THEOLOGY & APOLOGETICS
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit
Part 6: Resolving Fear by Understanding Grace
By Christopher Schwinger
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Continued from Page One
Another issue in these counterarguments' wording is that they talk about how "easy" it is to unknowingly commit the sin, when the proper terminology is not "easy" or "hard" but "natural" or "unnatural". It's still hard to do the right thing even when God has transformed your nature, but it also becomes hard to do the wrong thing! "Easy" and "hard" are not the best descriptors of the struggle for holiness. This is the mystery of virtue: You sometimes are driven by a spiritual nature to do something you wouldn't naturally do, but you are naturally doing it, even while you feel the resistance. "Natural" vs. "unnatural" is a more helpful distinction than "easy" or "hard" for this "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" issue. It's unnatural for someone who is rich and self-reliant to trust in God and have humility; it's natural for people to be blind to God's revelation and succumb to false beliefs. So don't we all blaspheme the Holy Spirit when we call evil good or good evil, because it is natural for us to see God the wrong way? This broader interpretation of "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" is implied in that Jesus even put the statement in the context of good and evil fruit and careless speech in Matthew 12:32-37.
Another reason the statement about the unforgivable sin shouldn't be a cause for fear is that Jesus says nothing about whether the people who blaspheme the Holy Spirit are sorrowful or genuinely repentant. (Repentance means changing your course.) There is no distinction between superficial regret/sorrow and repentance made in His statement — which the legalists would say is proof that it applies to anyone who does the sin, but which I could argue in response is a reason not to make too much of the statement.
Fear and guilt are sometimes evidence you did commit a sin, but they are sometimes imposed on you from outside yourself, preying on your insecurity. They are only good if they serve as warning signs or lead you to repentance — but then, if you have repented, the sin has been forgiven, and the guilt is gone (even if healing takes a long time). But in an unhealthily literal interpretation of "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit," Jesus said it "can't" or "won't" be forgiven, so the legalists argue that if you don't feel fear, you may have false security about your salvation, and if you do feel fear, you really have no hope because it's an unforgivable sin, if you've indeed committed it. Sounds like a great way to live...
There is one other counterargument which relates to the controversy over whether people are false teachers. It goes something like this: "Cessationists, who believe speaking in tongues and prophecy were spiritual gifts that expired after the apostolic era, are blaspheming the Holy Spirit when they don't acknowledge His work as His work." This is a question of discernment based on data given to us, and need not be about willful denial and pride. Whoever applies "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" to the cessationist-Charismatic controversy is using a very low tactic of threatening damnation to those who are suspicious of the Charismatic movement. What a nasty potshot. Charismatics are people who believe God still heavily works through prophecies and speaking in tongues, while cessationists believe the completion of the New Testament made that no longer necessary. However, many people who don't like the Charismatic movement's excesses are open to the possibility that God can work in direct ways to bring people to Himself. If He does it through dreams Muslims have of Jesus, as many stories say, He can still use any of those means — but where the Bible is present, it no longer becomes necessary. When the Holy Spirit is exalted in the Charismatic movement but the Son is ignored, it inevitably leads to chaos and strange heresies, because the Son no longer becomes the one whose words we're listening to. What makes something a heresy is its inconsistency with what Jesus and the apostles taught and what the church as a whole believes. It's not that the majority opinion is always right, but if you stand against the majority, you'd better have good reasons besides just your own impressions.
If there is a sin God can't/won't forgive, the cross is insufficient for sin and His love is limited — which is just not possible, because no one would willingly go through what He did if He intended it only to apply to "every sin except one" that doesn't even get properly defined in the text. There's nothing about it in the apostles' epistles (a nice tongue twister J ), and there's no reason to believe they worried about it. Jesus didn't make a distinction between "speaking" or "thinking" against the Holy Spirit, either. He in fact merged the two in the Sermon on the Mount, saying they go together in sin and righteousness, that it's possible to have a bad heart but good behavior but impossible to have a good heart but bad behavior (generally speaking). He demonstrated that it's not He who is unwilling to forgive, but others who are unwilling to be forgiven. John 6:37: "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out."
Image Credit: Ted Sakshaug; Untitled; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Salvation | Biblical-Truth | God-Father
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