Martin Luther wrote about what he saw were the two predominant theologies that existed, the theology of glory and the theology of the cross. At the risk of over-simplification, the theology of glory includes the belief that our own works contribute to either our salvation (as in our determination to repent) or our sanctification; that we can work our way “from glory to glory.”
The theology of the Cross keeps people coming back to the finished work of Christ for everything.
There’s an interesting group of folks who call themselves “Resurgence,” who are dedicating to bringing the gospel back into evangelicalism. Most of them seem to be Calvinists, but they are really into Martin Luther. (I think some of them like to think Luther was really a Calvinist, but he wasn’t.) They have an interesting website, if you can get past the extra-large print and graphics they use. I don’t really know what they are thinking… but that’s beside the point.
In looking at Luther’s 1518 Disputation, Matt Johnson writes a nice little post entitled Why your failures are a blessing. It’s worth reading. Of note is the following quote from another interesting blog called Mockingbird:
“Theologians of the Cross take great comfort in the thought that, when they are suffering, encountering difficulties of every kind, it is not a sign of God’s abandonment or displeasure, but is, in fact, a mark of His presence and work in our lives…Of course, the problem is, none of us actually believes this…” – via R-J HEIJMEN at Mockingbird
In case you don’t go read the whole post, here’s Matt’s conclusion:
The cross shows us that we are powerless in our ideas of self-salvation. The cross also reminds us that God’s purposes are accomplished even amidst suffering. And sometimes, especially in suffering. Knowing this may not help us feel better when things are going poorly or always give us clarity when bad things happen. But what we do know is this: God deals with sin once and for all at the cross.