How does it look to you?
There is in our day a peculiar resurgence in spirituality. I say peculiar, because by post modern predictions, you would expect men to be becoming less spiritual not more. That is not to say that I am encouraged by this resurgence in spirituality. I am not, because it seems to me, if I can borrow Luther’s famous comparison, the modern spirituality is much more a theology of glory than a theology of the cross.
What did Luther mean by that distinction? The theology of glory, sees no need to approach God through the cross, choosing instead to look for God in world through the cold dead eyes of the natural man. Dead in sin, unable to see the Kingdom of God, and forbidden from entering, the natural man tries never the less to climb up to God with His own thoughts, through His own efforts to discover and define God has seems best to him.
The assumption seems to be that the sacred is accessible to men, open to our approach, to our investigation. That we can access the spiritual realm in our own way, on our own terms, for our own pleasure, and all, as Calvin would say, by the yardstick of our own carnal stupidity.
The tragic thing in all of this, of course, is that the Theology of Glory reaches up for God, ignorant that all the while, God Himself has taken the initiative to reach down to us — in a way we would never expect to find Him, and to a place we would never dream of looking. At the cross.
At the cross the power of God unto salvation came to us wrapped up in weakness. At the cross the Light of God was lost in the darkness. At the cross the mercy of God was revealed through Judgment. At the cross the victory of God was won through defeat. At the cross the Life of God was given through to death. To the eyes of the Theologian of Glory, the cross is just to ugly a place to be beautiful. It takes faith to see through the appearance of things and to see anything more.
On the cross, the glory of God was hidden behind the form of a bondservant, in the likeness not merely of flesh, but in the likeness of sinful flesh. Macleod puts it well:
there he hangs, in agony, almost demented, bearing all the marks of a criminal, a vicious, godless blasphemer, to whom the pious mothers of Israel might point as a warning to their own sons: ‘That’s what happens to evil men’. The Son of God was hell-bound.
You would never have looked at Him and thought here is God incarnate. You would never have said, This is the way I always imagined God would look!
The key mark of a theology of glory is the penchant for judging spiritual things by their natural appearance — how they look to the eyes of the flesh. The Theologian of glory assumes, if these things impress me, well they must impress God! If they look glorious in my eyes, then they must be really be glorious.
Where do we see the theology of glory in our age? Well in a number of places. Let’s start with the really obvious... In our love of mega churches and celebrity pastors. How do you spot a place where God is really on the move, on the move, doing many mighty things? Well you look or a place where people are denying themselves, serving one another, enduring much hardship with the joy of the Holy Ghost. Right? No, the theologian of glory says, follow the nickels and the noses! There’s the glory, baby!
Do we not see it in our Our Theology of Glory is seen in our penchant for re-designing worship by how we think it should be. It’s not that we deliberately ignore the Word of God, you understand, but we assume God sees things the way we do, and so our dependence upon the bare Word as our only rule of faith and practice begins to slip.
So focus on creating the kind of atmosphere human beings enjoy. We tone down the seriousness of public worship, in creating a more relaxed vibe, as if there was nothing to be feared in the presence of the Almighty. An atmosphere, I fear that says a lot more about our desire to feel comfortable, to approach God on terms of our own liking, than it does about our desire to meet God as He reveals Himself to be.
Might the same attitude not explain our demand for worship songs that sound more and more like country and western love songs and less and less like Psalms. Few care to ask, what does the Bible say about our music. As long as it pleases us, the thinking goes, it must be ok!
I see a Theology of Glory in our depressing penchant of explaining away the Sabbath Day — not because we have done any serious Biblical study on the matter, but simply because it doesn’t fit in with the way we like to do Sundays, with the way our friends like to do Sundays. And so we assume, God mustn’t be that concerned with the Sabbath because we aren’t. Really? I mean, this is not some obscure law in the Old Testament about how you shave you beard, we are talking about one of the ten commandments here. And yet people seem happy to dispense with it with apparently any serious study, and even less serious prayer.
You understand, I am not trying to force you to embrace my view of the Sabbath, to follow all of the Stewart Family practices, nor am I in any way meaning to imply that you are bad person if you don’t. It is possible I am mistaken. Is that likely? That's a separate question. The question I want you consider is: Have you studied this subject for yourself to know one way or the other? Does the Bible justify our natural desire to forget one of the Ten Commandments, the very one God Himself has told us to remember? God expects us to have thought this question through, to have prayed it through, and to make an informed Biblical decision. Have you? But remember, when you do, don’t be a theologian of glory— whether a well-spent Sabbath looks glorious to you, isn’t the question. What does God think? That’s all that really matters, when we’ve got our heads on straight!