The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Unpardonable sin according to Doug Del Tondo

As I mentioned recently, I’ve been reading the articles on jesuswordsonly.com. I’ve been finding the case for Paul being a fraud pretty strong.

Today I found Del Tondo’s interpretation of blasphemy against the Spirit AKA the unforgivable sin. According to Del Tondo, this sin is verbal and if you commit it God will never forgive you.

https://www.jesuswordsonly.com/component/content/article/1-jwo/696-does-paul-contradict-jesus-on-unpardonable-sin-of-blasphemy.html

Thoughts? @JasonPratt

If you haven’t already, Tom Wright’s 'Paul" - an biography -might convince you otherwise.

I should also note (which anyone who reads the article in the OP will see), Del Tondo thinks the Spirit = God the Father. Del Tondo is not a trinitarian.

Sorry for any delays. I’ve been ultra-busy at ‘work’ work recently, and with Mom’s mystery illness (though she’s back to 100% now). I’m only able to type something now because I’m home this morning with some stomach trouble! (Nothing major, just need to stay near the pot for a few hours. {wry g})

I’ll leave aside the non-trinitarian part unless I think it leads to a fault in his argument. (Though if he’s interested in Jesus’ Words Only, then Jesus distinguishes between the Father and the Holy Spirit in GosJohn’s Final Discourse at least, near John 15 since he bothers to cf that along the way for other purposes. So there’s that offhand.)

The position of Paul being a fraud would need a massive ton of exposition and analysis which I don’t have time or energy for. I already disagree with his introduction to the topic from the beginning in what Paul is referring to, however, since Acts doesn’t say that Paul is saying that the believer is justified from the only thing from which you could not be justified by the Law of Moses, but from all things – because on Paul’s theology and soteriology it was never the Law per se that ever justified anyone, but rather God who justifies people. Paul’s underlying point is that you can’t earn God’s forgiveness or justification or anything like that by keeping the Law, even perfectly, even if someone COULD keep the Law perfectly which Paul also denies.

So he starts off by creating an unwarranted contradiction between Paul and Jesus, and at that point I don’t care anymore about his attempt to pit Paul against the incident of the sin against the HS. To which I suppose I could add, however, that not one Christian non-universalist I’ve ever read, heard, or met, who accepts Paul (and Acts for that matter) as legitimate, thinks Paul is contradicting the sin against the Holy Spirit here in any way, shape, form, or fashion. And Paul goes on elsewhere to include “blasphemy” (in the underlying Greek) among typical sin lists for which no one will inherit the kingdom of God! So this really is Del Tondo Contra Mundum, on a problem he himself has created from nothing, apparently in order to pit Jesus over-against Paul on something.

In the Torah, God regards all people put to death, whether directly by God (such as the firstborn of Egypt, whom God thus requires Israel to remember and to honor!), or more indirectly such as by command (which would include this case), as being thus specially devoted to God, with the same term used as for an acceptable offering to God which God accepts as clean and proper. In other words, even if Exodus 20 and Leviticus 24 does mean that a verbal insulting of God must result in execution of the blasphemer without a sacrificial opportunity being provided to atone out of the penalty, then the topic is entirely neutral to whether or not God will raise the one who dishonors the Son and the Father to a resurrection of crisis with the purpose/goal for all to honor the Son and the Father and so come out of the death and into eonian life – so if Jesus says that in GosJohn, which He does, then by “Jesus’ Words Only” God’s judgment intends to bring them to truly honor God after all. Which fits with God declaring such executed people to be specially devoted to Him and sealed like a valued treasure which He’ll bring out later.

(I’m unsure from his presentation if Del Tondo means that blaspheming the name of YHWH is the only unforgiveable sin, although he seems to be going that way with the connection to the incident of healing the demented man. The ancient rabbis however used to say that the only law for which no provision was made for sparing the life through atonement, was being a slave-dealer! Be that as it may.)

Del Tondo isn’t very clear why he goes with the translation “is in danger of eternal damnation” (which is a late minority reading) rather than “is guilty of an eternal sin” (which is the typical English translation closer to the probable original Greek there, though not the best translation in my opinion since the grammar is very squirrely and hard to work with – thus explaining minority variants in the text transmission). But even less does he explain why on his theory Jesus’ Own Words would be saying that such a person is only in danger of eternal damnation. (And the underlying Greek minority variant there does stress the risk not the certainty.)

Finally and most importantly, his article prooftexts off two (roughly) parallel verses from that incident in total disregard of any of the context of what’s happening in that situation. I was curious how he was going to avoid landing on the problem that he is thus declaring that those opponents whom Jesus’ Own Words say will thus be put into a latter situation worse than their former, cannot or will not be saved by God from that worse situation, when Jesus is denouncing them for insisting that God could not or would not save another man whose latter situation was worse than his former (the demented man, explicitly described by Jesus’ Own Words that way, too, and whom Matthew connects back to having been healed once recently by Jesus already.)

But he gets around that whole situation by never once referring to it! – which I suspected would be the case before I finished the article. {g}

Neither does he go into the grammar of the Greek verbage where the point is that those dishonoring God continually do so rather than ceasing.

I personally have no intention of drawing Jesus’ censure by insisting that God cannot or will not save someone whose latter state of sin is worse than his former, and so also thus insisting that any claim otherwise must come not from God but from opposing God. But Del Tondo’s underlying theology involves God having no intention (or perhaps changing His mind) about bringing at least some of those who dishonor the Son and the Father (and the Holy Spirit, especially on his own position of the HS = the Father) to honor the Son and the Father instead. Why God would refuse to ever act, or to keep acting, toward bringing honor to the Father and the Son, is fortunately not a problem I have to deal with.

(In my case, because I’m a trinitarian theist, by the way. {g} The one and only foundational ground of all reality would self-destruct, destroying all other reality in the process, if even one of the Persons of God insisted on the ultimate and final dishonor of any of the Persons of God. Be that as it may.)

At the very least, his complaint about Paul is super-specious here, since he has presented no evidence that Paul meant in 1 Tim 1:13 that he was verbally insulting the name of YHWH.

And after his insistence upon this very specific form of the unforgivable sin, he never once shows Jesus’ opponents in that scene verbally insulting the name of YHWH. So by his own standards, they aren’t guilty of the unforgivable sin either, or else Jesus is denouncing them for something the Gospel reports don’t show them doing; or else Jesus is just kind of bird-dogging off on this topic while He’s passing by it, without meaning to reference this judgment against His opponents on this scene (although the context, totally omitted by Del Tondo, does point that way; as does Luke’s version of the sin against the Holy Spirit if I recall correctly, though not reported in regard to this particular incident.)

This is what comes from not taking the time and effort to evaluate an incident in as much context as possible. (And from reaching to support another goal, Paul being a fake against Jesus’ Words Only, at any cost. My guess is that there’s something else ideologically going on here, underlying all this.)

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Thanks Jason, it’s good to see you on here.

Yeah, I was reading John last night and noticed that it clearly sounds like the Father and Spirit are distinct from one another.

In John 5 Jesus says whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father. By that logic, wouldn’t verbally dishonoring (i.e. blaspheming) the Son be blasphemy against the Father as well?

‘Dishonoring the son’ is not equivalent to questioning certain theories (plural) about the son.
Do Unitarians honor the son? Absolutely, and even worship him.

:question:

Who said it is? Del Tondo thinks blasphemy against the Spirit is some kind of verbal insult against the Father. If that is so, and per John 5 whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, it’d seemed to me that blaspheming the Son would amount to blaspheming the Father.

Thanks for the replies guys. Now I’d like to offer my own rebuttal. I’d appreciate your thoughts on it.

Del Tondo:

There is one sin in the Law that is unpardonable and thus can not be justified by any atonement provided under the law of Moses. This is the blasphemy of the name of Yahweh, as specified as unpardonable in Exodus 20:7. The Holy Spirit says in that verse he will not “hold guiltless” those who insult his name - Yahweh.

Only one sin? Numbers 15 says a person who picked up sticks on the sabbath ought to be put to death. The context of this is intentional sins (juxtaposed with unintentional sins). So it seems there were several sins besides verbally insulting the name of God for which atonement wasn’t provided under the law of Moses. Aside from violating the sabbath, murder (Exodus 21) seems the most obvious.

I posted this earlier in a thread I started recently. But perhaps it fits better here.

Many view the word forgive, as used in the Bible, in a way that may not be correct, as discussed by Talbott in The Inescapable Love of God . Here are the New Testament occurrences of the words forgive, forgiven, forgiveness, and the related word pardon.

“But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:15)

“Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12:32)

“My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35)

“but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29)

“But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” (Mark 11:26)

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned, pardon, and you will be pardoned.” (Luke 6:37)

Merriam/Webster defines the word forgive in several ways. The definition that leads to confusion is “to give up resentment of.” People interpreting these verses with that definition in mind often conclude that one’s salvation is impossible if one is not forgiven, for God will never give up resentment of such a sin that is not forgiven. Thus, they conclude that one can do nothing to gain salvation if one is not forgiven. That would seem to deal a lethal blow to the concept of universal reconciliation.

But Merriam/Webster also defines the word forgive as “to grant relief from payment of.” Similarly, it also defines the word pardon as “to allow (an offense) to pass without punishment.” These definitions cast a different light on the issue of salvation, for using these definitions, one can easily see that salvation is still attainable even if one is not forgiven or pardoned. It would be attainable if one could somehow pay for one’s sins, for example through punishment.

Does the Bible shed light on this issue? Yes it does, and it seems to favor the concept that forgive is based on the idea of relief from paying a debt. Consider these key verses.

“My heavenly Father will also do the same to you [i.e., hand you over to torturers until you repay all that is owed, from Matthew 18:24], if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:25)

“For while you are going with your opponent to appear before the magistrate, on your way there make an effort to settle with him, so that he may not drag you before the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I say to you, you will not get out of there until you have paid the very last cent.” (Luke 12:58-59)

“Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.” (Matthew 5:25-26)

“Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.” (Hebrews 10:18)

So it appears that salvation is still attainable even if one is not forgiven or pardoned. It would be attainable if one pays for one’s sins. That payment could well be what Paul alluded to in 1 Corinthians 3:15.

“If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

Thus, unforgivable or unpardonable may not necessarily mean uncorrectable when it comes to debts in this world or to sins in the next.

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Some more thoughts…

Ezekiel 36 says Israel had profaned God’s name, but God would redeem them.

Ezekiel 36
16 The word of the Lord came to me: 17 “Son of man, when the house of Israel lived in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds. Their ways before me were like the uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual impurity. 18 So I poured out my wrath upon them for the blood that they had shed in the land, for the idols with which they had defiled it. 19 I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries. In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them. 20 But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they had to go out of his land.’ 21 But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came.
22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. 29 And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. 30 I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. 32 It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.

@JasonPratt what do you think? Technically, the Hebrew word used in Exodus 20:7 and Deuteronomy 5:11 (translated as “vain” in the NASB) isn’t used to describe Israel’s sin in Ezekiel 36. Does that matter though?

Jeremiah 30
10 ‘Fear not, O Jacob My servant,’ declares the Lord, 'And do not be dismayed, O Israel; For behold, I will save you from afar And your offspring seed" from the land of their captivity. And Jacob will return and will be quiet and at ease, And no one will make him afraid.
11 ‘For I am with you,’ declares the Lord, ‘to save you; For I will destroy completely all the nations where I have scattered you, Only I will not destroy you completely. But I will chasten you justly And will by no means leave you unpunished.’

Leaving people by no means unpunished sounds akin to not holding people guiltless. What do you guys think?

All good thoughts, yep! – though there might be a reply along the line that the Hebrew word is different in both places.

Del Tondo’s argument isn’t that blaspheming the name of YHWH is the only capital sin, btw; he argues (somewhat slightly) that it’s the only capital sin for which no provision is made in the Law to be forgiven from. I suppose he means by the atonement rituals?

I’m just as confused why Dave thought anyone (presumably me) was saying that those who don’t regard the Son as YHWH are dishonoring the Son, but that was absolutely not my point, nor was it even a side-consequence to what I was arguing. (And obviously Jesus accepts fealty from people who don’t even know they’ve been serving Him, much less who expect Him to be judging them, in GosMatt 25, so beliefs about His or his theological identity are not in view anyway regarding dishonoring of the Son. The pagan centurion’s son or servant boy being healed comes to mind as well.)

This is a case where Del Tondo seems to be aware that the data must require something really specific to count for an unforgivable sin, in some way that WOULDN’T work just as well for universalism, but then he bounces off his own theology trying to make it specific enough to work: a no point is anyone in those scenes verbally blaspheming the name of God (whether applied to the Father or two the Holy Spirit). Unless the name of God is also supposed to be “the Lord saves” or “the Lord is salvation”, i.e. Joshua, which an insistence that the Lord DOESN’T save someone would thus be blaspheming, perhaps. But in that case, not only would Del Tondo’s theology come up way short on the Son’s identity, but he himself would be blaspheming the name of God by insisting that God doesn’t save some sinners from sin.

@paidion what do you think of all this?

Ezekiel 18 might seal the deal that all sins can be forgiven.

Ezekiel 18 (NKJV)
But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

True in principle, though to be fair in context this seems to be talking about executions in this life.

Here’s another verse.

Jeremiah 30:11

(ESV)
For I am with you to save you,
declares the Lord;
I will make a full end of all the nations
among whom I scattered you,
but of you I will not make a full end.
I will discipline you in just measure,
and I will by no means leave you unpunished.

(NRSV)
For I am with you, says the Lord, to save you;
I will make an end of all the nations
among which I scattered you,
but of you I will not make an end.
I will chastise you in just measure,
and I will by no means leave you unpunished.

Assuming these are accurate translations, the last part of the last sentence has a very similar structure to Exodus 20:7. I think it’s reasonable to conclude that not leaving “guiltless” and not leaving “unpunished” essentially describe the same phenomenon.

Further, I’m not sure Exodus 20:17 is even about blasphemy, but rather swearing falsely. Del Tonto says Leviticus 24:15 is a restatement of Exodus 20:7, which simply uses a different word (what gets translated as “blasphemy” in English), but I think that’s an unwarranted assumption. And Leviticus 24’s language for punishment for blasphemy is similar to the language used to describe the punishment for other (non-blasphemous) sins.

Davo, what is your understanding on the unforgivable sin. Do you see this sin as a generational sin, only applicable to those there and then. Would you be of the view this particular sin can no longer be committed today.? I would be interested to hear your thoughts:

YES to both those questions. Check out this thread…

Click on the pale grey v shape on the top right to expand the post.