Dad Rod on Repentance

Lutheran professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Apologetics, Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, co-host of The White Horse Inn radio show, was interviewed yesterday,

Rod is rad, he's our dad!

Rod is rad, he's our dad!

 Thursday, February 4th, on “Lutheran Public Radio,” a show called Issues, Etc. on the topic of repentance. Dr. Rosenbladt’s WHI co-hosts, Mike Horton and Kim Riddlebarger, began calling him “Dad Rod,” chiefly, I think, because it was his sense of urgency that American Evangelicalism needs to be reintroduced to the gospel, that drives the vision of their show. Among other things, revivalism has transformed American Protestant Christianity into something more akin to the medieval Roman Catholic spirituality and Anabaptistic enthusiasm  (don’t ignore this link!) than anything produced by the Protestant Reformation of the Magisterial Reformers, Martin Luther, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli. One of the things that revivalism has “De-formed” in America is the doctrine of repentance.

The revivalist version of the doctrine of repentance is one which puts all the emphasis on the work of the believer to be sorry or contrite enough, really mean it when he repents, and shows that he’s really repented because he has actually ceased and desisted of any recurrence of the particular sinful behavior repented of. “Dad Rod” clearly and simply summarized the Reformation view of repentance from the believer’s perspective when he said . . .

“Our repentance is always imperfect and always half-hearted. . . This is preparation for believing the gospel promise (of forgiveness). . . and we do that half-heartedly, too. But God saves us in Jesus anyway.”

If you didn’t just breathe a sigh of relief, watch out! You may just be one of those dishonest people who thinks they’ve got this obedience to the Law thing down.

By the way, you can learn more pearls of wisdom from our Lutheran Dad Rod at his very own website, New Reformation Press.


6 responses

  1. Capt.,
    I am not sure I am breathing a sigh of relief. Set me straight. “Half-hearted” repentance is sufficient? That will get me saved? And for the believer, we are instructed to “confess” (which means to “agree with God”) and I can’t see God being “half-hearted” in His view of sin. . .considering what it cost Him to redeem us. So if I am not nearly as serious about it as He, are you telling me that is OK?

    Christian West

  2. Sufficient for what? Nothing you do is sufficient, that’s why God saves by graciously showing mercy. You don’t earn it with the right kind of repentance. Likewise, God doesn’t command the things he does in order to establish some equity “considering what it cost him to redeem us.” Nothing we do would ever be equitable. Finally, I’m not saying that if the believer isn’t serious about it, then it’s okay, I’m saying no one can obey God’s commands to the extent he truly requires.

    God’s commands reveal our inability to keep them, even the command to repent. While repentance is commanded, and indeed, is done by the one who, by God’s sovereign and monergistic grace, believes, “all his works (even his repentance) are filthy rags.” Jesus did not die only for the sins of commission, but also for the sins of omission, like failing to repent “well enough.”

    Yes, repentance is commanded, and the sinner (even the believing sinner) must repent of his sins. He is truly called to turn from sin in reliance on the perfect righteousness of the Savior, intending to never commit such sins again. And this command, like the rest of God’s commands, exposes his sin of imperfectly turning from his sin in less than reliable reliance on the righteousness of a Savior who is the only one who ever has, and ever will, before glory, perfectly obey all of God’s commands.

    The gospel is for Christians, too. If Christians never hear the call to come to Christ for forgiveness of their sins, along with the non-Christians, then they’re going to either become a Pharisee and whittle the Law down to a manageable bunch of human traditions, or, honest failure that he is, he’s liable to give up completely and may possibly deny his once-claimed faith. The Christian needs to hear about God’s grace for him, so that he, like the tax-collector in the Lord’s parable, beat his chest and cry for mercy.

    The point is not, you don’t have to; the point is you must, but you can’t–and Christ’s death paid for your sin of imperfect repentance. The believer must daily repent of his lousy excuse for repentance, and know the “kindness of the Lord that leads to repentance.”

  3. Capt.,
    Sorry. While I am certainly not supporting any sufficiency on our part in salvation, since we are totally without merit, I cannot ignore the clear references to “whole heart” in the Scripture. (13 references in the Old Testament). I would also infer from NT passages the same “kind” of commitment.

    It would seem to me that what you are reporting is that since I am unable to repent (turn from sin, or more correctly a sin) perfectly, I should not be concerned that I have failed to understand the power to do so is perfect through the Spirit of God within me.

    I think I am hoping the rest of the people people I llove (it may be too late for you) don’t get caught up in “Dad Rod’s” thinking.

    Christian West

  4. You haven’t listened to the show yet, according to my Blog Stats. You are responding to John’s thoughts, not Rod’s. And short of that, you’re not getting the whole picture of what’s being affirmed or denied here.

    Of course I’m aware that all of Scripture’s commands are to be done with the whole heart, as well as, toward my neighbor as if it’s for myself–every time! No honest Christian can look back on his past performance and say he demonstrates a consistent progression of improvement from the day he trusted Christ to the present. There is failure along the way. This does not deny the Spirit’s ability, but man’s.

    Is there some denial of the Spirit’s ability if we recognize that he doesn’t give to all qualitatively equal gifts by his grace? In the case of faith, for instance, that of a grain of mustard seed is efficient, although faith such as that motivated one man to confess, “I believe–help my unbelief.” That’s imperfect faith, and it’s efficient according to the clear teaching of Scripture.

    The problem that I am criticizing is how people so easily turn the gospel into works. The closer you zoom in on it, the less salvation becomes a monergistic work of divine grace, and the more it becomes a synergistic work of divine/human cooperation. Such is the case when one rests the primary focus of his assurance of genuine salvation on the quality and consistency of his repentance, rather than on the trustworthiness of God’s promise as proclaimed in the Word (Law and Gospel–not just “Truth”) and signified and sealed to him in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Here, the promise is renewed weekly (unless, of course, the ministry contains neither Law, Gospel, nor sacrament, but primarily priniciples based on “Truth”). But under another regimen, the believer is called on to so overexamine himself that, in spite of God’s promise to forgive those who repent and believe, he begins to fear that he or any other person really is saved because sometimes they recommit sins they’ve repented of. This is putting the subjective over the objective.

    But to make the long story short, this is just an application of the fact that all of our righteousness is filthy rags in God’s sight. When I, by the power of the Spirit, repent, I do so, not as a completely sanctified individual, but as a weak beggar crawling out of the gutter with a little muck still clinging to him who cries, “Lord, I repent; help my lack of repentance!” The Spirit comes in measure before Christ’s return, and the work is never complete until then. And so in the case of the present subject, repentance, though genuinely contrite, will remain imperfect. To confess otherwise, I submit, is to get people on track for either burn out or hypocrisy. We are to progress in this life, but progression begins at a point which leaves room for improvement. Until you’re glorified, the believer’s repentance, like the other works that flow out of his love that is grounded in his faith, will leave room for improvement.

    Here’s a Scriptural case of imperfect repentance. On the night of Christ’s arrest and trial, Peter denied Christ, to save his own skin, yet repented and was forgiven and called to feed Christ’s sheep by the Savior himself. Yet years later, Peter would fall back into a similar denial, when trying to save his skin in the face of the Judaizers, and he had to be called on the carpet for it again by Paul. This raises the question: did Peter not genuinely repent well enough the first time? He lapsed back into the sin of denial. So was one of the leading spokesmen and part of the very foundation of the church offering a false repentance? I think not. And neither do those modern believers, I contend, who, with contrition confess their sins yet in their weakness, sometimes commit those sins again in the future. God’s more gracious than some fruit inspectors would have us believe.

  5. Capt.,
    Good try! I can agree with everything you said (I think). My argument is not with the Gospel or the Law, or with Truth. My concern is that a “half-hearted” anything is less than best While I may commit, or omit in the future that which grieves the heart of God, I cannot make a “half-hearted” confession. It must be real, genuine, whole-hearted, with all the understanding that is in me. And even though that may not be perfect (who of us is, although you and I are close), it is not an attempt to gain some forgiveness while harboring a desire to avoid the holiness and/or righteousness promised to me when I confess (agree with God, see 1 John 1:9; i.e. “cleansed from ALL unrighteousness”) my sin.

    Of one thing I am sure. We will never know righteousness practically working in our lives, and conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ, untill we desire it above all else.

    Once again, I thiink we have more agreement than not. But, words mean things! And “half-hearted” is one I choose to avoid.

    Christian West

  6. We certainly do agree more than disagree. As for Rod’s choice of words, keep in mind–he’s a Lutheran, and Luther himself was a master of colorful ways of putting things to make a point by (possibly) overstating things.

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