A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, January 06, 2006

On Taking Jesus Seriously

I truly enjoyed reading Glen Stassen and David Gushee�s book, Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. I will probably use it for my course in Christian Ethics this spring. It was their comment in the preface that stuck with me as I read through the 491 pages of text. �We believe that Jesus meant what he said� (11). They continue: �When Jesus� way of discipleship is thinned down, marginalized or avoided, the churches and Christians lose their antibodies against infection by secular ideologies that manipulate Christians into serving the purposes of some other lord.�

What I like about their book is the foundational emphasis they place on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Unfortunately, Jesus� words in these chapters have been thinned down in a way that the difficulty of the words has been removed, thereby losing the radical nature of Jesus� teaching. Any disciple who reads the Sermon on the Mount and is not bothered by it has either not read it or has reached the pinnacle of Christian perfection. What to do with Jesus� words has been a problem since he uttered them. It will not do to engage in interpretative gymnastics that remove the scandal from his teaching. Jesus meant what he said about lust, anger, turning the other cheek, being generous toward all persons, and worry. This does not mean, of course, that we should ignore the necessary hermeneutical methodologies in order to understand his words more clearly; but we must not use our �sophisticated� readings to domesticate Jesus' agenda and make easy the road Jesus calls us to walk. Neither is it acceptable to refer to the Sermon on the Mount as the ideal for which we must strive but never attain in this life. Stassen and Gushee make it clear that Jesus does not call us to high ideals but to transforming initiatives (132). Such teachings are meant to be followed now, not in some future dispensation.

How we work through Jesus� teaching in our contemporary context is not always clear, but we must hear his words and embody them in our lives. Such discipleship in the present will truly take Jesus seriously.


R U S S said...

Glen is one of my doctoral prof as Fuller. The book is great isn't it!? During my masters I also had a class with Dr. Myers (your colleague). Please tell him that Russ Kirby from Fuller (Afrocentric Biblical Hermeneutics Summer 04) says hello.

Allan R. Bevere said...


I will do so.