Title page for ETD etd-06222007-122040

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Shim, Myung Suk
URN etd-06222007-122040
Document Title The doctrine of repentance in reformed perspective
Degree PhD (Dogmatics and Christian Ethics)
Department Dogmatics and Christian Ethics
Advisor Name Title
Prof C J Wethmar
  • conversion penitence
  • penance
  • metanoia
  • good works
  • faith
  • sin
  • sanctification
  • obedience
  • repentance
Date 2007-04-20
Availability unrestricted
Repentance is the first message of Jesus Christ, but the doctrine of repentance has been corrupted by the legalistic-penance doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, Arminianism, and synergism. The desire for the restoration of true repentance was the cause of the Reformation and Reformed theology has tried to build true repentance in soteriology.

Calvin’s doctrine of repentance is balanced between subjectivity and objectivity, and repentance is a requisite element of salvation. Calvin made a connection between repentance and Practicus Syllogismus to emphasise the necessity of good works in salvation.

K. Barth’s doctrine of repentance, which sees repentance as being the work of God alone, can be defined as forensic repentance. Genuine repentance only takes place in Christ. Christians can participate in the repentance of Christ, which then becomes their repentance.

G. C. Berkouwer used the term ‘correlation’ to explain the balance between faith and repentance and to overcome the problem of subjectivity and objectivity in his doctrine of repentance. Faith and repentance are not interdependent, but are closely connected in the grace of God in Christ. By faith the sinner knows that he is a sinner and understands the necessity of repentance. Repentance is a means of strengthening faith.

In the Roman Catholic Church penance is a requisite element in soteriology. There is no salvation without penance, and forgiveness of sins and salvation cannot be accomplished without a priest. This is a legalistic-penance theory which converts repentance through the righteousness of Christ into penance by man’s co-operation, changing the Christo-centric focus to include, partially, the merit of the Church and the Priest.

Hyung-Nong Park called repentance a ‘co-operative’ work between God and man, but this does not imply synergism. He assumes that repentance is only given to the regenerated and to the Christian who has the sign of God’s children in regeneration. Repentance itself becomes a sign of redemption.

With the exception of Barth, Reformed theologians tried to pursue the balance between subjectivity and objectivity in the doctrine of repentance. Calvin, Berkouwer and Park each tried to overcome the problems of the doctrine of repentance, Calvin with ‘Duplex acceptio hominis” or ‘Operum Justitia,’ Berkouwer with ‘Correlation’ and Park with his own term, ‘Co-operative’.

True repentance is not declarative, forensic or human speculation. It is neither purely subjective nor purely objective, nor is it legalism or the result of synergism. Repentance is the action of man, but is provoked by the action of God, and by the power of God, man turns to God. This is a product of the grace of God; by His grace man has the opportunity to repent. Repentance requires good works, but neither man’s righteousness nor his merit save him from death; rather, it is man’s obedience and gratitude to God.

True repentance, as well as true faith, is a sign of salvation and must be regarded as the heart of the Gospel, along with ‘justification by faith.’ When repentance has a proper role and position in Reformed soteriology, ‘justification by faith’ will not be human speculation or antinomianism, but will have the position of the heart of the true gospel in Reformed theology.

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