What is the Theology of Glory vs the Theology of the Cross? Answered by Jon Moffitt
Hi, this is Jon, and today on Ask Theocast, I’m answering the question, “What is the difference between a theology of the cross versus a theology of glory?”
This is a theology that is as old as the mountain, it’s been around forever. Martin Luther is the one who kind of brought it back to life and compared the two theologies.
So let me explain what the first one is, a theology of glory. It is this idea that we are always improving, we’re getting better and can get better. The more faith we have or the more work we put into our life, we will see financial blessing, health, protection, and progress- it’s always about the progress of the Christian life. We’re moving up and onward, and the design of God is this very purpose: the more we put in by faith and obedience, the more we give to God, then the more God will bless us. The reason why it’s called a theology of glory is because it’s for our own glory- the more that we are doing, the more we’re advancing- it is pointing towards us.
In contrast, a theology of the cross is the exact opposite of everything that has to do with the theology of glory. When we are called into faith with Christ, we are called to die with him. Paul says in Philippians 2 that not only have we been called to believe, we have been gifted or granted to believe, but also to suffer for his sake. As we enter into this relationship with God, there is not a guarantee of our health being protected or our wealth being protected. Rather we are told multiple times by Peter and Paul that we are going to suffer for the sake of the cross.
In Second Corinthians, Paul talks about God giving him a thorn in the flesh. He asked God three times to take it away. In the end, God said no, and said that “my grace is sufficient for you.” Paul says that in calamity and suffering and destruction, all of this is exposing his weakness, and he says, “when I am weak, then I am strong.” Where Paul puts his hope and his rest is in the grace of God that comes to him. Where is the center point and the center focus of grace? It is always in the cross because it’s in the cross that all of our sin is being forgiven and all that is needed to have a new life, to be adopted, and to be in the presence of God is granted to us through the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.
What we are being told today is that if we do more and try harder, then God will provide protection and blessing and healing, that just does not line up with what the New Testament tells us. All of the apostles- except for John, who died of old age- but all the rest of the apostles died of horrendous deaths, and it wasn’t because they didn’t have enough faith or that God didn’t protect them. For 2000 years, you have seen Christians who are being persecuted, who die from disease, who die of cancer, who die in accidents. Is it because God wasn’t protecting them? We have never been told that God will come in, and for those who faithfully follow him, he will give them this protection. There’s a confusion of the promises given to Israel for the nation of Israel, for the purpose of bringing us a Messiah, and confusion of the new heavens and the new earth.
We are almost trying to bring the new heavens and the new earth here and now, and that’s a theology of glory. We live in what’s called an already-not-yet state. We already have all the forgiveness of God and the benefits and the promises of God. The not yet part is that we live in a Romans 8 world, where we are told that the earth is groaning, it has been cursed, and our bodies are awaiting redemption. As we wait, we are looking forward to the day of the not yet, where God will give us the same body that Christ has. He is described as the first fruits. He is the one to demonstrate what life will look like when we are raised from the dead, but that’s not yet.
So we live in the already. We have redemption. We have forgiveness. We are being sanctified. We’re being transformed, but we’re not glorified. We don’t live in that new state. That’s the not yet. So we live every day trusting in the grace of God. This is why Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He doesn’t mean the advancement of my finances or of my health. He means as I am still living in the sin-sick, broken world, the power of Christ in me will sustain me to accomplish what it is that I’ve been put here to do, which is to love my neighbor and to be a part of my church and to advance the gospel. Paul writes, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” to the church who is being persecuted.
A theology of the cross understands that we live in a sin-sick world, full of pain, full of suffering, full of anxiety and that it is the grace of God that will get us through. A theology of glory is basically the idea that the more you do, the more faith you have, then the more relief God will provide. And that’s just not what scripture tells us.
So hopefully this is helpful for you to understand that it is not your fault if you get cancer, or if a calamity happens, or if there’s suffering- that is part of living in a sinful world. We rely on the grace of God to get us through, and one day we will be in the new heavens and the new earth, where all sin will be done away with, where God will wipe away our tears. So, for now, we live the theology of the cross. We look to Christ, we understand there’s suffering and pain, but one day it’ll all be removed. Hopefully, this is encouraging. Please continue to send in your questions and we’ll see you next week.