Book Review: On Being A Theologian Of The Cross (Forde)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Forde’s book titled, “On Being a Theologian of the Cross” is definitely a small shot of espresso.  It only pushes past 100 pages but is a rich explanation of the heart of Martin Luther’s 1518 Heidelberg Disputation.  He divides the 28 Theses of Luther into 4 digestible sections that are explained below.

The Problem with Good Works:  Theses 1-12
Forde shares the dangers and problems with works in connection to salvation by grace through faith.  Works become seductive when one is tempted into believing and/or depending on them as a basis for one’s worth or value eternally speaking.  As a result one becomes addicted to their spiritual projects so as to acquire one more nature of works righteousness.  Furthermore, works are a problem because they are ‘good’ on the outside but when done apart from faith they are in essence evil.

The Problem with the Will:  Theses 13-18
Forde expounds on the problem of mankind’s will.  It is bound due to the fall and becomes aggressive of the thought of having someone over top of it.  Forde goes on to explain that the will is free to only do good in a ‘passive voice’ context yet free to do evil in an ‘active voice’ context.

The Great Divide:  The Way of Glory versus the Way of the Cross:  Theses 19-24
In theses 19-24 Forde lays out that a Theology of Glory and a Theology of the Cross can be thought of as two completely different theologies.  From here the theses flesh out the implications of these two theologies in expressing that a supporter of Glory Theology consciously or subconsciously actually destroys and obstructs the cross of Christ.  One of the ways that this happens is through a Glory Theologian’s rejection of suffering and reality in the context of their theology.

God’s Work in Us:  The Righteousness of Faith: Theses 25-28
The final portions of Forde’s book focuses on the flow of righteousness.  Does righteousness flow to faith or from faith.  Furthermore, Forde spends time talking about the motivation of the Gospel.

In my humble opinion Forde’s book is one of the best and most important books that one could read in understanding the difference between Glory and Cross Theology.  From Forde it is evident that one must analyze and understand their theological presuppositions when approaching scripture.  The reason being, the lens of Glory Theology can subconsciously twist, impede and warp one’s reading of the Bible.  Does man ascend to God or does God descend to mankind?  Is righteousness obtained through active works or is it received in the passive voice as a gift.  In other words, the two main exegetical presuppositions of Glory Theology (i.e. ascent theology and active righteousness) become a problem when these presuppositions are not addressed or realized when one approaches scripture.  For when one approaches scripture with a lens of glory theology, the scriptures are read by putting the starting point and spiritual burden on mankind.