“Both Jesus and Paul taught salvation by faith, leading to spiritual rebirth and alliance with God’s purposes. But while these were, for Jesus, freely available from the God who knows how to give his children what they need (matt 5:6; 7:7-11), with Paul, salvation had to be arranged: there was a mechanism of salvation. Christ had to be made sin, had to be handed over for our transgressions. For Jesus, faith is primarily trust. This is present in Paul, but what dominates is an intellectual component, namely belief – assenting to certain soteriological facts: “Believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” (Rom 10:9); “become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted” (Rom 6:17).
…”For Paul, Christ is a mediator, not a proclaimer, of salvation. Jesus’ own emphatically stated parables about faith, honesty, and growth may be fine wisdom teaching, but they are hardly the essence of salvation for Paul, which is “Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). A proclaimer of salvation is an apostle, and he never calls Jesus an apostle. For Paul, one dies to the Law not through the teachings but through the body of Christ (Rom 7:4). And so Jesus the teacher becomes Jesus the type, and a type needs to be interpreted.
“Paul never says “your faith has saved you,” as Jesus did, since he is sure it was the Messiah’s ultra-significant death that actually saves; rather, faith means accepting this teaching … Paul could never say “blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matt 5:8), for there are not pure in heart in Paul’s view. There is no immediate and free access to God by the meek or the pure. Access to God required an intervening transaction on behalf of wretched humanity: “Christ died for our sins (1 Cor 15:3). Faith needs to believe that.
“Jesus was willing to use the innocence of children as a sign of the kingdom. For Paul, there is none innocent, and trust itself is not to be trusted since “the evil I do not want is what I do” (Rom 7:19). Paul’s is a religion of catastrophic conversion; Jesus’ healthy-minded religion is not understood. For Paul, there are only extremes: profound enslavement or unexpected redemption, being lost in sin or being dramatically rescued.
“…. We are dealing with two entirely different instincts about God and access to God. Jesus, with fully adult know-how and lack of illusions, is able to say that a sincere and childlike faith opens the portals of heaven. There really are some truth-hungering, merciful, and “utterly sincere” people, who “will be filled … will receive mercy … will see God” (Matt 5:6-8)
“We have reached a state in theological development when we need to acknowledge that the Bible is full of diverse viewpoints and admit that it is not likely to be a transcript straight from the mind of God, though it may indeed be the heavily filtered human reflection of the mind of God, a record of the gradual and partial human reception of God’s initiatives.”
Problems with Atonement, Stephen Finlan.
The first time I ever read the Synoptic Gospels straight through, I was surprised at what was in them -- because most of it didn't seem to be taught in traditional Christianity. Faith in Jesus isn't the overriding factor, and they are heavily work-based. I found this startling, considering the actual words of Jesus were in these three Gospels. But when you look at "what we believe" statements from churches, do the majority of the quotes pull from the Synoptics? Or do they pull from Paul and Company, with a smattering of the Gospel of John?
Then I got to John, and pieces came together. Then I read Paul, and it all clicked. Much of traditional Christianity does seem to be pulled straight from Paul, and anything in the Synoptics that disagrees with this is re-interpreted so that everything fits in one neat pile. For instance, the Sermon on the Mount, where it says "blessed are the peacemakers, for they are called the children of God." To me, that seems clear-cut. Peacemakers = children of God. I would think the crowds listening would understand it as such. Or telling people, in the present tense, that they *are* the light of the world, or the salt of the Earth. Again, clear-cut.
I read somewhere that the Sermon actually applies to Christians almost "after the fact." It would apply to them after they accepted Jesus as their Savior, and could say how one should live after receiving salvation.
Okay, if we're going with the timeline of Jesus preaching for three years, and this is placed relatively early in Matthew ... even if it takes place during the last year, what are the odds that the crowd understood it to apply at a later date? Does anything in the Sermon itself even hint at that? Wouldn't the crowd have rather gone home, and raved about what the man teaching with authority said, and what it said about their relationship to God?
Another idea I've heard is that the Sermon is designed to show one how sinful they are. But again, that's almost reading Pauline theology back into the Sermon. Yes, it makes mention of you kill someone by hating them, and looking at another person lustfully is committing adultery. But to me, that's not showing how hopeless one's situation is, it's showing that it's not enough to just act right. Good actions start from good motivations. You want to stop lusting after the opposite sex while married? It takes more than just making sure you don't look at someone, it requires eliminating the lust at the source -- at the inside. Any murderous act starts in the heart. If you hate someone, you are, in a way, mentally stripping them of their humanity. It's easier to kill what you hate, because you're already killing them inside your heart.
Besides, the Pharisees as interpreted in the Gospels were already going around condemning anyone who wasn't like them left and right, and Jesus had quite a few words for that. Why then would people find Jesus so riveting if he were doing the same thing?
I originally read the book to get a better grasp on all the atonement theories -- and I recommend it for that alone. It also helps show how influential Paul's letters were in designing atonement theories, and how the later Christians tended to stick with just one metaphor, whereas Paul used a combination.