How do you understand the following traditional evangelical doctrines?
I affirm that to repent is to not just say “I am sorry” but to make an entire shift in posture. To repent is to turn around and go the other direction. One does not repent when they apologize after abusing their neighbor only to abuse them again the next hour. This is why repentance is necessary for the life of the Christian; we are caught up in going the wrong directions. When are caught up in blaming, scapegoating and committing acts of violence we are moving further away from the heart of God. We must repent; we must turn around and begin to move toward the heart of God if we are taking on the mantle of “Christian”. I believe Jesus Christ even repented and changed his direction a couple of times. When he was baptized by John, I assume that Jesus’ baptism was like John’s other baptisms and was rooted in repentance. Jesus repented and changed directions when he healed a Canaanite woman after he first called her a dog. Jesus changed directions when he set his face toward
. If Jesus changed direction, if Jesus could identify that he was sometimes wrong, if Jesus was humble enough to repent, then as a disciple of Jesus I too must repent in order to move toward the heart of God. Jerusalem
I understand justification to be God’s declaring the sinner righteous through the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Christ. As a Protestant I am drilled in the doctrine of Justification by Faith not by Works, which I affirm. However, it is important to make clear that Faith does not mean ‘believing’ certain statements of faith. If Faith is reduced to giving one’s mental assent to a set of statements, then Faith becomes a work of the human. Justification by Faith is perhaps better understood as in the image Kierkegaard shares. “Faith is like floating in seventy thousand fathoms of water. If you struggle, if you tense up and thrash about, you will eventually sink. But if you relax and trust, you will float.” Justification by Faith is rooted in our ability to not focus on our salvation or to cling to our lives but to trust in the “buoyancy of God.” God has done the work of Justification through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. It is our call to have faith and trust. The reason we do ‘works’ is not to earn salvation or divine rewards but to build trust. The more I work in the world to share Grace and Love and Peace, the more I trust (or have Faith) in those values of God. We are justified, made right, in the sight of God because of what God did and does.
God is constantly doing new things because God is, in part, the process of Love. Each moment we breathe we are given the gift of regeneration, which is to say with each breath we are made new. God does not “settle” on us being settled, if we are not moving toward maturation in our faith then we risk stagnation, “lukewarm-ness” and even death. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we are given new opportunities, new chances, new ways in which we can grow. The power of the Holy Spirit gives each of us the regenerative power to be restored so that we can move toward maturation or “perfection”. To know that God continues to work with each of us is Good News to me. God did not send Jesus Christ and then wash God’s hands of humanity as though the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ would be enough for each of us to never sin or fail again. God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, continues to work on each of us today, regenerating our lives so that we might be made perfect in love.
The “steps” of repentance, justification and regeneration are all aspects of the same process known as Sanctification. The process of being sanctified (purified) is not always a pleasant process for the individual. There is great humility in repentance, there is great trust in justification and there is great struggle in regeneration for the individual and the society as God continues to work in order to build The Kingdom. I am not made perfect yet, but I have faith that the process of Sanctification leads to that life of faith with fruit of everlasting joy and peace. When we follow Jesus Christ we are not only following the teachings of Christ but also The Way of Christ, which is the way of Sanctification. This is not to be taken lightly but with serious intention because we can easily backslide to the state we were in before we recognized the Grace of God in our lives. The slippery slope of backsliding is why it is vital for the Christian to do no harm, do good and attend to the ordinances of God