Thursday 16 July 2015

Readers Question: What is the meaning of repentance?

Reader's Question: You mention repentance often on your blog. Could you describe your understanding of what repentance is and what it means?

Answer: Repentance is the acknowledgement that sin really is sin. (Which is the acknowledgement that we are God's children, that God is good, and our choice to take the side of good.)

Repentance is a psychological act that is effective because of the work of Jesus Christ -- If it was not for Christ, then repentance would be merely a state of mind, or a change of mind; but because of Christ it is made effectual - because of Christ, repentance saves. 

In a sense, we are here in order to repent; repentance is in one vital thing we must do, and can always do. 

By this account, pride is simply the refusal to repent - therefore pride is the worst possible sin. All the ultimate wickedness in the world can (crudely) be reduced to this - pride preventing repentance.

 So, life is an adventure with real stakes; but a safe adventure. We must do our best, but we will fail again and again to achieve what we aspire to and to avoid what we want to avoid.

However we are ultimately safe and our immortal souls and eternal happiness cannot be harmed by anything the world can throw at us - so long as we repent in a final and ultimate sense.

Minimally, that is what life is for: to try, fail, repent.



MatthewT said...

Question: What do you think about Charles Dickens? Before becoming a Christian, I used to think Dickens was overly sentimental and too unsophisticated (although I had actually *read* anything of his, but that was the opinion I had). But I recently finished a Tale of Two Cities and had tears streaming down my face. I've had similar overwhelming reactions to his other works too.

Anonymous said...

I was taught that it means to turn the other direction, not just accepting you sinned, but to want to stop sinning

Bruce B. said...

I have a question that’s irrelevant to the point you are making. Are we all really God’s children by default? I’m adding “by default” because that’s what I assume you mean. Isn’t it the case that we were disinherited at the fall and that we only become God’s adopted children when we’re in Christ?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Anon - Well, I was asked for my opinion: this is it!

@BB - My understanding is that we are God's children without any exceptions - which is why we are divine - or more exactly why we are partially divine, and can become more fully so by adoption.

I interpret adoption to mean that we are of the same 'kind', the same nature, as God (and Jesus Christ) - because adoption only refers to the same 'species' - one can only become an adopted heir when one is of the same type-of-thing as the adopter. Since we can become adopted heirs of God, we must be essential of the same nature as God (i.e. standard Mormon theology)

I don't interpret the fall in that way of disinheritance, but that's another topic.

@MT - I haven't succeeded in reading any Dickens - nothing personal against him, but I didn't read him when I was young and there are very few novels I want to read nowadays.

Unknown said...

Regarding adoption: standard Christian theology is that man is not of the same nature as the Deity, but that Christ became Incarnate precisely so that man could be joined to Him through His divine humanity. We are not consubstantial with the Blessed Trinity, but we are consubstantial with Christ's humanity. Through Christ, therefore, and by incorporation into Christ, man can be "the same things as" Christ, and receive the adoption of grace.

Man was not disinherited at the fall, because as of yet man was God's creature, but not His child. The more probable opinion in the Church, is that Christ would have become Incarnate to make this point of contact between God and man possible in any case, but of course the Passion was made necessary by the Fall.

Upon entering the monastery, one of the first things my confessor did, was assign me a lot of Dickens to read. He mentioned that many converts (and especially novice monks) want to immediately start reading great works of mysticism and theology; but he had learned that developing a savour for basic goodness was necessary before one could "graduate" to such things. He thought Dickens had such a depth of humanity, that his books were a good way simply to develop the "basic human soul." He wanted me to read Shakespeare, develop an appreciation for Classical music, etc., but I was already an old hand at those things. I had, however, passed over Dickens as something too sentimental, plebeian and insignificant, but I have repented that opinion and am glad now to have read him.

Anonymous said...

Sin is missing the mark. Repentance is returning our aim to the mark. Such a return is only possible by the synergy of our will and God's uncreated energies.