Tag Archives: Alister McGrath

Crux Sola Est Nostra Theologia

The Cross Alone Is Our Theology

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Col. 2:8

This blog is dedicated to Christ and his finished work on the Cross. Paraphrasing the words of Martin Luther, the Cross alone is this blog’s theology. Why? The Cross is our victory over the oppression and enslavement of sin (1 Cor. 15:57), our justification that satisfies the penalty of sin (Rom. 4:25), our adoption which grants us the legal status of a son of God and an heir of the kingdom (Rom. 8:17, 23), our reconciliation which restores our broken relationship with God (2 Cor. 5:19), our forgiveness of offenses as a result of his pain and suffering on Calvary, our ransom paid to free us from the captivity of sin (1 Cor. 6:19), our healing from brokenness created by our sin (Isa.53:5), our representative bringing us all the privileges of the new covenant (Rom. 5:17), our participation in all the benefits of his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6), and our substitution for he took upon himself our punishment, guilt, and shame (Rom. 4:25).

Christ died for us (substitution) now we are controlled by Christ’s love for us and our love for Christ (motivation). As a result, our hearts are changed (transformation) and therefore, we can now live fully for the Christ who died for us (surrender).

Crux Sola Est Nostra Theologia.  And I shall never forget the first time I encountered those words of Martin Luther.  I have arrived at Cambridge in 1978, fresh from the study of theology at Oxford, and had begun a process of total immersion in the field theological literature of the Reformation.  Having cut my theological teeth on Karl Barth, I decided to deepen my knowledge of two fundamental forces of modern religious thought Martin Luther and John Calvin.  It was during the spring of 1979 that I came across those words. They seemed to leap of the page, ‘The cross alone is our theology.’ I stopped taking notes and paused to think.  Luther’s declaration seemed electrifying charged with power, potential, and challenge.

It also seemed absurd.  How could a past event have such present day relevance? And why should it be this event? Why conceivable justification to be given for this collective attention, this concentration upon the cross? To demonstrate how that focus arose within a Luther’s theology in spiritual malady was one thing; but how could the cross function as the core of Christian theology in a dominated by the insights of the Enlightenment? Molded as I then was by the English liberal theological tradition, I eventually dismissed Luther’s approach as outdated and obsolete, of interest only to historians of doctrine in early Reformation Theology.  They could have no place in modern Christian Thought.  I resumed taking notes.

Nevertheless, his words remain in my mind.  Somehow they seem to capture something that I intuitively felt was indefinably wrong with the gentle theological liberalism with which I then identified myself.  Looking back on the development of my thinking since then, Luther’s brief phrase proved to be the rock, which my liberalism floundered.  The ‘theology of the cross,’ through which Luther challenged his own age to allow the cross of Christ to assume center stage proved able to challenge modernity!

Alister E. McGrath, Spirituality in an Age of Change (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 75-76.