Do We Lutherans Need To Move Beyond The Cross; Is Our Cross Theology Too Narrow?

917645_crossMany Christians regard Lutherans as being very one-sided or narrow in their theology. The accusation is that we Lutherans shrink the church year together into Good Friday. In other words, Lutherans are often blamed for making every day Good Friday, while ignoring the other major themes of the church year.  We are accused of failing to move beyond the cross to the resurrection.  A recent comment from a reader on my personal blog PM Notes captures the concern well,  “All too often evangelicals across the board focus exclusively on Christ’s death and not near enough (if any) on his resurrection. The power of the gospel is that Christ ROSE from the dead; it’s our future hope to rise as well!” Hermann Sasse in his book We Confess also addresses these criticisms towards Lutherans.  He states that we are accused of only focusing on the cross, only one fact among others in the Second Article of the Apostle’s Creed.

“What a constriction of Christian truth Luther has been guilty of!  How can true Christian theology be limited to a theology of the cross, as if there were not also a theology of the resurrection…?”[1]

So, what shall be our response?  Is the choice between the cross and the resurrection?  Are we only faced with two options, the cross and the rest of the Bible’s doctrines?  If so, should we fight for the cross at the expense of diminishing other Biblical themes?  Should we simply loosen up our passion for Luther’s theologia crucis?  Thankfully the choice is not between the cross and other Biblical themes, for this would be an example of an either-or logical fallacy.  The choice is not between two alternative doctrines as the only possibilities.

Sasse responds to these apprehensions  saying,

“Obviously the ‘theology of the cross’ does not mean that for a theologian the church year shrinks together into nothing but Good Friday. Rather, it means that Christmas, Easter and Pentecost cannot be understood without Good Friday.”[2]

Sasse goes on to state,

“Always it is from the cross that everything is understood, because hidden in the cross is the deepest essence of God’s revelation.”[3]

What this means is that we don’t avoid the themes of Creation, the work of the Holy Spirit, the Resurrection, and so forth.  Rather, when we speak of these themes we do so with seeing the cross in the background and we do so within the shadow of the cross.  Otherwise stated, we embrace these Biblical themes, preach them, and teach them while we understand them in light of the Cross, but never apart from the Cross.

 

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[1] Hermann Sasse, We Confess: Anthology translated by Norman Nagel (Concordia Publishing House), 38.

[2] Sasse, 39.

[3] Ibid.

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