Sunday, July 05, 2009


I found a helpful chart that I am linking below that helps us see some examples of what Luther meant by the theology of glory vs. the theology of the cross. It also helped me continually to see why I oppose all theologies of glory, whether they be evangelicalism, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, modern-day Calvinism (as opposed to traditional Calvinism which I espouse), or any other religion that tries to ascend to God.


Josh Brisby said...

I would like to add something. One person commented on the chart saying "It just sounds like you don't believe in sanctification." Of course the theology of the cross believes in sanctification. That is the paradox. The point is, the more we grow, the more we become aware of our sin. If we thought we were becoming "morally better", then we wouldn't need Christ. But where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.

Anonymous said...

both sides of this chart have some twisted views IMO.....if you are sinful and incapable of any good whatsoever, you are saying it's pointless to witness, help others, read the Bible etc. It is BECAUSE of the cross that people can indeed become more Christ-like. If you become morally better, you still need Christ. A combination of these theologies seems to be the best route in the Christian life. Mark

Josh Brisby said...


Respectfully, I am against what you just said for the following reasons:

(1) The theology of glory and the theology of the cross are contradictory. They are not paradoxical. I would understand what you were saying if they were paradoxical, but they are in fact contradictory.

(2) If what you said is true, then I honestly don't understand why we would need Jesus Christ. What would make Christianity any different from any other religion? After all, it just ends up becoming "self-help" or "bettering oneself" through cooperation with the divine, or the All, or whatever you want to call it, and Christ just becomes a tack-on at the end, rather than the one thing that is preached.

(3) It is helpful to distinguish between unbelieving man and believing man. Unbelievers are not capable of spiritual good, but they are capable of civic good. Believers are capable of both spiritual and civic good, but as we grow in our sanctification, at the end of the day, it is a constant need to look outside of ourselves. The paradox of the theology of the cross is that the more we grow, the more sinful we realize we really are. After all, it is not my actions that need to be justified before God. It is who I am that needs to be justified. I respectfully believe that you have too high a view of yourself and too low a view of God.

(4) The theology of glory always tries to divert the real issue: the heart. The TOG says that our actions are evil, but not that we are that bad. The TOC says *we* are evil, and that's why we need to be justified.

(5) The TOG says "wretched man that I used to be--but I'm better now and getting even better!". The TOC says "wretched man that I *am*!".

(6) The TOG says "God justifies the ungodly, but He makes us godly." The TOC says "God justifies the ungodly." And He does sanctify us and make us more holy, but at the end of the day, it is who we are that is sinful, and not just our actions. On Judgment Day, God justifies the ungodly.

(7) The TOG turns the gospel into "bad news" b/c it ultimately takes away from the power of the cross in the Christian life. The cross is looked at only for the beginning, but then we get "past that" to "Christian living", which is what really matters. But the TOC says the "good news" of the gospel (that is what "gospel" means) is that God justifies the sinners, the wretched, the ungodly, the sick, the blind, the poor, the lame--and it saves us from the Law.

(8) At the end of the day, our strivings, our serving of neighbor, our allegiance to God, etc., will wax and wane. We are ships tossed to and fro in a storm. The TOG puts all its stock in our life, in our doings--with maybe some help from Christ. But the TOC says "you died, and your life is now hid with Christ in God. I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ in me."

You see Mark, the more you focus on Christian living (and that's not bad, but it has its place), the more you will be driven to the Law, and Christ will recede into the background. But when you look at sanctification for what it is supposed to be, with a constant dependence on God and looking outside yourself to Christ, then the more you will see your need for Christ.

Anything other than that is works-righteousness.

I know these are strong words, but why do you think so many people leave evangelicalism b/c they were "not good enough"?

Anonymous said...

Christian living that is focused on Christ (as it should be) will not cause Christ to recede into the background. That is a silly premise. I'm confused, then, as to what you are saying about people leaving evangelicalism......what exactly is your purpose on this earth if you are are incapable of good.....are you to be happy for yourself as long as you are saved and exist solely just to exist and be sanctified when you die, without any regard for the Great Commission and what it says? I boldly state that if you attend a church whose primary function is NOT evangelizing the lost and fulfilling what Christ said to do, you better find another church. If you are happy to participate in empty religiosity that is form over substance and can sit in a happy state, fat with your sanctification while others live in darkness every day, and have no burden for this.....your theology is false. I don't doubt that you can indeed be more aware of your sin, but you are losing focus if you dwell on it every day. The word Christian literally means "little Christ", and if you are truly desiring to be more Christ-like and fulfill His will for your life, you will not be sitting around harping on yourself and saying woe is me, how wretched I am.....we already know that, and Christ came to take care of that for us, so now we can focus on living as Christ would have us to. A life with the purpose of telling others of Christ, in many different ways, not just spoken word but in kind deeds and examples. I hope this is your mission in life. It can be done many different ways using many different talents. Look- I know I'm a piece of garbage without Christ. But it's also through the Holy Spirit and His guidance that I can have a mission for life and set out to do what we are commanded to do. Will I fail in some instances and fall short? of course. But as Paul said, I keep on pressing towards the mark. I cannot sit and be satisfied with being saved myself and not care about anyone else. I hope your church teaches this, and has a genuine burden for those who do not know God.

Finally, I am really concerned about #8 in your response. If you think your "strivings" in this life will wax and wane, you are dead wrong. So you think that witnessing to someone who then makes a decision to follow Christ is a waning decision at the end of the day? No- there are even some little things you may have done in this life that you will never know (until you get to heaven) the effect you had for the kingdom and influence on someone's life. The TOG in and of itself (looking at the chart) has some misconstrued thoughts as does the TOC on both sides, but the TOG does indeed have some stock in our life (per your #8 that it puts ALL stock in our doings I disagree with). Why else do you think God will say "well done my good and faithful servant" when you get to heaven? Do you think He would say that based on Him saving you? It wouldn't make sense! He wouldn't say that if you had not done some good works- granted and agreed that is not what saves you, but nevertheless....and the Bible teaches of crowns and rewards for things done in this life. Some will have more than others. This is why parts of the TOG and TOC are true, but I do not believe in either one's total facets that are listed.

Josh Brisby said...


Those who are born again *are indeed* capable of spiritual good, because of Christ living in them.

Not to split hairs here, but I think it's important to recognize that the primary purpose of the local church as the church is *not* to evangelize the lost, but to feed the sheep. It is our duty as individual Christians to evangelize the lost. Why am I making this distinction? Because, if the church is looked at as "seeker-sensitive" for lost people, then it loses all identity as "the church". I think this is perhaps one of our different, yet important, ways of looking at the local church.

Historically, a true church has been defined as the place where the Word is preached purely, the sacraments are administered purely, and church discipline is exercised for unrepentant members. Anything less, and a "church" ceases to be properly called a "church." The church, therefore, consists of those who profess Christ, and their children, and assemble around the God-ordained means of grace of Word and Sacrament. It's not a social club.

You are absolutely correct that the word "Christian" means "little Christ." And how are we little Christs? By the fact that we take up our crosses daily, and suffer with him. In fact, consider the context of Romans 8. Suffering in Romans 8 consists of our struggle with sin. In fact, Paul even says that we "suffer with Him" this way.

If we base all our life on "purpose" or "40 days of purpose" or what not, the point is, that our desires, our obedience to God, etc., wax and wane. That is what I was meaning to refer to.

I know you have to admit, my brother, that your life and obedience to Christ waxes and wanes. You are not the same every day. Sometimes you have good days, other times, bad days. We all do. But we need a foundation that is unchangeable. If this foundation is our obedience, our "going out there" and "fulfilling the Great Commission", then we are destined to fail, b/c we are wandering and stubborn sheep.

Again, I'm not denying the necessity of these things, but I believe you are not giving them the proper context. It seems as though you are placing all the focus on sanctification, when you should be focusing on justification. Sanctification needs its proper context.

Finally, consider the conversation between Christ and the sheep and the goats on the last day of Judgment. It is the goats who are surprised and say "but, but, didn't we do all these things?". But they never had changed hearts--their sacrifices were a stench in God's nostrils.

But to the sheep, He says they did these things--yet they are surprised and can't seem to remember when they did these things. "When did we do these things?"

Why do you think the sheep are surprised? I think it's for a couple of reasons at least. First, I think they recognize that they are unworthy, wretched sinners--so how could anything good come from them *as persons*? The only good comes from Christ. But at the same time, it's now the nature of the sheep to want to be with God's people, to serve Christ, and to love Him. They just don't recognize it b/c they are aware of their sin.

Again, I oppose how many people try to contrast actions with the heart. This is exactly what Jesus opposed. He says if I have even looked at a woman lustfully, I committed adultery; if I hate, I have murdered. Yet I still hear people say stuff like "yeah, he may be gay, but is he a *practicing* homosexual?" Jesus never made such a distinction. We all fall into that trap. I see myself saying "well at least I didn't flirt with that girl", even after I lusted. It was just as bad as flirting with her or committing adultery.

It is not my actions that need to be justified. It is *who I am* that needs justification before God's throne of justice.

And that is precisely the power of the gospel, and the scandal of it--that God justifies ungodly sinners in their persons. Paul considered all his righteous achievements as dung, b/c he had an understanding of his own wretchedness.

"Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more."

Josh Brisby said...

Bro, maybe this will help our discussion. Have you *ever* loved the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all you soul, and with all your strength?

Anonymous said...

I strongly disagree that the primary function of the church is to feed the sheep. It is A function, but not the primary. How else would you even have sheep unless people were brought to Christ? How do you think they got there? By sitting in a church watching religious people have sacraments and follow a bulletin of worship? I think not. Once again, if you think that's the primary, you are content to sit fat with your own sanctification and get your fill off the Word and sacraments while others who are lost are in need of Christ. I would like to know what exactly you think is required to fulfill the Great Commission? Once again, I must boldly say that if your church does not fulfill the Great Commission as its primary purpose, you are attending nothing more than a feel-good Joel Osteen church, except the exact opposite: feel-bad-about-myself wretched church that can do some sacraments and hear some preaching. And what exactly is the purpose of that? Jesus said I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly. I don't know about you, but I'm not going to sit around and bemoan my wretchedness, I'm going to try each day to do what Christ commmanded, knowing I can and will fail sometimes, but the difference is I don't focus on my imperfection. I must keep moving on with the help of Christ, doing what He asked us to do. I cannot sit in a church that does nothing but feed its members and nothing else. I think we had too much of that growing up, to be perfectly honest.

Anonymous said...

the primary purpose of the local church as the church is *not* to evangelize the lost, but to feed the sheep

Josh, I'm sure you would agree with me that the primary purpose of the local church is indeed to evangelize, but Mark underestimates the need for the church to evangelize not just the lost, but also the found! This is central to TOC, that we don't just use the gospel at the beginning and then have no further need for it except to hand it out to others; we need the gospel every day! Imagine a soap salesman trying to hawk his amazing new product, "I used this stuff once back in 1973, and it changed my life!" Meanwhile, he stinks as bad as those he's trying to sell to.

Also, Piper had a great line: "Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church, worship is. Evangelism exists because worship doesn't"!!

Why else do you think God will say "well done my good and faithful servant" when you get to heaven? Do you think He would say that based on Him saving you? It wouldn't make sense!
You are correct, Mark, that the gospel is foolishness. The only reason God could say that to us, is that we have put on Christ like Isaac put on Esau's garment. Because Christ's life of perfect obedience is imputed to us, we smell to God just like his own firstborn, favorite son.

Thx for the linkage, Josh. Keep up the good work!

Josh Brisby said...

Mark, I understand your concern and can appreciate it. I agree that individual Christians need to be fulfilling the Great Commission. I know it's kind of a tangent, but my only point is "what makes a church a church?".

Perhaps you may think I'm saying one thing, when I'm saying another. I merely wish to point out that there is a difference between "church" and "individual Christians." I was meaning to speak of the local church.

To give some quick background that may help: when the Reformers left Roman Catholicism, they didn't do completely away with the idea of a visible expression of the local church, because naturally, people wanted to know "well if Rome isn't the true church, then where can I find it?". They didn't do away with the idea of "outside the church there is no salvation" (at least normally speaking) and they agreed that "you cannot have God as your Father if you don't have the church as your Mother."

So, they didn't think of the church as merely an invisible phenomenon (like a lot of Baptists and evangelicals today do). Instead, they answered that there *is* a visible church, and they said it has the three marks of the pure preaching of the Word (which Rome did not have), the proper administration of the sacraments (which Rome did not have), and church discipline (which Rome, still to this day, does not have--and sadly, many so-called churches lack this today too).

Sorry for the long background, but that's all I was saying when I said "church." This "church," this entity as expressed above--I am saying that its primary purpose is to feed the sheep *so that* they can go out and fulfill the Great Commission. Perhaps we're saying the same thing.

But I am saying that the church *should not* gear its services toward unbelievers, or to be "seeker-sensitive"--since the Bible tells us that no one "seeks" God in the first place. I submit as proof of my concern the state of the church today.

Josh Brisby said...

Rube, yes! Very good thoughts.

Josh Brisby said...

Mark, yes. I too echo Rube's concern here, getting back to the TOG vs. the TOC. And I see how it's connected to our differing views of the church. The gospel is the entire diet of the Christian, not just for the beginning of the Christian life. We need the gospel every day. It's not spiritual milk--it's the whole diet of the Christian.

It's not just "evangelize them and get them in, then move on." The Great Commission is to *disciple the nations*. Does that mean just bring them into the church and then leave them? Too much of that happens today.

No. "Teaching them everything I have commanded you." I dare say that that is what my church does--we disciple our covenant children, we feed our sheep, we train them in the faith. We do exactly what the Great Commission is saying. But to go out, "get them saved," and then move on, I dare say, is *not* fulfilling the Great Commission.

Anonymous said...

good points guys- but I do not understand your comment, Josh, that the Bible tells us no one seeks God. Where do you find that in the Bible? Does it not say "Seek ye first the kingdom of God.....etc? God created human beings for His pleasure, but also did not make us robots. We ALL make a conscious choice whether or not to seek God when the Gospel is presented to us. We can choose to accept or reject it. Even those who have never heard the Gospel will have no excuse based on the evidence of God's existence on the day of Judgement. So yes, I think true Christians do indeed seek God. Please elaborate on what you mean.

Anonymous said...

"no one seeks for God"
= Rom 3:11
= Ps 14:2-3
= Ps 53:2-3.

See also Rom 8:7.

Josh Brisby said...


True Christians seek God--sometimes.

But when Scripture says "no one seeks God," it is meaning that unbelievers do not seek God.

When you say "we have the choice to accept or reject the gospel," I would agree. A lion has a choice, too, whether to eat a bowl of vegetables, or lamb chops. The lion, of its own free will, will 100% of the time reject the bowl of vegetables, because they are foreign to its nature as a meat-eater.

Likewise, the unbeliever, 100% of the time, will always reject the gospel, of his own free will, because it is foreign to the nature of the flesh. See Romans 8:7-8; John 6:44ff.

Again, I ask you, when have you *ever* loved the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength? Have you *ever* obeyed this greatest commandment?

Anonymous said...

I think it all boils down to a choice of words- if unbelievers do not seek God, then how does anyone become a Christian? I think you mean that God DRAWS us in, so that technically speaking we do not start off seeking Him. And hey- watch it.....I'm a Baptist and I don't think my church is an invisible phenomenon.....

Josh Brisby said...


That's why I said "some" Baptists. :) But I was referring to their doctrine that the local church is mainly invisible, since they define "church" as "only those who are born again", and since no one can know for sure who really has been born again.

And I don't think the view that God draws unbelievers and then leaves the rest to them is biblical. :)