21 May 2015

Repentance involves a decision

by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Dan back in May 2012. Dan offered his thoughts on common objections to the idea that repentance involved a decision.

As usual, the comments are closed.
I've remarked before (notably here, and in all these posts) that I think some highly-caffeinated Reformed types don't help The Cause much when they pick apart just about every word that comes out of most Christians' mouths.

Another example is the use made of Joshua 24:15 — "And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

Popularly, two clauses are singled out from this verse: "choose this day whom you will serve," and "as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." The popular use is to call people to decision, to call them to decide for Christ, to choose to serve Him.

Hypercaffeinated Calvinists (imho) retort with a sneer that this is "decisional regeneration," or "decisionalism," or something like that. Forced to expand, they point out that Joshua is not saying "Choose whether or not you will serve Yahweh." Rather, he is saying, "If you will not serve Yahweh, then choose what false god you will serve."

Fair enough, as far as it goes. That is what the verse says. And anyone who's read the whole eighth chapter of TWTG, which is devoted to the Biblical doctrine of regeneration, knows that I don't see the Bible as teaching that new birth is caused by a human decision.

But don't humans make a decision? Is it helpful simply to dismiss the whole thought? I mean, what is repentance, if it doesn't involve a decision? What is faith? Don't we say that it has a volitional element? And what is the volition, if not the faculty that chooses? Don't we teach that we're all born heading south, and we have to do a 180? Isn't a reverse direction — though enabled by a work of sovereign grace — a decision?

Even putting all that aside, I don't even think the exegesis of this text stands up as a hypercaffeinated Calvinist critique.

Isn't context an important element of exegesis? Hypercaf critics do do a better job than popular Christians, in that they go back to verse 14, read all of 15, and note that the specific words are not a call to choose whether or not to serve Yahweh. Fair enough, as far as that goes.


Keep reading. Read verses 16-27, and what do you see?

The people retort that they will serve Yahweh. Joshua replies that they won't be able to, because of their fickleness. They insist that they will serve Him. So Joshua formalizes this declaration, indicating his approval — first saying "you have chosen the LORD, to serve him" (v. 22).

In other words, they did choose Yahweh, in response to Joshua's challenge. They did choose Yahweh.

And, in conversion, so do we.