In all my years in studying Philosophy, it is a challenge at times to continue to love it. The reason is that even among professional thinkers, often, the conversation isn’t much more than intellectual, mental masturbation. Who frets, for example, over arguing the impossibility of motion rather than simply standing up and leaving the conversation? Or, who would attend to an infinite landscape of metaphysical propositioning where the only limit isn’t verity but essentially, good grammar? The only thing which makes these circumstances worse is the introduction of laymen; those curiously all-knowing souls who are quite adept at quoting large-minded dead guys but having the ironic inability to reason fully or at least nearly helpfully. And this is my life, because it is identical to Theology and both are my passions. There is fortunately just enough of an offset of passion over these peaves for me to continue in either.
I say all of that because apparently lapsarianism, dispensationalism, tongues and hosts of other very uninteresting things are not enough to keep us from adding one more to our Christian thinking. Not faith versus works, but now, faith versus repentance. Apparently we have finally taken this question seriously though it’s not at all a serious question. What makes it serious these days is the fact that, especially in Protestantism, Christians have no idea of the meanings of the words they’re using; here, it’s entirely from not understanding what faith is and not thinking through how scripture describes it. Today’s fret is: which comes first, chicken or egg, faith or repentance.
“Faith” is “pistis” which is a draw, a persuasion, a disposition to the good. You cannot ask what precedes faith. Faith is the result of God’s active presence is the world, which is “grace”. Both are required for salvation. Both are facts of the matter for all people everywhere, like air. Both are entirely sufficient for salvation. We choose neither. We deny or ascent to neither. Our only choice is either responding to the draw to the good, which is God, by participating in it or we respond by not participating.
Atonement is the experience of doing the good, where we get the clarity that we are more than we thought and, the fullest sense of what God is like and what his will is. Salvation is in the transforming nature of the experience of encountering God in those moments.
Repentance is synonymous with faith. It is what one does, which is the good to do, when one has turned away from it. However to the question, without an awareness of moral correctness, there is no knowing that there is anything from which to turn, to repent of, or what to turn toward. But this has been, again, imprinted on every human heart.
There is only a draw to the good. There is no “true” draw to the good or special invocation of it by professing certain ideas as being the case; as if there is favor from God because somebody finally correctly got what God is really up to. And there is no exclusivity in Christianity, as anyone living in faith, as defined here, is in God and God in him. That’s regardless of whether a person acknowledges God or Christ or blasphemes either. Johannine literature and the Synoptics are clear on the point. But to bring this point all home, grace and faith are efficacious for salvation, and the only way it becomes impossible is when a person continually rejects the natural disposition to do the good, moots his conscious.
Just a thought.