- Becca (for those who feel detached from Bob Jones University and its racism)
- Lisa (for those who are tentative about the socio-cultural consequences of signing)
- Joy (for those who are unsure about the spiritual impact of racism)
- Roanna (on facebook)
- Tim (on facebook)
- Loraena (for those who think there’s no theological basis for such pleas)
- Paul (for those who think BJU’s interracial dating prohibition was never a big deal)
- Joel (for those who still don’t think it’s a big deal)
- Joy again (if you are still not convinced.)
I’ve been reading a lot about confession and repentance the last few days. I didn’t realize that Calvin was the innovator who changed the ecclesiastical wording in corporate confessions from “I” to “we.” Confessing sin isn’t about remembering a long laundry list of missteps, goofs, unkindnesses, and near misses. It’s about the Gospel! And it’s not that we confess in order to get God’s blessing. No, the confessing is God’s blessing.
Repentance is the fruit of faith and prayer. Luther said in his Ninety-Five Theses that all of the Christian life should be marked by repentance. Calvin also sees repentance as a lifelong process. He says that repentance is not merely the start of the Christian life; it is the Christian life. It involves confession of sin as well as growth in holiness. Repentance is the lifelong response of the believer to the gospel in outward life, mind, heart, attitude, and will.
Repentance begins with turning to God from the heart and proceeds from a pure, earnest fear of God. It involves dying to self and sin (mortification) and coming alive to righteousness (vivification) in Christ. Calvin does not limit repentance to an inward grace, but views it as the redirection of a man’s entire being to righteousness. Without a pure, earnest fear of God, a man will not be aware of the heinousness of sin or want to die to it. But mortification is essential because, though sin ceases to reign in the believer, it does not cease to dwell in him. Romans 7:14-25 shows that mortification is a lifelong process. With the Spirit’s help, the believer must put sin to death every day through self-denial, cross-bearing, and meditation on the future life.
Repentance is also characterized by newness of life, however. Mortification is the means to vivification, which Calvin defines as “the desire to live in a holy and devoted manner, a desire arising from rebirth; as if it were said that man dies to himself that he may begin to live to God.” True self-denial results in a life devoted to justice and mercy. The pious both “cease to do evil” and “learn to do well.” Through repentance, they bow in the dust before their holy Judge, then are raised to participate in the life, death, righteousness, and intercession of their Savior. As Calvin writes, “For if we truly partake in his death, ‘our old man is crucified by his power, and the body of sin perishes’ (Rom. 6:6), that the corruption of original nature may no longer thrive. If we share in his resurrection, through it we are raised up into newness of life to correspond with the righteousness of God.”
The words Calvin uses to describe the pious Christian life (reparatio, regeneratio, reformatio, renovatio, restitutio) point back to our original state of righteousness. They indicate that a life of pietas is restorative in nature. Through Spirit-worked repentance, believers are restored to the image of God.