The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Grace — Forgiveness — Faith — Repentance

I’ve been thinking, as I sometimes do, about the fourth word in this quaternary – Repentance. Lewis Sperry Chafer wrote, in 1994:

Too often, when it is asserted that repentance is not to be added to belief as a separated requirement for salvation, it is assumed that repentance is not necessary to salvation. Therefore it is as dogmatically stated as language can declare, that repentance is essential to salvation and that none could be saved apart from repentance, but it is included in believing and cannot be separated from it (Lewis Sperry Chafer, Vital Theological Issues, Roy B. Zuck, General Editor, Kregel, Grand Rapids, 1994, p. 119).

I concur that repentance is a primary requirement for salvation, along with grace, forgiveness, and faith. But how is it manifest in our lives? For that matter, how are the other three requirements displayed? By His actions, God Himself has demonstrated grace and forgiveness and all we have to do is acknowledge what He has done by the exercise of faith and mimic His grace and forgiveness in our dealings with one another. But repentance?

Numbers 23:19 et al: God is not a man that he should lie, or a son of man that he should repent.

But we also read in Jonah and in ten other scriptures that God repented:
Jonah 3:9 - 10 (KJV)

Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

I doubt that we can profit much from a debate about repentance on the part of God. I think the common definition is as close as one can get – that repentance is a “change of mind and heart”. That zeros in on the question of how we are to respond to God’s call for us to repent.

Only last week, an event occurred that perhaps illustrates my understanding about repentance. I live in a seniors’ complex. We get together every morning, except Sunday, for coffee and conversation – usually about politics or sports. We also share stories. I love telling stories and I’m told I’m pretty good at it. When my children were young, I would often hear the words “tell us a story, Daddy – the one when you met Mummy for the first time”, and others like that. As you know, Alida and I had nine children in a span of 21 years so I had that particular tale off pat.

Anyway, last week I was asked to tell a story to the group. I started to relate the indescribably sad saga of my prostate problems and their resolution. Three or four minutes into the story, I saw one of the guys starting a conversation with the fellow sitting next to him and ignoring me completely. I guess I was pretty upset because I set about lecturing him on what I perceived to be bad manners, loudly, so that all could see how he was guilty of acting in bad form. I never finished the story and got up and left.

That afternoon, I thought about what had taken place in the morning. The thoughts made me feel bad. “Steve” was 10 years older than me. I had belittled him in front of our friends. I had lost control of my temper. What to do? I would have to apologise and set things right. At coffee the next day, I told the group I had something to say and went on to publicly apologise to “Steve” for acting as I had. It no longer mattered that he had “sinned” against me by his actions. My over-reaction demanded that I repent.

I know that there is much more to the subject than the above. However, my experience has given me an inkling of what it means to repent.


Thanks, I agree everyone is not called to identical ministries. I remain unsure what your observation implies tor today. Do you believe anyone is called to such ministry today. Is the apostles’ exhortation to be reconciled (place repentant faith in Christ, etc?) still vital today.

If “ministry” you describe required “faith and repentance,” does that mean that God does not seek and see faith and repentance as vital in the rest of mankind then, or now?


Let me throw out a “curveball”, with this article from Patheos Catholic newsletter:

Let me quote a bit.

Thus, those who come to believe in one God over all, be they Platonists, Aristotelians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Native Americans, Christians, et. al., they can all come together in their belief in the one God. They are grounded together in God despite the differences of their faiths. Likewise, Aquinas showed we can therefore learn from those of other faiths in regards their basic arguments and premises for belief in God, and perhaps what they discern from that belief, even as we are to use what we learn from revelation to supplement and transcend what we learn from natural theology.

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That is a very difficult question, Randy. Does everyone using the word ‘god’ actually refer to the Maker of heaven and earth in reality - Yahweh in the OT and the Father in the NT?
“God” is not a personal name of a Being - it is a concept that has a meaning, and the contents of that meaning vary widely.
Anyway, a big question.

Plus, as Bentley Hart has explained: “God is not an ‘entity’. Neither, for that reason, is he some sort of particular object that one could choose or reject in the same way as one might elect either to drink a glass of wine or to pour it in the dust. He is, rather, the fullness of Being and the transcendental horizon of reality that animates every single stirring of reason and desire, the always more remote end present within every more immediate end.”

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Is that “relevance” a “Yes,” that faith and repentance are still needed to “come and be blessed”? (Or did the message’s ‘fulfillment’ and AD70 remove the universally vital importance of faith and repentance?)


When the books tally-up we say they have been “reconciled”, i.e., they align. God has reconciled humanity aligning humanity back to and with Himself… what the first Adam wrecked the last Adam restored. Because of, and subsequent to this, is the imploration… “be ye therefore reconciled to God!” IOW… come and experience the blessedness of this reality.

For some that will be as simple as realigning of their faith and belief towards God, but for others that will take more of a radical mind-shift, i.e., they will need a hefty shove in that direction to where they can repent, i.e., have a change of mind — but as always it is… “the goodness of God that leads you to repentance”.

Damn right, so let’s get after it son. Why do you believe Christ has ‘NOT DONE EVERYTHING’?

What can that possibly mean? If you claim “Christ has done it all” - explain.

Thank you. That sounds like a solid “Yes,” and much the way I would put it.

MM does follow your affirmation by suggesting to Dave that what Christ has done means damn right, nothing is necessary on our end, explicitly not “faith,” or a change of mind toward God. Language like that may be part of why we get confused despite your articulate affirmation here about everyone’s need to realign their mind toward God in order to experience the blessedness of what he has provided.

But when it comes to what’s needed for sinners to escape the experience of alienation from God into the blessedness of experiencing his reconciliation, you and I appear to endorse the same language.

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So I won’t speak for Chad though we seem to be on a similar page. I understand Chad’s point to basically be… Christ has done it all in terms of restoring humanity to God, and with that NO response from man is needed for this to be true and in place — now Chad can clarify, but if I have that right then I agree 100%

Now beyond that… where “I” find a place for the likes of belief, faith, repentance etc, is in regards to experiencing the assurance of God’s grace on a personal level etc… so yep, somewhat subjective, but real nonetheless IMO. Thus BECAUSE God HAS done it all and reconciled humanity it is possible in life to tap into the well of God, if you will, for a deeper and richer revelation and experience of God — as I understand it, the likes of belief, faith, repentance etc are the key to this.

So for mine… I don’t so much look at people these days as who’s in or who’s out, i.e., sinners or saints — we all belong to God; some folk are more spiritually inclined and others less, but I kinda think, yeah whatever… God believes in us all. I just think there is tremendous benefit in likewise believing in Him… and thus encourage people to do the same, however it is that works for them.

The idea of a ‘mind-shift’ only covers a bit of what is needed, if I understand things correctly. What specifically will NOT be sufficient - as I read the bible - is just a change of mind, because the problem between men and God is not just mental. This is where the emphasis on ‘the heart’ comes in.

People can be supremely informed about, and even mentally agree with, truth about God. And that knowledge, unless joined with a repentant and believing ‘heart’ is not of much value. In other words the conviction of sin and truth, by the Holy Spirit, and subsequent regeneration seems to be God’s plan. The preaching of Christ, the loving example of Christians - things that deal directly to the ‘heart’ - that’s what we need. I don’t think I’m saying much that most of us don’t already agree with.

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Interestingly, I love your language here, and would put it like this also. And that is despite agreeing with Dave’s perception above of the NT presentation of what’s involved in becoming aligned with God.

I like this language too. We’ve discussed such semantics, wherein I sympathized with affirming Colossian 1 that God HAS already reconciled himself to humanity, even while imploring us personally to “Be reconciled.” As you say, the key for our own “real” individual experience of the reconciliation God has fully established and offers is faith and repentance.

If I quibbled with any of your words, it would be the “all” in God has done it all. Though what God has done is totally sufficient to secure his love and unmerited grace toward us, it only seems to me that all God has done, does not include our own vital response of faith and repentance, and that only we can do that part.

It seems that despite reading atonement and some eschatological judgment texts and particulars differently, we end up with fundamentally similar sentiments toward the human situation.

Are humans a very good thing gone bad, or are they born innocent and it is society’s fault that we learn to be bad, or is everyone just fine in God’s eyes because he has ‘done it all’?

Does humanity, in other words, need a living Savior, or an advice counselor or beneficent dictator?
If we had an elite that ordered our lives utterly, ordered production and consumption perfectly, allowed only the ‘right’ entertainment etc - would human nature change, or just human behavior?

Perhaps Joel Osteen is the perfect representative of the Gospel? Or has he changed ‘the gospel’ into something Jesus or Paul would not recognize? Is it possible to so change the Gospel that it becomes deceiving?

I can’t really believe that God has changed, or that unsaved mankind has either. There are things God does not like - unloving behavior, faithlessness, fornication - He’s been very clear about that - and I have to believe that He still has the same attitude. And, the lesson the Israelites learned is still current - sin has to be take responsibility for, repented of, and overcome with good. No hiding behind religion. None of this ‘God doesn’t see your sin’ - of COURSE He does - how can we be delivered from something unless we face it, own up to it, are forgiven for it - and that means addressing those whom we have wronged as well.

I’m a bit hard-headed on this because if we stray from the reality of the human situation, there is no other message of hope and reconciliation to be had.

Some believers love imputing sin… it gives them that self-righteous sense of superiority.

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them…

What a brilliant message to be believed!! Too bad so many say they believe it BUT when you drill down, and that not too far, up come the inevitable caveats…

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You succinctly well state my perception also that such longstanding principles haven’t been repudiated! (Davo and I are now carrying on the same discussion on the Gehenna is Hades thread)

Probably to get in tune with these elements, you need to

Here’s some practical advice on how! :crazy_face:

And here’s an article for all us hopeful (AKA me) and dogmatic universalists here.

And here’s another Patheo’s story. :crazy_face:

I ask - if men don’t ‘believe in God’ - what god do they believe in? The devil also ‘believes’.
This thinking that all is well with men, that belief is not necessary for salvation - leaves open the biblical view that humans who don’t serve God, are in fact serving something else. And whatever it is is less than god, certainly, and less than human as well.