Martin Luther, one of our “magisterial reformers,” framed his construct of theology in complete antithesis to the “scholastic” theology of his day. He believed that the “theology of glory,” which was the integration of Aristotelian categories with Christian theology (Thomism) was an absolute travesty and had a perverting affect upon the pure teaching of the scriptures. This, I believe, can be argued as the real impetus for the Protestant reformation, at least from Luther’s perspective (see his Heidelberg Disputation—also see Melancthon’s loci communes–also see McGrath’s book a helpful resource on this issue).

The “theology of Glory” elevates human reason to a level that indeed places man above God’s Word rather than “under” it. Luther offered something different, “the theology of the cross.” This serves as the real gateway to knowing God. This emphasizes the via positiva (the positive way of theology, i.e. revealed cataphatic theology), rather than the via negativa (the negative way of theology, i.e. speculative apophatic theology) which defines God relative to what man is not; i.e. “man is not all powerful—then God is all powerful, etc.”. Luther believed that Thomism contributed to the notion of God being the “unmoved mover,” impassible, cold contractual giving, inward focused (God’s immanent character) entity. This just does not line up with the God of the scriptures, i.e. Philip. 2:5-8, I Cor. 1:17-25, etc. A God who does not consider equality with the Father something to be grasped; in other words He is outward focused. He demonstrates active love by humbling Himself and becoming obedient to the point of death upon the cross. This does not line up with the Thomistic God of classical theism (of any era).

God might appear “hidden” (absconditus dues) to those who follow the “theology of Glory” and build theological constructs upon “negative” models. But to those theologians of the cross, God’s hiddeness is in fact the only gateway to true knowledge of Him. The Corinthian church made this mistake, see I Cor. 1—4, they thought they could know God by “man-centered” constructs (i.e. theology of Glory); but they were wrong (the consequence is evinced in the schisms and weakness to live the Christian life). Paul accuses them, by drawing them in rhetorically in the first two chapters (by describing a wisdom that is worldly and “out there”), of viewing the cross of Christ as foolish and weak. Then in chapter three (the old bait and switch) he lets them know that they themselves (not just the world “out there”) were the ones who had embraced a “wisdom system” that made them view the cross as weak and foolish.

Luther picks up on theology like that mentioned above (I Cor), and views this as the genuine way to “do” theology. We should follow his lead, and engage in doing “positive theology”, i.e. biblical theology/focusing on what is revealed (cf. Deut. 29:29). This approach of doing theology emphasizes using the “spectacles of God’s Word” as the ordained instrument for understanding God, us, and nature (i.e. Calvin’s duplex cognitio domini). If we continue to engage, within classical theism, the “theology of Glory” my concern is that we (in the end) are only studying ourselves, and not God.

The Theology of Cross shows us for who we are, and makes us cry out with Jesus to the Father. It shows us that we are in complete dependence on God’s work upon our lives, and this dependence must be the “foundation” and entry portal by which we engage and know God. I.e. Self must be taken out of the way. The theology of the cross deals first with attitude and stance relative to God, which logically leads the theologian to “God’s” disclosure and revelation (e.g. Bible) as the source for “doing theology”. This does not mean philosophy should not be engaged, in a subsidiary sense, when doing theology; it means that God’s Word should be the arbiter and the methodological framing that is used to determine the trajectory of all of “our” talk about Him.