Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Sermon on the Mount: Kingdom Life in a Fallen World, by Sinclair B. Ferguson


The inimitable Sinclair Ferguson takes on the Greatest Sermon of All Time. Obviously, the result is well worth reading.

I came to the book having read and, nor the most part, enjoyed several other books on the subject, including Charles Spurgeon's God Will Bless You, Puritan Thomas Watson's The Beatitudes, and Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy. I think Ferguson's is my favorite so far.

Don't get me wrong--I still take issue with the whole 'poor in spirit means being aware of your spiritual poverty' argument. I think Willard's take--that the Beatitudes announce the availability of the Kingdom of God to all, even the spiritual bankrupt--is more consistent with the plain language of the text. But I realize I am in the minority on this point; Ferguson, Spurgeon, and Watson all see see 'poverty of spirit' as a positive attribute to be desired.

Of the three taking this position, Ferguson stands strongest on the Gospel implications of the Beatitudes. Rather than a to-do list (striving to live out the beatitudes in order to acquire the blessing of God), the Beatitudes are a list of the fruit of salvation in a believer's life as he is increasingly sanctified.

Also, Ferguson does not limit his analysis to the Beatitudes, but studies the entire Sermon on the Mount as, well, a single sermon. I always enjoy Ferguson's writing--the directness of his language is appealing. He writes simply and forthrightly; he is clear and never verbose. Yet for all his straightforwardness and clarity, he is never simplistic and is, in my experience, always challenging. He is, in fact, proof that you can be a very sophisticated and highly educated thinker--and a solid, Reformed theologian--without becoming incomprehensible (or dull) to the common man. He does not shirk the complex theological point, nor does he get so bogged down in theological nuance that real-world application is neglected. The pastoral nature of his writing is quite striking--he writes with a relational awareness and compassion that is not always apparent in Reformed writers.

As an added bonus, his writing has a slightly old-fashioned feel to it, which lends a charming, grandfatherly air to his books. For those who are looking to explore the more dense theological writings of the Puritans or other historical writers (Calvin, Luther, etc.), I commend Ferguson as a great transitional writer to explore.

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