Monday, June 25, 2018

A note on Gerhard Forde's 1997 On Being a Theologian of the Cross

1997 On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, 1518
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

This is a note on the content as I begin reading this work.

Forde distances his interpretation of the theology of the cross from the vicarious atonement at the beginning of this book in the  introduction “Two Stories.”
“The biblical story of the fall has tended to become a variation on the theme of the exiled soul. The unbiblical notion of a fall is already a clue to that. Adam, originally pure in soul, either by nature or by the added gift of grace was tempted by baser lusts and ‘fell,’ losing grace and drawing all his progeny with him into a ‘mass of perdition.’ Reparation must be made, grace restored, and purging carried out so that return to glory is possible. The cross, of course, can be quite neatly assimilated into the story as the reparation that makes the return possible. And there we have  a tightly woven theology of glory!” (p. 6, italics original)
It is essential to notice that Forde is equating the vicarious atonement with “a tightly woven theology of glory.” Forde plainly states that one main purpose in writing this work is explicitly to remove the vicarious atonement from the idea of the theology of the cross. In paragraph following the above quotation Forde wrote:
“This fateful amalgamation of the glory story with the cross story [his above statement about the vicarious atonement] is the hidden presupposition for the deadly combat between the theology of glory and the theology of the cross. Indeed, one of the difficulties in the attempt to set the theology of the cross apart from the theology of glory is that the differences between the two are often very subtle. Obviously they use much the same language in Christian theological circles. One purpose of this treatise is to attempt to make the differences clearer. … [The theology of the cross] does not ask us to probe endlessly for a meaning behind or above everything that would finally awaken, enlighten, and attract the exiled, slumbering soul.” (pp. 6-7)
Forde then quotes Luther about how we should consider that we are the ones who are torturing Christ, “for your sins have surely wrought this…” (p.8) Confessional Lutherans, along with Luther, understand that this is not only our doing, but Christ willingly giving Himself to suffer punishment on our behalf. But Forde steers clear of Luther’s language about the vicarious nature of Christ’s Cross. In this Forde is consistent with his earlier published views on the Atonement of Christ.

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