Saturday, December 14, 2019

"Free Grace" Theology: 6 Ways Grudem Misrepresents Biblical Repentance

    Reformed theologian and author Wayne Grudem does have some interesting arguments that he uses to try to convince people that repentance in the Bible does not simply mean "a change of mind". Grudem says that true repentance must also include remorse, contrition, self-reproach, and making a life change for the better (which he defines as better conduct), or at least a resolve to do so "as a result of remorse or contrition for one's sins." I was reading his book "Free Grace" Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016) on google books because it came up in the search results (I did purchase the book but "FOR REFERENCE ONLY!"), and I must say that at first Grudem almost had me believing that Charles Bing just had no lexical support for his "change of mind" definition of repentance. Grudem made it sound like Charles Bing was taking statements from the Greek lexicons out of context. But when I looked up a few of the lexical examples cited by Grudem, I found that it was Grudem who was quoting the lexicons very selectively and taking statements out of context! Here are six examples of how Wayne Grudem misrepresents Biblical repentance:

1.) Grudem misrepresents Bauer’s lexicon. 

     In his book ‘Free Grace’ Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel, Grudem makes the following statements in his critique of Free Grace theology. Grudem claims that Charles Bing’s citation of Bauer’s lexicon in support of the “change of mind” meaning of metanoeō is “misrepresenting the entry on metanoeō in the BAGD lexicon” (p. 59). Grudem goes on to say that Charles Bing “repeatedly fails to account for the fact that no standard lexicon or other reference work on the meanings of Greek words in the New Testament supports his understanding of metanoeō and metanoia in these passages.” (p. 64.) This is a bold claim! But is this really the case? Let’s take a close look at Bauer’s lexicon (third edition) to see if what Grudem says is accurate or if maybe he's the one who is actually misrepresenting Bauer’s lexicon! 
     The first definition listed in Bauer’s lexicon for the verb metanoeō (repent) is “change one’s mind”. The first example Bauer cites for the “change of mind” definition of metanoeō is from The Shepherd of Hermas (abbreviated as “Hv 3, 7, 3” in the lexicon). This is important because The Shepherd of Hermas is not secular literature, nor is it pre-Christian. Instead, The Shepherd of Hermas is Christian literature. Is it early or late Christian literature? It was written in the mid second century (c. 140 AD). In fact, one author dates it to have been written “about 90–110 A.D.” (See Charles H. Hoole, The Shepherd of Hermas [London: Rivingtons, 1870], Introduction, p. x.) Related to this, it was the opinion of Origen (186–253 A.D.) that The Shepherd of Hermas was written by the “Hermas” to whom the apostle Paul sends his greetings in his letter to the Romans, chapter 16, verse 14. If the Gospel of John was written between 90-100 AD as many Bible scholars believe, then The Shepherd of Hermas was written very close to the same time. So The Shepherd of Hermas is not just Christian literature; it’s early Christian literature written at about the same time as (or at most only about 50 years after) when parts of the New Testament were written. The Shepherd of Hermas is nearly contemporary with the New Testament and was widely read by many of the early Christians. What's more, some of the early Christians such as “Clement of Alexandria (193–217 A.D.) evidently considered the book to have been inspired.” (Ibid., pp. xi-xii.) I’m not arguing that The Shepherd of Hermas is inspired nor am I saying that it should be included in the New Testament. My point is simply that The Shepherd of Hermas is early Christian literature written close to the same time as when the New Testament was written and thus it is very important because, as one author puts it, “it carries us back into the very earliest period of Christian antiquity, and dealing with religious subjects in a more familiar way than is found in the works of the other ecclesiastical writers of the Apostolic period, it is most valuable as supplying a specimen of the ordinary tone of thought and feeling in the early Church.” (Ibid., pp. x-xi.) The Shepherd of Hermas is important in helping us today to understand the meaning of metanoeō (the verb repent) and metanoia (the noun repentance) because it shows how the Greek-speaking Christians of the early church were using these words. It shows that the early Christians were using the word metanoeō in a religious context and in the sense of “a change of mind”! So for Bauer to exclude every New Testament use of metanoeō from having this meaning is suspect and may show a theological bias or a double-standard. Why does metanoeō mean “change one’s mind” in The Shepherd of Hermas but not anywhere in the New Testament? But I don’t think that’s what Bauer is saying at all.  
     Grudem is correct to point out that Bauer does not list any New Testament passages immediately under the “change one’s mind” meaning for the verb metanoeō, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. What Grudem fails to tell his readers is that Bauer does in fact list many New Testament passages under the “change of mind” definition for the cognate noun metanoia (together with the verb metanoeō in parenthesis) on the very same page of the lexicon! (See page 640 in Bauer's lexicon.) Grudem in his book actually references the cognate noun metanoia on page 640 of Bauer's lexicon, but only to say in a tiny footnote at the bottom of the page (p. 57) that "under the cognate noun metanoia, 'repentance,' [Bauer gives] this explanation: 'in our literature with focus on the need of change in view of responsibility to deity' (640)." So Grudem conveniently fails to mention that in the lexical entry for the noun metanoia, Bauer includes the verb metanoeō together with the noun and classifies them both as having the meaning of “primarily a change of mind”! Here is the actual statement in Bauer’s lexicon (I transcribed the Greek letters into English): 
metanoia, as, ē (metanoeō) prim. ‘a change of mind’ (Thu. 3, 36, 4; Polyb. 4, 66, 7;…[etc.]) repentance, turning about, conversion; as a turning away metanoia apo nekrōn ergōn turning away from dead works Hb 6:1. Mostly of the positive side of repentance, as the beginning of a new relationship with God: ē eis theou m[etanoian]. repentance that leads to God Ac 20:21. axia tēs metanoias erga deeds that are consistent with repentance 26:20. Also karton axion tēs m[etanoias]. [fruit worthy of repentance] Mt 3:8; cp. Lk 3:8.etc

Under this very heading, Bauer goes on to list many more examples from the New Testament, including some of the very same New Testament passages which he had previously listed as examples for the verb metanoeō, such as Luke 15:7 and Acts 26:20. Additionally, Bauer also includes under this same heading (and interspersed with the New Testament references) many more citations from The Shepherd of Hermas
    So Grudem’s entire argument that Bauer doesn’t list any New Testament passages under the “change one’s mind” definition of metanoeō falls flat and doesn’t hold up under close scrutiny because Bauer lists many New Testament references under the cognate noun metanoia, (together with the verb metanoeō immediately following in parenthesis) where both together are given the meaning of “primarily ‘a change of mind’”.  

2.) Grudem misrepresents the lexicon by Moulton and Milligan. 

     Grudem makes it sound like the Moulton and Milligan lexicon doesn't support the "change of mind" definition of repentance. Grudem writes: "The specialized lexicon by Moulton and Milligan, compiled with particular reference to the papri and other nonliterary sources, says of metanoeō that 'in the New Testament it is more than 'repent,' and indicates a complete change of attitude, spiritual and moral, towards God.'" But Grudem omits the entire first part of that quote which gives the basic meaning of metanoeō: a "change of mind"! Notice what Moulton and Milligan say concerning the meaning of metanoeō which Grudem left out:
See also Menandrea p. 1272 where the verb is used of "change of mind." Its meaning deepens with Christianity, and in the NT it is more than "repent," and indicates a complete change of attitude, spiritual and moral, towards God.1

  The Moulton and Milligan lexicon doesn't say that the meaning of metanoeō changes with Christianity; it says the word's meaning "deepens with Christianity". What's more, when the Moulton and Milligan lexicon says that the meaning of metanoeō in the New Testament is more than "repent," all they're saying is that our English word "repent" is not the best translation of metanoeō. They are saying that our English word "repent" does not fully express the meaning of the Greek word.  This is exactly the point made by Charles Bing and other Free Grace theologians! For example, in The Theological Wordbook (edited by such stalwarts of the faith as John F. Walvoord, Donald K. Campbell, Wendel Johnston, and John Whitmer) they write this on page 296 concerning the word Repentance: "the English word repentance derives from the Latin and does not express the exact meaning of metanoia." To be more specific, when the Moulton and Milligan lexicon says that the meaning of metanoeō "deepens with Christianity, and in the NT it is more than 'repent,'" - it means more than repent (in the sense of regret), i.e. metanoeō is more than a synonym of metamelomai (see the definition for metamelomai, "regret," in the Moulton and Milligan lexicon where they define metamelomai as meaning "repent oneself").
     I want to make another point regarding what Moulton and Milligan say in their lexicon concerning the meaning of metanoeō. Apparently Grudem imports his own definition of repentance into the words "a complete change of attitude," but is that justified? How should we understand the word "attitude" when the Moulton and Milligan lexicon says "a complete change of attitude"? Should we import Grudem's definition of repentance into the word "attitude" or should be define the word "attitude" according to its own meaning? The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that the word "attitude" means "a mental position with regard to a fact or state." (The word "attitude" can include feelings or emotions, but that is not the primary meaning of the word.) Thus, when the Moulton and Milligan lexicon says "a complete change of attitude," it is simply another way of saying a complete "change of mind," spiritual and moral (e.g. a recognition of one's sin, and need for salvation, etc.), towards God.
     I want to make one last point, and this has to do with what the Moulton and Milligan lexicon says concerning the noun metanoia ("repentance"). Under the entry for metanoia (page 404), the concluding remarks are these: "It may be added that Lactantius (Div. Inst. vi. 24. 6) for the ordinary paenitentia ['repentance'] of Christian Latinity prefers resipiscentia [to recover one's senses], as implying, like μετάνοια [metanoia], a coming to one's senses, resulting in a change of conduct." The Moulton and Milligan lexicon correctly distinguishes between repentance and what repentance results in, which is a change of conduct.

3.) Grudem misrepresents the Greek lexicon by J. H. Thayer. 

     Grudem also makes it sound like Thayer's lexicon doesn't support the "change of mind" definition of biblical repentance. But after I looked up in Thayer's lexicon the definition of metanoeō (repent), I noticed that once again Grudem only selectively quoted the pertinent lexical material! The very first definition Thayer gives for the verb metanoeō is "to change one's mind, i.e. to repent".2 The same is true for the noun metanoia (repentance). The very first definition for metanoia in Thayer's lexicon is: "a change of mind: as it appears in one who repents of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done, Hebrews 12:17".3 This is the most basic and fundamental meaning of the two words. Furthermore, in both instances Thayer makes a distinction between repentance and the fruit of repentance, which is "conduct worthy of a heart changed"4 or in other words "good deeds"5 (cf. Matt. 3:8; Luke 3:8; Acts 26:20).
     Interestingly, Grudem also fails to mention the word of caution given by the publishers of Thayer's own lexicon (see the "PUBLISHERS INTRODUCTION," page VII) when they say: "A word of caution is necessary. Thayer was a Unitarian, and the errors of this sect occasionally come through in the explanatory notes....When defining μεταμέλομαι [metamelomai: to regret, to have remorse], Thayer refuses to draw a clear distinction between this word and μετανοέω [metanoeō: to change one's mind]. Underlying this refusal is the view that man is inherently good, needing Christ not as a Savior but only as an example." When Grudem cited Thayer and selectively quoted Thayer's definition of metanoeō, Grudem issued no such "word of caution". But this "word of caution" is important and necessary because Thayer's definition of metanoeō is suspect because he co-mingled metanoeō and metamelomai and did not properly distinguish between them. In fact, after Thayer's entry for metamelomai, he calls the two words synonyms. The unsaved man does not need to repent in the sense of "feel sorry and try better" (as Thayer and Grudem imply). The unsaved man needs to repent in the sense of "change his mind" and trust Christ as Savior!

4.) Grudem misrepresents New Testament Greek scholar A. T. Robertson.

     In his book Grudem takes issue with the fact that Charles Bing quoted A. T. Robertson in support of the view that metanoia has the basic meaning of a "change of mind". Grudem focuses on statements from Robertson on 2 Corinthians 7:9-10, but really the focus should be on Robertson's statements concerning metanoeō in Matthew 3:2 which is the first mention of the word in the New Testament. In the past, Grudem has made Matthew 3:2 the focus, such as in a lecture he gave at Phoenix Seminary titled "Salvation without Repentance from Sin: A Critique of the Free Grace Gospel". (By the way, the title of Grudem's lecture is somewhat misleading because only non-traditional Free Grace adherents of Zane Hodges say that repentance is not necessary for salvation, the traditional Free Grace view is that repentance from the sin of unbelief is necessary for salvation like the Bible says in John 16:8-9 and in Hebrews 6:1 where the unsaved need to change their minds and transfer their trust from whatever they were trusting in before salvation and trust only in Christ for salvation.) Grudem made a statement in that lecture in which he said something to the effect that "John the Baptist never called on people to change their minds." (Grudem was arguing against the "change of mind" definition of repentance.) But A. T. Robertson in his book Word Pictures in the New Testament gives the following commentary on Matthew 3:2, where John the Baptist called on people to "repent":
Repent (metanoeite). Broadus used to say that this is the worst translation in the New Testament. The trouble is that the English word "repent" means "to be sorry again" from the Latin repoenitet (impersonal). John did not call on the people to be sorry, but to change (think afterwards) their mental attitudes (metanoeite) and conduct. The Vulgate has it "do penance" and Wycliff has followed that. The Old Syriac has it better: "Turn ye." The French (Geneva) has it "Amendez vous." This is John's great word (Bruce) and it has been hopelessly mistranslated. The tragedy of it is that we have no one English word that reproduces exactly the meaning and atmosphere of the Greek word.6

     Contrary to what Wayne Grudem would have us believe, A. T. Robertson says that the word repent means "to change (think afterwards) their mental attitudes (metanoeite)" - Robertson adds "and conduct." But the words "and conduct" come after he had already defined what it means to repent. Robertson keeps the two ideas separate and so should we. A change of conduct should follow and is expected to follow, but according to the Bible a change of behavior is the "fruit" of repentance (see Matt. 3:8; Luke 3:8; Acts 26:20), not repentance itself. A. T. Robertson affirms: "Certainly the word for repentance [metanoia] is more than a mere 'after-thought.' It is a 'change of mind' that leads to and is shown by a change of life, 'fruits worthy of repentance' (Luke 3:8)." (The Minister And His Greek New Testament [London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1923], p. 54.) Robertson's statement here is consistent with how classic Free Grace theology has traditionally understood the relationship between faith and works, justification and sanctification. For example, Charles Ryrie in his book So Great Salvation (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989, p. 45) writes: "Every Christian will bear spiritual fruit. Somewhere, sometime, somehow. Otherwise the person is not a believer. Every born-again individual will be fruitful. Not to be fruitful is to be faithless, without faith, and therefore without salvation."  

5.) Grudem misrepresents Reformed theologian Louis Berkhof. 

     Grudem quotes Louis Berkhof at length in an attempt to show that Berkhoff does not offer supporting comments for Bing's "change of mind" understanding of repentance. Grudem argues that "Berkhof repeatedly emphasizes that a turning from former sins and turning to a new way of life is essential in the meaning of the word [metanoia]". But Berkhof does not actually say this. Here's what Grudem admits that Berkhoff does say concerning metanoia: "In the New denotes primarily a change of mind, taking a wiser view of the past, including regret for the ill then done [i.e. past regret which led to repentance, cf. 2 Cor. 7:9-10], and leading to a change of life for the better." I put emphasis on the words "leading to" because here again we must be careful not to confuse repentance with what repentance leads to: the "fruit" of repentance (see Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8; Acts 26:20). It's true that whenever there has been "a change of life for the better" it was preceded and effected by repentance; repentance led to the change of life for the better. So the Free Grace "change of mind" understanding of repentance can accept Berkhof's definition of repentance. Grudem goes on to quote Berkhof as saying that true repentance includes a "moral consciousness". Yes, like Adam and Eve after they ate the forbidden fruit, unsaved people must understand that they are sinners who have sinned! This is part of the gospel (see 1 Corinthians 15:3). Grudem also quotes Berkhof as saying: "To be converted, is not merely to pass from one conscious direction to another, but to do it with a clearly perceived aversion to the former direction." I can agree with Berkhof's statement in this sense, that in order to be converted a person realizes that he or she is headed toward a Christless eternity, and has "a clearly perceived aversion to the former direction" of going to that Christless eternity. They see their need for a Savior and trust in Christ alone to save them from sin, death, and Hell.
     Thus, Berkhof's statements on metanoia pose no real problem to a Free Grace understanding of repentance. They are "supporting comments" to Charles Bing's "change of mind" understanding of repentance in at least three ways: (A) Berkhof repeatedly emphasizes that "the word [metanoia] denotes primarily a change of mind". (B) Berkhof says: "In the English Bible the word is translated 'repentance' but this rendering hardly does justice to the original, since it gives undue prominence to the emotional element." (C) Berkhof traces how the Greek word metanoia has been mistranslated down through the centuries of church history and concludes his remarks by saying:
"Sad to say, the Church gradually lost sight of the original meaning of metanoia. In Latin theology Lactantius rendered it 'resipiscentia,' a becoming-wise-again, as if the word were derived from meta and anoia, and denoted a return from madness or folly. The majority of Latin writers, however, preferred to render it 'poenitentia' a word that denotes the sorrow and regret which follows when one has made a mistake or has committed an error of any kind. This word ['poenitentia'] passed into the Vulgate as the rendering of metanoia, and, under the influence of the Vulgate, the English translators rendered the Greek word by 'repentance,' thus stressing the emotional element and making metanoia equivalent to metameleia [as Thayer was prone to do in his lexicon]. In some cases the deterioration went even farther. The Roman Catholic Church externalized the idea of repentance in its sacrament of penance so that the metanoeite of the Greek New Testament (Matt. 3:2) became poenitentiam agite, --'do penance,' in the Latin Version."
 Grudem in his book never mentions these statements by Berkhof!

6.) Grudem misrepresents standard lexicons and other reference works on the meanings of Greek words in the New Testament.

     Grudem claims that Bing "repeatedly fails to account for the fact that no standard lexicon or reference work on the meanings of Greek words in the New Testament supports his understanding of metanoeō and metanoia in these passages." What Grudem claims is a "fact" is not a fact but a misrepresentation. Contrary to what Grudem would have us believe, there are standard lexicons and reference works on the meanings of Greek words in the New Testament that support Bing's understanding of metaneō  and metanoia as used in the New Testament. Besides the examples cited above (and at the risk of being superfluous), I will list several more examples:
  • Sir Anthony Bottoms (1939-present) of Cambridge University points out the following facts: "A characterisation of repentance as 'turning around' is certainly not the only interpretation available within the Christian tradition; but, equally, it is not an eccentric understanding within the tradition. To illustrate this point, consider the Greek words metanoeō (a verb) and metanoia (a noun), which in English versions of the New Testament are usually translated 'to repent' and 'repentance'. There is a consensus in modern scholarship that the core meaning of metanoia is simply 'a change of mind or purpose'. To take a prominent example of how the word is used, in the Gospel of Mark the first words attributed to Jesus at the beginning of his ministry are: 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent [metanoeite], and believe the good news'. As the context suggests, the main action for which this statement calls is a change of mind or purpose in response to the radically new situation described." The author goes on to cite the following Greek lexicons in support of his statements above: "A modern edition of a classical Greek-English Lexicon offers definitions as follows: metanoia: 'change of mind or heart', 'repentance', 'regret', and possibly 'afterthought'; metanoeō: 'to perceive afterwards or too late', 'to change one's mind or purpose' and 'to repent [of]': H G Liddell, R Scott and H S Jones (eds) A Greek-English Lexicon, 9th edn (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1968) at 1115. See also the definitions in FW Danker (ed), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Early Christian Literature, 3rd edn (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2000) at 640: metanoia: primarily 'a change of mind', also 'repentance, turning around, conversion'; metanoeō: (i) change one's mind, (ii) feel remorse, repent, be converted."7 
  • In The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (Cambridge: The University Press, 1897) commentary on 2 Corinthians 7:9, the Rev. J. J. Lias writes (p. 84): "It cannot be too strongly insisted upon that the Greek word translated repentance (penaunce, Wiclif and the Rhemish Version) contains neither the idea of sorrow nor of penitential discipline. The word means change of mind or purpose. Sorrow may or may not accompany it." 
  • The New Testament Greek scholar A. T. Robertson (1863-1934) writes: "Certainly the word for repentance [metanoia] is more than a mere 'after-thought.' It is a 'change of mind' that leads to and is shown by a change of life, 'fruits worthy of repentance' (Luke 3:8)." (The Minister And His Greek New Testament [London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1923], p. 54.) Robertson's statement here is consistent with how classic Free Grace theology has traditionally understood the relationship between faith and works, justification and sanctification. For example, Charles Ryrie in his book So Great Salvation (p. 45) writes:  "Every Christian will bear spiritual fruit. Somewhere, sometime, somehow. Otherwise the person is not a believer. Every born-again individual will be fruitful. Not to be fruitful is to be faithless, without faith, and therefore without salvation." 
  • The Greek scholar Dr. Julius R. Mantey (1890-1981) gives the following definition of repentance under the heading "Meaning of Repentance and Conversion in the New Testament." Mantey writes: "Metanoeo (metanoia, noun) is regularly used to express the requisite state of mind necessary for the forgiveness of sin. It means to think differently or to have a different attitude toward sin and God, etc."8
  • The Scottish Bible scholar Alexander Souter (1873-1949) gives the following definitions for metanoeō (repent) and metanoia (repentance) in his reference work A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament. Souter writes: "metanoeō, I change my mind, I change the inner man (particularly with reference to acceptance of the will of God by the nous (mind) instead of rejection)". Concerning the noun repentance, Souter writes: "metanoia, a change of mind, a change in the inner man".9 
  • George Abbot-Smith (1864-1947), formerly professor of Hellenistic Greek at McGill University, gives the following definitions for metanoeō and metanoia in his reference work A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament. Abbot-Smith writes: "metanoeō change one's mind or purpose, hence, to repent; in NT (exc. Lk 173, 4), of repentance from sin [fundamentally unbelief, Jn. 16:8-9], involving amendment [i.e. a change of heart for the better]". Concerning the noun metanoia, Abbot-Smith writes: "metanoia...after-thought, change of mind, repentance".10 
  • In The Scofield Reference Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1917), the Rev. C. I. Scofield gives the following note on the word "repent" in Acts 17:30. Scofield writes: "Repentance is the trans. of a Gr. word (metanoia--metanoeo) meaning 'to have another mind,' 'to change the mind,' and is used in the N.T. to indicate a change of mind in respect of sin, of God, and of self. This change of mind may, especially in the case of Christians who have fallen into sin, be preceded by sorrow (2 Cor. 7. 8-11), but sorrow for sin, though it may 'work' repentance, is not repentance. The son in Mt. 21. 28, 29 illustrates true repentance."
  • The Biblico-Theological Lexicon of New Testament Greek (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1892) by the German Protestant theologian Hermann Cremer (1834-1903) gives the following definitions for metanoeō and metanoia. Concerning the verb metanoeō, Cremer writes: "Μετανοέω, the opposite of προνοείν [to consider in advance, i.e. to perceive beforehand], a word not often occurring in profane Greek, combines two meanings of the preposition, to think differently after....But usually to change one's mind, or opinion....In the N.T., especially by St. Luke and in the Revelation, it denotes a change of moral thought and reflection....without addition [i.e. without any prepositions modifying it] = to repent in a moral and religious sense" (pp. 440-441). Concerning the noun metanoia, Cremer gives this definition: "μετάνοια, ἡ, change of mind, repentance....In the N.T., and especially in Luke, corresponding with μετανοεῖν [to repent], it is = repentance, with reference to νους [mind, intellect, thought] as the faculty of moral reflection" (p. 441).
  • The Rev. J. Oswald Jackson (1820-1901) in his critical dissertation on the Greek word metanoia titled REPENTANCE: OR THE CHANGE OF MIND NECESSARY FOR SALVATION CONSIDERED, clearly demonstrates that this understanding of metanoia as being "a change of mind" does not stand on questionable or even new ground, but is instead the Scriptural doctrine and correct understanding of the word repentance as well as the testimony of biblical critics and scholars alike, so much so that the author can confidently say: "I may remark that all the critics and commentators that I have been able to examine, give the same signification to μετάνοια, metanoia, rendered repentance, with unanimous voice declaring that it signifies change of mind. Thus is it translated by POOLE, KUINOEL, DR. BLOOMFIELD, DR. ROBINSON, SCOTT, DODDRIDGE, ADAM CLARKE, M'CLEAN, PRINCIPAL CAMPBELL, DR. HENDERSON, BARNES, BENSON, DR. JOHN CAMPBELL, ROBINSON of Leicester, and the Author of THE MARROW OF MODERN DIVINITY" - also MATTHEW HENRY, the worthy JOHN BROWN of Haddington, and many others in addition to these.11
  • Even Martin Luther, quoting the Greek scholars of his day, acknowledges that the basic meaning of metanoia in the New Testament is a change of mind, or "coming to one's right mind". In a letter to John von Staupitz, dated May 30, 1518, Luther writes, "I learned - thanks to the work and talent of the most learned men who teach us Greek and Hebrew with such great devotion - that the [Latin] word poenitentia means metanoia in Greek; it is derived from meta and noun, that is, from 'afterward' and 'mind.' Poenitentia or metanoia, therefore, means coming to one's right mind and a comprehension of one's own evil after one has accepted the damage and recognized the error. . . . Such transition of the mind, that is, the most true poenitentia, is found very frequently in Holy Scripture: the old Passover foreshadowed it, and Christ made it a reality; it was also long before that time prefigured in Abraham, when (according to the learned exegesis of Paul of Burgos) he began to be called 'he who passes over,' that is, a 'Hebrew,' evidently because he had come across into Mesopotamia."12
  • Also consider the writings of the early church theologian Tertullian (c. 155 - c. 220 AD). In his book Against Marcion, written at the start of the third century (in about 208 AD), Tertullian says this about the true meaning of metanoia: "Now in Greek the word for repentance (metanoia) is formed, not from the confession of a sin, but from a change of mind, which in God we have shown to be regulated by the occurrence of  varying circumstances."13 Tertullian affirms that the meaning of metanoia is "a change of mind" and what that change of mind is about, or what it is in reference to, can vary depending on the circumstances given in the context of the passage. Furthermore, Tertullian points out that in the Bible even God repents! Thus it is obvious that the meaning of the word repentance does not inherently convey being sorry for sin, because of course God has no sin to be sorry for! The word repentance (metanoia) simply means a change of mind, and what that change of mind is about must be determined by the context.


1 James H. Moulton, and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), p. 404.

2 Joseph H. Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977), pp. 405, italics his. The publishers give the following copyright note: "The Fourth Edition of Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, published by T. and T. Clark in 1901, was used in preparation of this edition."

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid., p. 406.

6 A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, commentary on Matthew 3:2, online edition: Similarly, consider the comments on Matthew 3:2 in The Expositor's Greek Testament: "Ver. 2. legōn [“saying”] introduces the burden of his preaching. –metanoeite, Repent. That was John’s great word. Jesus used it also when He began to preach, but His distinctive watchword was Believe. The two watchwords point to different conceptions of the kingdom. John’s kingdom was an object of awful dread, Jesus’ of glad welcome. The message of the one was legal, of the other evangelic. Change of mind John deemed very necessary as a preparation for Messiah’s advent." (Alexander Balmain Bruce, W. Robertson Nicoll, Editor, The Expositor’s Greek Testament [London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1912], 5 Volumes, Vol. 1, p. 79, commentary on Matthew 3:2, bold and italics his.)

7 Anthony E. Bottoms, "REPENTANCE AS 'TURNING AROUND'," Antje du Bois-Pedain, and Anthony E. Bottoms, Editors, Penal Censure (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2019), p. 126, bold added, italics his.

8 Julius R. Mantey, "Repentance and Conversion," Christianity Today, March 2, 1962, italics his.

9 Alexander Souter, A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (London: Oxford University Press, 1917), p. 157, italics his.

10 George Abbot-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (London: T. & T. Clark, 1922), p. 287, italics his.

11 J. Oswald Jackson, REPENTANCE: OR THE CHANGE OF MIND NECESSARY FOR SALVATION CONSIDERED (London: Houlston & Stoneman, 1845), pp. 22-23, 101-102.

12 "To John von Staupitz, Wittenberg, May 30, 1518," Martin Luther, Edited and Translated by Gottfried G. Krodel, Luther's Works (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963), 55 Volumes, Vol. 48., pp. 66-67.
     Another English translation, which is in some ways clearer, can be viewed at the following link:  "Letter of John Staupitz Accompanying the 'Resolutions' to the XCV Theses" by Dr. Martin Luther, 1518, Works of Martin Luther, Adolph Spaeth, L.D. Reed, Henry Eyster Jacobs, et al., Translators and Editors (Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1915), Volume 1, pp. 39-43.

13 "CHAP. XXIV.--Instances of God's repentance, and notably in the case of the Ninevites, accounted for and ably vindicated by Tertullian." Tertullian Against Marcion, ANTE-NICENE CHRISTIAN LIBRARY: TRANSLATIONS OF THE WRITINGS OF THE FATHERS DOWN TO A.D. 325., 24 Volumes, Vol. 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Translated by Peter Holmes (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1868), p. 107, bold added.


Roger said...

Good work!

Sadly, Dr. Grudem;'s book is full of problems in his evaluation of Free Grace - this being one of them. He had an opportunity to make changes to the book to more accurately reflect FG, but opted not to (not misrepresentations of FG or FG authors) to change his position, as problematic as that is, in itself, but of FG or FG authors). Sad. I get that he disagrees, but it is sad that many will read the book thinking it is an accurate evaluation of FG.

Thanks for this work

Jonathan Perreault said...

Thank you Dr. Fankhauser, to God be the glory!

Yes, I heartily agree with you and I think Grudem's book will give us plenty to write about in the years ahead. Like you said, "Dr. Grudem's book is full of problems in his evaluation of Free Grace".

God bless