Sunday, March 08, 2015

The problem of identificational repentance

Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. (Dan. 9:3-6)

The teaching of identificational repentance (not to be confused with corporate repentance during Lord's Day service) states that one identifies with the group one is part of, take upon oneself the corporate sins of that group, and repent on the group's behalf for these corporate sins. One of the proof texts for this teaching is found in the narrative of Daniel 9, where the prophet Daniel repented of Israel's sins, which he himself as a righteous person did not commit.

Now, I have no idea where this teaching come from, except that I was introduced to it through the Third Wave Charismatic movement (part of their prayer and intercessory warfare model, e.g. Cindy Jacobs). From the Daniel 9 passage, the context seems to be repentance of sins committed against God (vertical) on behalf of the covenant community (ecclesial, not an ethnicity), so it seems to me suspect to use it for horizontal (human-to-human) sins.

What is really strange about this identificational repentance model is what happens when one is a member of both "camps." For example, who exactly should a black PCA minister ask forgiveness from if we are talking about racism? Which group is he in? While certainly in some sense identificational repentance seems reasonable, e.g. the German churches asking forgiveness for the Holocaust, most times this whole teaching sounds really suspect. I get it that if you are part of a group that has sinned, one might repent on behalf of the group. But beyond the immediate sins, how far should we go in "identifying" with groups to confess their sins?

Articles like these on Ref21 therefore really irritate me. Such smacks to me of assuaging white guilt rather than solving racism. Speaking of which, how often must a group of people apologize before everyone can move on? As for dealing with racism explicit or implicit, why the continual dichotomy as if only whites and African-Americans are present? What about the various Asian groups? Or is Sean Lucas only interested in affirmative action just to *prove* he is not racist (and so practice reverse racism in the process)?

Because of the Third Wave context in which this doctrine was introduced to me, I am rather antipathic to it. I will certainly look more into it as the need arises, yet it already seems from a cursory look at Daniel 9 that it does not seem to teach this doctrine of identificational repentance. The ways this teaching has been utilized so far does not endear me to it, and all the more examples of such repentance are given and seen.

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