With Jesus and Paul on a Theology of Glory: Only Blindness Dwells There

I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?  Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” -John 5:41-47 

This is the Dominical theology of glory; Martin Luther has his own, corollary, theologia gloriae. The greatest irony to me is that Jesus is directing this to the theologians of His day. He wasn’t calling out the ‘common people’ who ‘heard him gladly;’ He is confronting the religious, and theological leaders of His day, who of all people should have known better! They should have known that the Christ, that He was the King of kings and promised Messiah of Israel. But because they were so invested in receiving praise from each other, they couldn’t even believe in the God they said they were talking and debating about ad infinitum. The most staggering thing to me is that when, in general, a person is seeking the approval of others, rather than God’s, that they cannot believe in (or trust) God at a primordial level. And yet this is humanity’s basic orientation from conception. We are, by fallen nature, given to vicious and perduring fits of incurved focusedness, and a desire to receive accolades from our peers; and we’ll deceive ourselves, in self-deprecating ways, by using the name of Jesus to glaze our “praises” and “glories” in a way that they might appear to be for Him and not us. This is largely what shapes the spirit of the theological and clerical guilds; it is a praise from others rather than God that funds this universe. 

Au contraire, the Apostle Paul, following His Master, Jesus, writes: 

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. -Galatians 1:10 

This is hard teaching, who can hear it?! This orientation is so pervasive, and collectively present to the human condition, that even when we read posts like this—ones attempting to alert us to the ‘condition’—we can agree, but then continue on performing as if we have somehow transcended the ailments of theologia gloriae. Once we believe that we have a foundation that is genuinely Jesus Christ, even as we have sublated that foundation with a foundation of our own ‘glorious’ constructing, we will begin building that out in the direction it has provided shape for. It is either a foundation built on a theologia crucis (theology of the cross) or a theologia gloriae; really, only time, and more to the point, the Eschatos will reveal which one. Fortunately, cause God is a God of grace, He remembers our ‘frames are but dust.’ As such, He assumed our theologia gloriae, and through His theologia crucis He made a way for us to live genuine lives of belief rather than unbelief; ones of trust of God, rather than fear of others. As Paul notes further: 

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. -I Corinthians 3:10-15 

It is upon this foundation, the one that God has laid, and not us, that us theologians of glory have hope. Even so, we are prone to wander. We are crafty, like serpents at points, to the level that we can delude ourselves into thinking that the ‘work’ we’re doing is the ‘Father’s business,’ when in fact it is actually ours. When this mode of doing business becomes institutionalized into the normal structures of life, it is at this juncture that the persons involved require a radical in-breaking of God’s life for them in Christ. Only Christ, God’s power for the world, has the capacity to collapse such pretenses, and reduce them into the rubble that they are. Truly, as Paul points-up, ‘saved’ ‘redeemed’ people can commit great error and evil, and do so all in the name of Christ; the fire will reveal whether it was straw or gold that was being polished in the mean-time.  

May our lives reflect the gold of Christ’s life for us; and as those who are participatio Christi, may we constantly be reckoning ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ; with hopes that we might indeed transcend theologies of glory, and genuinely live out theologies of the cross. It is in this ‘living out’ wherein we become witnesses to Jesus Christ, and do so as we are cast, daily, upon the One who raises the dead. But there isn’t much self-glory in this, indeed there is none; who can hear it!  

3 thoughts on “With Jesus and Paul on a Theology of Glory: Only Blindness Dwells There

  1. Hi Bobbly
    Thanks for your write! Just adding to the conversation and where I find myself today!

    “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). This is the mystery within all humanity, that Paul himself was awakened to (Galatians 1:15-16). Paul like all of us was born with desires from others that he accepted and which became his own belief system.
    It is always from the outside in, from flesh and blood through the senses. These in turn become our own flesh desires that we project onto others, a behaviour problem that is the fruit, but not the root!
    We all have forgotten our root identity. We are all children of light/life from eternity! (John 1: 9, 2 Timothy 1: 9&10).
    Jesus within us awakens us again from the first to his faith (hope of glory) so that we may come to believe from the inside out, a likeness that speaks Spirit and Truth to others! We no longer see people according to the flesh, but from the Spirit! (2 Corinthians 5:16) My own work will be burned up, His will reveal hope and glory in all! May I come to rest in that!

    That I may learn to speak the language of God without pre-justice and ownership, but in the light of Jesus and His presence “now”, without distance and delay.



  2. John, I hear ya. But I think you’re sounding more mystical and introspective than the Apostle Paul was. Paul was concretely confronted by Christ’s physical resurrectional reality on the Damascus road. The “mystery” canonically has to do with what the OT prophets of old referred to without knowing exactly what that entailed. They never could have imagined that it entailed the inclusion of the Gentiles in the Kingdom of God etc. But I do agree that Christ became us that we by the grace of adoption might become what He alone is by nature. It is from this external concrete reality that confronts us afresh and anew moment by moment that we are transformed from glory to glory. But it is important to qualify that this is not something we immanently possess, but a reality that transcendently breaks-into our lives afresh and anew. So, this is nothing we possess, but a reality we are possessed by, as God has purchased us by His shed blood in Jesus Christ.

    I just get worried when the Creator/creature distinction is collapsed too much. It is highly important to emphasize the alien extra nos (outside of us) reality of who God is for us. Ie He is not contingent on us. He does not “awaken” us to something interior to us, inherently. He confronts us in our sins with His righteousness demonstrated in the Incarnation and the cross.


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