go's existence is evidenced all around us, and to deny it is to damn oneself. So why are we here? Why were we created, and who can get into heaven? The answer as to why we are here is that God made us to have fellowship with Him, and it is engrained in all of us. Those who suppress it often find themselves depressed and at odds with their lifestyle. This is why we often hear stories of rich people who have everything the world can offer, and yet are not satisfied deep in their soul, and also with people who look to other people for satisfaction through relationships. You, me, and everyone else will never find true contentment with their purpose in life until we come to this realization that God desires that ALL come to Him, and He does not show favoritism. What does this mean? It means you as a Christian should seek your God given talent and use it to His glory in life, and to bring others into fellowship with Him by using your gifts. God doesn't expect you to save people, only He can draw them, not you. You just plant the seed. So how do you know you're saved? I'll give you a litmus test: If there is sin in your life, you feel awful about it, and cannot lead your life completely as a Christian until you get it right with God. You cannot solve it yourself, I know because I've been there. I dare say that if you continue in the same sin continuously perhaps you should examine if you really are saved, because if you can do it over and over without conviction, you are palying with fire. This is why in my personal opinion, homosexuality and Christianity cannot be in the same sentence. Homosexuals will not enter the Kingdom, and it says so in the Bible, and this is why I'm concerned about someone we both know, Josh.

I've gotten off topic, but it all wraps up in the mission of the church itself. Stop battling over theology, because in the end none of it will matter. God has revealed what man needs to know already, and the rest is His to know and not for us (i.e. predestination). Churches today have gotten off track in these arguments and forgotten the Great Commission, which is our purpose individually and collectively. So, my brother, I challenge you to look inside yourself and use what talents you have been given, and not waste too much time on things which are of little significance eternally. You are correct in disputable matters. If you are convinced in your own mind as to what you do, then so be it. But I'm allergic to cigars. I just wanted to get you started and wound up because it's entertaining. But I hope you take to heart what I am saying. BTW, I had tendonitis in my elbow after taking you down in arm wrestling. Next time I intend on taking down our large brother in law in a fearsome display of strength, adn if I do, I will rip off my shirt and say "cut the music!"

Josh Brisby said...

My brother Mark (both in Brisby blood and in Christ's blood),

Welcome to my blog!

You bring up much, so I must respond. :0) You're welcome to respond if you wish.

You wrote:

"Josh, you are way too wrapped up in theology . . . "

If by "theology" you mean "the study of God", then I'm guilty as charged. But I think you probably mean "you are way too wrapped up in debates," to which I deny the charge, especially lately. But, there are healthy debates, where iron sharpens iron, and there are debates just for the point of winning. For example, you said you brought all this up because it's "entertaining." Hmm...

What you were saying about God making us for fellowship with Him is absolutely right. See Shorter Catechism question and answer 1: "What is man's chief end?" "To glorify God and enjoy Him forever." You are right.

However, the way you continued to word your thoughts made me think that you approach evangelism kind of like "Are you happy, Mr. Unbeliever? I know you're not. Well come to Christ. He will make you happy." If this is not what you're saying, then disregard this. But it's certainly what most of evangelicalism today says, and it's simply not correct. Most unbelievers are quite happy. God is not a drug to be tried and to be discarded when He doesn't make us happy. In fact, those who come to Christ will experience many trials in this life. I know this isn't what sells, but it's what the Bible teaches.

I agree with a lot of what you said. I'm not sure if perhaps some of your words were misunderstandings of Calvinism, such as how you emphasized God wanting ALL to be saved--which orthodox Calvinism *affirms*--and I'm not sure if you gave a jab at the doctrine of predestination when you said "He does not show favoritism." You yourself affirm the doctrine of predestination. Yet you think it shouldn't be discussed. Well, I think it's quite profitable to discuss. In fact, I find my comfort knowing that, because God elects, He brings to heaven. He sees to it that those whom He has chosen for salvation will make it there(Romans 8 and the golden chain of salvation).

You wrote:

"I dare say that if you continue in the same sin continuously perhaps you should examine if you really are saved, because if you can do it over and over without conviction, you are playing with fire."

I agree with this to a certain degree. But at the same time we need to recognize that there are many sins we *do* over and over without conviction, b/c we don't even realize they're sins. This is why David says "Who can discern my errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep Your servant also from willful sins--may they not rule over me. Then I will be guiltless, innocent of great transgression."

One brother in the Lord said this: "If I die in the arms of a prostitute, the Lord will say to me, 'Well done, My good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of heaven.'" What do you make of that, Mark?

You see Mark, the gospel is *foolish* and is a *scandal* to those who are perishing. The gospel is for those who know they are *sinners* and *wretched* and *blind* and *poor* and *miserable* and *despicable*. Religion never deals with the heart. The real reason people think they are getting better and better is b/c they are instinctively trying to point themselves away from looking at the sinfulness of their own heart.

I do not deny that we are created in the image of God, but we are fallen. Yes, the image of God is retained. But we battle with the sin nature our whole lives as Christians. Don't you think Romans 7 is the normal Christian life? Or do you think otherwise? Paul does not say "wretched man that I was." Instead, he says "wretched man that I am."

You wrote:

"Stop battling over theology, because in the end none of it will matter."

Could you please let me know what you mean by that theology doesn't matter? Especially when 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all Scripture is useful for doctrine, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness? ALL Scripture? Does Scripture teach predestination? Yes. Does it teach doctrine A, B, or C? Yes. Then it matters.

I agree that some doctrines are of "lesser" importance (which we'd have to really discuss what that even means). Justification by faith alone and Christ alone are the central doctrines of the Scriptures. But we don't dismiss other things b/c they are "too mysterious." We don't deny there are things like the Trinity, predestination, the hypostatic union, etc., that are mysterious, but that doesn't mean we gloss over them. In fact, many times this is an excuse used by others so they don't have to study them and apply them to their lives.

If you search the Scriptures, as the Bereans did, you'll see that doctrine is in fact quite important. In fact, a disciple is one who is trained in the doctrines of Christ Himself. Without doctrine, you wouldn't even have Christianity.

And I do plan on beating you next time in arm wrestling. :0)

markymark said...

I guess I could put it like this- and no, there is nothing wrong with becoming a "better" person, nothing at all. If becoming a better person means you give up your seat to a homeless man without passing judgment on how he looks, as in the book of James, then you have behaved as Christ would have. This is in reference to the exhortation not to show favoritism, where you should not give a nice dressed man a good seat and then a poor man sits on the floor, thereby making yourself a judge. If by treating all people equally you have become a better person, then there's nothing wrong with that, because you are acting the same way Christ would. But my basic point is that churches and denominations have been created over their arguments of theology, and have made their views the only way. This is a prime example of religion being worthless. Arguments of sprinkling vs. immersion, predestination, etc. are of little value, and what I am saying in a nutshell is this: If your church is caught up in all this to where it becomes their primary focus, and not on connecting lost people to Christ, then I challenge you to find another church, pure and simple. Having theological discussions is fine and dandy, but it's not what we should be doing all the time. And yes, i do belive that God desires for all to be saved, but I cannot enter a predestination discussion because I belive it to be something God in His wisdom has left for us not to understand.

I cannot comment on someone dying in the arms of a prostitute, but I do know that God can forgive ANY sin, no matter how bad, by anyone, and ONLY GOD knows the person (including the man with a prostitute)and their ultimate decision and heart. Peace

Josh Brisby said...

100% agreement with all you just said in that last salvo.

This will be my last response on this thread. Two sites you may want to check out in all of this:

Since you are my bro and my guest, you are welcome to respond to what I write below or not if you'd like. Thank you for your concerns my brother.

I think my #1 concern in all of this is the paradox of sanctification. Why is it that the sheep on the last day are surprised when Jesus tells them that they did all these things for Him? ("Lord, when did we do these things?") I think one reason is b/c they know they are wretched sinners. "We are unworthy servants merely doing our duty."

Romans 7 is the normal Christian life. We do grow in holiness, but when we look at the blackness and evil of our own hearts, we become more and more aware of our sin. Otherwise, Mark, we would only need Christ at the beginning of the Christian life, but not so much later. Out of the heart comes adulteries, murder, etc., and our Lord Himself did not distinguish between "practicing" such acts and the wickedness of them--if I look at a woman lustfully, I've committed adultery. If I am angry with someone on the road, I haven't loved my neighbor, I've murdered him; etc.

We always love to take God's standards and lower them, and make God less holy than He really is, and make ourselves "better" than we really are.

A theology of glory says "you're getting better and better. Look at you growing in your sanctification. You're holier now. The gospel is only for baby Christians--it's time to move on to Christian living."

The theology of the cross says "you need the gospel for the *entire diet* of the Christian life. You grow in holiness and you see the blackness of your own heart more and more. You need Jesus more and more. Christ is your life! Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more."

Mark, do you see yourself *now* as sick, blind, wretched, miserable, despicable, lame, and in desperate need of Christ...all the time? Can you, with the apostle Paul, say "wretched man that I am!"?

May God conquer our idolatrous hearts which cling to the self-righteousness of the theology of glory. May He be pleased to open our eyes to the theology of the cross more and more.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

markymark said...

Very good. We'll stop it there. Once you start another subject I'll be back to harrass you some more-LOL