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On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, 1518 (Theology) Paperback – October, 1997

4.8 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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About the Author

Gerhard O. Forde was professor of theology at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He also taught at Luther College in Iowa and St. Olaf College in Minnesota. His many publications includeJustification by Faith: A Matter of Life and Deat and Where God Meets Man: Luther's Down-to-Earth Approach to the Gospel
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Product Details

  • Series: Theology
  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; Theology edition (October 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080284345X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802843456
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #337,881 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Scott Johnson on June 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
Amazing - five years after beginning seminary and after two years of ordained ministry, I still believe that all Christians should read ON BEING A THEOLOGIAN OF THE CROSS. This book was life-changing for me during a stormy first year of seminary; I still read it annually and find myself challenged and comforted by Dr. Forde's utter trust in the cross of Christ as proof that God will have mercy on sinners, even if it kills Him (and then the cross begins its work on us).

Dr. Forde died this past fall after a lengthy battle with Parkinson's Disease. I was one of several hundred Lutheran pastors who had the privilege of studying under Dr. Forde at Luther Seminary, and from personal experience I can tell you that the rapier wit and laser-like focus of OBTC are a reflection of the man who wrote the words. For Christians, Forde always argued, seeking God away from the cross of Christ is dangerous because it is in the cross that God means to be found.

Dr. Forde's radical work challenges us all in our addiction to salvation through good works, a false hope if ever there was one. With brilliant clarity Forde makes the case that Luther made so radically in his own day: that the cross alone saves, and it saves us as much from our ambitions as it does our sin.
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In this gem, O Forde first gives some historical background to Luther's Heidelberg Disputation (nothing to do with the Heidelberg Catechism). Then he proceeds to compare throughout the book the Thologian of Glory with the Theologian of the Cross using the 25 thesis's of the Disputation. All along as it develops through sin, law, good works to the cross he hems in and leaves no escape for the 'theologian of glory' except death to self and faith in Christ for obtaining righteousness before God. Masterfully done. Chock full of Luther quotes/references.
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For those who love theology as I do, this is a masterpiece of theological analysis that goes intot great detail into one of Luther's great treatises.

On initial perusal of the Heidleberg disputation, one may not be familiar with the issues that Luther wished to address at the time. Known perhaps more popularly for his 99 theses, this disputation is more clear example of Luther's thoughts on what being a "theologian of the cross" really means. Forde challenges anyone to, with Luther, be very careful in acting more like a "theologian of glory", as Luther put it, than a theologian of the cross. The latter instance is more difficult, for it means believing in a God that underatnd suffering, a God that is scandalous in his desire to be known as a god who is known for showing power in extreme weakness, in a human that hangs from a cross.

On the other hand, Forde is careful not to let Luther's disputation put forth a view that theology is about a "suffering" God per se, but that we do not know God through lofty ideas such as "omnipotence" and "glory". Forde, using Luther, brings balance to the concept of grace, sin and suffering.

This book is a must for those interested in issues durrounding the Reformation and Luther's theology of grace.
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"The Love of God does not first discover but creates what is pleasing to it." Thesis 28.

My dog-eared copy of this book got that way through reading it during my daily commutes on the train through Heidelberg, Germany, where Luther delivered his Disputation in front of his Augustinian Order. As an Army Chaplain, and familiar with much suffering, I've found deep solace in knowing that suffering is God's "alien" work in me. He humbles me and brings me to the cross, the place of Christ's suffering, where I can do nothing but throw myself on His mercy. The Cross changes EVERYTHING, and this book has thrown that truth into sharp focus, both theologically and practically, in my living and my preaching.

Through suffering God creates us for His love. "God simply refuses to be known in any other way." The cross alone is our theology, and this book has been indispensable, to me, in coming to that conviction.

Chaplain Mark Nordstrom, US Army
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Gerhard O. Forde opens the heart of Luther's theology in this little book of his: Luther's beliefs on sin, the bondage of the human will, the inability of the unsaved person outside Christ to do a "good" work in God's eyes, and salvation by grace alone in the cross of Christ.
Yes, this book is small--yet what a book it is! In this book Forde covers the 28 theses Luther wrote on this topic, with the first, which presents God's damning Law, to the last, which shines forth the very love of God. Thus, as the reader travels through the book he is faced with God's Law and Gospel. In thesis 21, Forde even corrects a mistranslation in the American Edition of Luther's Works: Luther did not mean the "theology of glory" but being a "theologian of the cross." Forde shows that Luther was not only referring to doctrine, but its application!
The theology of the cross is the true Gospel of God's salvation of dead sinners out of His grace through the suffering and death of the cross of Jesus Christ alone; we call this divine monergism, because salvation is God's doing throughout. The theology of the cross rules out and curses all human worth, especially the best we have to offer. For the best we have to offer are the very things on which we are tempted to rely. In extreme contrast is the theology of glory, which is the corruption of the Gospel because it states a waiting God comes to bless a person who contributes some 'little bit,' to his salvation. The cross' exposure of man as completely helpless in his own salvation may offend the theologians of glory. Yet if a person can cooperate in his salvation, decide for God, make a decision for Christ, then the theology of man, that is, of glory pits itself against the theology of grace.
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