Theologia gloriae (theology of glory) was the obverse of Luther’s theologia crucis (theology of the cross). He develops what he means by this binary in his Heidelberg Disputation. Rather than get into the historical details of its development I simply want to riff on a focus on his theologia gloriae. In a nutshell, Luther disdained the theologians who sought the praise of others. He primarily thought the scholastics did this by way of constantly referring to themselves, as they built their theological and ecclesial systems. What he accurately discerned was that the theologians of glory became so in-bred, so ‘built upon themselves,’ that they were no longer referring to Holy Scripture and its reality.
The theologian of glory, like the Pharisees Jesus confronts, as recounted in the Gospel of John, seek the praise of others. They are constantly referring to each other in the name of Jesus Christ. They are building on each other’s works rather than the works of Christ for them. As such their witness is compromised, even non-existent, as their ultimate point of witness is to the no-God of their own projection. They may have started out in the Spirit, but they are now being perfected by the flesh (to riff on the Apostle Paul). Theologians of glory are concerned with advancing themselves, with building CVs, with building clout among the peers, more than they are with receiving their sole approval from God. This is the danger the theologian of glory simply does not come to recognize because they are self-assured that they are ultimately theologians in the service of the Church. But what they really have become are servants to be seen by the Church; to receive accolades from their peers, and those they pontificate for. A theologian of glory, in modern parlance, might be considered a ‘rock star’ in his or her own context, and self-perception.
We all have this bent to become theologians of glory, but when its mode is institutionalized and tied to career advancement, it becomes all that more difficult to mortify. This is why I am so leery of academic theology, and the sub-culture it inhabits (and facilitates). It is shaped by a constant aim of being held in high esteem among the peers. It is about being seen physically, rather than focusing on the unseen as seen by the eyes of faith. My concern with this sort of institutionalized theological mode is that it inherently operates from a theology of glory; even if its practitioners object to this characterization; indeed, the objection might only help to illustrate its existence. Kyrie eleison
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“If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid.” (John 5:31)
“Even if I testify concerning myself, my testimony is true, because I know where I have come from and where I am going. But you do not know where I have come from or where I am going. You judge according to externals; I do not judge anyone. But even if I judge, my judgment is true, because I am not alone, but I and the Father who sent me. And even in your law it is written that the testimony of two men is true. I am the one who testifies concerning myself, and the Father who sent me testifies concerning me.” (John 8:14-18)
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