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In surveying Luther's theses of the Heidelberg Disputation, three things come to mind: counter-intuition, reason over turned, and mental stumbling blocks. When one reads them, as was the intent of its author, one can't help but feel frustrated by the seeming "il-logic" behind them. However, when one accepts these theses true, as any Christian should (considering how closely they're aligned with the one true Gospel) one will have his reason in its "right" place. Let me illustrate.
Now, imagine, if you will, a moon-less midnight, standing at one end of a grand and level playing field. Now, just run as quickly as possible to the other side without falling; if you fall, no worries, just start again. The task is relatively simple. The field is fairly flat, plenty of room in either direction to go slightly off course if need be, just stand up straight, keep balance, and run to the other side. No problems, right?
Wrong! You didn't think it was going to be that easy, did you? Well, what you don't know and can't see for that matter is that for every few feet of field, a trench is dug in such a way so as to trick those who look at the field from one of its ends into thinking it even and steady terrain ahead. Surprise! Now run! But remember, don't fall, lest you wish to start again!
That's the kind of experience one has when reading through the theses of the Heidelberg Disputation. We use reason like our body, we expect, with all things being equal, that we, like with the football field, should be able to negotiate simple propositions before us. However, what may look simple, unbeknownst to us, is really laden with ankle twisting snares, things that frustrate and hinder our "progress". What's even more deceiving, is to come to an understanding, a peace with the fact that those ankle twisting snares are there for our own good. Without them, we wouldn't be humbled, we wouldn't fall to our knees and cry to the Lord, "have mercy on me, a sinner", we wouldn't see our fallen nature as God wants us to see it.
This is Luther's purpose. In the Heidelberg Disputation he displays two paths for a theologian. The first is the theologian of glory (hereafter referred to as TOG). He is a proud creature. Inclined towards works righteousness, TOG believes that he's capable of earning God's favor by his good deeds. Also, as one who relies primarily on his own understanding of things, he judges God's favor with him by his five senses. If things are going well, God must love him, however, if things are going bad, then God is judging him for not doing things right.
What truly confounds the reason of TOG is when he does all the things right that he's supposed to (in TOG eyes, of course), yet, God clearly shows his disfavor as displayed by TOG's poor circumstances. It causes him frustration and boldly he cries out to his maker, "why do the righteous suffer while the wicked prosper?" When he receives no answer, he assumes God must be testing him, and if he survives the test to the end, then he, and God of course, are proud of a job well done.
However, there is something that equally confounds TOG's reason, why are things going so well when privately he's consumed by his pet vices? Surely God see's his evil deeds, why hasn't he punished him yet? TOG assumes God must be saving up his wrath to unleash on him in a torrent of punishment unlike anything he's ever seen before. TOG, out of fear must appease this wrathful God by doing an equal amount of good works (if such a thing were possible). His life is a balancing act, balancing the weights of God justice with good works for evil ones. He walks a tight-rope with Hell on either side. One mis-step and all is lost.
When TOG reads scripture he finds Law in Gospel passages, and Gospel in Law passages. Words of comfort bring him terror and dread. Stern words of Law bring him comfort. You see, the Gospel tells him his salvation depends on somebody else. All of TOG' s actions revolve around himself, for he is the only one he can trust. How can someone elses works be accredited to him. Does God really expect him to put all his trust in Christ's work, doesn't God want him to do good things too? Ah, the Law! Now, the Law is something he can get behind, because he knows if he does his best, if he does what's in him, God will meet him in the middle and reward him for his efforts. God has never explained this to him, as a matter fact, this kind of idea is no where to be found in scripture. In fact, scripture points in the other direction. But, he knows this by intuition, he knows in his heart of hearts this is true. Let his heart be true and everyone else, including God, be a liar.
If the Heathen raises rational opposition to TOG's God, he is quick to make God's actions reasonable. If the Heathen asks how a good and omnipotent God could allow evil to take place, TOG will go on an endless theodicy to justify God's actions. He fears the Heathen's judgment. He fears there is a "ring of truth" in the accusation, for deep down he knows it doesn't square with his reason either, and can't accept that his God, could very well be a devil. Inflicting pain and suffering on innocent people, what good and all-powerful God would do such a thing? TOG's reason, er...that is...God must be defended at all costs.
Most importantly, TOG looks at the cross with confusion. How can Christ gain victory in defeat? How can the murder of such a righteous man ever be called good? No, he'd rather concentrate his theology on Christ's resurrection and skip over all that unpleasant mess of the Cross. He'd rather focus on the gloriousness he shares with Christ than the hideousness Christ shares with him in his sin.
The truth is, we are all TOG! In the heart of every one of us lies a Pharisee. A self righteous hypocrite who longs to water down God's Law and tread the Gospel underfoot so as to appease our personal "impression" of God instead of the true and living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We who desperately want to understand God outside of His chosen method of revelation are also the same persons who upon claiming great knowledge of God in His glory, would attempt to correct even God Himself if He were to show us a different way. We are people who make idols of our own reason instead of submitting our reason to God's Word. We are people who pretend to look upon the glorious hidden things of God, His private councils, His wisdom, and claim to go on and continue living.
The funny thing is I don't doubt TOG, we do indeed look at glorious things. I have no doubt that what we claim to receive is from none other than "an angel of light". However, we know what the Bible says about such things (2 Cor. 11:14, Rom. 11:33-36).
The question I leave you with is simple, are you a theologian of glory? Do you long to know the glorious things of God, instead of letting God be God and taking your rightful place under his grace and mercy given us in the cross of Christ? Did you feel uncomfortable while I described the theologian of glory and his sinful ways? If you did, then repent for the Lord our God is merciful and longs to forgive us of our iniquity. However, we must accept the image God gives us of ourselves, we must submit ourselves to the image of the man on the cross, so that the image of God can be restored in us.