For the Louisburg Herald, June 23rd, 2010.
In his 1518 Heidelberg Disputation, Martin Luther classified two ways of looking at the world and God. Positively, a person is a Theologian of the Cross, or negatively, a Theologian of Glory. These are two rival theologies, and every person is one or the other according to how they contemplate God.
The Theologian of Glory (no matter his religion) easily contemplates the workings of God in the successes of his own life. He is able to divine the mind of God when he experiences some happy circumstance, comes into money, escapes a danger, enjoys a fortuitous moment, gets a promotion, recovers health, regains a relationship, or even when his foe has calamity. The Theologian of Glory does not really study God, yet he speaks often and confidently of Him. He speaks with the authority of scripture about the disposition of God regarding the smallest of happenings — as if he and God conversed face to face.
To derive the motives of God by talking about economic events, government, family, or nature is to mold God to our image. Spotting the divine disposition in ongoing human affairs is nothing other than projecting ourselves into the heavenly realm and calling it “God” — it is to interpret our convictions as God’s convictions and to name as “God” that which really names us.
In contrast, the authentic theologian sees God only as God has revealed himself. He sees the death of Jesus and discovers the love and justice of God. He looks upon the church and sees the body of Christ. Hearing the Bible, he hears the only sure Word from heaven. Personal success is not his lens for seeing the divine smile, but in suffering he spies the narrow path of life. The dying path leads to the triumph of God. The place where Jesus gave his life is where he secured God’s victory. He suffered for the kingdom of God and established the pattern for his disciples. The Cross became the paradigm for seeing rightly, and in seeing rightly, Jesus’ disciples become Theologians of the Cross.