Original Research

The ethics of absolute relativity: An eschatological ontological model for interpreting the Sermon on the Mount

Andre van Oudtshoorn
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 35, No 1 | a883 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v35i1.883 | © 2014 Andre van Oudtshoorn | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 June 2013 | Published: 12 March 2014

About the author(s)

Andre van Oudtshoorn, Department of the Dean of Academics and Research, Perth Bible College, Australia


Jesus’ imperatives in the Sermon on the Mount continue to play a significant role in Christian ethical discussions. The tension between the radical demands of Jesus and the impossibility of living this out within the everyday world has been noted by many scholars. In this article, an eschatological-ontological model, based on the social construction of reality, is developed to show that this dialectic is not necessarily an embarrassment to the church but, instead, belongs to the essence of the church as the recipient of the Spirit of Christ and as called by him to exist now in terms of the coming new age that has already been realised in Christ. The absolute demands of Jesus’ imperatives, it is argued, must relativise all other interpretations of reality whilst the world, in turn, relativises Jesus’ own definition of what ‘is’ and therefore also the injunctions to his disciples on how to live within this world. This process of radical relativisation provides a critical framework for Christian living. The church must expect, and do, the impossible within this world through her faith in Christ who recreates and redefines reality. The church’s ethical task, it is further argued, is to participate with the Spirit in the construction of signs of this new reality in Christ in this world through her actions marked by faith, hope and love.


Sermon on the Mount; ethics


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