Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

What is repentance?

December 27th, 2017 by Bruce Charlton

Excerpts from my most recent understanding of what I regard as the core of Christ’s gift to us…

I assume that mortal life is about learning, spiritual learning – that is, we have experiences, and therefore, if we make the right choices, opportunities to make spiritual progression towards divinity (i.e. theosis or sanctification). I shall call this primary purpose of mortality divine-learning…

But what does this ‘divine-learning’ mean? Well, what this learning is Not is learning in the everyday or scientific sense of observable ‘behavioural-change’ in mortal life. Because behavioural-change can’t be what learning is about; because we humans are not designed that way, and neither is the world.

Divine-learning – that learning from Life that you and I are living for – is about something much more than mere behavioural change; it is about a real, permanent… indeed eternal and spiritual change. The learning of our mortal life is designed to benefit our eternal life. Divine-learning = Positive spiritually-progressing change that affects that which is eternal in us, lasting forever, beyond our mortal death.

Thus, when we (mortal incarnate Men) learn in this divine sense; it entails a change in reality. It is repentance (a gift made possible by Jesus) that makes this learning possible.

(Before Jesus – repentance was not possible; without Jesus, repentance would not be possible – thanks to Jesus, repentance became always possible for everybody and anybody – including those who lived before Jesus.)

But what is repentance? – in this ultimate sense of divine-learning which goes far beyond observable mortal behavioural change?…

Repentance was a gift of Jesus – his incarnation, death and resurrection. By repentance, Jesus brought-in the change that from-now-on Men would not only learn passively and unconsciously (like young children)… but in the new dispensation that Christ initiated, our learning would be self-active, conscious, explicit to our-selves. And this is repentance; repentance is actively learning from our mortal experiences, and knowing that we are learning, and knowing what we have learned. And this is what is permanent – going beyond the contingencies of the behaviours of our mortal lives.

Repentance = explicit and permanent learning from the experiences of mortal life.

Comments (8)
Filed under: We transcend your bourgeois categories | No Tag
No Tag
December 27th, 2017 04:56:24

December 27, 2017

Not sorrow for sin?

December 27, 2017

As I understand it, sorrow for sin is part of the process of repentance, not the end result. Christ came to atone for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to have perpetual regret over what we have done; his Atonement replaces our sorrow and regret with joy and peace and forgiveness.

December 27, 2017

Ag, as EC implies, Bruce is giving the view from 30,000 feet, not the detailed steps.

Though I would quibble with the wording of his parenthetical. It contains a misunderstanding common to Protestants about gospel life on earth prior to the Atonement, something that the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price clear up. It took me several read-throughs of the OT/NT/BoM/DC-PoGP Sunday School cycle to grasp it myself.

December 27, 2017


I agree. It’s not the end result.

Bruce Charlton
December 28, 2017

One thing I’m trying to do is escape from the modern reductoinism of repentance to emotions.

I think the core insight that helped me was that repentance is more like knowledge than emotions – e.g. knowledge that something is a sin (mostly, this is a knowledge that certain *motivations* are sinful).

And this knowledge can be understood more broadly as acknowledgement of the validity of God’s creation.

So repentance involves a recognition that there is or has been a difference between what is Good and what we do or have done – and that what is Good is right, but what we did was wrong.

December 28, 2017

I agree with you, repentance can’t be reduced to emotion. By “sorrow for sin” I don’t mean merely feeling sad, but realizing and acknowledging the wrongness of my action; upon which, I should think, a Christian couldn’t help having feelings of regret; it’s not merely an intellectual acknowledgment, right?

But also, it’s also the decision and resolution to submit one’s will to God’s from then on. The reason you can’t be saved without repentance, is that you can’t be saved while insisting on your way rather than God’s.

December 28, 2017

“Repentance = explicit and permanent learning from the experiences of mortal life.”

I really like it.

I think Agellius is right that part of the permanent learning is knowing what sorrow is. And the deepest, most profound sorrow is that we feel for what we have done.

Bruce Charlton
December 30, 2017

@Vader – I’m very pleased you like it!

When I do these ‘different takes’ on doctrine or theology, the idea is that sometimes, some people need to see the important ideas from a new angle. ‘Some people’ including myself – in that there are matters that I find I do not *really* understand that everybody else apparently finds straightforward. Repentance has been one of them.

When I make some kind of a mini-breakthrough or obtain a clarification, my hope is that this might help somebody else (some individual – not some mass or group of people).

Surprisingly often, this is the case – and that person lets me know that it has ‘hit home’. This is what blogging is all about, for me.

The majority of people, for whom any specific remark is unhelpful, should (and generally do) ignore it!

Leave a Reply