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Claiming Inheritance or Dying to Self: Theology of Glory or Theology of the Cross?

E. M. Bounds (1835- 1913), American Civil War chaplain and author.
Via Wikimedia Commons.

One of the men of the group of the “Friends of God,” Nicholas of Basle, counseled John Tauler, “You must die, Dr. Tauler! Before you can do your greatest work for God, the world, and this city, you must die to yourself, your gifts, your popularity, and even your own goodness, and when you have learned the full meaning of the Cross you will have new power with God and man.”8 Luther was influenced by Tauler and the Theologia Germanica. Because he became willing to die to himself, Tauler did indeed gain new power with God and man, having great impact on Luther and the Reformation.

E.M. Bounds follows these classic writers, saying, “All God’s plans have the mark of the cross on them, and all His plans have death to self in them.”9 A.W. Tozer, speaking as a twentieth century prophet, declares that the same is true of this century, saying, “We do not want the cross. We are more interested in the crown.”10 This is true of much of evangelicalism, and especially of some in the modern faith movement who teach a triumphalistic theology of glory with its emphasis on having faith in one’s own faith and claiming the rights, privileges, and authority of being a child of God or a “King’s Kid.” Classic faith teachers such as A.B. Simpson and Andrew Murray also emphasized the rights, privileges and authority of a believer, but with one crucial difference: they taught self-denial and the cross life—a theology of the cross. Simpson wrote, “How very much of the life of faith consists in simply denying ourselves.”11

Andrew Murray (1828-1917), South African writer and pastor.
Via Wikimedia Commons.

Charles Price noted the role of the cross in healing: “We have found that a broken spirit and a contrite heart and a feeling of unworthiness is generally an assurance of faith enough for healing, while on the other hand many people lose the blessing because they feel they are entitled to it.”12 Further, Price explained, “Faith must walk down the vales of self-abasement and humiliation in order that it might climb the mountain of divine revelation that is on the other side.”13 A. J. Gordon quoted faith healing pioneer Johann Christoph Blumhardt saying, “The way to have a strong faith is to think nothing of yourself.”14

While I have disagreed with several of the assessments of Hunt and McConnell in this study, I would agree with their concern about the lack of emphasis in modern faith teaching (and much evangelical teaching as well) and practice on the crucified life. McConnell remarks that modern faith teaching and practice, especially regarding prosperity, “subverts the demands of the cross for self denial.”15 Though he paints the modern faith movement with too broad a stroke, nonetheless, there is an element of truth in his criticism. Hunt correctly and perceptively observes, “Were Andrew Murray alive today, he would vehemently disagree with the new self-centered gospel.”16 In contrast to much modern faith teaching, Murray taught, “Our lesson of today leads us to the very deepest roots of the life of faith. The deeper we are willing to enter into the death of self, the more shall we know of the mighty power of God, and the perfect blessedness of a perfect trust.”17 Murray believed in claiming the believer’s covenant rights, but he also stressed that death to self must be at the roots of any covenant claims, writing further, “Selfishness is the death of faith. … Let us cease seeking faith in our own interest.”18

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Category: Church History, Fall 2011

About the Author: Paul L. King holds a D.Min from Oral Roberts University and a D.Th. from the University of South Africa. He served for 16 years on the faculty of Oral Roberts University as Coordinator of Bible Institute programs and Adjunct Professor in the College of Theology and Ministry. Author of 12 books and more than 60 articles, he was ORU 2006 Scholar of the Year. He has also served as Scholar-at-Large for the D.Min. program at Alliance Theological Seminary, Doctor of Ministry Mentor for the Randy Clark Scholars program at United Theological Seminary and Global Awakening Theological Seminary, Leadership and Church Ministry Consultant and Trainer, an ordained pastor with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Interim Consulting Pastor for the Plano (Texas) Chinese Alliance Church, and Faculty Director of Purdue Ratio Christi/Christian Faculty and Staff Network. His books include God's Healing Arsenal: A Divine Battle Plan for Overcoming Distress and Disease (2011), Anointed Women: The Rich Heritage of Women in Ministry in the Christian & Missionary Alliance (2009), Only Believe: Examining the Origin and Development of Classic and Contemporary Word of Faith Theologies (2008), Genuine Gold: The Cautiously Charismatic Story of the Early Christian and Missionary Alliance (2006), Binding & Loosing: Exercising Authority over the Dark Powers (1999), and A Believer with Authority: The Life and Message of John A. MacMillan. Twitter: @PaulLKing. www.paulkingministries.com/

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