Calvinism and Short Term Repentance

Most Calvinists who read my last post are probably shaking their heads in disappointment. I can picture their reaction: “Are you saying that the Israelites could turn to God from their own free will? Don’t you know that the unregenerate cannot turn to God? They do not even seek God (Romans 3:11).”

I’m not going to thoroughly engage the Calvinist position in this post. I’ll save that for another day. I believe that both Calvinists and Arminians have biblical texts that appear to support their positions. That is why their views exist.

But let me say this: Even the Calvinist Jonathan Edwards implied that an unregenerate person can make a short term repentance. Over six years ago, I read Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections. His goal in the book was to distinguish the true Christians from the false ones. A religious revival was occurring in his time, and there was a lot of craziness that surrounded it. Jonathan Edwards wanted to define true Christianity to cleanse the revival of the craziness.

Edwards said that an unregenerate person can be afraid of God. An unregenerate person can even repent in a short term sense. But what separates the unregenerate from true Christians is that the latter genuinely love God and his ways. Spiritual things are like honey to their palates. And this love is perpetual. For Edwards, such a love could only come from God, for the human heart does not truly desire the spiritual. The unregenerate may change their ways to avoid disaster (e.g., hell), but they do not really love God.

Last time, I pointed out that there are people in the Bible, such as the people of Nineveh, who make a short term repentance. Well, Calvinism says that those with a truly regenerate heart will persevere in the faith: their repentance will be continuous, not short term. That must mean that the people of Nineveh repented with unregenerate hearts. But their repentance was not lasting. It was probably the best that an unregenerate heart could do.

I think that Ezekiel is saying that God will meet the Israelites where they are. Those who recognize their need for a new heart will receive it. But God will destroy the Israelites who are rebellious, the ones who want absolutely nothing to do with him and his ways. God can at least do something with unregenerate repentance. He cannot work with continual stubbornness.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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