Monday, August 22, 2005

Repentance (2)

I asked in my previous post "But what does it mean to repent?", and quoted three Scriptures which say that repentance is initiated by God, i.e. God leads us towards repentance.

The etymology of the Greek words for "repent" and "repentance" (metanoeo and metanoia) suggests the meaning "a change of mind or thinking". This is sometimes picked up by Christadelphians who go on to say that repentance means to change our theological ideas - it is a thing of the head rather than the heart. So "true repentance" to these Christadelphians means that we have to "change our mind" about the nature of Christ, the state of the dead, and just who/what is the devil. Repentance and conversion, to them, is primarily an intellectual experience without necessarily any change in behaviour. A good living, law abiding, honest and sincere Christian (for example) is condemned to perish until they "change their mind" and renounce the trinity, heaven-going at death, a supernatural devil, etc. Once they make the intellectual shift and are baptised/re-baptised there probably isn't much they have to change about their lifestyle or behaviour. This illustrates yet again how Christadelphianism is primarily an intellectual religion, but not necessarily life-changing. Most ecclesias are really out of their depth and unable to cope with people who have "issues" such as addictions, drug or alcohol dependancies, mental health issues, marriage or relationship problems, or who struggle with homosexuality, etc. Christadelphianism has the ability to change someone's ideas but largely lacks the power or means to help someone change their life. Fortunately, some Christadelphians and ecclesias realise when they are out of their depth and have the good sense to send "problem people" to other churches and denominations which have the experience and the means to help them.

The Bible uses the terms repent and repentance to describe a "turning" from a sinful lifestyle to a relationship with God. It is a radical change in a person's life as a whole. This is especially true in Jesus' teachings where the Kingdom is not only "near" but has arrived and is "the day of salvation". Forgiveness and salvation come to those who repent and thereby enter the kingdom.

I believe it's a real pity that so many Christadelphians have the mistaken idea that what God wants is their mind and nothing else counts so long as they have the right doctrinal understanding. This wrongly placed emphasis has led to many divisions within the Christadelphian community, over which idea or interpretation is most correct. In the process the behaviour of the protagonists has sometimes been appalling and unGodly, and sinful behaviour has been excused because it was committed by people who were defending "correct" doctrine. As a result the Christadelphian community has now found itself in a condition from which it needs to repent - to turn from its sinful ways and turn to God and embrace His mercy, grace and forgiveness.

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