What’s the Point of Confession?

Extracted from my Oxford Dissertation.

1.1 – Integration with Christ

“Like a bridegroom, Christ went forth from his chamber.
He went out with a foreshadowing of his wedding into the field of the world…
He came to the marriage bed of the cross and there, in mounting it,
He consummated his marriage.
And when he perceived the sighs of the creature
He lovingly gave himself up to the torment in place of his bride
And he joined himself to the woman forever.”
St Augustine of Hippo

This has led many Christian thinkers to develop the idea of theosis, the rebecoming like God of saved humanity through integration through Jesus Christ. Rakestraw writes in his article to accompany Clendenin’s “Eastern Orthodox Theology”:

“Above all, theosis is the restoration and reintegration of the “image” or, as some prefer, “likeness” of God, seriously distorted by the fall, in the children of God. In this life Christians grow more and more into the very likeness and character of God as God was revealed in the man Jesus Christ”

It is my intent to explicitly explore this concept in regards to what it means to rebecome the imago dei of the God who is eternally true. If we are created to be the imago dei of a God who is relationally true, why is the human environment so full of deceit? Furthermore, why do humans not comprehend He that is perfect truth within his being and persons and their inter-relation? This will therefore necessitate us determining how humans became fallen from a state of truth and how any “retruthing” then occurs.

ConfessionWithin the Evangelical world, when we think of “confession” we think of priests and clergy in wooden boxes, men and women hearing and forgiving sins. The underlying Greek word that we translate as “confession” though is “homologeo” which literally means “same words”. To “confess” is to enter into “same words” as the hearer of your confession, whether that is the more traditional understanding of confessing the truth of a sin (for example James 5:16) or the other commonly used idea, of “confessing” your faith (for example Romans 10:10). Each time there is a point of coming into the same words as those who are hearing – in auricular confession allowing the truth about one’s inward nature and secret (or not so secret) actions being known by another brings one into homologeo with the rest of the Christian Community and with God; in confession of faith (or in liturgically confessing a creed of faith) coming into homologeo with that which is eternally ontologically true. In both cases the statement of confession is an alignment of the will and the soul with the way things actually are, a rejection of heterologeo from the truth. What is lost sometimes though in our confessional practice is an understanding that where in our culture we differentiate the two different “confessions”, the Greek root word and concept is the same. Morton writes:

“By acknowledging our sin and confessing it, we are recognizing the problem, affirming our desire for change, and inviting the Holy Spirit to execute that change. The process of confession is therefore a process of healing through which we are reconciled to ourselves, to our neighbours and to the Lord”.

Russ Parker stretches the idea of confession even further when he describes Jesus as “the true representational confessor”. He says:

“Jesus actually pushes the boundaries of representational confession further by using it as a vehicle for vicarious suffering, delivering forgiveness and healing as a direct result.”

Jesus is the one who ultimately brings into homologeo fallen humans with their divine creator. Human confession is simply a recognition of that divine act and moreover, an agreement with it. Christ’s death does not so much destroy the untruth as it overturns it, reversing as we shall see the challenge to God as truth that occurs in the Fall. Leslie Newbigin writes:

“In the cross Christ has disarmed the powers. He has unmasked them. He has not destroyed them, but – in Johannine language – has cast the ruler of this world out of his ursurped throne.”

Christ’s victory on the cross is the reversal of the rejection of God that takes place at the Fall, the setting right again that which is wrong, ultimately the replacement of heterologeo with homologeo, the homologeo which exists eternally within the being of the Trinity, a homologeo which Christ then recreates with redeemed humanity. But all this begs the question, how did humans come into a state of “un-truth” in the first place?

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If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.
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