Day: March 31, 2010

Review: “Kingdom Ethics” Transforms Life in the Way of Jesus

Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context by Glen H. Stassen and David P. Gushee.  InterVarsity Press, 2003. 491 pages.

In Kingdom Ethics, Glen Stassen (Fuller Seminary) and David Gushee (McAfee School of Theology) provide a Christian ethic rooted in the idea of the Kingdom of God as defined by Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. But this is not a typical treatment of either.

Perhaps the most helpful aspect of their Kingdom perspective is the section on the “Transforming Initiatives of the Sermon on the Mount.” The authors present the commonly held views of The Sermon on the Mount, but then move to give new meaning to the Sermon and its application through a new look at the construction of each teaching section.

The heart of their argument is that Jesus’s teaching is a tripartite entity, dealing with the problem, the vicious circle caused by the problem, and the transforming Kingdom initiative which places both the problem and those involved in it, in a new light.  An example would be:

  • Traditional Righteousness: Matthew 5:38 — “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'”
  • Vicious Cycle: Matthew 5:39 — “But I say to you, do not retaliate vengefully by evil means.” (This is the vicious cycle of violence, retaliation, and more violence.)
  • Transforming Initiative: Matthew 5:40-42 — “But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if any one wants to sue you and take your coat give your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go the second mile.  Give to one who begs from you, and do not refuse one who would borrow from you.”

The authors contend that the entire Sermon on the Mount features this pattern of Jesus presenting the traditional view, the vicious cycle that results, and the alternative way of the Kingdom.  Rather than the Sermon being an ideal, but unattainable

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