The Not Preached God

Luther talked often about the “Hidden God.” He was intrigued by God’s chosen vehicle of self-revelation. God always chose to show up in the most unexpected places, the settings where man would never look for Him.

He suggested that where God does not show Himself is just as important to understand as where He does reveal Himself. Listen to this thought provoking quote by Luther.

We have to argue in one way about God or the will of God as preached, revealed, offered, and worshiped, and in another way about God as he is not preached, not revealed, not offered, not worshiped. To the extent, therefore, that God hides himself and wills to be unknown to us, it is no business of ours.

We must understand where God is not preached. God chooses the sermon. He chooses the location of his self-disclosure. In other places he is clear, the cross and resurrection is the locus of God’s unveiling. He is preached there! Anywhere else, we must recognize there is no divine sermon—you won’t hear of him if you don’t tune in at Calvary.

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The Hiddenness of God

“Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior” (Is 45:15).

Heard this verse on my ipod as I listened to Isaiah this morning. Luther loved this verse. He thought about it in two different ways. First, he understood God’s hiddenness be that which God refused to unveil about himself. He thought that much theology was an attempt to probe into the very things that God had hidden. Instead he argued that we should spend all our time and energy probing into the revealed God. In other words, we should pursue a theology that begins with, centers on, and remains in the place where God has most clearly revealed himself. In Luther’s thought the cross was the place where God did just that.

The second way he used this verse and thought about God’s hiddenness is also attached to the cross. He believed that the cross was the place where God simultaneously concealed and revealed himself. The cross conceals God in that it is the last place on the planet we would ever look to find God. To the eyes of natural man God is definitely not found on a tree outside of Jerusalem. You do not look for God on death row—that is simply nonsense. Yet it was this very unexpected place where God most clearly revealed himself. To see this, however, one must be granted spiritual eyes by the Spirit himself. Here then we have the paradox of Luther’s theology: God hides in his own revelation. This is 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 cloaked in a different garb.