Repentance Part 2
Last week I posted on the biblical term to repent (link here) and I want to continue with the same topic this week. As I had stated in that post I believe that how a Christian defines repentance has a huge impact on how they view the mechanics of salvation and what the post-salvation Christian way of life.
Do you believe that an unbeliever must show regret over his sins (this certainly has an emotional component) in order to believe or do they need to just change their minds regarding Christ and His work on the cross in order to be saved? Do believers need to feel sorry for their sins in order to get right with God and get back on the path that God has laid out for us or do we just need to recognize that we sinned, confess those sins to the Father, and then move on? Our answers to these questions have a major impact on witnessing and our walk in the Christian way of life. Or, in other words, it impacts everything we do as Christians.
In the last couple of days there have been posts on the internet which highlight these points better than I ever could. Over at the Pyromaniacs blog this week Dan Phillips has written two articles on repentance: “Repentance: fake and real” and “Repentance: the vital element”. For anyone who isn’t familiar with Dan Phillips he is the man who compiles and edits John MacArthur’s books (John MacArthur is probably the most famous proponent of “Lordship Salvation” at this time). Both MacArthur and Phillips hold to a definition of repentance where the person doing the repenting must have regret and truly recognize the tragic error that the sin they committed really is.
As I have stated before I don’t believe that our emotions carry any weight with God. There will be many unbelievers at the great white throne judgment (where they will be condemned to the lake of fire for eternity) who have great regrets and those regrets won’t matter. Of course those who believe as MacArthur and Phillips do will deny that unbelievers will have “genuine” regret at the great white throne judgment.
Dan Phillips certainly recognizes the issue that how repentance is defined makes all of the difference. Here is a quote from his first article on the subject:
Usually the NT word is a form of metanoeō. Though the definition has been abused, it does mean fundamentally to change one’s mind. Our problem with that gloss, I think, is that we confuse changing one’s mind with merely changing one’s opinion about something, as if one were going to order a burger and instead goes for a club sandwich. We hear it as a light, shallow pivot — which repentance certainly is not.
He certainly recognizes that the root meaning of the Koine Greek word for repentance means a change of mind. Of course he immediately dismisses that out of hand by calling it a “gloss.” I consider that to be a statement from his theology more than from a study of the Greek.
He goes on to say in the next paragraph:
Perhaps it would be better to explain metanoein as to transform one’s mind. It envisions a root-to-branches paradigm-shift which always and necessarily issues in a change of behavior (Acts 26:20). If there is fruit that is appropriate to repentance (Matthew 3:8), then equally there must be fruit that is inappropriate to genuine repentance — such fruit as I briefly alluded to, above.
I do not believe that he can support that statement from the Greek. I also believe that his last sentence in that paragraph is a logical fallacy. Nowhere in the scripture that I am aware of (and he doesn’t cite any other scripture to back up his statement) does the scripture mention fruit inappropriate to “genuine” repentance. Just because something exists we cannot say that its opposite must also exist.
Dan Phillips’ statement about true repentance transforming one’s mind doesn’t appear to come from the language of repentance passages but from his particular theological view of the world. All Christians do this. All Christians interpret scripture, and the world around us, through our own theological lens. I haven’t completed my personal study of repentance but I cannot say that I have seen anything in scripture that would support Phillips’ definition yet.
You can read both of Dan Phillips’ articles and make your mind up for yourself. However I want to come back to my original point that how a person views repentance does strongly affect their views on salvation and sanctification (the Christian walk). To make my point I want to offer up another article that showed up this week at Lou Martuneac’s Defense of the Gospel blog titled: Let Your “Yes” be “Kinda, Sorta?” The article goes into detail about some of Dan Phillips’ and John MacArthur’s beliefs which I believe are consistent with Phillips’ articles on repentance (in fact I think these beliefs are driven by their beliefs on repentance) and in error. Once again, please read and make up your minds.
A Last Word or Two on Metamelomai
Last week I looked at the uses of the Koine Greek word metamelomai in the New Testament. Remember that this is supposed to be the one Koine Greek word translated as repent that has the strongest emotional content. It is used eight times in five verses in the New Testament (I listed all five verses in last week’s post).
I read the five verses and there was certainly an emotional content in two of them (Matthew 27:3 and 2 Corinthians 7:8) but the other three verses just didn’t seem to have a strong emotional meaning to me. This may be because I didn’t provide enough of the surrounding context. So, here they are again with some additional verses:
The Parable of the Two Sons
28″What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
29″ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind [metamelomai] and went.
30″Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
31″Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.
32For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent [metamelomai] and believe him.
Matthew 21:28-32 (New International Version)
This passage in Hebrews is speaking of Melchizedek when it says:
20And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath,
21but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:
“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
‘You are a priest forever.’ ”
Hebrews 7:20-21 (New International Version)
None of these passages seem to be dripping with emotion or regret. If metamelomai doesn’t strongly speak of emotion (or life a changing transformation of the mind) then I have my doubts that metanoeō will. Of course I could metanoeō of that but it will have to wait for next week’s post.
Metanoeō is used thirty-six times in thirty-two verses in the New Testament and I plan on listing them all next week. We shall see if any clarity comes of that.