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The Unforgiveable Sin?

Simayan

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I need help justifying something.

Tonight at Bible Study, we were asked by the priest if Jesus ever condemned anyone (Hell condemning, not scolding). Most people said the usual responses: Pharisees, the rich, etc. I then countered by saying that Jesus never condemned a person to hell, as that would rule out any possibility of repentance during their life. Instead, he condemned their actions, and the results if one follows them until death. Everyone agreed, because the central tenet of Christianity is ultimate love and forgiveness. Until what came next:

Then we come to Mark 3:29, where it is said that anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit has committed an unforgivable sin and can never be forgiven. I looked for context loopholes and cop-outs, but there it is, plain and simple. I asked the priest to verify what this meant, and all he did was answer it with more questions and shrug his shoulders.

Yet frankly, I don't really believe it. Jesus may have said it, but it runs contrary to everything he stood for. My first thought was actually, "Well, he's obviously lying at this part."  :D From what I understand, this blaspheming is when one says, for example, that the work of the Holy Spirit is actually the work of Satan. However, I am 100% sure in my heart of hearts that if a Jew said this at the age of 20, converted to Christianity at age 22 and repented, he would be forgiven.

Can somebody clarify this for me?

-Will
 

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http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article8049.asp
Blasphemy. Evil and reproachful language directed at God, the Virgin, the Saints or sacred objects. The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a mortal and unforgivable sin, because it presumes that God's saving action in this particular case is impossible. (cf. Matt. 12: 31).

Eternal Sin (a.k.a. the Unforgivable Sin)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_sin

A couple of Catholics answering the same question:
http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/archive/index.php/t-48307.html
 

Fr. George

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Now, my answer to your question:

In the Gospel where Jesus defines the unforgivable sin, he had just finished working miracles, and the people were questioning the source of His power to do miracles.  He had told them that they could question Him and His source, but they should see that the healings were the work of the Spirit.  They stated that they thought the source was Satan - thus, attributing God's work to Satan.  It represents a rejection of God's mercy - how can we receive it if we reject it?  God has chosen (as a limitation of His own will and power) to not overwhelm our Free Will, but instead to allow it to work, so if we reject His mercy, then we're left without it.

Does this make more sense?
 

serb1389

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I asked this very question to Fr. Jonah Pafhousen, and OCA priest who is in charge of St. John of Shanghai monastery in California. 

As you know me personally, you know how pointed I can be with my question asking skills. 

His answer REALLY intrigued me.  He said if we take a look at God's suffering for us, the entire NT, the writings of the fathers on scripture, etc. 

There is NO WAY you could EVER truly blaspheme on the HS.  AND, even if you did, we have such a strong concept of love in the NT that this concept would overide any concepts we would have of "blaspheming" against God.  If he didn't kill us at the flood...or at the crucifixion, I doubt we can really top either of those moments. 

That was his response.  I thought a very provoking one at that. 

Cleveland's answers are what I would consider standard ones.  What I do not like about them is that they still do not help you cope with the reality that if you do blaspheme against the HS you will not be forgiven. 

Let me know what you think...
 

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Fr. Thomas Hopko said that the blasheming of the holy spirit is not accepting to repent which sort of makes logical sense.
 

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Kinda on the line serb1389 said, it seems almost impossible to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.  What I got out of those arguments was that the Holy Spirit is Truth revealed to one.  In pretty much all these cases, even though people have witnessed miracles, they just didn't believe who Christ really was - meaning the Holy Spirit had not revealed the Truth to them.  This is pretty much the same for all atheists, Satan worshippers, etc. - the Holy Spirit just has not been revealed to them.  How can you blaspheme what you don't know?
 

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Last week during adult Sunday school, our priest said that the unforgiveable sin was actually suicide.  Because the Holy Spirit is the giver of life, taking one's life is a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  Unlike murder, though, it's the only sin from which one cannot repent, because you're dead after you commit it, which leaves you with no chance to repent.
 

serb1389

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Veniamin said:
Last week during adult Sunday school, our priest said that the unforgiveable sin was actually suicide.  Because the Holy Spirit is the giver of life, taking one's life is a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  Unlike murder, though, it's the only sin from which one cannot repent, because you're dead after you commit it, which leaves you with no chance to repent.
Even this is arguable, because we do not know how God will judge them.  Yes suicide is the final act of complete hopelessness, which is completely antithetical to Christ, but so is God dying for our sins.  Neither one makes sense, really.  So, even with suicide, you never know.  We have to have hope in Christ's mercy.  Only he as God and Man will truly know how to judge us.  It is not for us to speculate. 
 

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serb1389 said:
Cleveland's answers are what I would consider standard ones.  What I do not like about them is that they still do not help you cope with the reality that if you do blaspheme against the HS you will not be forgiven. 
So what are you saying, that if one rejects God and His mercy, that God will overwhelm the person with the mercy and love that they reject?  This denies man's free will - the choice to stay with God or rebel against Him is ours by His choice.  If people don't want to experience His mercy as Love and compassion, then they won't.  They won't be able to escape it's experience, imo, but it will be as fire because they reject it.

Elisha said:
Kinda on the line serb1389 said, it seems almost impossible to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.  What I got out of those arguments was that the Holy Spirit is Truth revealed to one.  In pretty much all these cases, even though people have witnessed miracles, they just didn't believe who Christ really was - meaning the Holy Spirit had not revealed the Truth to them.  This is pretty much the same for all atheists, Satan worshippers, etc. - the Holy Spirit just has not been revealed to them.  How can you blaspheme what you don't know? 
Except He had revealed the work of the Spirit to them; He gave them the room to doubt His own person, His work; but He made it clear that doubting the work of God's Spirit, and attributing it to the Devil himself, was blasphemy.  Why would the Devil work acts of mercy on the poor and downtrodden?  Why would the Devil proclaim the name of the Lord before people?  The reaction of the people to Jesus' miracles sometimes is one of disbelief and ignorance, and sometimes is one of hardness of heart and anger and blasphemy.

I personally don't know where I stand on this issue.  On the one hand, I agree that it is a most grievous offense to take what is God's work and attribute it to evil, thus making what is Good, evil and what is evil, good.  However, the concept of an Unforgivable Sin ISTM hinges on people not repenting of their sin, and of their doing just as Christ condemned - i.e. calling the Spirit and His work the work of the devil.  Under the narrow definition, I don't know who would commit such sin.  Suicide, while terrible, is probably not an unforgivable sin - just unrepentable, since the time to turn around is taken away by the act itself.

I, for one, don't doubt God's mercy if we repent.  If we don't repent, then we're essentially asking for what we get - an existence where we'd rather not exist, a time when the Love of God is felt as fire because of our rejection of it.
 

Tzimis

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I'll give it a try. Somewhere in line with what Cleavland has stated.
While the actions of god are what has saved us. It is our own acceptance of his mercy that justifies it. If we go through the actions of forgiveness and repentance god will undoubtedly forgiven us, but choosing not to forgive ourselves or others is a hypocritical act that blasphemes the Holy Spirit that has given us life instead of death. Salvation is based on our response to what has bin given.
 

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Interesting. I had not heard an Orthodox perspective on this before.

This issue was settled for me long ago when a Protestant pastor told me essentially what Cleveland said, that the blasphemy against the Spirit is the rejection of God's salvation; and if you're worried about blaspheming the Holy Spirit, then you are still concerned about your salvation, and can still be saved--and therefore you have not blasphemed the Holy Spirit. One who has blasphemed Him will not care whether they have blasphemed Him.
 

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Thanks Cleveland, Serb, and everyone else. The answers made a lot of sense.

It's funny, though. When I read this, it didn't change my mindset that even the worst sin could be forgiven. At a certain point, the message of Christ becomes so second nature that everything in the Bible, no matter how seemingly contradictory, will end up affirming the message of love and forgiveness.
 

serb1389

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cleveland said:
So what are you saying, that if one rejects God and His mercy, that God will overwhelm the person with the mercy and love that they reject?  This denies man's free will - the choice to stay with God or rebel against Him is ours by His choice.  If people don't want to experience His mercy as Love and compassion, then they won't.  They won't be able to escape it's experience, imo, but it will be as fire because they reject it.
Good point.  I didn't take my assumption to its logical end as you did.  And I didn't think that I had said what you said I said  ;)
Simayan said:
Thanks Cleveland, Serb, and everyone else. The answers made a lot of sense.

It's funny, though. When I read this, it didn't change my mindset that even the worst sin could be forgiven. At a certain point, the message of Christ becomes so second nature that everything in the Bible, no matter how seemingly contradictory, will end up affirming the message of love and forgiveness.
What do you mean it didn't change your mindset?  Where is there confusion/problems?

 

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Not when I read your responses, but when I read the passage. As in, even a Bible passage that seems to go against everything Christ taught can always be justified to lead back to the same central message.
 

greekischristian

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cleveland said:
So what are you saying, that if one rejects God and His mercy, that God will overwhelm the person with the mercy and love that they reject?  This denies man's free will - the choice to stay with God or rebel against Him is ours by His choice.  If people don't want to experience His mercy as Love and compassion, then they won't.  They won't be able to escape it's experience, imo, but it will be as fire because they reject it.
It does not so much deny free will as recognize that there are natural boundaries on the capability of man. We may, by our free will, reject the notion of gravity, but we still cannot deny its reality, in the end we will still be subjected to it. We may, by our free will, wish that we were not humans, but in the end, we still are. Likewise, we may, by our free will, try to reject God; but, in the end, our ontological reality of being eternally linked with God cannot be overcome...we are still one with Him. But this is no more restrictive than being confined by the physical law of gravity or the ontological reality of being human, it's simply what we are as created beings.

Furthermore, in your analysis, this same restriction of will exists. You may argue that we are free to accept or reject divine mercy, but you still attribute an ontological consequence to this that denies free will. You argue that IF one rejects God there is some ontological reason that they must suffer as a result, that is to say that there is an ontological relationship between acceptance of God and bliss and rejection of God and suffering...in the end, since you are forced into one of the two options, free will is denied: if free will were not denied, you could choose the two independently. How is this fundamentally different from my insistance that there is an ontological relationship between humanity and God? Between God and His Creation? That being an emination from the Divine and being united with the Divine is even more fundamental than any correlation between suffering, or the lack thereof, and one's disposition towards the Divine?
 

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greekischristian said:
It does not so much deny free will as recognize that there are natural boundaries on the capability of man. We may, by our free will, reject the notion of gravity, but we still cannot deny its reality, in the end we will still be subjected to it. We may, by our free will, wish that we were not humans, but in the end, we still are. Likewise, we may, by our free will, try to reject God; but, in the end, our ontological reality of being eternally linked with God cannot be overcome...we are still one with Him. But this is no more restrictive than being confined by the physical law of gravity or the ontological reality of being human, it's simply what we are as created beings.

Furthermore, in your analysis, this same restriction of will exists. You may argue that we are free to accept or reject divine mercy, but you still attribute an ontological consequence to this that denies free will. You argue that IF one rejects God there is some ontological reason that they must suffer as a result, that is to say that there is an ontological relationship between acceptance of God and bliss and rejection of God and suffering...in the end, since you are forced into one of the two options, free will is denied: if free will were not denied, you could choose the two independently. How is this fundamentally different from my insistance that there is an ontological relationship between humanity and God? Between God and His Creation? That being an emination from the Divine and being united with the Divine is even more fundamental than any correlation between suffering, or the lack thereof, and one's disposition towards the Divine?
The reason some feel this way is because they don't understand what the limits of being created are and the consequences that this reality brings. You really should rethink your position. The acceptance or rejection of god is limited to this age, under the consequence of being created.
 
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Is perhaps the willful rejection of God's attributes A blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? The prophet Micah cried out to do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with thy God (Micah 6:8 ),Christ gave us the Beatitudes, etc.; surely, many non Christians are capable of walking in the attributes of the almighty and do so (while some Christians fail to do so). So many who may not "know" the God of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob (for too many reasons to list) but "show the work of the law written in their hearts" (Romans 2:15) I would understand as not blaspheming & will probably be ok. St. John of Damascus says of the final judgement, "those who have done good will, will shine forth as the sun with the  angels into life eternal.." (Exp. of Orthodox faith bk 4, chptr 27) and this part of his teaching does not seem to exclude non Christians. As King David says, "For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds" (Psalm 7:9) whereas "the wicked shall be turned into hell" (Psalm 9:17). Of course I write as a sinner trying to be vigilant of any peril of delusion. (cannot understand why smiley appeared above & cannot delete)

EDIT:  Fixed the problem of the unwanted smiley.  If you type '8 )' without a space, the text editor automatically reads this as the code for the 'Cool' smiley.  The way to avoid this is to type a space between the '8' and the ')' when you want to type something such as (Micah 6:8 ).

- PtA
 

serb1389

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greekischristian said:
It does not so much deny free will as recognize that there are natural boundaries on the capability of man. We may, by our free will, reject the notion of gravity, but we still cannot deny its reality, in the end we will still be subjected to it. We may, by our free will, wish that we were not humans, but in the end, we still are. Likewise, we may, by our free will, try to reject God; but, in the end, our ontological reality of being eternally linked with God cannot be overcome...we are still one with Him. But this is no more restrictive than being confined by the physical law of gravity or the ontological reality of being human, it's simply what we are as created beings.

Furthermore, in your analysis, this same restriction of will exists. You may argue that we are free to accept or reject divine mercy, but you still attribute an ontological consequence to this that denies free will. You argue that IF one rejects God there is some ontological reason that they must suffer as a result, that is to say that there is an ontological relationship between acceptance of God and bliss and rejection of God and suffering...in the end, since you are forced into one of the two options, free will is denied: if free will were not denied, you could choose the two independently. How is this fundamentally different from my insistance that there is an ontological relationship between humanity and God? Between God and His Creation? That being an emination from the Divine and being united with the Divine is even more fundamental than any correlation between suffering, or the lack thereof, and one's disposition towards the Divine?
I think you used the word ontological in at least 5-6 different ways here... ;) ;D

Being an emination from divinity?  Are you kidding me?  ;)

And isn't suffering the only thing that we can offer to God?  Not to dillude the connection between the creation and the creator, but our suffering is our offering to God.  is there not some kind of intrinsic connection there with Christ? 

p.s.  i am sort of bull******* but I am serious about the general point.  I have neither the time nor presence of mind to be flowery... ;D
 

greekischristian

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Demetrios G. said:
The reason some feel this way is because they don't understand what the limits of being created are and the consequences that this reality brings. You really should rethink your position. The acceptance or rejection of god is limited to this age, under the consequence of being created.
So you argue that creation brings with it one set of logical consequences and I disagree saying that it, instead, brings with it another. Logically speaking, they are tantamount, but I believe mine makes better theological sense.

Plus, do you really want me to rethink my position? Rethinking is what got me to where I am...are you trying to make me an atheist or something? ;D ;)
 

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greekischristian said:
So you argue that creation brings with it one set of logical consequences and I disagree saying that it, instead, brings with it another. Logically speaking, they are tantamount, but I believe mine makes better theological sense.

Plus, do you really want me to rethink my position? Rethinking is what got me to where I am...are you trying to make me an atheist or something? ;D ;)
Your outcome is what most Orthodox hope for. Including me.
 

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greekischristian said:
So you argue that creation brings with it one set of logical consequences and I disagree saying that it, instead, brings with it another. Logically speaking, they are tantamount, but I believe mine makes better theological sense.

Plus, do you really want me to rethink my position? Rethinking is what got me to where I am...are you trying to make me an atheist or something? ;D ;)
If I'm not mistaken, I think he means to consider his position on end of existence if we don't repent.  You believe in the salvation of all, while he believes in the non-existence of some unrepentant, two totally opposite positions rejected by most in this forum (although the non-existence part is extremely rejectable to me).

So, just for kicks, I am curious to see how you would respond to this one.  I mean after all, if there was a time when we didn't exist, can we easily not exist if we continue to act against our own good?

God bless.
 

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I don't see how suicide can categorically be considered 'the unforgivable sin' since we venerate St. Pelagia of Antioch, who chose suicide rather than allowing herself to be raped.

Her veneration, I think, would demonstrate that in the mind of the Church, at least some suicides can be forgiven.

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Pelagia_of_Antioch
 

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Simayan said:
I need help justifying something.

Tonight at Bible Study, we were asked by the priest if Jesus ever condemned anyone (Hell condemning, not scolding). Most people said the usual responses: Pharisees, the rich, etc. I then countered by saying that Jesus never condemned a person to hell, as that would rule out any possibility of repentance during their life. Instead, he condemned their actions, and the results if one follows them until death. Everyone agreed, because the central tenet of Christianity is ultimate love and forgiveness. Until what came next:

Then we come to Mark 3:29, where it is said that anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit has committed an unforgivable sin and can never be forgiven. I looked for context loopholes and cop-outs, but there it is, plain and simple. I asked the priest to verify what this meant, and all he did was answer it with more questions and shrug his shoulders.

Yet frankly, I don't really believe it. Jesus may have said it, but it runs contrary to everything he stood for. My first thought was actually, "Well, he's obviously lying at this part."  :D From what I understand, this blaspheming is when one says, for example, that the work of the Holy Spirit is actually the work of Satan. However, I am 100% sure in my heart of hearts that if a Jew said this at the age of 20, converted to Christianity at age 22 and repented, he would be forgiven.

Can somebody clarify this for me?

-Will
My experience of the unforgivable sin was a misunderstanding until I found that info section in the bible.
 

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Your theology seems to western and legalistic
 

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JamesR said:
Your theology seems to western and legalistic
Catechism of the Western Popes?...
 

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Simayan said:
I need help justifying something.

Tonight at Bible Study, we were asked by the priest if Jesus ever condemned anyone (Hell condemning, not scolding). Most people said the usual responses: Pharisees, the rich, etc. I then countered by saying that Jesus never condemned a person to hell, as that would rule out any possibility of repentance during their life. Instead, he condemned their actions, and the results if one follows them until death. Everyone agreed, because the central tenet of Christianity is ultimate love and forgiveness. Until what came next:

Then we come to Mark 3:29, where it is said that anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit has committed an unforgivable sin and can never be forgiven. I looked for context loopholes and cop-outs, but there it is, plain and simple. I asked the priest to verify what this meant, and all he did was answer it with more questions and shrug his shoulders.

Yet frankly, I don't really believe it. Jesus may have said it, but it runs contrary to everything he stood for. My first thought was actually, "Well, he's obviously lying at this part."  :D From what I understand, this blaspheming is when one says, for example, that the work of the Holy Spirit is actually the work of Satan. However, I am 100% sure in my heart of hearts that if a Jew said this at the age of 20, converted to Christianity at age 22 and repented, he would be forgiven.

Can somebody clarify this for me?

-Will

You're probably looking at the author of the epistle (For example, the unforgivable sin in the book of Mark) and is not Jesus.
 
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