Thursday, December 21, 2006

repentance and faith

This week has been crazy - trying to get the house finished before the baby comes. The plan was something like this:
Mon & Tues - Tiler, Weds - Plasterer, Thurs - Plumber, Fri - Carpet Fitter, Weekend - baby. We're about half way through and we're not too far off schedule. We're really hoping the baby delays it's arrival till after the carpet's down though!
Anyway, last Sunday night at hOME I shared some thoughts on the day's gospel text, which included John the Baptist's words - 'bear fruit in keeping with repentance'. I said that repentance and faith seemed to form the core of both John's and Jesus's proclamation. My problem is that we seem to have changed the content of those two key elements. We have turned repentance into 'feeling sorry for wrong things' and faith into 'mental assent to a set of concepts'. I don't think either are correct.
Repentance is an act of the will, before it is ever an emotion, that enables us to 'speak the same as God' i.e. to call something as God calls it. And I don't think it's primarily about right or wrong actions, but true or false identities. When we sin we act out of a false identity - not who we are in God. And when we are holy we are acting out of our true identity, and we are living the future life now. It's not some arbitrary list of do's and don't's.
Faith is not about mental assent to a set of doctrinal statements (even the devils believe in that sense) but about action - following Jesus into transformed identity and reality. It's not my place to judge but I think that's why such a huge proportion on the last census identified themselves as 'Christian' - because we have ended up with a concept of believing without following. We have separated the two.
If we are turning (repentance) to follow Christ (faith) we can expect to see change in our lives - fruit in keeping with repentance. If we are no different now to how we used to be this raises some serious questions.
It wasn't a light-hearted discussion in hOME that night! But important stuff nevertheless I think. The podcast will be available here as soon as I manage to locate my firewire lead in our building site of a house!


Sarcastic Lutheran said...

Good stuff.
I've been tossing around this question: Is there perhaps a difference between "believing in Jesus" and "believing Jesus" belief "in" implies intellectual assent to a set of unbelievable propositions, but believing Jesus implies something more dynamic. The belief becomes centered on Christ as truth-bearer rather than on our concepts of Christ as being the truth. What say you?
On another topic, I also feel more comfortable calling myself Christian rather than calling myself "a" Christian. This seems to circumvent a little bit of the Western individualism that so permeates American Evangelicalism.

bigdaddystevieB said...

Thanks for this (and to you Nadia) - it's given me much food for thought. Put me in mind of words from Peter Rollins' book “How (Not) to Speak of God”. He refers to the traditional concept of a person “being” a Christian and “joining” a Church but goes on to talk about our need to acknowledge that all of us on this journey are in the process of "becoming Christian" and "becoming Church".
I particularly liked the following: “For too long the Church has been seen as an oasis in the desert – offering water to those who are thirsty. In contrast, the emerging community appears more as a desert in the oasis of life, offering silence, space and desolation amidst the sickly nourishment of Western capitalism. It is in this desert, as we wander together as nomads, that God is to be found. For it is here that we are nourished by our hunger”.
I don't see this as a cop-out to your contention (and I agree with you Matt!) that "if we are turning... to follow Christ... we can expect to see change in our lives..." - it just makes me think about things a little differently!
Hope your baby weekend goes well!