Thursday, February 16, 2012
Horton on Repentance, etc.
I’m still working my way through Horton’s The Christian Faith. I was struck by several things in Horton’s discussion of repentance (pp. 577-580). He is clear to distinguish between repentance itself and “fruit in keeping with repentance.” Repentance is “always partial, weak, and incomplete in this life. Nor is it a one time act” (p. 579). Repentance is, in fact, “a perpetual cycle that defines the Christian life.”
After discussing the Roman Catholic confusion of repentance “with a system of penance,” Horton makes this observation:
However, powerful currents within Protestantism (especially in more Arminian versions) have taught that God’s forgiveness and justification are conditioned on the degree of earnestness of their repentance and on new obedience. Even in broader evangelical circles, some Christians struggle to the point of despair over whether the quality and degree of their repentance is adequate to be forgiven, as if repentance were the ground of forgiveness and the former could be measured by the intensity of emotion and resolve (p. 579).
I was struck by this statement, since it rang true of some things I have experienced in broad evangelical church life, where expression of outward emotion are often considered a required standard for measuring genuine repentance (or just about any other spiritual experience). Horton correctively responds that “it is not our tears but Christ’s blood that satisfies God’s judgment and establishes peace with God (Ro 5:1, 8-11).”
Horton’s downplaying of “intensity of emotion” reminded me of this post last month from D. G. Hart regarding John Piper. I especially liked this statement in the comments section: "So much of what Piper says feels like a command to have his personality." Maybe I’m going all “Escondido” on this point, but it strikes a chord.