Unforgivable Sin

Discussion in 'Faith, Devotion & Formation' started by bwallac2335, Jun 7, 2021.

  1. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    So the ACNA's reading last Sunday included the Gospel where the Unforgivable sin is talked about. Our priest addressed it a bit before his sermon. I agree with Augustine and John Chrysanthemum that the sin is not so much unforgivable but it is that the sin is not repented of because of hardness of heart so a person dies in their unforgivable sin. They rejected God's one method of forgiveness.
    What are your views on this?
     
  2. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    My feeling is that the scribes were attributing the power of God to the enemy, and this was deeply offensive to God. There He was, providing supernatural release from evil to people whom God loved; it was a greater manifestation of God's glory for the benefit of human beings than they'd ever witnessed. And yet the scribes were saying that Satan's evil ability was responsible for restoring wholeness to his own victims. It was that sort of remark that, in the days of the Israelites' wilderness wanderings, might have gotten them swallowed up by the earth or spontaneously incinerated. They went beyond lack of faith in Jesus as Messiah. They called good 'evil' (Isaiah 5:20) and attributed God's mighty power and glory to the devil.

    On top of that, as people who were respected (perhaps with semi-leadership influence?) in the religious community, they stood to influence listeners toward unbelief. Those who are leaders are held to a higher standard by God in some respects than the laity.

    As to whether there is a distinction in God's eyes as to whether this act is done in ignorance versus in willful knowledge, I think maybe so (and I hope so, for people's sakes) but not sure.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2021
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  3. PDL

    PDL Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I do not think any sin is unforgivable. God is all merciful and seeks only a truly contrite heart.

    One can, of course, die with sins unforgiven. That is the greatest danger. This is why we should always be prepared for a good death.

    I firmly believe God would even forgive us of blasphemy as long as we are truly repentant. It is those who die whilst still suffering the sin of blasphemy who will not be forgiven. For them it is too late.
     
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  4. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    That is basically the Patrisitic consensus.
     
  5. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Ok, but what then does the passage mean:
     
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  6. ZachT

    ZachT Well-Known Member

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    I disagree with the sentiments in this thread. The scripture is clear.

    Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12.31-32
    I haven't read Augustine's thoughts but I can't fathom how he could navigate around that open and plain message.

    EDIT:
    Beat me to it by 30 seconds.
     
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  7. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    Well you ahve to define what that blasphemy is? They define it as a hardness of heart that does not seek forgiveness. As you see in the Gospels this was not the first time of them performing this stunt. They had been repeatedly doing it and then Christ issues this warning. If you harden your heart and reject the means of forgiveness then you will be guilty of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. It is not a sin you can do on a whim or in a weak moment but a deliberate hardness of heart that is permanent.
     
  8. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    But this was more than just blasphemy. It was more than just misusing the Name of God. It was deliberately defaming the deeds of God. Look at the whole context:

    "And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Be-el′zebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons." And he called them to him, and said to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house. [He is treating them as men whose sins can be forgiven, and reasoning with them, not condemning them or passing judgment upon them, at that time.]

    "Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, [mankind], and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"— for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."

    Notice Jesus did not even condemn these human blasphemers to eternal punishment immediately in hell. He simply warned them concerning just how close they had come to committing the very sin of Satan and his angels. That of knowingly attributing the will and acts of God, (who must be worshipped in Spirit and in Truth), to a spirit of evil, an ultimate lie concerning the very character of God Himself.

    Once one has gone so far as to truly believe that evil is good and good evil, and accuse God face to face of being evil, there is no return from that for the spirit of man. Any more than there is for the Spirit of Satan and his hoards who know God better than mankind, yet still declare God unjust and strive spiritually against Him.
    .
     
  9. ZachT

    ZachT Well-Known Member

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    Do you have a citation for this claim? At least, for the exclusive use as a hardness of heart. I don't have the time right now to go to the Koine Greek and fact-check the NRSV translation, but Matthew seems to give a definition in the verses I quoted.

    "Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy... Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven"

    "but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven... but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven"
    What is the purpose of Jesus repeating himself, if not to give clarity by what he means? He is providing a definition to us, of what he means by blasphemy. When read in the full context (Matt 12.22-32) the crime of the Pharisees is not that they do not seek forgiveness, their crime is that they speak against God. Why did Jesus choose this time to teach us this lesson, if he was talking about something completely different?
     
  10. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Fortunately it is defined for us:

    This is serious stuff, and it was clearly intended to be taken as such. I disagree strongly with much of this thread.
     
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  11. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    "Augustine says . . . (Enchiridion lxxxiii) that 'he who dies in a state of obstinacy is guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost,' and (De Verb. Dom., Serm. lxxi) that 'impenitence is a sin against the Holy Ghost,' and (De Serm. Dom. in Monte xxii), that 'to resist fraternal goodness with the brands of envy is to sin against the Holy Ghost,' and in his book De unico Baptismo (De Bap. contra Donat. vi, 35) he says that 'a man who spurns the truth, is either envious of his brethren to whom the truth is revealed, or ungrateful to God, by Whose inspiration the Church is taught,' and therefore, seemingly, sins against the Holy Ghost" (ST 2b:14:2, Sed Contra).

    https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/unforgivable-sin-1164

    https://fatherjohn.blogspot.com/2016/07/stump-priest-unpardonable-sin.html
    "For," says St. John Chrysostom about the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, "even this guilt will be remitted to those who repent. Many of those who have spewed forth blasphemies against the Spirit have subsequently come to believe, and everything was remitted to them" (Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew [Homily 41]).

    Martin Luther summarizes their meaning by saying, “This is the great and unforgivable sin, when someone resists God’s Word and work. Other sins are easily recognized and have a form, but this one, with which one dashes against God, is not recognized and is therefore unforgivable.” “There is no grater sin than not to believe this article of ‘the forgiveness of sins’ which we pray daily in the Creed. And this sin is called the sin against the Holy Spirit. It strengthens all other sins and makes them forever unforgivable.”
    https://lutheranreformission.blogspot.com/2010/10/unforgivable-sin.html

    So in short we have two church fathers words and understanding and Martin Luthers. They all say the same thing.
     
  12. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Augustine’s and Chrysostom’s interpretations both read into the text, and such interpretations were at least part of the basis for the practice of delaying baptism until the last possible moment.

    It seems possible that the sin Jesus mentioned was one only possible to commit while He was still on earth and conducting his ministry.
     
  13. ZachT

    ZachT Well-Known Member

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    I agree with what Augustine and Luther said. Their statements are that to die, refusing to repent, is a sin against the Spirit. This is sound theology. That is not an exclusive claim. That they highlight one way to blaspheme against the Spirit does not mean that is the only way, the passage in Matthew 12 being clear evidence of another, very different, form of speaking against the Holy Spirit. In fact, Augustine's final statement is broad, and does not only apply to the doctrine of repentance.

    What St. John Chrysostom writes in his Homily 41, if an accurate translation, is both further evidence one can blaspheme against the Spirit in multiple ways (how can one come to believe after they are dead? He must be discussing a different form of blasphemy), and also categorically wrong. Jesus said "whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come". St. John Chrysostom says "even this guilt will be remitted to those who repent". Such an open contradiction of scripture is absurd. That isn't a navigation, a bending of the rules, an attempt to use elaborate tricks of logic to twist the meaning of the words. He's just flatly saying the exact opposite of what Jesus taught. Again, if that's a faithful translation he is just wrong.

    I wholeheartedly disagree. The Holy Spirit still exists for us to witness today, blaspheming against it is no less grievous. Why should it matter when the Spirit's actions are incarnate in flesh through Christ, or ephemeral? Especially when Jesus teaches us it is forgivable to blaspheme against Him (and therefore there cannot be anything especially repugnant about speaking against the actions of the Spirit through the body of Jesus, compared to any other action of the Spirit). It is an equal sin today as it was 2000 years ago, and indeed, before Christ when the Holy Spirit acted through the prophets.
     
  14. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Why should it matter, indeed. In short, you're not thinking about this right. Certainly, the Holy Spirit still exists today, and blaspheming against Him is no less grievous. This is true but trivial. Why would blasphemy against the Son of Man be something less than blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Aren't they coequal persons in the Godhead? Answer: the "Son of Man" (at least in this passage) arguably refers to the Second Divine Person in terms of his human nature. It's vitally important that we keep Chalcedon firmly in view as we're attempting to exegete passages like this. The passage assumes that the people Christ was condemning in that moment were committing both blasphemies, one of which could be forgiven, the other not. The two are juxtaposed for a reason. The time of the Lord's ministry on earth was undeniably a unique period in the world's history. Because Jesus' humanity is no longer present on earth, it is a plausible interpretation of the passage that the "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" was something that it was only possible to do while Jesus remained on earth. The condemnation, on this interpretation, was directed toward those who saw and heard Him in the flesh and yet denied the divine origin of His person and message (viz., "Son of Man" vs. "Holy Spirit"). This is the simplest way to understand what He was saying while doing justice to all the facts of the passage. I'm not saying that is the only possible interpretation or even that I necessarily think that is the correct one. I am saying that taking established Trinitarian and Christological dogma seriously should place some controls on how this passage is interpreted.
     
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  15. Dave D

    Dave D New Member

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    A long time ago I met a person who believed that they could never be saved because they had blasphemed the Holy Spirit. It was the first time I had heard of Matthew 12:22–32, and I have wondered about what it means ever since. Some argue that it would not really be possible to commit this particular sin today (see, for example, https://www.gotquestions.org/blasphemy-Holy-Spirit.html). Others ague that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit means "...to reject the Holy Spirit, to refuse radically to recognize sin and repent of it, and to block the healing and forgiveness offered by the Lord," rather than simply whatever potentially blasphemous words we may have uttered (https://catholicstraightanswers.com...unforgivable-sin-are-not-all-sins-forgivable/). I am sure there must be other interpretations out there also.
     
  16. ZachT

    ZachT Well-Known Member

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    I think it's more valuably used as a tool for salvation if we consider it a permanent warning against twisting what is good into what is evil, and what is evil into what is good, than it is to examine it as a unique historical artifact the Gospel is just teaching us about like a meaningless date in a history textbook, abstracted from the meaning and purpose of the historical message.

    Why should it be useful to us to know that there was an unforgivable crime in the time of Jesus, but one we need not be cautioned against anymore? I cannot possibly know all of what God's intentions are with the Gospel, so certainly the interpretation you've proposed could be correct, but my intuition tells me that the message is still critical today. I think it's important to always remember the need to self-reflect as we change (sometimes for the worse) as there is one thing we can do/become that there is no do-over for, no ladder out of the rabbit hole, no pathway behind us to turn around and come back from, even if we realise later and repent.
     
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  17. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    The message can still be critical today in any number of ways without the category of unpardonable sin being an operative one for us now. Isn't that the gist of what the Fathers were saying (even if they arrived at that conclusion in an arguably convoluted and exegetically indefensible way)? The assumption that the category of "unpardonable sin" is a permanent one - an assumption nowhere stated in the actual texts - has itself been the cause of all kinds of unwarranted speculation, to say nothing of real world consequences, including anguish for those who believed they had committed it, and grief for the loved ones of those believed to have committed such. The possibility ought to at least be granted that the assumption itself is faulty.
     
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  18. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Surely though by its very definition this particular sin is passing the point of no return itself. If repentance is possible then God will always forgive mankind any sin at all, however if this particular sin renders one, incapable of ever repenting, then that makes it eternally unforgivable because no matter how much God might want to forgive it, the sinner will never allow themselves to accept God's forgivness. Much the situation that Satan and his angels have boxed themselves into in their stubborn, prideful, knowingly, open rebellion.
    .
     
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  19. ZachT

    ZachT Well-Known Member

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    I don't agree that this sin is exclusively limited to shutting oneself down and never allowing themselves to accept God's forgiveness. One cannot come to that conclusion from Matthew. The crime of the Pharisees was not refusing to repent - and the obvious extension of this passage implies they could come to the conclusion that what they had done was wrong, and repent, and it would be too late. To refuse to repent is to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, but one can still blaspheme against the Spirit in a more conventional way - and just like one can recognise it was wrong to commit any other kind of blasphemy and repent, so can one recognise it was wrong to speak against the Holy Spirit and repent. In that moment, God shall not forgive them, they've crossed a line. This is what Jesus teaches us.

    There are many on this forum who think it is repugnant to read to deeply into Romans, and that the message on homosexuality is clear. But, the brief passage in Romans on women lying with women and men lying with men is very complicated, and not explicit in the consequences for those actions. Is it even a sin? Why did Paul bring it up when he did? Was this some odd literary style that loops back in with a later passage to show homosexuality might not always be immoral? Was he even talking about a general kind of homosexuality, and not just attacking a pagan cult? Likewise there are others who think 1 Timothy 2 is clear. Women are to be silent in church (and wear weird hats), so therefore women can not be ordained. Again that passage is very complicated, is Paul giving advice just to the church in Ephesus because of their specific heathenry? How does he reconcile contradicting himself in earlier letters? Why does he use such a curious literary structure - is there meaning in that? If there can be such formidable certainty around homosexuality and women's ordination, then this passage is far clearer. It is not Paul talking, but Jesus - and he is very open in what he means, no strange literary styles here. We are given an example of a type of blasphemy, Jesus defines what that is (speaking against) and then gives us an express punishment (no forgiveness, in this age or the next). To try and claim that the earlier 10 verses have nothing to do with that lesson, that He just randomly went off topic to talk about a different type of sin of never accepting forgiveness, and then tautologically proved that if one never accepts forgiveness one can never be forgiven is just ridiculous.

    This might seem unfair, and cruel, and contrary to the rest of the principles of the New Covenant, but if we think about it logically, it's not really. This really is the most destructive of all blasphemies, that can cause eternal suffering to others. Suppose an example very similar to what was told in Matthew:

    Suppose a person who everyone agreed was pure and good. Every day of their life the strived to help others, and everyone around them could not help but leave the experience more joyous and happy. Then suppose that good person is struck by a terrible illness, let's say a stroke. They go blind. They lose their power of speech. They require help to clean and maintain themselves. But their mind remains whole, so they exist in a state of permanent suffering, raging against their own body, and feeling guilty about how greatly they are inconveniencing those who love them and must now make significant sacrifices to care for them. And then, by a miracle, a minister lays his hands on the good person and cures them. The good person regains all the faculties of their body. And in this moment dozens of atheists and people of other faiths that witnessed the miracle come to believe in Jesus as their saviour. People who were going to be damned will now be saved, by the witnessing of the glorious expression of goodness of the Holy Spirit. But then in you come, a blasphemer, and poison these new converts minds. You tell them the minister has gone against the natural course of things, that they are a demon, that what has happened is a great evil, you convince them that the good person deserves to suffer. The new converts are disillusioned, they are confused into thinking one of the purest things they have ever seen is evil, they turn away from God and return to a life of sin. They never return, and die in sin. You write books misleading people that will live long after your death. You start a new atheist faith that every year undermines the Holy Ghost, and assaults the pull all of us have within us to the truth. You provoke many more than just yourself to never accept God's forgiveness. Your crime is damning thousands of others, an eternal wound God will never cease to suffer from.

    Some years later you realise what you have done is wrong, and you repent. You pray to God and ask him for forgiveness. But as you said earlier, you have wounded God in the same way Satan has. You will continue to corrupt people after you are gone, you have started a snowball of unbelief that, even if you regret it, will continue to do the Adversaries work as if you were him. You can speak against the Father and be forgiven. You can speak against the Son and be forgiven. You can speak against the Church and be forgiven. You cannot speak against the Spirit, and if you do so you will never be forgiven in this age or the one to come.
     
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  20. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Some of the scoffers said the disciples were drunk on the day of Pentecost because they heard them speak in tongues. Thankfully for their sakes, they did not accuse the disciples of manifesting demons. It would have been another instance of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit who was causing the disciples to speak.

    As for whether such a blasphemer could later repent, by a plain reading of Jesus' words it does not appear they could; yet it is up to the Great Judge to decide. Aren't you all glad we do not get stuck with making the tough calls? :clap:
     
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