October 19, 2017

Pastorum…Day Two

Live blogging from day two at Pastorum Live Conference in Chicago…

Session one is Scot McKnight on Sermon on the Mount as Gospel.

“The Gospel has been distorted and colonized.”

Distortion: God loves me, God is holy, God made us in his image, but we rebelled against him, and are now destined to hell because we are sinners. God sent his Son to release us from the guilt and shame of sin, and if we trust him, God will forgive us and we can go to heaven.”

This is a compelling rhetorical package of doctrinal points created in revivalism to precipitate decisions.

This has created a “salvation” culture in church not a “gospel” culture.

Colonized: Gospel has been equated with word “justice” — and seen as worked out through political process.

Mainlines in general aligned with Democratic party and progressive politics. Evangelicals with Republican party and conservative politics.

* * *

Where do we go to begin our discussion of the Gospel?

1. 1Cor 15: Israel’s story comes to culmination in the storied life and work of Jesus.

2. Sermons in book of Acts.

3. The Gospels. They are called “Gospel” because they ARE Gospel. It is not merely “genre” but they are, in content, the Gospel. The purpose of these books is to announce that Jesus is the Messiah, that he fulfills the story of Israel, that he saves.

In “soterian” gospel — the story of Israel disappears.

The central question of NT is “Who is Jesus?” not “How can I be saved?” The second follows from the first. Central question of evangelism is “Who do you think Jesus is?” It is getting people to interpret Jesus well, getting to assign to Jesus the right identity and title.

* * *

The Sermon on the Mount as the Gospel

Frequently seen as teaching Christian ETHICS or discipleship. This is a fundamental mistake. It is GOSPEL.

1. To read the Sermon properly, we begin with context (4:23-25-9:35).

Inclusio at 9:35 — This frames this section and tells us what section is about.  (Beginning with ch. 10, disciples extend this ministry into world.)

This is what Jesus is about: (1) He teaches, (2) He performs great works. Sermon on Mount is therefore a depiction of who Jesus is as Teacher. It is Jesus’ claim on his followers — Here is what I teach; will you follow?

2. Sermon articulates Jesus’ Kingdom vision.

Summons to listen to Jesus and follow him within Kingdom of God. Future coming to bear on present. Not regulation of life of disciples but signs and examples of what happens when Kingdom of God breaks into this world.

3. Sermon begins with new Christology.

“New Moses” Christology — the Lord who calls people to follow him. It is exposition of his own life as well as what he requires of his followers.

4. Sermon can be reduced to word “more”.

Jesus wants more from his followers — which leads to “Who does Jesus think he is, and how can he expect this of us?” He can expect more because he has brought a new world into existence into which he calls his followers.

5. Sermon ends with an “invitation”.

Serious call — you have heard me, will you follow? If you think I’m Lord, will you merely say it or will you do what I’ve said?

Conclusion

THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT HAS A STRANGE WAY OF MAKING US BETTER PEOPLE OR BETTER LIARS.

Comments

  1. wow that is some great stuff – goes way beyond simply saying – read John 3:16!!

  2. “God sent his Son to release us from the guilt and shame of sin”

    No. God sent his Son to release us from the penalty of sin (death), and ultimately from the very presence of sin (eternity with Himself). But while we’re on this earth, if the guilt and shame don’t remain, there’s something very wrong with you. Free from our pasts, yes. Free from thinking our sins aren’t shameful, never.

    • Highwayman says:

      We shouldn’t confuse ‘guilt’ with ‘feelings of guilt’.

      We often can’t escape our feelings, but that doesn’t mean we should be bound by them. Christ has been raised for our justification; I understand this means that God declares us ‘Not Guilty’, so who are we to argue?

    • Phil M. says:

      I think you’re using the term “shame” in a way that is different than the original intent. ANE and Middle Eastern cultures are very much governed by the concept of shame and honor. To be in a shameful state really wasn’t referring to one’s feelings about themselves. It’s more to do with their position in relation to others. Shame is like a roadblock that prevents relationship from existing. So by saying Jesus removed our shame, it means that He removed the relational blockages between us and God.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        The main difference is that in an Honor/Shame culture, Shame is dependent on others while Guilt is not:

        “If Nobody Knows of my Sin, I Am Not Shamed.”

        Which turns into “Dead Men Tell No Tales.”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Another difference is that in an Honor/Shame culture, Shame is dependent on others while Guilt is not:

        “If Nobody Knows of my Sin, I Am Not Shamed.”

        Which easily becomes “…and Dead Men Tell No Tales.”

  3. This sounds like a great conference. I need to get there one of these days.

    • Personally I am “conferenced out” after all the church conferences I once attended. And I haven’t been to one in what….4 or 5 years? 😯

      But I’m grateful that the thug in Seattle and his sidekick from Minneapolis are not in the speaker line up. Same with the “Extorter in Chief” of SGM.

      But I do look forward to CM posts on this. Very thought provoking.

  4. dumb ox says:

    “THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT HAS A STRANGE WAY OF MAKING US BETTER PEOPLE OR BETTER LIARS.”

    Still sounds like law.

    • It is.

      Pure law.

      It’s meant to kill us off to any pretensions of goodness and righteousness.

      No one is left standing after that sermon…except Jesus. And then He raises us with Himself, and heals us, as He does immediately after the SOM with the leper who asks Jesus, “Heal me if you will.” And he says, “I will.”

      • I’m Lutheran, but this comment and view of the Sermon on the Mount is more Lutheran than Bible. It’s the kind of approach that happens when your theology forces you to look at everything through its lenses. Law/Gospel is a helpful distinction, but the Bible is much more complex than that. Jesus shatters all our theological categories.

        • “Jesus shatters all our theological categories.”

          I would say he defines them, particularly Law and Gospel, and preaches both in the Sermon. There are just several layers to unpack.

          First, within the narrative, he preaches the Law, which condemns everybody, and he takes particular care to reference the many evil things done by the pharisees. But if one recognizes one’s own sin and repents, God forgives. And because God forgives, and provides spiritual blessings, we have Christian Freedom to live without worry about earthly things.

          But, the reader, knowing who Christ is and how the story ends, knows that all of the Law in the Sermon that condemns us, is also good news for us, in light of our knowledge that Christ fulfilled it. The Sermon on the Mount describes Christ, most of all. It is pure Christology, which is Gospel for the believer.

          One can go further and deeper into it and see more and more Gospel in it, until you find my favorite explanation of the Sermon on the Mount ever: it’s a Eucharistic Homily, with central place going to the Lord’s prayer :

          http://www.ctsfw.net/media/pdfs/ScaerSermonontheMountasEucharisticHomily.pdf

          • Also, here is an excellent radio interview with the author, Dr. Scaer, explaining the Gospel at the center of the Sermon.

            http://issuesetc.org/2009/11/02/841/

            (Bonus LCMS snarkiness at Robert Schuller)

            Scaer wrote a couple other books on Matthew and the Sermon on the Mount, going so far as to call it the “Church’s First Statement of the Gospel.” I think it’s the definitive Lutheran take on the Sermon. (Better than Luther’s own commentary.)

            http://www.amazon.com/David-P.-Scaer/e/B001HOHE7K/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

          • Phil M. says:

            First, within the narrative, he preaches the Law, which condemns everybody, and he takes particular care to reference the many evil things done by the pharisees.

            Where does Jesus condemn anyone within the sermon? I suppose you could say He condemns the Pharisees because of the burdensome load they have put on the people and the hypocritical nature in which they do it, but other than that, where does Jesus condemn His audience?

            To me this seems like an instance where we have accepted a spiritualized narrative about this passage that we are overlooking the actual story in the passage. Jesus was speaking to actual people in the audience, not simply providing a detached set of new laws meant to serve as some sort of funnel to get people to come to some sort of existential crisis. These are real world issue Jesus is dealing with in the sermon. Jesus wasn’t a Lutheran.

  5. Dumb Ox is right.

    The entire point of the SotM is to show how high the standards of God’s Law are – Jesus is raising the stakes from what the Pharisees thought you needed to do to be righteous, raising them so how that nobody can actually fulfill them. He wants us to cry out, “I can’t do it!” Jesus says, “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect”! That’s impossible! We can’t be perfect!

    We can’t actually live up to this level of righteousness – Jesus did. Just as he said, he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it – and he doesn’t just mean ‘fulfill’ in the sense of prophecies, but fulfill in the sense of meeting the requirements of the Law in order to be justified. Christ justifies those who believe in him on his behalf.

    I think McKnight is right on the money in recognizing that the full message of the Gospel is often reduced to revivalistic salvation. Of course, I only have bullet points to work with and can’t hear the whole lecture, but I fear he’s falling into the common trap of assuming that the SotM is a didactic, you-must-do-this sermon, rather than one that shows us the futility of works-based righteousness. Yes, Jesus is teaching us about how things in the Kingdom work, but it all flows from him. This isn’t to say that we should just wave away everything Jesus says here, but our focus should be on the fact that Jesus fulfilled these impossible demands on our behalf; that appreciation of our salvation leads to sanctification from inside out. Moralism resulting from trying to uphold the “law” of the SotM makes us self-righteous when we succeed, and makes us beat ourselves up when we can’t live up to these demands.

    Even with all this, I just know someone is going to beat up on insufficiently holy fellow Christians by saying, “well, you don’t look like what Jesus describes in the SotM at all! Clearly you haven’t been transformed by the Holy Spirit/saved.”

    • Phil M. says:

      “The entire point of the SotM is to show how high the standards of God’s Law are – Jesus is raising the stakes from what the Pharisees thought you needed to do to be righteous, raising them so how that nobody can actually fulfill them. He wants us to cry out, “I can’t do it!” Jesus says, “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect”! That’s impossible! We can’t be perfect!”

      I grew up hearing this as the standard explanation for the Sermon on the Mount, but I have since come to reject it. I don’t believe Jesus was “tightening the screws”, so to speak. After all, He had just gotten done pronouncing blessings on His audience. The sermon is descriptive, not prescriptive. It’s describing what Kingdom life will be like, not what people have to do to enter the Kingdom. Jesus isn’t demanding these behaviors from people. He’s making the case that people’s hearts will be changed, and these things will flow from them.

      Also, the concept of perfection to a Jewish audience meant something completely different than what we have come to take it as. “Perfection” has to do with being whole, complete, at shalom. It’s not describing a state flawlessness, per se.

      • David Cornwell says:

        “It’s describing what Kingdom life will be like, not what people have to do to enter the Kingdom. Jesus isn’t demanding these behaviors from people. He’s making the case that people’s hearts will be changed, and these things will flow from them.”

        This is my understanding also. It’s part of the sanctification and changing of one’s life that begins a new life in Christ, one that is oriented toward the Kingdom. I don’t understand Jesus as simply preaching more law. He’s preaching the Kingdom.

        • I agree, He is preaching Kingdom. But how do you think the original hearers of the sermon reacted? Don’t you think that some were in despair because they, if they were being honest, knew that they could not “be perfect as their heavenly Father was perfect”? I think he was pointing them to the Kingdom but also preparing them to accept Him, because there was no way they could be part of the Kingdom on their own. Just my 2 cents worth. 🙂

          • I like one thing that Scot said. The overall impression left by the sermon is not an impression about myself but about Jesus. Who is this man that teaches like this? Who does he think he is, demanding these things of his followers? How can he think that he can come and overrule Moses?

            The focus of the sermon is not first of all on us and what is required of us. It is on the fact that Someone has come who has the right and authority to require it.

          • CM – This is a really good point and definitely something I can get behind. And doesn’t the passage from the SOTM indicate the same thing? The people were “astonished” at Jesus because He taught with authority… Thanks for sharing this.

      • Dana Ames says:

        This is the view of Dallas Willard in “Divine Conspiracy” as well.

        Dana

    • dumb ox says:

      “Clearly you haven’t been transformed by the Holy Spirit/saved.”

      I agree. Revivalism is legalistic while it is focused on “salvation culture”. This harkens back to pietism. The focus is on personal salvation and sanctification/holiness. It reminds me of Luther’s definition of sin: self wrapped upon itself, like something caught in the spokes of a wheel. But you are right; this is a swing from one extreme to the next, from a therapeutic message to a legalistic one, but both are self-centered messages.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Revivalism is legalistic while it is focused on “salvation culture”. This harkens back to pietism. The focus is on personal salvation and sanctification/holiness.

        Again, a Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation.

        “Seven, Eleven, Say the Prayer and Go to Heaven.”

        And to me, “Pietism” means Blind Faith Faith Faith. As in “Don’t Think, Just BE-LEEEEEEVE!”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Revivalism is legalistic while it is focused on “salvation culture”. This harkens back to pietism. The focus is on personal salvation and sanctification/holiness.

        Again, a Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation.

        “Seven, Eleven, Say the Prayer and Go to Heaven.”

        And to me, “Pietism” also means Utterly Blind Faith Faith Faith. As in “Don’t Think, Just BE-LEEEEEEVE!”

  6. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…”

    Yeah, that describes us alright.

    He’s describing Himself. He’s not prodding us on to be that which we are not and refuse to be.

    He is re-presenting the law. If we actually believe that we can attain those standards, or that we even WANT TO…then we are in deeper trouble than we realize.

    • Phil M. says:

      I’ve made this recommendation a lot regarding this topic, but Dallas Willard’s handling of the Sermon on the Mount in The Divine Conspiracy is the best I’ve read. He addresses this objection and pretty much every other one raised .

      Remember, righteousness essentially means justice, specifically God’s justice. Certainly there were some in Israel at the time who were hoping to see God’s justice break forth into the world. They just didn’t fully understand what that meant.

      I think there’s a difference between a standard or rule and an ethical ideal. Saying something is a rule implies that we will be punished if we don’t live up to the rule. Holding up an ethical ideal means gives people a target to aim at. It doesn’t say that they’re bound for hell if they miss the target.

    • Steve, we’ve been through this before, but IMO you have completely misunderstood that beatitude. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for God to put things right” (because they have been beaten down by the world’s injustice) — that is the idea here. It has nothing to do with people longing to be holy or personally right with God.

      • Chaplain Mike,

        When you look at it in light of all else that Jesus says we ought do and be (in that sermon) then I don’t believe you can come up with that interpretation.

        Jesus knew (knows) full well what lies in our hearts and heads. And it ain’t pretty.

        Those who believe they long for God to put things right, are themselves part of the reason that they will never be put right. Not in this world.

        No wiggle room for us.

        Wiggling leads us away from the cross and back to ourselves. 😀

        • If one views it as a command, “you should hunger and thirst for righteousness”, then Steve is right.

          If one views it descriptively, “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed”, then Chaplain Mike is right. I think this interpretation is better, as well, especially considered in light of Psalm 1:

          How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
          Nor stand in the [a] path of sinners,
          Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
          2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
          And in His law he meditates day and night.

          But, nobody truly seeks God’s righteousness outside Christ. So the beatitudes (like the Psalms) are first of all describing the nature of Christ. In Christ, we also seek God’s righteousness, revealed in Christ and explained in the Sermon, and are blessed in that by receiving God’s peace.

  7. The poet William Blake had it right I think

    “There is not one Moral Virtue that Jesus Inculcated but Plato & Cicero did Inculcate before him; what then did Christ Inculcate? Forgiveness of Sins. This alone is the Gospel, & this is the Life & Immortality brought to light by Jesus…”

    From “The Everlasting Gospel”

    • Perhaps I’m mistaken, but Jesus’ teaching that God pays attention to our hearts and not just our outward actions seems to be an original innovation.

      • Damaris says:

        If there is an innovation, it is more in our understanding than in God’s nature. 1 Samuel 16:7 anticipates this understanding.

  8. My brother once told me that he became a Christian AFTER he first went to Eastern Europe as a Bible Smuggler (In the late 80s). Here is how it related to the sermon on the mount.

    Note the change in tense in the sermon in the mount.

    “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs IS the Kingdom of God.”

    I interpret this as saying if someone is so commited to being a follower of Jesus, that they are willing to be persecuted because of it, then Jesus sees them as already being part of his Kingdom.