Saturday, September 29, 2007

Repentance: a minority opinion

I mean to write more on this, and probably at Pyro. But I thought I'd throw out this brief thought for the weekend.

I've heard a lot of my fellow-Reformeds rail against explaining "repentance" as "a change of mind."

Not me. It is a change of mind. That's exactly the significance of the Greek word μετάνοια (metanoia).

What I think the critics of this explanation should do is say, not "It does not mean a change of mind," but "It does not mean a merely superficial adjustment of opinion." What they say, and what they criticize, are two different things.

Let's say you smoke cigarettes. I ask you what you think about it on Monday. You say, "I see nothing wrong with it." Then I ask you on Friday, and you say, "I've changed my mind. It's a loathsome and destructive habit, and I must stop immediately."

Then I check back two weeks later, and you're still smoking like a factory, without a single attempt to stop.

My conclusion: you adjusted your opinion superficially, but you didn't really change your mind about smoking. Because a real change of mind issues in a change of behavior, however imperfectly and however gradually.

The mind is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23). It is how we are renewed (Romans 12:1-2).

Perhaps a better explanation would be: repentance is a fundamental change of mind from ungodly beliefs to God-honoring beliefs, which issues in appropriate fruits of attitude and behavior.


Even So... said...


However, if they sin against us, say, puffing smoke in our faces, as it were, we still must forgive them and not judge their repentance by not forgiving them (Luke 17:3-4)...

word verification: daywar

I hope not...


Terry Rayburn said...


I agree with you 100% as far as you've taken it. And I encourage you to continue taking it to its logical conclusions, but that will take courage, because the vast majority of amateur and professional theologues have had it pounded in their brains that Repentance means something like "turning 180 degrees around".

Repentance as, "turning from your sins" is preached from the lowliest legalistic Arminian pulpits, to the loftiest Reformed "Biggie" pulpits.

You will have your work cut out for you, Dan, but you are right.

The key is Regeneration preceding repentance and faith. Only the new birth can truly change the mind from hating Christ to loving Him, and from loving sin to hating it (which, as you point out, will of course issue in "a change of behavior, however imperfectly and however gradually").

DJP said...

Even So, connecting this with the previous posts on forgiveness: are you saying forgive a person who professes no repentance, and does not apologize? Or are you saying you disagree with the previous posts, and think one must forgive the person who expresses no repentance whatever? And could you expand on your thoughts?

Highland Host said...

On the actual post: Absolutely. To say 'repentance does not mean a change of mind', when the Greek word unequivocally means just that, is rather silly. To say it means a REAL change of mind (just as faith, while it includes belief that God is, goes beyond that), is somewhat more to the point. We might, however, be on safer ground if we say that repentance does not ONLY mean a change of mind (although it includes that).

FX Turk said...

Here's the thing --

I'm wondering how long it will take someone to call you a gnostic for saying this.

They'd be flat-out wrong, but this is the blogosphere.

DJP said...

Well, the good thing about it is, I think that's one name I haven't ever been called!

Kristine said...

I hope you write more on this. I agree with you; the explanation you provide here, however brief it is, is right along the same lines of what I attempt to articulate when sharing the gospel with others.

Thomas Pryde said...

I have always explained repentance as: a change of mind that always produces a change of action. Of course, this is much easier to evaluate in our own heart, but Paul does give some guidance in 2 Corinthians 7 as to how to recognize the genuine and expected fruits of the change. One of the most read posts on my blog deals with this topic as it pertains to pornography, but the principles are universal: