What’s the Point of Confession?
Extracted from my Oxford Dissertation.
1.1 – Integration with Christ
â€œLike a bridegroom, Christ went forth from his chamber.
He went out with a foreshadowing of his wedding into the field of the worldâ€¦
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.â€
St Augustine of Hippo
This has led many Christian thinkers to develop the idea of theosis, the rebecomingÂ like God of saved humanity through integration through Jesus Christ.Â Rakestraw writes in his article to accompany Clendeninâ€™s â€œEastern OrthodoxÂ Theologyâ€:
â€œAbove all, theosis is the restoration and reintegration of the â€œimageâ€ or, as some prefer, â€œlikenessâ€ 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 Christâ€
It is my intent to explicitly explore this concept in regards to what it means to rebecomeÂ the imago dei of the God who is eternally true. If we are created to beÂ the imago dei of a God who is relationally true, why is the human environment soÂ full of deceit? Furthermore, why do humans not comprehend He that is perfectÂ truth within his being and persons and their inter-relation? This will thereforeÂ necessitate us determining how humans became fallen from a state of truth andÂ how any â€œretruthingâ€ then occurs.
Within the Evangelical world, when we think of â€œconfessionâ€ we think of priestsÂ and clergy in wooden boxes, men and women hearing and forgiving sins. TheÂ underlying Greek word that we translate as â€œconfessionâ€ though is â€œhomologeoâ€Â which literally means â€œsame wordsâ€. To â€œconfessâ€ is to enter into â€œsame wordsâ€ asÂ the hearer of your confession, whether that is the more traditional understandingÂ of confessing the truth of a sin (for example James 5:16) or the other commonlyÂ used idea, of â€œconfessingâ€ your faith (for example Romans 10:10). Each timeÂ there is a point of coming into the same words as those who are hearing â€“ inÂ auricular confession allowing the truth about oneâ€™s inward nature and secret (orÂ not so secret) actions being known by another brings one into homologeo withÂ the rest of the Christian Community and with God; in confession of faith (or inÂ liturgically confessing a creed of faith) coming into homologeo with that which isÂ eternally ontologically true. In both cases the statement of confession is anÂ alignment of the will and the soul with the way things actually are, a rejection ofÂ heterologeo from the truth. What is lost sometimes though in our confessionalÂ practice is an understanding that where in our culture we differentiate the twoÂ different â€œconfessionsâ€, the Greek root word and concept is the same. MortonÂ writes:
â€œBy acknowledging our sin and confessing it, we are recognizing theÂ problem, affirming our desire for change, and inviting the Holy Spirit toÂ execute that change. The process of confession is therefore a process ofÂ healing through which we are reconciled to ourselves, to our neighboursÂ and to the Lordâ€.
Russ Parker stretches the idea of confession even further when he describesÂ Jesus as â€œthe true representational confessorâ€. He says:
â€œJesus actually pushes the boundaries of representational confessionÂ further by using it as a vehicle for vicarious suffering, deliveringÂ forgiveness and healing as a direct result.â€
Jesus is the one who ultimately brings into homologeo fallen humans with theirÂ divine creator. Human confession is simply a recognition of that divine act andÂ moreover, an agreement with it. Christâ€™s death does not so much destroy theÂ untruth as it overturns it, reversing as we shall see the challenge to God as truthÂ that occurs in the Fall. Leslie Newbigin writes:
â€œIn the cross Christ has disarmed the powers. He has unmasked them. HeÂ has not destroyed them, but â€“ in Johannine language â€“ has cast the rulerÂ of this world out of his ursurped throne.â€
Christâ€™s victory on the cross is the reversal of the rejection of God that takesÂ place at the Fall, the setting right again that which is wrong, ultimately theÂ replacement of heterologeo with homologeo, the homologeo which existsÂ eternally within the being of the Trinity, a homologeo which Christ then recreatesÂ with redeemed humanity. But all this begs the question, how did humans comeÂ into a state of â€œun-truthâ€ in the first place?