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Out of the question: ‘Need not repent’

by
23 January 2008

Write, if you have any answers to the questions listed at the end of this section, or would like to add to the answers below.

Your answers

An inscription on a tomb slab on the floor of St Andrew’s, Gussage, in Dorset reads: “Those who are in Christ need not repent.” Where does this come from, and what might it mean?

I suggest that it is a conflation of 2 Corinthians 5.17: “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see everything has become new!” and Luke 15.7: “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

Rather like the saying attributed to St Augustine, “Love God and do what you like,” deeper thought makes an apparently unchristian sentiment at least partly acceptable. In the case of the tomb slab, the significance is that a person who has become new in Christ has been fully forgiven and need not repent again of past sins.

In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus was speaking to those who complained about his welcoming and eating with sinners. There is thus an unpleasant nuance of self-righteousness about the inscription. And if being “in Christ” obviated the need for repentance, why do we have a general confession in church every Sunday?

Christopher Haffner (Reader)
East Molesey, Surrey

Your questions

I recently heard two elderly clergymen discussing the “General Ordination Examination” (GOE). One maintained that the examination was based on the London BD exam, and that it was virtually the equivalent. Is this so? Does the GOE still exist? J. B.

Address: Out of the Question, Church Times, 13-17 Long Lane, London EC1A 9PN.

questions@churchtimes.co.uk

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