Blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

Our English word blasphemy comes from the Greek βλασφημία/vlasfimía—which largely means the same thing. It’s irreverence towards, and slander against, people and things we oughta reverence. We Christians tend to only use it to describe irreverence towards God (and bibliolaters to describe irreverence towards the bible), but the ancients applied it to all sorts of things. Like irreverence towards the temple, Moses, the prophets, and the scriptures. Even kings and emperors; yes you could blaspheme a king. Especially when they claimed godhood, as some of ’em did.

Some blasphemy is totally unintentional, like when we claim stuff about God that’s not so. When we claim, “God will send you to hell for that,” and no he won’t. When we claim God’s secret will is for evil to happen, and no it’s not. Other times it’s totally intentional, ’cause we’re pissed at God over something he did or didn’t do, so we yell at him a bit, or otherwise throw a tantrum and say some evil things. God is fully aware we’re just acting up, and forgives us once we snap out of it.

But then Jesus said this:

Mark 3.28-30 KJV
28 Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 29 But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: 30 Because they said, [Jesus] hath an unclean spirit.

Said the same thing in two other gospels. In context, it’s part of the story where Jerusalem scribes visiting the Galilee gave their expert opinion, and declared Jesus did his exorcisms by the power of Beelzebub (in Aramaic Baal Zevúl, a local pagan god; their euphemism for Satan) instead of the Holy Spirit. Jesus pointed out this reasoning was stupid: Satan’s not gonna fight itself, and if it is, it’s falling apart. And then he said blaspheming τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον/to Pnéfma to Ágion, the Holy Spirit, means you don’t get forgiven. Mt 12.31-32, Lk 12.10 The crime follows you to Kingdom Come—and it looks like it keeps you out of it.

Yikes.

Hence some Christians are terrified of committing it. Afraid they might accidentally, unintentionally commit it. So afraid, they’re afraid of critiquing any miracle or prophet—even though we’re supposed to double-check these things, and make sure they’re really God. But they refuse to, lest they say “It’s devilish” when it’s really the Spirit, and stumble into blaspheming the Spirit. And that’s why so many Christians let so many phonies get away with so much evil.

On the other extreme, some Christians claim blasphemy of the Spirit never, ever happens. Not anymore. ’Cause cessationism! As soon as “that which is perfect has come,” 1Co 13.10 which cessationists insist refers to the bible, God switched off the miracles: He doesn’t need ’em to confirm his message anymore, ’cause now the bible does that. The conditions under which blasphemy of the Spirit could happen, no longer does. So whenever you see a “miracle,” or hear a “prophecy,” feel free to call it the work of Satan.

And on another axis you have those Christians who are quick to point to other scriptures which state God forgives every sin. 1Jn 1.7, 9 Every single possible potential sin; no exceptions. If you’re worried about the scriptures’ warnings against such things… don’t! God forgives all.

Lastly we have the Christians who try their darnedest to redefine blaspheming the Spirit so it’s not what Jesus warned the scribes against doing. It’s some other thing. It’s apostasy. Or it’s numbing your conscience so much, you can’t tell the difference between good and evil anymore; confounding the Spirit with Satan is just a symptom of the real problem.

I think instead of convenient little answers which make us calm down and stop worrying about committing this sin, we oughta figure out for real what it is, whether we do it, and whether we can still get into God’s kingdom even if we did it.

What it is, and whether we can do it.

Blaspheming the Spirit is pretty clearly defined in Mark 3.30: “Because they said, [Jesus] hath an unclean spirit.” They said Jesus’s spirit, the Holy Spirit, God himself, is unclean. He’s evil, ritually impure, leads people astray, leads ’em to hell… basically everything the Holy Spirit is not. Stuff they should know better than to say about God… but they didn’t recognize God when he appeared in their midst. They were too blinded by their animosity towards Jesus.

When cessationists claim today’s miracles and prophecy are the product of Satan, they’re likewise too blinded by their animosity towards prophets and faith healers and other miracle workers. They don’t recognize God when he appears in their midst. They insist it’s not God: They know how God works, and he doesn’t work like that! Not today. So it must be some other powerful, supernatural being… and the only one they know of is the devil.

Same problem. Same blasphemy.

Cessationists claim it’s not the same problem, ’cause it’s a different dispensation: God has different rules for salvation in different eras. Under the dispensation of Law, you earned your salvation by obeying God and racking up good karma; under the dispensation of grace, you can’t earn your salvation and ought not try—and sins don’t undo your salvation anymore. So Jesus’s warning is void. Doesn’t count anymore. Really, everything in his Sermon on the Mount is void ’cause he gave it under the Law dispensation. Don’t worry about following him; you’re under grace now.

If your defense for committing the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, is “We can safely ignore Jesus”… I’ll try to say this as kindly as I can: I’m pretty sure you’re not Christian. I don’t care if that’s how you identify yourself; Jesus doesn’t, ’cause he expects Christians to follow him. Even though his new covenant supersedes the old, his words will never pass away. Mt 24.35 Including his warnings about sin.

I’ve actually heard non-cessationists borrow cessationist arguments, and claim, “The scribes’ sin was they personally witnessed Jesus’s miracles, yet said he did it by Satan. We can’t commit the same sin, ’cause we can’t personally witness his miracles, ’cause he’s in heaven now.” Well we’ve no idea whether the scribes personally witnessed anything, or judged entirely on hearsay. But regardless, I remind you Jesus intentionally didn’t say the unforgivable part was about blaspheming him.

Matthew 12.32 KJV
And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

If anybody else is throwing out demons, particularly in Jesus’s name, and an unbeliever claims, “That’s not the Holy Spirit at work; it’s Satan”—it’s the same sin. Same blasphemy, against the same person. With the same consequence: This sin won’t be forgiven.

The reason cessationists strive to redefine this sin, or insist it can no longer be committed, is pretty simple: They don’t wanna be accused of committing it. Because every time they claim a miracle isn’t of God but of Satan, they’re committing it.

Some of them—like John F. MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, editor of the MacArthur Study Bible, and host of the “Grace to You” radio program—have made blaspheming the Holy Spirit a central speciality of their ministry. MacArthur’s a cessationist, and believes he’s wholly justified in saying every present-day miracle-worker and prophet is working by the power of Satan. He figures he’s not blaspheming the Holy Spirit; they are. They’re claiming to work by the Spirit’s power, and they’re not.

MacArthur particularly likes to go after the charismatics of the New Apostolic Reformation movement. And y’know, I share many of MacArthur’s concerns about that group. Most of it has to do with their prosperity-gospel Mammonism, or the civic idolatry of prophets who’ve bound themseles to conservative American politics, and prophesied what their hearts desired instead of what the Spirit told ’em. Like Donald Trump’s re-election, which didn’t happen.

But while MacArthur begins with his concerns about the New Apostolic movement, he regularly goes on to criticize any and every present-day prophet. Because his cessationism can’t fathom anything but phonies exist. They’re all cut from the same cloth; they’re all devilish.

We Christians are instructed not to despise prophecy. 1Th 5.19 We’re meant to test it, and hold onto what’s good. 1Th 5.20 Not prejudicially dismiss the entire practice as something the Spirit no longer enables, all because we’ve adopted a worldview founded on unbelief, and comforted by the idea of a distant, non-interventionist God.

So: Can people still blaspheme the Holy Spirit? Yes. And they do.

Is it really unforgivable?

Three sins are described in Christendom as unpardonable:

  1. Apostasy.
  2. Blaspheming the Spirit.
  3. Refusing to forgive others.

In fact a number of Christians claim apostasy and blaspheming the Spirit, are one and the same sin: You don’t really blaspheme the Spirit unless your denial of the Spirit’s work includes Jesus’s atonement and your own salvation… and as a consequence you quit Christianity, quit Jesus, and reject the kingdom of heaven. So “blasphemy of the Spirit” is really apostasy, and apostasy is blaspheming the Spirit. (What’re the chances the Christians who came up with this explanation, are cessationists who are trying to claim they don’t really blaspheme the Spirit? Hundred percent.)

Now the idea of unpardonable sins seems to contradict the idea of grace. If God’s forgiving attitude towards us means he’s gonna forgive us absolutely positively everything, shouldn’t that also include apostasy and blasphemy of the Spirit? If you’ve quit Jesus, but you come to your senses later like the prodigal son, Lk 15.11-32 won’t the Father eagerly take you back? If you’ve blasphemed the Spirit and claimed his activity was devilish, but later realize you were wholly wrong and take it back, won’t he let you take it back? Paul, fr’instance: When he persecuted the ancient Christians before he met Jesus, I’ve no doubt he believed and said the miracles among them were frauds and devilry. And yet Jesus saved him too.

Here’s how I reconcile the ideas. You may disagree; feel free to.

The way most Christians describe God’s grace, is not as radical as it actually is. Grace forgives and saves people on one condition, and one alone: We trust him. When we have this faith in him, it justifies us; God notes this faith, counts us as righteous, considers us one of his, adopts us as his kids, and forgives us everything.

Everything. This’d mean sins we’ve confessed… and not. That’d mean sins we probably don’t even realize we’ve committed, so we never repented of ’em. That’d also mean sins we’re not so sure even are sins. And while karma may demand such sins tip the scales of justice in the wrong direction, and send us to hell, grace means they don’t.

With three exceptions. You already know which three exceptions. They’re things God can’t bring himself to overlook, because they interfere with his grace too much. Apostasy rejects it entirely. Blaspheming the Spirit rejects the person of the trinity who teaches us grace and applies it to our lives. And unforgiveness means we’re not letting God’s grace overflow to the way we treat others. Or in the case of these sins, no salvation. We’d rather have the sins.

If we commit these things, and continue to commit them, and even justify and elevate them and turn them into our twisted ministries, we’ve broken our relationship with God. We have no relationship with God. We’re not part of his kingdom. That’s why Jesus said we “hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.” Mk 3.29 Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit isn’t apostasy, same as yanking the television plug out of the wall isn’t the same thing as throwing a television into a Dumpster. It just happens to have the very same effect: No TV.

But is it undoable? Sure: You gotta repent. You can often get away with not repenting your other sins, but these you definitely gotta repent.

Yeah, I know other Christians are gonna insist we repent all our sins. As we should! I’m not saying we shouldn’t. I’m only saying God’ll still forgive us if we overlook those other sins. But not these three. These are make-or-break sins. Ones we should never commit in the first place—but if we do, we do still have Jesus. 1Jn 2.1 If you stumble into blaspheming the Holy Spirit, repent immediately. Till then, you don’t get your usual blanket forgiveness of grace, because these make-or-break sins mean you’ve cut yourself off from grace altogether.

Other Christians are gonna gracelessly say no; once you commit these sins you’re totally boned. And other Christians are gonna go overboard and say they’re no different, no less forgivable, than any other sins. But I’m pretty sure if they were no different than other sins, they wouldn’t get the extra-special highlight in scripture… and if committing them absolutely doomed us, we wouldn’t get all the verses in scripture which tell us God can forgive all. So there’s how I sort ’em out. Take or leave it.

Am I saying cessationists are doomed? Only when they claim present-day miracles, without exception, without obeying the apostles’ instructions to test stuff but just offering a prejudiced judgment against ’em, are devilish across the board. If they insist on saying the works of the Spirit are the works of Satan, yes I am. If you think that’s harsh of me… you do realize they’re calling the Holy Spirit “Satan.” What else are we supposed to conclude?

But if they repent, God is gracious.