THE GOSPEL OF THE BEATITUDES
BY R W Glenn
Christianity is not moralism. Christianity is not religiosity. Jesus was crucified because we are saving ourselves by our religious stamina and moral efforts. The Beatitudes in their simplicity are not commands to be followed, principles to live by, or attitudes to adopt. They profile people who have crucified their own morality in Jesus’ death, resurrection and rule.
I flipped forward and backward through this book to figure out who R W Glenn is. I looked for credentials and biographical information that we are accustomed to seeing inside book covers but to my surprise, it was not there. I suppose that is okay if we don’t know much about him based on his biography, because we can judge a man better by his theology. And from what I gleaned, I think he should write more.
I have stumbled on a book I plan to use in a study this summer. I want to cover two items in my review. One item to cover is the format of this book, including its intended use, study question format, and other items related to presentation such as style and tone. Second, I want to interact with his conclusions on the Gospel based on his reading of the Beatitudes.
Presentation and Format
Wow! Even if the content was rubbish, I would have been inclined to write the author and publisher and say “Hey! More Please!
I have read literally dozens of books and commentaries on The Sermon on The Mount (TSOTM) in the last several months. In the back of the book in the notes section, I have probably read most if not all of the resources cited and a few that were not listed, I recently completed an intensive study in the Sermon on The Mount at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary under Dr. Jonathan Pennington. So with some credibility I can say I can measure this book against others on this subject, and I can say the format of this book is in a league of its own.
Let me jump right into it. My overjoyed reaction about the discussion questions format starts in the preface. Kudos to the author for setting some road rules for recommended use of the discussion questions. Secondly, and more importantly, I think this format is informed by the theological and pastoral wisdom of the author.
- For your head
- For your heart
- For your church
- For your city
The mere fact that all chapters have four separate sets of questions with obvious places of intended application help the reader hone in on the authors intent. He never intends for the truth he illuminates in the Beatitudes within this book to be confined to only one place.
He rightly recognizes the necessity for both truth and knowledge to change our minds and worldview, our hearts and motives, our community of believers we worship with and the people and culture we live around. God bless whoever thought of that. Every book should see to it that it does not become short-sighted and fail to complete follow through with its intended message. These discussions ensure the mission is accomplished.
Secondly, the tone, size and vocabulary was not overly technical even though he covered some weighty topics and did not get overly academic. It was written in a theologically rich voice with the care and direction of a shepherd, that much was evident.
I was overjoyed to read the first chapter. I too experienced flannelgraph theology. I too thought Joshua was just a great example of being courageous. I too thought Blessed are those who thirst after righteousness meant “be somebody who tries to be good more and more…because if you do, that makes Jesus happy and if Jesus is happy with you then he loves you and forgives you.
Can I please strike that from my memory? How many people have succumbed to the Oprah-doxy (I saw that term in a blog post recently) called moral therapeutic deism and have totally missed the Good News! Instead of grace and forgiveness they get a laundry list and impossible expectations.
Glenn nails that point right out of the park. I especially like his take on culturally updated takes on the Beatitudes (check them out on page 14) They lighten the mood when all I wanted to do was go find the old lady who taught my childhood Sunday School class and scream heretic at her! See I failed a beatitude already.
Glenn does a wonderful job with each Beatitude showing the high standard, our impending shortfall, and how Jesus achieved it for us. Further he makes the point in every one it seems that these attitudes are the fruits of the Spirit that flow out of the Believer’s heart. He states they are characteristics of the desires of the convert’s heart. Amen and I agree.
But what if we may have swung the pendulum too far on this one? I have read some pretty convincing work, and even the church fathers like Augustine, who I would venture based on his works cited list would be a source he would respectfully check out, have affirmed what he said and pushed for and understood that these Beatitudes, are indeed Virtues of the believer’s heart that must be cultivated through biblical spiritual disciplines, and by looking what we tend to shy away from sometimes. We tend to shy away from looking to Jesus as a WWJD example to avoid moralism, and rightly so, but wouldn’t it be unwise to throw the baby out with the bath water when he was and is the perfect example of Christian virtues? All I am saying is I would encourage us to keep the grace in the Gospel and Look to Jesus as our model of Sanctified Christian character. I believe that too is central to the Beatitudes.
It is a minor quibble, and maybe I missed his intent. I would certainly commend him as one who gets the good news in the Beatitudes quite well.
Oh and I received this book free from Cross-Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest and thorough review.