Saturday, April 12, 2014

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit - The Unpardonable Sin

People who insist on utilizing common sense when contemplating the validity of their own specific religious beliefs are often regarded as enemies of organized religion - for good reason - because they often are.   Although the New Testament is a platform for writers of the early church to express what "some" had come to believe the life of Jesus symbolized, many of the actual teachings of Jesus that exist in the New Testament often seem to stand in stark contrast and in direct opposition to the beliefs of those same Biblical authors.   

There couldn't be a better example of this in scripture than the teaching of Jesus concerning blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.   Mark 3:22-30 and Luke 12:10.   In Mark Jesus is said to have delivered a man from an evil spirit (a mental illness) and certain religious authorities are then said to have made the claim that Jesus accomplished this "miracle" by the power of evil.   Jesus politely explains that if he did indeed deliver the man from his mental illness by the power of evil then the kingdom of evil is divided against itself and therefore can not stand.   Jesus used simple common sense logic to refute the ignorance of these particular religious leaders by showing that it is wholly illogical that good can do evil or that evil can do good.    Jesus then takes this opportunity to explain why it was such a grave mistake for these religious leaders to err in such a foolish fashion.   Jesus explains that all the sins and blasphemies of men can be forgiven (including blasphemy against the Son of Man, Luke 12:10)  - with the exception of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  Jesus declares that anyone who commits this sin will not be forgiven in this world or in the world to come.
 
 It seems reasonable to me that if this is true then it would serve a person well to understand exactly what this sin is in order to avoid becoming guilty of it - in this world.

Although I have heard and read many explanations for what this sin is I have yet to hear or read an explanation that has much "logical" foundation to it.  In fact most of the explanations I have heard or read are wholly illogical.   For instance the official explanation offered by the Catholic Church in Catechism 1864 states:  

There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss.   The church then offers examples of the sin (1) Despair; (2) Presumption; (3) Impenitence or a firm determination not to repent; (4) Obstinacy; (5) Resisting divine truth known to be such; and (6) Envy of another’s spiritual welfare.   

Blasphemy is a single declaration of some sort which is judged as not true.   So these examples of the sin given by the Catholic Church lack any insight that would help explain the "mechanics" of the sin.   Just how does one go about committing the sin should they want to give it a try?    

Another common explanation for the sin is given by some Evangelicals who declare that the unpardonable sin is to deny the divinity of Jesus.   To deny that Jesus is God.
However, if this particular Evangelical church understanding of this sin is true then anyone who once believed Jesus was not God would be incapable of being forgiven of their sin - because all unbelievers deny Jesus is God.  So attempting to convert any "unbeliever" is futile - if one takes Jesus at his word that this sin is unforgivable - because an unbeliever denies Jesus is God.  Likewise, any person who converts to any form of Christianity that does not elevate the man Jesus to the status of "God" commits the unpardonable sin.   Thus all people have committed the unpardonable sin - for one can not come to believe Jesus is God without first believing he is not.  And if believing Jesus is God pardons one of this sin then Jesus lied about the sin being unpardonable.  

Surely there is a more "logical" explanation for this "frightening" teaching of Jesus  rather than these rather bizarre explanations given by institutional Christianity.  I wonder how many people are living in the world today with some small degree of fear that they may have committed the unpardonable sin - because of the church's inability to adequately or "rationally" explain what this sin actually is?     I personally know several people who have become chronically mentally ill from their confessed fear that they have committed the "unpardonable sin" and I have often suspected it of many homeless people I have spoken with.  So the numbers worldwide may be huge.  Yet the church seems to be content with their wholly illogical explanation for this foundational teaching of Jesus.

What is the unpardonable sin?

To begin, Jesus says quite plainly this sin is not against him - not the person of Jesus.   Jesus declares this sin is against the Holy Spirit - which is the "nature" of God.   The Holy Spirit is the "essence" of God or the "manifest attributes" of God.   When a person encounters the Holy Spirit they encounter Love.   Love is a Spirit, not a human being.  So in order to blaspheme the the Holy Spirit one must believe something untrue about the "nature" of God.  In the example Jesus gives in the gospel of Mark the religious leaders had come to "believe" that Jesus accomplished good by the power of evil.   But the logical philosophical implications of such a belief demands that reality be such that good can be created by evil - therefore evil becomes the father of good - therefore God must be both evil and good - which is logical fallacy.


Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a sin of belief that infers or directly ascribes something untrue to the "nature of God" - typically by way of faulty reasoning.    The reason this sin can not be forgiven is because it is a sin of belief.   No person can be forgiven for anything they believe - good or bad.   Everyone receives the full wages for whatever they believe for just as long as they hold that belief - right or wrong.   If you believe you can breathe under water and act on that belief you will not be forgiven for your foolishness for just as long as you persist in your belief.    To believe something untrue about the "nature" of God therefore can not be forgiven but it can be "repented" of (repent: to change one's mind).   If one changes one's mind then one will be free of the negative consequences of any false belief, including blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  

Jesus explained that those religious leaders who believed that evil can do good will suffer the consequences of their illogical thinking for as long as they persist in their illogical thinking - there will be no forgiveness for it.    Perhaps a more modern version of this teaching of Jesus might be:  A person can not be forgiven for any belief they hold concerning the nature of reality which contradicts reality - for just as long as they hold that false belief.   This is because such beliefs help to generate cognitive dissidence that keeps a person locked in a mindset that defies reality - which can lead to negative consequences in the right circumstances.   We once thought the earth was flat and feared sailing out too far.   We have since repented of this belief and been freed of the consequences of our blasphemy against the nature of reality.

Fully understanding what this sin is is extremely important for anyone who has chosen to believe in God.  To believe that God does not love you or is angry with you is perhaps the simplest form of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  It is illogical that God does not love you.   For it is impossible for God (Love) not to love you because love is the nature of God.   People who choose to believe in God but persist in the belief that God does not love them or that God is displeased with them or is judging them  typically manifest the fruits of the dire warning of Jesus concerning this sin - they often will "feel" cursed or "unforgiven".   


It is equally important to fully understand this sin  because what a believer chooses to believe about the "will" of God must also remain "logical" and in keeping with the "nature" of God or one then "unwittingly" commits this sin as well.  The institutional Christian church is rife with unwittingly committed unpardonable sins these days.

Examples.

When the Catholic Church makes the claim that God opposes contraception and abortion it has unwittingly also made the claim that God is sometimes evil.   How?   God can not remain defined as "Good" or "Loving" if God at any point in time is found to be otherwise.   If man (in his vast understanding of God) declares that God opposes contraception and abortion then man has also unwittingly declared that God sometimes desires for women to bear children against their will and that God sometimes desires children be born severely handicapped or without adequate resources to thrive.   Pro-life extremists even make the claim that God would desire to have a raped woman bear her rapist's child - for the sake of the child.  Could there be a more evil accusation made against the nature of God then to suggest that God has so poorly designed the human reproduction process that women are sometimes required to bear rapist's children in order to be in compliance with God's will or that a child should be required to come into the world with a rapist father in order to be in compliance with the will of God?   

Conception is a human willed event in every case.  Conception is not a divinely inspired event.    Any madman with access to the right ingredients and education can call forth human conception from the void - at will.   How is one able to then declare that all conceptions are therefore logically God-willed conceptions?  It might have been understandable to believe that all conception was God-willed before the actual mechanics of conception were understood - but no longer.   Or how is one able to logically say that it is God's will for all man-willed conception to become fully formed human life simply because man has willed conception into existence?   Obviously the truth of the matter is  all human reproduction choices are solely in the hands of humans by natural "good" design.   It's God's will that humans decide when to conceive and if that conception should be allowed to move forward toward becoming fully formed human life or not.   It is "good" that man fully controls his own reproduction destiny.   For the sake of the future children.

Nature (the most prolific abortionist) speaks loudly against the belief that God opposes contraception or abortion by regularly demonstrating that children born unwanted or without adequate support too often become the children of a "lessor" god.   These children suffer needlessly and indeed the whole world suffers because illogical men spread illogical fear of God causing people to act against their better instincts by bringing unwanted children into the world in order to please an irrationally envisioned God.

Evangelicals blaspheme the Holy Spirit when they declare the Bible to be God's "Word".   Given the current state of Biblical scholarship and the advancements in our understanding of  human "beginnings",  (The fact that we have "evolved" and therefore we did not "fall" into our current physical and spiritual state) could there then be a more "asinine" statement of faith than to say the Bible is God's Word?   If the Bible can be found to have a single error or contradiction or one uninspired passage then it can not be called God's Word .  Therefore those who believe such things are guilty of an unpardonable sin, for they attribute the imperfect understanding and writings of man to God.   Jesus called the scribes (the people who wrote his version of the Bible), snakes.   I am rather skeptical that all snakes were barred from any participation in the creation of the New Testament.   How is Islam ever going to repent of it's belief in its infallible scripture if Christianity doesn't lead by example?   Those who demand that one's understanding of the "true" God be derived from a strict obedience to the ever-changing interpretations of a contradiction laden book are demanding nothing remotely resembling the actual teachings of Jesus found in that book.

The 21st century church has hard choices to make.   Will the church finally concede that just because the Bible says something is so this doesn't necessarily make it so?   Will the church finally concede that God is not a madman who demands humans bear children against their will?   Or will the church persist in its folly and resist the spirit of "truth" - the spirit of "reality".  

Unless the institutional church begins to address the illogical nature of many of its doctrines and teachings the church will continue to inspire blasphemy against the Holy Spirit of the type that causes real human suffering.