Friday, September 14, 2007

The Cross and Glory: Friends or Foes?

This may seem poorly-timed in the light of my "Baby Steps to Holiness" post, but I've been doing some thinking about Luther's cross/glory antithesis (and what his followers have done with it), and I can't help but wonder whether the German reformer's pitting of the "theology of the cross" against the "theology of glory" betrays an under-realized eschatology.

The organic connection between the cross and glory that we find in the New Testament demonstrates that glory itself is not necessarily negative (for if it were, Satan's offering Christ the kingdoms of the world, and their glory, would have been meaningless), nor is the cross necessarily positive (after all, it is the cruelest form of execution ever devised). Rather, the cross is only good when it leads to glory, and conversely, glory is only bad when it circumvents the cross and shirks the suffering that it represents.

This is the point that the risen Lord was surely making when he asked his disciples, "Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?" (Luke 24:26). It is the very assurance of glory, therefore, that caused the Savior to set his face "like a flint" toward Jerusalem (Isa. 50:7; cf. Luke 9:51), and it is this same assurance of glory that causes his servants (who are not greater than their Master) to bear their crosses as well.

In a word, the cross is only half the story. Were it not for the "power of the resurrection" that results from the "fellowship of his sufferings" the people of God would be, of all men, the most pitiful. (Phil. 3:10; I Cor. 15:19). But we need not pity ourselves, nor must we accept the pity of the citizens of this age, for Peter insists that "the sufferings of Christ," by means of the resurrection, have inaugurated "the glories to follow" (I Pet. 1:11).

I would suggest that, in order to better integrate christology and pneumatology, we should label the New Covenant's semi-realized eschatology the "theology of the Spirit."

More to come....