The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Beyond the cross of Calvary

The view from it encompasses God, the world, all humankind

The theology of the cross isn't just about Jesus' crucifixion and its meaning for us, although the cross of Calvary is, of course, its central symbol — its window on the world. The theologia crucis refers rather to a whole spirit and method of doing theology. And, as contemporary German theologian Juergen Moltmann put it succinctly in The Crucified God (Fortress Press, 1993), "Theologia crucis is not a single chapter in theology, but the key-signature for all Christian theology." It has as much to do with our understanding of God and the world and humankind and the church as it does with Jesus as the Christ and the doctrine of atonement.

I've found that the best way of capturing the spirit of this theological tradition is by considering the three so-called theological virtues named by Paul in the famous passage about love (agape) in 1 Corinthians 13: faith, hope and love. But to bring out the deeper meaning of these positive Christian virtues, it's necessary to make explicit what they negate, what they rule out. Without these clarifying negations, faith, hope and love too easily devolve into pious platitudes. So let's put it this way. The theology of the cross is a one of:

• Faith — not sight.
• Hope — not finality or consummation.
• Love — not power.

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February issue


Embracing diversity