Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit

Part 4: Identifying a Hard Heart

By Christopher Schwinger

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Continued from Page One

I think of Stephen Hawking, the mathematician whose life's pursuit is in trying to figure out how the universe could come out of nothing, because he is convinced it could not have been created by God. Hugh Hefner, who founded Playboy magazine, rejected his Christian upbringing because he felt an inability to emotionally connect to his parents and was taught in psychology classes that strict codes of sexuality were the cause of this. Then, he was unable to make sense out of his fiancée cheating on him even though he had pushed her to have sex with him before marriage, based partly on how Hollywood's movies of the 30s and 40s had captured his heart and made him prone to self-indulgence. After a lifetime of developing a philosophy out of false interpretations of reality and creating his identity out of wealth and women, how possible is it for him to repent? Jesus said about the rich man who wouldn't change his priorities that it was as hard for a rich man to find God as for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. He then told His disciples that with God, it is possible. No one can explain why some people are able to change and others aren't, except just thank God for it and continue to pray for each other.

But isn't calling evil good and good evil, which is essentially what "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" is, just as much a problem for Christians when they are averse to kindness and prone to anger, and then justify it on petty grounds? Frederick Douglass had very harsh words for America when it pretended to believe the Declaration of Independence's ideals but continued to condone human trafficking and physical and emotional abuse of slaves, and the North continued to profit in its textile mills off southern cotton. Would they have changed their business dealings if the atrocities in the South were as vividly described to them as the Nazi death camps are by Holocaust survivors and photos, or did they have a general idea that "some" abuse went on but stay intentionally ignorant? Sometimes I think the contemporary church is no better when it pretends to be caring but reacts with anger or aggressive Bible-thumping at honest questions or expressions of emotional pain.

I think a very hard, but very important, first step for Christians to make is to recognize that "the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" hang-up which my questioner had is a problem they have but don't realize. The fear my questioner was going through is something most of us have: "How good do I have to be to avoid loss of His favor?" Invariably this becomes a quest to prove to ourselves with our deeds that we're pleasing God, and it becomes an obsession which we don't even realize is an obsession. I am thankful that I avoided having this at any point in my life, and I still marvel at that and don't know why I escaped it. We need to acknowledge that God does not place value on how much we accomplish, but on how gracious we are. His favor cannot be lost easily, and there are always warning signs when we are going down a bad path. It ultimately is on us to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23), but our goal should be to live freer lives and worry less about our own souls. We shouldn't put ourselves under the bondage of fear that God is only pleased with us if we do a bunch of things, but should instead live according to duty as an outgrowth of a pure heart, not the way to get a pure heart. It's hard to tell whether A Christmas Carol is more about grace or works, more Protestant or Catholic, in its view of repentance, but the main thing I identify with is that an awakened sense of duty to others is the result of his change. He doesn't choose to change to avoid hell, because he actually believes it's too late to change, but he becomes aware of how his father's anger rubbed off onto him and how his performance-driven ethic caused him to neglect the deep needs of others. Fear alone wouldn't have been able to change him, either; he needed the example of the righteous Cratchit family to show him that happiness is an outgrowth of virtue, and virtue comes out of a choice.

In part 5, I will conclude this series by suggesting ways the church can change its mindset about performance and grace.

Image Credit: Hamid Najafi; "Shout"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth Controversial-Issues

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Published 2-3-16