Here are 10 of the perspectives you can find in the book….
- Leonhard Ragaz argued the Sermon on the Mount is no utopia or fantasy. It is realistic.
It is to be fulfilled here and now. The kingdom is a political and social matter. He sought to use the Sermon to develop a comprehensive plan for social reform. He labeled the Sermon on the Mount “the magna charta of Christian socialism.” He saw that the Sermon assumed involvement in kingdom, but he thought the speech of Jesus is full of paradox and is not to be followed legalistically. The Beatitudes proclaim a transvaluation of values. There is no literalism here, but principles and symbols. Jesus abolished the law in order to fulfill it. He thought the Sermon is an indictment of religion; for him God and religion are mutually exclusive. He sought proclamation of the kingdom through Christ. He was not an absolute pacifist and thought that one can do the opposite of Jesus’ statements without contradicting the intention. He progressively disassociated himself from the church and concluded that God cannot be where religion is and hates everything associated with it.
- Albert Schweitzer argued Jesus presented only an “interim ethic,” an ethic only for his disciples in the short time before the kingdom dawned, about which dawning Jesus was mistaken. The historical Jesus remains a stranger and an enigma. He has no authority over our knowledge, only over our will. Moral criteria are abolished. The kingdom is upramoral.
- Otto Baumgarten thought Jesus was a sunny, good-natured, and sentimental person. Our experience demands restriction of this happy confidence to the inner, personal life. It entails a boundless and unconditional individualism. Everything in contemporary culture is essentially irreconcilable with the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount. It is socially irresponsible, anticultural religious individualism and constitutes a transworldly, other worldly pilgrim ethic. It would mean an end to state, society, and family. It is not God’s highest design for human life; it is the spiritual biography of Jesus’ life. It is Jesus’ autobiographical self expression of an unexcelled socially and culturally irresponsible religious individualism.
- Johannes Weiss thought Jesus meant the Sermon on the Mount literally, but it is
eschatological and other worldly. The kingdom is entirely future. Jesus was not interested in this world but in the next. His demands under normal circumstances are simply impossible. We can shift to realized eschatology, but Jesus did not. The kingdom did not come and he died; therefore, the Sermon on the Mount is invalidated. The historical image of Jesus is not normative. Were he to come in our time, he would be a statesman or general and would be the most modern of all.
- Carl Stange said the Sermon shows us our impotence for good. It is a derogation of the idea of the good to seek its realization by imitating Jesus. Conversion of the will is not the goal of ethical achievement but its presupposition. The Sermon on the Mount is a call to repentance. It is the proclamation of an impossible law designed to awaken our consciousness of sin and shatter self-reliance. It is to prepare for the gospel by confounding with the law. (Note from me: this is a common understanding in the church today, and is very good at emasculating Jesus’ words)
- Lewis Sperry Chafer, argued the Sermon is to the Jew before the cross and to the Jew in the coming kingdom and is, therefore, not now in effect.
- Martin Dibelius thought the Sermon is the law of the coming kingdom, not the law for this life. It has signs of the kingdom. The eschatological outlook is lost today. The sermon has no validity for workaday life. It is an eschatological stimulus to make us acquainted with the pure will of God. The sermon uses hyperbole.
- E. Thurneysen thought Jesus is the whole content of the Sermon. It is no model for
moral and religious conduct. It is gospel and nothing else. He understood the Sermon in terms of predestination and as a word of grace. It is accomplished for us by Christ. The law is not fulfilled through us but for us. Following Jesus never means imitating Jesus. We are to render symbolic obedience in complete hiddenness; we are not even invited to do what Jesus did.
- Johannes Müller thought the Sermon on the Mount is a torture rack on which people
uselessly torture themselves or a supernatural relic which one humbly reveres but does not obey. It is impractical and has insane demands and moral paradoxes. We must Germanize, contemporize, and individualize it to give natural principles of authentic humanization. It is not a moral law. We should remove the kernel from the husk, especially the offensive Jewishness.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer thought the Sermon teaches that you should surrender and obey.
For those willing to submit, the yoke is easy. Whereas Luther said not to aspire to live a
different life, Bonhoeffer said, “Only he who believes is obedient and only he is obedient who believes.” There is no fulfillment of the law without communion with God, and no communion with God apart from fulfillment of the law.
There is much more said in the book on these and many other views. DO YOU THINK ANY OF THESE ARE RIGHT? What is your view on the Sermon on the Mount?
In the book you will find views from: