I’ve been doing massive amounts of reading and research concerning the scriptures and universalism. I lean quite strongly toward UR. I haven’t yet seen a good response to Matthew 12:32. If anyone has something I would love to hear it. At first I was thinking that “the age to come” could represent the millennium. I reasoned, before having read anyone’s thoughts on it, that Jesus could be saying that this sin was so serious that you had to go to hell. There would be no forgiveness in this age or during the millennium (forgive my ignorance because I don’t know much about the millennium and I’m sure that ignorance is showing). Jesus was saying that hell would be the punishment for this sin, it being so grievous, but, since Jesus said that he would draw all men to himself, this is one that would have to take place after temporary, but quite aweful, punishment in hell. But, the problem with that is when you look up the phrase “the age to come” in the N.T. it is pretty clear, and from Jesus’ own words at that, that it is speaking about the final state of things. I couldn’t find 3 ages, this present age, the millennial age, and the eternal state/age. Though the scriptures seem to imply that there are other ages, it is fairly clear from Jesus’ words that his meaning was that the sin of blasphemy can’t be forgiven when you are alive, and after you are dead. The interesting thing of course was the implication that there could be some forgiveness after one dies (in the age to come) with the exception of blasphemy of the H.S. The passage seems to be rather emphatic. I understand that all systems have problematic verses, but this one is pretty powerful. I tried the search on this site to find a thread on it and didn’t find one (it’s probably right in front of my face! ) If anyone has any thoughts or any links, I’d love to see them. I thought it was discussed in Robin’s book, but I couldn’t find the discussion.
Didn’t Paul wrestle with this in Romans? Israel’s rejection of Christ (their sin against his Holy Spirit) would not be forgiven. Jerusalem would fall and fires would burn in Gehenna. Nor would Israel be forgiven in the age of the Gentiles. But that’s not the end of the story. All Israel would be saved in the end, Paul concludes, because God’s promises are irrevocable.
Good question! I know we’ve discussed this here before, but this is my take, in brief:
If we are in the state of “speaking against the Holy Spirit” – the Spirit of Truth – we are denying what we know to be true, or we are considering evil something that is good, or in this context the Pharisees were saying that Jesus cast out demons by the power of the Satan, when it was by the power of God. This not something that can be pardoned in any age – this is an ongoing sin – possibly either of intentional or unintentional self-deception – which God will not allow us to continue living in without retribution.
To say that it cannot be forgiven, does not mean that we may not be delivered from it. We may have to undergo dreadful consequences from insisting on living in lies, but the hope of salvation is that God is able even to save us from our delusions, open our blind eyes, and heal our deaf ears.
Huh…interesting. Well my interpretation of this verse is:-
When Christ came as a man, He was obscured to us, entering the world as a weak helpless infant, growing up in meager fashion as a carpenter then when He did “reveal” Himself He spoke in parables. All of us in ignorance one point or another believed He was a mere mortal/ religious leader we even outright denied Him but because we believed (not easy believism) what He did for us at calvary, our sins are forgiven.
When we deny or reject the Holy Spirit, the truth revealed within then there can be no forgiveness because we have denied the only saving power in the universe. There is no other savior, no other pardon. We remain in hardness of heart.
You may not agree with my interpretation but my interpretation sticks alot closer to that verse than yours did. We have to becareful about allowing presuppositions to get in our way. Scripture must only be interpreted by scripture. solas scriptura. God Bless!
I summarized quite a number of issues in my commentary on Matt Slick’s deployment of Mark 3:28-29 vs. universalism; the thread can be found here (but after the paper there is some unfortunate distraction from someone who wanted to just ignore the details of what I had written and charge me with inventing things in the verses–before flat out inventing numerous things in the verses himself. Not Matt Slick, btw. )
Since at least half of the paper involved specifically addressing Matt’s paper on particular points, I’ve been meaning to redraft it for a while as new post without reference to issues in Matt’s paper per se. Maybe I’ll be able to do that later this week.
Meanwhile, oxy, I actually agree (as do many universalists) that there can be no forgiveness so long as the person continues sinning against the Holy Spirit; and I’m prepared to get pretty broad about what constitutes such a sin. (Ultimately any sin, no matter how small, is a sin against the HS; but continuing impenitence in sin, no matter how ‘small’ the sin may seem, is blasphemy against the HS.)
I also agree that scripture should be interpreted by scripture, and I am especially concerned to interpret Mark 3:29 (and its Synoptic parallels) by verse 28 (which is phrased very much stronger than its Synoptic parallels)! But of course most people want to interpret verse 28 by verse 29. The question will eventually come down to a rationale for why to interpret 28 by 29 (and its parallels) or vice versa. I can produce scriptural testimony for that, too, but the other side can do so as well. In my experience the attempt at any rationale for going one way instead of the other, ends up appealing to metaphysical principles one way or another (though the debators may not realize it, not having been trained in metaphysics.)
Tom Talbott tackles this issue “are some sins unforgivable?” on p103-106 of The Inescapable Love of God. Talbott draws our attention to the word used for forgiveness in Matt 12.31-32 and parallels – aphethesetai, from aphiémi (Strong’s 863) – which means releasing from an obligation, cancelling a debt or setting aside a prescribed punishment. If a crime or sin can not be pardoned in this way, this means the guilty person must serve his sentence, undergo his punishment, after which a pardon is not necessary. “An unforgiveable sin, therefore, need not be an uncorrectable sin at all; it is simply one that God cannot deal with adequately in the absence of an appropriate punishment” (Talbott p104). He goes on to unpack this idea at greater length, but you get the idea!
Therefore (a) from the context, the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit seems to be what happens when a person claims that something which is in reality the work of the Holy Spirit, is the work of Satan. Or perhaps more generally it is “willful opposition to the work of the Spirit” (Talbott p105). (b) As our perfect, loving Father, God does not just pardon or dismiss this rebellion, he applies corrective punishment, either in this age or in the age to come. Some may experience God’s love as a consuming fire, paying for their sin rather than being forgiven of it, but ultimately they will be healed, cleansed and reconciled to God.
I went and read your argument against Matt Slick and I think I’m going to have to go read it again when I’m feeling a little bit better because some parts of it I wasn’t quite getting. I didn’t quite get your point about Jesus didn’t really say that he wouldn’t ever forgive blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. You said that he would need to use the word “never” in the Greek. At a first reading it didn’t convince me. It still seems that the statement that Jesus is making is fairly straightforward and that he is contrasting the sins he will forgive with the one that won’t be forgiven—ever. It sure seems to be saying that. We UR’s hold out hope that he will eventually draw all men, but this verse still seems to contradict that belief.
At one point you said,
"It ought to be worth noting, that between the three basic soteriologies, Kaths are the ones who intrinsically have more claim to keeping the extreme emphases of verse 28 in mind. Kaths limit the judgment of verse 29 to something that isn’t hopeless, but Calvs and Arms limit the mercy of verse 28 to something that is hopeless. Who then is more likely to be found on the side of mercy rejoicing over judgment?"
It seems to me that the claim you want to make is to be true to the meaning of the text. If the text sets forth an exception that is hopeless, then we must be true to the text and say, “well, Jesus defined for us the limits of his grace. In the scriptures, it is said that God hates divorce and he doesn’t want us to divorce. He then lays out an exception: adultery. We understand that there is one exception to God’s command concerning divorce and so the man or woman can say, “God allows me this because my spouse was habitually unfaithful.” Here we are told that all sins will be forgiven, but he gives us an exception – the only one we know of in the scriptures – I walk away thinking “I best not blaspheme the Holy Spirit”. Maybe the divorce example is bad, but the whole point is it seems that he was contrasting what he would forgive with what he wouldn’t.
"Put another way, I would rather say, “All sins, no matter how great, can and will be forgiven, including the one that continues persistently on, although that sin cannot be forgiven so long as it is persisted in,” (thus implying that this sin shall not be never-endingly persisted at!) than to say (as MattS does), “All sins are forgivable, but blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not”–which is a direct contradiction in two clauses, and requires mere repudiation of what is far more emphatically said positively. (Admittedly the first verse might be explained as hyperbole. By the same token, so might the other! My interpretation doesn’t involve having to treat either verse as hyperbole, notably.)"
Why did Jesus say that Blasphemy would not be forgiven in this age and the age to come? It seems that you are saying, in some places, that Blasphemy will be forgiven eventually when it is repented of and that the reason it remains unforgiven is that it isn’t repented of. But you say that any sin that is not repented of remains unforgiven. So why this special consideration of blasphemy? Why not just say that folks need to repent and if they don’t then they will perish, which is said in many places in one way or another? I’m sorry if I am not getting your point.
Those who don’t believe that the scriptures teach UR criticize us of trying to hard to redefine the scriptures when actually what we are doing is trying to make sense of a theological system. Everyone has scriptures that don’t fit and they look for alternative explanations – a great deal of time is spent in commentaries doing just that and it’s not criticized there. So, I’m not embarrassed to search for alternative explanations like we are doing here. But, so far, this one has been a stumper for me. I don’t yet feel comfortable/confident saying, “Well, Jesus said that it won’t be forgiven, but, since God is merciful and promises to reconcile all things, I am confident that this sin will be forgiven if I repent.” It doesn’t seem to say that. So far it seems to be one of those cases where Jesus is saying what he means and meaning what he says. I know that i’m missing parts of your argument and maybe I missed it altogether. It kind of feels that way, so I’'ll read your argument against Matt again.
Another thing you said in your argument, nearing your conclusion was this:
**"His problems multiply, however, by trying to interpret GosMatt 12:32 in light of GosMark 3:29 (when, strangely, he could have just stuck with prior contexts in GosMatt itself!) so as to claim universalists are flatly contradicting GosMark by reading GosMatt in such a way. Even setting aside the fact that Mark 3:29 does not actually read what he insists (against his own report of the Greek) that it does, he opens himself to a goose/gander saucebath of at least the same strength. His illustration could just as easily (and actually more accurately) be rephrased as followed:
1.) Mark 3:28 states that all sins and blasphemies, no matter how great, will be forgiven to the sons of men.
A.) This verse clearly states the impossibility of a flatly unforgivable sin.
2.) Mark 3:29 states that those who blaspheme in (the face of) the Holy Spirit (or BHS) do not have forgiveness into the age but sin a sin of an age. (And Matt 12:32 puts it more clearly, that they do not have forgiveness in this age or in the age to come.)
A.) If Mark 3:29 and Matt 12:32 are interpreted to mean that BHS flatly cannot and/or will not be forgiven, then that contradicts Mark 3:28 which states as clearly as possible that all the sins and the blasphemies, no matter how great they may be, will be forgiven."**
You say that vs 29 would be contradicting vs 28 if it is to be read that blasphemy cannot ever be forgiven, but can’t it simply be that Jesus is laying out an “all things except for this” statement? I mean, I would write it that way if it is what I wanted to convey, and that’s how I have always read it. I never thought that the verses contradicted one another, but I did think that Jesus was laying out a sin that would never be forgiven (and had also had many a day of fear when I thought I had committed that sin )
I’m not sure when I’ll have a chance to work on your good questions today, Chris (I have a submittal at ‘work’ work I’ve been hacking away at for a week now, came close to putting it in the hole yesterday but had to wait until I could get more info this morning.)
I will however take a moment to point out, whether incidentally or not, that your illustration of principle regarding the prohibition against divorce involves a further absolute prohibition after the divorce: the husband must not remarry (nor marry a divorced woman) unless he is reconciling with his wife.
There are huge reasons for this as an enacted typology of what God does for all of us (who as sinners have adulterously betrayed Him, even unto death!) But the point is that despite the one exception to the absolute ban on divorce, there is also an insisted hope which proves the rule still trumps the exception–instead of the exception trumping the rule.
Hey, thanks for the reply Jason. I went back and re-read through much of your discussion with Matt and I think I understand better what you were saying now. Correct me if I am wrong, though. I was thinking about what I used to teach on Blasphemy from the pulpit. I used to tell folks that the only unforgivable sin was that of NON-repentance. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict us of sin, among other things, and the ultimate sin would be to consistently reject his testimony to the Lordship of Jesus, and our sinfulness/need for Him. You would be, in the end, successfully calling the H.S. a liar (or admitting that he wasn’t a liar but rejecting what you knew to be true) if you never repented. In light of this, and I think that this is what you were saying in your argument, of course it is unforgivable because it goes un-repented. The hope would be, as you pointed out, realized when the person was in fact drawn to repent, even if from the pit of hell. IF this is an adequate definition of blasphemy/H.S. then it would be an excellent explanation. However, as I’ve read, there are a lot of opinions out there on what constitutes blasphemy/H.S. Is there any kind of consensus in the evangelical church as to what blasphemy/H.S. is?
And yes, that was where I arrived, even as an exegetical consideration of the context of the scene.
Otherwise, I only wanted to make clear from a close examination of the grammar and immediate contexts that there is nothing in the whole saying (but the whole saying has to be kept in mind!) that would necessarily weigh in favor of non-universalism. If anything the weight would be the other way around, since the exhaustive affirmation of Mark 3:28 is much stronger than the form of the exception afterward. But I didn’t hang altogether on that; I ended only with the conclusion that the testimony doesn’t count ultimately in any direction. (Though as I observed, including in Matt Slick’s attempt at deploying it against universalism, as well as in the member commentary afterward, it is the commonest thing in the world to read a non-universalistic meaning into the verses, often by changing or adding to them. Which is deeply ironic when the same people are complaining about other people supposedly ignoring or adding to or changing the scriptures.)
I think I can safely say there’s a supermajority opinion that it has something to do with believing the Son and/or the Holy Spirit is actually Satan or working with Satan. That doesn’t exclude the more fundamental explanation I arrived at, since after all that was the topic of the scene which this declaration tends to culminate with. But there is also scriptural testimony (as well as principle argumentation) related to this scene indicating that the problem is more fundamental than attributing the works of the Son and/or the Spirit to Satan.
(Meanwhile, my submittal at work is nearly finished, yay! )
Eating, drinking and breathing unite us to the material world and bring life.
Eating and drinking God’s flesh and blood and breathing his Holy Air unite us to the spiritual world and bring eternal life. Refuse to eat, drink and breathe, and you’ll die. This is true both now and always.
Celestial air (High. Hallowed. Holy)
I dare not breathe, for I have sinned.
Yet breathe I must and breathe right wholly.
Oh how I hunger for the Wind.
Personally, I believe there are 8 eons (I. Angelic; II. Chaos; III. Innocence; IV. Conscience; V. Present Evil Age; VI. Millennium; VII. Judgement and VIII. New Heaven and Earth), plus the state of eternity. You could take a look at this chart. Hope it helps.
If George MacDonald is right that God is willing to forgive, especially past sins, but the reason he holds our feet to the fire is over current sins because of the damage it causes us in the present, I imagine that there is something particularly grievous about speaking against the Holy Spirit that means God must deal with it in a way that does not include immediate forgiveness. What if speaking against the Holy Spirit is to go against love, not be born again, then of course it will not be forgiven, ever, since a condition for passing from death to life is precisely that we do love, embrace the Holy Spirit of love in our hearts, not continue going against it. I almost wonder if speaking a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven because people often misunderstand, don’t know what they are rejecting, whereas God’s love, his invisible quality and the reason we need the Holy Spirit,is something we do understand and should not reject. Am I off the deep end?