The God Squad: On blaspheming the Holy Spirit
In response to a heart-rending note from a reader, T, who knew that the only unforgivable sin in Christianity is blaspheming the Holy Spirit and who feared that during a recent medical crisis she had indeed blasphemed, I wrote an answer trying to console her and offering my outside-the-fences answer that God would never reject someone who acted out of pain or spiritual exhaustion. I then realized that again as a rabbi I was operating outside my credentials and so, as I have in the past, I asked you, my dear Christian readers, to inform me as to what actually constitutes blaspheming the Holy Spirit, according to their understandings of Christianity. I received several extremely thoughtful and spiritually helpful responses. Here are some of them,
From F in Mechanicsburg, Pa.: I am pretty sure no one can express or know all that goes into God's relationship with Man, only that God created Men, Knew that Men would draw away from Him, and provided a Redemption for individuals, through repentance, acknowledgment that he needs God, and that God does the work of redemption. Reaching men proved simple but complicated. Israel was designated as a Light, organized for that purpose. A Light to the world, proceeding Jesus, the Redeemer. The simple shall be made wise, comes to mind. When the disciples made the decision to leave or to stay with Christ, Christ mentioned the necessity of God enabling the action of becoming a Christian. Pray for the enabling and then repent. Acknowledge that redemption is needed and wanted. After that, be faithful, and grow. The Holy Spirit came after the death of Christ, though He already existed, and was to be the continuation, the teacher, the enabler. I don't know how to explain the process of blasphemy, except that it entails cutting off the Holy Spirit from your life. Dropping reliance on the Holy Spirit, or cutting Him loose from your life, is to deny the power of God. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are redeemers and sustainers, part of the Godhead which makes up God. If I said I fully understood this, you could feel free to lock me up. I think we can understand it enough to take advantage of it, in a good way. The simple can do it, probably better than the worldly wise. Blasphemy is not something said in anger, frustration, or as a result of a medical condition. It is probably more like a willful breaking of a contract. No one can take us out of God's Hands, but we can probably renege on the contract we made with God, as by taking on salvation through our own goodness and relying on saving ourselves. Or there was no "contract" in the first place. Some would say that the act would be more like never being enabled in the first place. The place that Jesus describes when he talks about people presenting themselves to God, and saying that they had done it all themselves, and look how good we were. We did it, and God says, "Depart from Me. I never knew you." As harsh and chilling a response, as I could ever imagine, and a final response. I realize that this is inadequate, but I hope it helps.
MG: Thank you, dear F, and you are wrong. Your explanation was NOT inadequate. It was deeply and profoundly adequate. Blasphemy as I understand it and as you confirm in your pious and thoughtful response is not God turning away from us. Blasphemy is us turning away from God’s love. I hope T reads your compassionate words.
T, from somewhere in Florida, responded to T’s agony succinctly,
Hi Rabbi Marc
I found in a little Catholic prayer book that lists the six sins against the Holy Spirit,
1) presumption of God's mercy
3) Impugning the known truth
4) Envy at another's spiritual good
5) Obstinacy in sin
6) Final impenitence
MG: Dear T, I love that list. I am writing just after Yom Kippur and I am adding it as an addendum to my prayers of repentance to God this year (I hope it gets attached to my repentance file before The Boss reviews them). 1) God’s mercy is a gift, not a right. We should humbly accept it and to prove our sincerity we must be merciful to others in exactly the degree to which we hope God will be merciful to us. 2) Suffering is a fact, but despair is always a choice. 3) To deny that there is truth is to deny everything. 4) Why should God’s goodness to us be expected for us and excessive to others? 5) Saying we are sorry means NOTHING if we keep doing it. 6) Believing that we are alone out here may indeed be unforgivable.
(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at email@example.com. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman.)
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