All About Repentance. By Richard A. Seymour. Kissimmee, FL: Clarity, 1974. 180 pp. Paper, $3.50.
Few points of contention in modern Gospel debates have generated more interest lately than the definition of repentance. Because of recent publications holding views opposing the “change of mind” position, this 1974 book (originally published by Harvest House Publishers, Hollywood, Florida) is reviewed to direct readers to a refreshingly objective book on the subject. The book is particularly valuable because of its sound interpretive method and the way in which it integrates the concept of repentance into an overall biblical theology.
After noting the importance of properly understanding repentance, Seymour addresses what he feels is the main source of error in modern views held on repentance, namely “faulty logic.” He cites examples such as the use of “colored words,” appeals to tradition and large numbers, passionate pleas, and ridicule as methods used in lieu of thorough and careful appeal to Bible truth. He emphasizes that if one is to achieve a balanced view of any subject in the Bible, one must avoid these methods and stick to the simple truths of Scripture.
Seymour gives a brief personal testimony to illustrate how destructive the popular view can be which says that repentance is “being sorry for sin and turning from sin.” He also points out how joyous it can be when one realizes that eternal life is received the moment one believes (trusts) in Jesus Christ.
The crowning point in the book is made in chapter four, where Seymour states that “a clear and thorough understanding of salvation provides a perfect foundation for a true understanding of repentance.” To show the role of repentance in salvation he points to the righteousness of God. He notes that no one can be saved without possessing God’s righteousness, and it is obtained only one way: by faith, apart from works. Since “sorrow for sin” and “turning from sin” are clearly distinct from simple faith, they can bring neither the righteousness of God nor salvation.
Other chapters include a comprehensive look at the usage of repentance in both the Old and New Testaments and of man’s tradition as a great perpetrator of error, particularly regarding repentance. He also includes suggestions as to how to integrate the true concept of repentance into efforts of evangelism, training of Christians (discipling), and preaching. The book concludes with a personal plea regarding the magnitude of the stakes at issue. Seymour notes that to misunderstand repentance is not only to miss an important theological truth crucial to understanding God’s plan of salvation, but is it also to be placed in a position where one may communicate error regarding the Gospel, an error strongly discouraged by Scripture (Gal 1:6, 7).
The book includes a helpful but somewhat dated bibliography for those wishing to read further. Several extended quotations from writers like J. Gresham Machen and Lewis Sperry Chafer offer added insight into the application of repentance to modern evangelism and discipleship. The author’s understanding of salvation, repentance, and the grace of God is razor-sharp, and is reflected in Seymour’s direct, straightforward presentation of the simple facts of Scripture on the subject. Its thoroughness, consistency, and objectivity are noteworthy. Friends of GES will find this a rewarding study. Critics will find it a challenge.
Raymond M. Isbell
Lt. Col., United States Marine Corps