Liberal theologians and even skeptics claim to revere the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), but that is just because they don’t really understand it. If they read it properly they would hate it.
It portrays Jesus as being very intolerant. He tells the Pharisees how they are doing everything wrong – worship, giving, praying, fasting, behaving, etc.
He upholds every letter and pen stroke of the Old Testament, something they typically abandon first.
He spoke of judgment. He emphatically shows that there are false religions – the very thing that the liberal theologians teach the opposite of. He warns strongly against false teachers – people like them!
It sets an impossibly high standard and demonstrates that we need a Savior to reach God. He raises the bar or shows the real intent behind prohibitions against adultery, murder, etc. and sums up that section by saying, Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).
The problem is that the liberal theologians view it as a checklist, just as they do with Matthew 22:37-40 (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind . . . Love your neighbor as yourself.”). He didn’t mean for us to respond, “Thanks for the summary, I’ll get right on that!” The proper response is to be convicted that we can never be good enough on our own. You have to be pretty self-righteous not to realize what a joke it would be to claim you followed those passages well enough to merit God’s eternal favor.
When Jesus speaks of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, He is referring to God’s definition of righteousness, not the made up definitions of the theological Left (abortion rights, “same-sex marriage,” etc.).
Jesus says to give to the needy, but He doesn’t teach to take other people’s money at the point of a gun (i.e., taxes) to fund your pet projects.
He teaches not to judge hypocritically (Matthew 7:1-5), but the theological liberals only read the first verse and, ironically enough, use that to judge others for making any judgments.
He teaches of Heaven and Hell, which they often deny.
They completely miss the point of the wise and foolish builder passage at the end of chapter 7. They have heard his words but don’t put them into practice. They actively teach that other religions are valid paths to God.
And so much more!
I’ll close with some excellent comments from Bubba from this post about a false teacher:
These are the most prominent questions that come to mind, in response to Chuck’s [Currie] assertion, “A Christian is a person who hears the Sermon on the Mount and says, ‘Amen.'”
1) In that sermon (Mt 5:3-4), Jesus Christ taught the mourning, spiritually poor are blessed, implying a crucial need for God’s grace. Does Chuck agree that God’s grace is absolutely necessary for us to inherit eternal life?
2) In that sermon (5:11), Jesus taught that we are blessed, not when we’re persecuted for any ol’ reason or even for the sake of broad categories of goodness and righteousness, but for HIS sake. Does Chuck agree that we must stand up, not only for Jesus’ teachings, but for Jesus Himself?
3) In that sermon (5:17-20), Jesus affirmed the authority of Scripture to the smallest penstroke. Does Chuck defer to Christ on the question of the Bible’s ultimate authority?
4) In that sermon (7:21-23), Jesus is quite clear that not everyone will enter heaven, even going so far as to say that not everyone who calls Him “Lord” will enter heaven. Does Chuck reject universalism in order to conform his beliefs to this teaching?
5) In that passage of this sermon, Jesus is also quite clear on the determining factor of one’s eternal destiny: whether Jesus knows you. Does Chuck agree that Jesus’ knowing you is absolutely crucial for salvation?
And, if the answer is “no” for any of the questions above — if Chuck [Currie] doesn’t say “Amen” to truly every implication of the Sermon, and what it says about its Speaker, about Scripture, and about judgment — do we have Chuck’s blessing in questioning whether he really is a Christian?
. . . I don’t find the Sermon on the Mount to be non-controversial. On the contrary, its rooted in very bold claims about Christ, His book, and His sheep.
I’m reminded of what Reagan said about Marx: “How do you tell a Communist? Well, it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin.”
I’m beginning to think that there’s a similar dynamic among theologically conservative Christians and those theological liberals who border on (and often cross into) apostasy.
The theological liberal claims to stand by the Sermon on the Mount, but it’s only the theological conservative who really grasps the sermon’s contents.
P.S. Here’s a good analysis of why the Sermon on the Mount was aimed at disciples and not just anyone. Otherwise, verse 11 wouldn’t make much sense. If you aren’t a follower of Christ then why would someone persecute you because of him?
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.