Theology of the cross

The theology of the cross is the name given by Martin Luther to a theological approach which looks to the cross as the centre, source and sum of Christian theology. He contrasted it with the various theologies of glory, which are founded upon the idea that humans can, by using what is within them, reach God's righteousness or revelation. Both these concepts were introduced in Luther's Heidelberg Disputation of 1518, where he described the difference between the two theologies.

"What is, after all, the subject matter of a theology of the cross? Is it simply a repetition of the Passion story? Hardly. Is it then perhaps just another treatment of the doctrine of atonement? Not really. Is it just an account of an unusual sort of religious experience, a kind of spirituality, as we might say today? That may be closer to the truth, but still not exactly. It is rather a particular perception of the world and our destiny, what Luther came to call looking at all things through suffering and the cross."^ [1]^

The cross as righteousness

The cross as revelation

"Of all the places to search for God, the last place most people would think to look is the gallows."^[2]^


  1. ? Forde, Preface, p. XII
  2. ? Kolb, p. 443.

Further reading

  • Forde, Gerhard O. On being a Theologian of the Cross, Eerdmans, 1997. ISBN 080284345X
  • Kolb, R. Luther on the Theology of the Cross. Lutheran Quarterly, vol. 16, no. 4, p. 443. pdf