Hart writes that he has spent years meditating on the Sermon on the Mount. He shares the impact on him, a man who has lived a while. “I would like to just listen, think, ruminate, and take notes.” (3)
However, this book is much more scholarly than just his ruminating and taking notes. He quotes the Didache, for example.
I was disappointed to read that Hart says Gehenna is not a real place nor a state of being. Its use is figurative, he says. (47) Nor is it an everlasting place of torment. It is not to be taken literally. Hart wants to avoid the “exaggerated concepts of a fairy-tale 'hell'...” (48)
Hart believes the Sermon on the Mount can be lived, partly because he not not believe humanity is “totally depraved” and incapable of any true goodness. (44)
So, theologically, Hart and I are miles apart.
Hart has an understanding of turning the other cheek (Matt.5:39) that I had never read before. He writes that it is, “in fact, a defiant act.” (62) The “other” cheek is the left cheek, associated with dishonor. “To turn the left side toward one who strikes you is bold and resistant, but nonviolent. It shows lack of respect, an unyielding stance, but also a refusal to hit back.” (62)
Hart sees the Sermon on the Mount as a call to examine our lives at the deepest level and to work on our own transformation. It is a handbook for disciples who want their lives to remain consistent with the character of God's kingdom and righteousness. (131)
Just a word of caution as conservative evangelical Christians will not agree with Hart's theology regarding sin, judgment, and hell.
An extensive discussion guide has been included.
Fr. Addison Hart was apparently an Anglican priest who left that fellowship in 1999 and joined the Catholic Church. In 2011 he apparently left the Catholic Church to go back to the Anglicans. Some say he is still in Catholic communion although he has retired from active ministry as a parish priest and university chaplain. He lives and writes in Norheimsund, Norway. (That the publisher describes him as a retired pastor is, I think, misleading since the term is usually used within Protestantism.)
Eerdmans, 176 pages.