Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Blasphemy Challenge

Just a lousy atheist video? You mean that didn't at least throw in a t-shirt that says "I blasphemed the Holy Spirit and all I got was an atheist video, and this T-shirt."

Really, some atheists just need to grow up.

More seriously, any reflections on the "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" passage in Scripture.

HT: Eric Thomsen (ADA Blue Devil Knight).

28 comments:

Blue Devil Knight said...

I can't believe that denying that the Holy Spirit exists is an unforgiveable sin. I certainly don't believe in any such Spirit, but if that condemned me to hell that would make conversion impossible for me.

No atheists believes in the holy spirit: does that mean no atheist can get to heaven, even if they repent and embrace Christ?

It seems these blasphemers are using a rather stupid interpretation of scripture (no surprise there).

I once had a Christian friend who said there is only one thing you can do that is unforgiveable. He got very uncomfortable with the topic, he wouldn't tell me what it was. This was a very loving act on his part, and I was quite touched.

I'm still trying to figure it out.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Also, while blaspheming the Holy Spirit (whatever that means) may be unforgivable, does that imply that you can't get to heaven? Is admittance into heaven contingent upon total forgiveness for all sins committed during life?

Anonymous said...

Here is the Lutheran response:

"The sin against the Holy Spirit is the conscious, persistent, stubborn, unyielding refusal of someone who was at one time a believer to acknowledge his or her sin, be sorry for it, and desire God's forgiveness in Christ. It is impossible, therefore, for a confessing Christian to fall into this state unknowingly or unwillingly, and any confessing Christian who is sincerely concerned about the possibility of having committed this "sin" clearly has not committed it, because one of the necessary signs of being in this state of non-repentance and unbelief is having no real concern or remorse about being in this condition."

Essentially you'd have to have originally been a believer, then willfully stop believing and accepting forgiveness.

It is funny to me that if atheism is so logical and clear that an atheist would have to play emotional games with himself and other atheists to feel good about their decision.

I believe this is a manifestation of the "revenge of conscience". It's no different than the woman who wears an "I had an abortion" t-shirt. Their conscience is bothering them and they have to make a confession to someone for relief. In this case the confession is to the world.

I have a challenge for them. In this case I'd like to see the same group of people deny Allah and Muhammad as his prophet--and put it on the web. In particular they can broadcast their names and faces in a Muslim country if they live in or near one. No doubt their convictions about atheism are so strong that fear of reprisal wouldn't dissuade them.

Certainly they are only picking the Christian God because it is convenient not because the Christians won't harm them.

Jason said...

A hell of a topic for Christmas weekend, Vic... {g}

The sin against the HS has been interpreted a number of different ways; and to be fair the kind of thing these people seem to be 'challenging' against has been one of them.

I'll be out of pocket until Wed probably; God's peace on everyone until then. {s}

Jason Pratt

Blue Devil Knight said...

Earth and Stars, that is a helpful quote. Then you go off the deep end:

I have a challenge for them. In this case I'd like to see the same group of people deny Allah and Muhammad as his prophet--and put it on the web. In particular they can broadcast their names and faces in a Muslim country if they live in or near one. No doubt their convictions about atheism are so strong that fear of reprisal wouldn't dissuade them.

This is silly (and Dembski made the same silly red herring point). They never said, or advocated, putting themselves in danger of being murdered for their beliefs. Perhaps martyrdom is worn as a badge of honor amongst Christians, but it certainly isn't part of the atheist's credo. If a murderer comes to my house and says he'll shoot me if I'm not a Christian, for that night I'm a Christian! Praise Jesus, let me follow his will! Hallelujah!

You might say they are putting themselves at risk of much worse, but since they are atheists, they don't believe that. To them, it is like risking not getting toys from Santa by privately swearing. There is nothing there to hear them. Unlike the murderer at my door.

Drope said...

I'm not sure how the Lutheran idea of the blasphemy against the holy spirit really squares with the passage in Matt 12.

It seems that Jesus only really raised the issue because the Pharisees were ascribing Jesus' exorcism to the power of Satan, rather than the power of God.

I'm not entirely convinced that it is possible to just go out and commit the sin. Perhaps the blasphemy only occurs when someone is radically confronted with the power and holiness of God, yet deliberately tries to put it all down to the power of Satan. How many are so confronted today? Absent the presence of Jesus, I think one might have to be in very "spiritually charged" circumstances (and for those circumstances to be recognised as such), for anyone to come close.

But yeah, any account of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit would have to be consistently held alongside the idea that "all who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved". So we can infer that for anyone to commit the sin is sufficient for their never calling upon Christ.

Anonymous said...

BDK,

So if it saves your skin you'd willingly lie about your beliefs?

That's one nice moral code to teach your children. "If things get really rough kids, lie about your core beliefs until you get out of trouble. If a religious bully is picking on you, say you believe as they do! Then the next day say whatever it takes to save your skin!"

Also, why are they doing this then? Attention? You don't have to deny the Holy Spirit to be an atheist. Why not just have a statement?

John W. Loftus said...

It is clearly a speaking type of sin.

Mark 3:28-30
I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." He said this because they were saying, "He has an evil spirit."

Luke 12:10
And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

Matthew 12:31-32
And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Although John's gospel does not have Jesus talk about this sin, we see how the Jews of Jesus' day thought blasphemy was a speaking type of sin:

John 10:32-33:
Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?" "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."

Anonymous said...

"So if it saves your skin you'd willingly lie about your beliefs?"

I certainly would. After all, one of my core beliefs is to survive.
And I'd be remiss as a parent if I didn't urge the same behavior for my children.
Sam

Blue Devil Knight said...

So if it saves your skin you'd willingly lie about your beliefs?

Jeez you are a handful. I am not advocating general dishonesty, but sometimes it is immoral or stupid to be honest. If the Nazis are at my door, I'll lie about the Jewish family being in my basement.

I hope you would do the same.

If someone were going to kill my children if my kids didn't say they believed X, then they should lie and say they believe X.

If you disagree you are either crazy or don't have children or both.

Anyway, your original point about doing it in Arab countries is still silly, as you aren't even saying don't lie, but go out and publicly proclaim something that will get you killed.

Have a good holiday. I hope it gets back to more relevant discussion about what counts as the unforgivable blasphemy, and its implications for the redemption of previous atheists.

Anonymous said...

And I'm wondering, what the heck does one's beliefs about the nature of reality have to do with morality? Is it immoral to lie about whether or not black holes exist?
Why should it be immoral for a non-Christian to lie about whether or not the Christian God exists in order to preserve life?
Sam

Blue Devil Knight said...

Loftus: thanks for those helpful verses.

But I wonder how literally we have to take the 'speaking' as just the physical movement of the mouth with sound? At one extreme, say in some African language 'I hate the holy spirit and he is Satan' actually means 'I love Jesus'. The intent of the person must be important. If the person is ignorant and utters the words, I can't imagine any responsible theologian saying that person has committed an unforgivable sin.

What, in addition to uttering some words, is needed? Simple disbelief in the Holy Spirit can't be it, as then no atheist can be saved.

Growing up I actually never learned this stuff thank goodness! My Presbyterian minister was all about Jesus and God. None of the crazy Holy Spirit stuff. :)

Anonymous said...

BDK,

I would lie about Jews in the basement, I'd steal if I was starving as long as I didn't starve the person I'm stealing from.

There is a big difference here about belief in God. If someone put a gun to my head forcing me to like blue over green then I'd do it.

For the atheist I suppose God has even less meaning than blue, since blue is an actual description of something in nature.

Here is where it gets sticky. What if your boss would promote you if you liked blue? I think most people would be willing to wear something blue every day if it meant a substantial pay increase.

So if blue has more meaning than God, would it then be justifiable to lie about Jesus, Muhammad or G-d if it meant getting ahead? What would be the difference between wearing a blue ribbon to get a promotion or a turbine or cross if it mean getting ahead?

The turbine or cross has even less to do with reality than the color blue if God does not exist.

Mike D said...

I have heard MANY Bible teachers attempt to solve this Bible riddle. NONE of them ever said that you can commit the unforgivable sin by saying the words, "I deny the Holy Spirit." The "challenge" is another example of the terrible hermeneutics of atheists.

On the surface, the Scripture is very easy to understand. These Jews witnessed Jesus' miracles and concluded he performed them not by the power of the Holy Spirit, but by demons. Jesus was able to discern that they were beyond hope. The trouble comes because of the indirect nature of Jesus response when he uses the word, "whoever." This gives his pronouncement a universal application outside of the specific situation.

Both the Matthew and the Mark accounts begin with a statement about the availability of forgiveness for all sins and blasphemies. This produces a bit of a paradox that any sin can be forgiven except for one. The majority of Bible teachers tend to identify this exception to willful lack of repentance which is tied to willful rejection of Christ in the face of a clear presentation of the gospel.

In relation to the challenge, it seems unnecessary because the target audience is probably well along in the process of committing the sin. Those Christians that want the DVD can easily lie and repent and be back in grace. Since I don't want the DVD, it is not an issue for me

John W. Loftus said...

I wrote a more detailed Blog entry on this.

Victor Reppert said...

Can you blaspheme someone whose existence you deny? The Jewish leaders who addressed in the Gospels see the miracles of Jesus and believe in God.

When C. S. Lewis was in prep school he was described as "a riotously amusing atheist." This same friend said he was "staggered years later when he learned that the C. S. Lewis who wrote The Screwtape Letters was the same "foul-mouthed" Jack Lewis he had known as a teenager. Eventually some of these atheists are going to repent and become Christians, and when they do I hope they don't waste a lot of time worrying whether the sins they committed as a young atheist could be forgiven.

Bilbo Bloggins said...

I think these are just a bunch of punk kids doing this crap for kicks. In my younger days as an atheist I might have done the same thing. I am not really sure what blaspheming the Holy Spirit is all about, but I do hope it doesn't apply to them and that God does forgive them.

But I do have to say that, to the extent that the "new atheists" think religion is a mind-virus or form of child-abuse like Dawkins and his crew of fellow fundy atheists at the "Beyond Belief" conference, they need to grow a pair, and treat all religions with equal doses of disdain and disrespect, regardless of the consequences. Surely the future of mankind is worth it.

I'll give credit to Sam Harris. I think his brain pretty much falls out of his head every time he speaks or writes on religion, but at least he doesn't pull punches with Islam. I'm waiting for Letter to a Muslim Nation though.

Bilbo

Sharon Mooney said...

Bilbo: "I'll give credit to Sam Harris. I think his brain pretty much falls out of his head every time he speaks or writes on religion, but at least he doesn't pull punches with Islam. I'm waiting for Letter to a Muslim Nation though."

Why do you guys think Mohammad is off limit from cheap shots by atheist sarcasm and mockery? I die laughing every time I see this guy making fun with Muslim religion. Here's another. Atheists and ex-christians are equal opportunity critics.

Here is Peter Barber, Scientist, and a very well thought out response, from scientific perspective.

We are following the Blasphemy Challenge too.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Bilbo: Dawkins takes heavy aim at the Muslims in his book. I don't have it with me, but perhaps you could read it.

We (atheists) all realize that the Muslim extremists have a worldview that is much more dangerous than most (present day) Christians. I don't see what you are railing against. Allah doesn't exist, the Muslims are all wrong too. But I don't meet them trying to change the biology curricula in my hometown, trying to stop abortions, curtail gay rights, and the like. So, like all politics for the normal person, we focus on what we have some sway over. As for the terrorist psychos out there, what can I do besides stay educated, and activated politically to vote in people that will fight them best (e.g., by taking wars where the terrorists are instead of where Bush wanted to go before 9-11).

This is just a weird tangent Bilbo. You are acting as if you have found a moral high ground with this red herring, but your facts are wrong and the point is a red herring anyway.

Anonymous said...

If the unforgivable sin is the attribution to evil of something done by God, then many Christians are on dangerous ground, as they often dismiss opposite views with statements like 'Even the Devil can quote scripture'.

Or they claim that Muhammad did not see the Angel Gabriel , but a demon.

They had better be sure that they are right.

And many Christians don't beg forgiveness for the sins they have committed, because sometimes they aren't sure that they are sins.

Does George Bush beg forgiveness for invading Iraq?

That might have been a sin, so it is best to be on the safe side and repent of it.


How tragic to go to Hell as an unrepentant sinner, simply because you were doubtful that something was a sin, and so did not repent of it!

Pascal's Wager applies here. If you repent of something, and it turned out not to have been sinful, what have you lost?

But if you don't repent of something and it turns out that it was sinful, then you are an unrepentant sinner.

Bilbo Bloggins said...

BDK: Dawkins takes heavy aim at the Muslims in his book. I don't have it with me, but perhaps you could read it.

Bilbo: Ah, Dawkins new book (speaking of ranting, I don't think I've ever heard or read anything from his mouth that was *not* a rant)...I actually did start to read it, but was disappointed to see that it started off with the typical Dawkinsesque ignorance of all things related to religion. I was particularly appalled by his utterly dishonest appropriation of Einstein, who was *definitely* not an atheist. And after I looked through his chapter on the arguments for the existence of God (which is probably the most uninformed and poorly argued treatment of the issue I have ever come across [including on the internet]), I figured there were more important books to read - *particularly* by atheists who are actually not philosophical idiots (e.g. Sobel, Oppy, etc.).

BDK: We (atheists) all realize that the Muslim extremists have a worldview that is much more dangerous than most (present day) Christians. I don't see what you are railing against.

Bilbo: Of course, given the way most people use the word "extremists" this is a truism. But the important question is what percentage of the Muslim population is this, and to what degree their specifically Muslim beliefs are the primary predictor of this. And it is here that atheist scientists who actually *do* the research like Scott Atran, are much more cautious then the atheist fundies like Dawkins and Harris who, in their naiveté and blithe ignorance, just assume that religion is the prime motivator here and not group dynamics, socio-historical, or political factors. This is as simplistic and silly as the over-eager and ignorant Christian apologists who posit some necessary causal connection between the inherently atheistic movements in this century, that indeed have caused more human death than all of the religious feuding in the past 2,000 yrs, and atheism simpliciter or atheism as it is today as an intellectual or philosophical position.

You yourself obviously need to stay as far away from the Dawkins and Harrises of the world as you're already starting to use language (like "terrorist psychos") that not only perpetuates the myth of these ignoramuses but also reinforces the mythological good/evil/crazy/normal bifurcations of the American political administration you probably oppose. As Atran writes, "Recent research indicates they have no appreciable psychopathology and are as educated and economically well-off as surrounding populations."( Genesis of Suicide Terrorism ). In fact, you probably need to stop pretending to be interested in Islamic extremism and actually take a first step in educating yourself on the matter, rather than using it as a smokescreen in pursuit of what is probably your main interest (e.g. the abstract/intellectual conflict of ideas in the modern Western atheism vs. Christianity debate), and read a good amount of Atran's work. See here. Thank me later for rescuing you from this particular fairy tale of atheistic fundamentalism.


See the panel discussion at the end (1 hour and 40 minutes through) of session 7 of the "Beyond Belief" conference here. And check out Atran and Harris on the panel together here. Atran of course has real data and experience doing actual scientific research on this matter. Harris of course, as a fundy atheist, has nothing but stale jokes and caricatures, untested hypotheses, and rhetoric.

BDK: Allah doesn't exist, the Muslims are all wrong too. But I don't meet them trying to change the biology curricula in my hometown, trying to stop abortions, curtail gay rights, and the like.

Bilbo: Of course this isn't incompatible with what I said, which was: "to the extent that the 'new atheists' think religion is a mind-virus or form of child-abuse like Dawkins and his crew of fellow fundy atheists at the "Beyond Belief" conference, they need to...treat all religions with equal doses of disdain and disrespect, regardless of the consequences." I am assuming that you are *not* one of the fundy atheists who holds to the ridiculous view that religion is child abuse or some sort of mental disorder. I *also* assume that you do not think treating a subject with "doses of disdain and disrespect" is an effective way of dealing with it like Dawkins and Harris do. So, from my perspective, you're entitled to your parochial concerns about the public questioning of the materialist philosophy that undergirds your worldview, your defense of peoples' right to murder their offspring, and pushing for the "rights" of people who have chosen a lifestyle that from a Darwinian perspective seems to be more of a dead end than anything. That's all fine and well. But *again*, if Dawkins and his fellow fundy atheists think religion really is the "root of all evil", then I expect to see some atheistic consistency and courage on the order of a Martin Luther King who indeed put his life on the line to oppose that which was so grossly oppressive to mankind. Now I'm not saying it won't happen, or even that it *hasn't* happened, but that I *expect* it if they're sincere in their beliefs. As I said, I think Harris has shown courage here. I'll look at Dawkins' book to see if he shows the same. And indeed, if this is the case, then this *is* a case of them, as you say, "putting themselves in danger of being murdered for their beliefs".

But I would have to ask - given that you think Islam is so dangerous, are these issues really of *greater* concern to you than the public executions taking place in middle east over suspected adultery? Is a sticker that says "Darwinism is just a theory" on a high school textbook more of a concern to you than a woman who is dragged out in the middle of a soccer game and beheaded? Was it close enough to home for you when 2,000 people died from an act of terrorism on U.S. soil? If Islamic religion is to blame for this, is this less of an issue than whether or not gay people can have the legal status of "marriage" conferred upon them?

BDK: This is just a weird tangent Bilbo. You are acting as if you have found a moral high ground with this red herring, but your facts are wrong and the point is a red herring anyway.

Bilbo: You didn't really disagree with any "facts". You just misunderstood a conditional statement.

Bilbo

Anonymous said...

BILBO
'But *again*, if Dawkins and his fellow fundy atheists think religion really is the "root of all evil"....


ME
Can you find a quote by Dawkins saying that Religion is the root of all evil, or are you just being as dishonest as Dawkins was when he said Einstein did not believe in a personal God?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Root_of_All_Evil%3F

'Dawkins has stated that the notion of anything being the root of all evil is ridiculous.'

It doesn't take long for theists to put views into the mouths of their opponents that their opponents themselves say are 'ridiculous', does it?

Bilbo Bloggins said...

anonymous,

You need to be careful here, in several respects. I said *IF* Dawkins thinks that, so my statement is conditional and does not entail that Dawkins or anyone does think that religion is the root of all evil. I'd be glad to find out that he thinks religion is definitely *not* the root of all evil, but as I'll show below, this is probably not the case.

As to your Wikipedia quote, it is contradicted by Dawkins' own words, so either Dawkins is inconsistent or that statement from Wikipedia is wrong. Here are some of Dawkins actual words on the matter:

"Well, Religion may not be the root of all evil, but it is a serious contender."(Is religion the root of all evil?.

If he thinks it is even possible that religion is the root of all evil, then this is somewhat inconsistent with the very notion of the root of all evil being silly. That he thinks religion is a "serious contender" for the root of all evil obviously entails that he thinks its possible that religion is the root of all evil. So Dawkins' needs to check himself, or Wikipedia needs to check its content.

But regardless, I'll tone down my conditional statement, and rephrase it as "if Dawkins and his fellow fundy atheists think religion really is a "serious contender" for the root of all evil, then I expect to see some atheistic consistency and courage on the order of a Martin Luther King who indeed put his life on the line to oppose that which was so grossly oppressive to mankind."

Bilbo

Anonymous said...

An explanation I've seen and think makes a lot of sense is that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cant be forgiven, so quit the blasphemy ie denial and repent as that is how forgiveness is received. The mention of the Holy Spirit is because the Spirit is what convicts us of the message of Christ and salvation. Rejecting this message is therefore denying God as the Spirit leading us to belief is being rejected.

Anonymous said...

Here's my own taken on the Blasphemy Challenge. The Blasphemy Challenge was started by an atheist group who call themselves the "Rational Response Squad". Incidentally, I just caught one of them plagiarising! So much for being rational, eh?

Jason said...

Note: I eventually posted one of my patented macro-sized contemplations on this topic, in Victor's next thread. (The one about blasphemy and the Donatists.) More room there. {g}

JRP

Jason said...

Opps.. or maybe not! {g} I'm pretty sure I posted it up _before_ leaving a message here; possibly the system glitched it. (I'm pretty sure I've sent up longer comments, though.)

Oh, well...

JRP

Anonymous said...

Actually, BDK, your statement: "If a murderer comes to my house and says he'll shoot me if I'm not a Christian, for that night I'm a Christian! Praise Jesus, let me follow his will! Hallelujah!" is an example of the exact kind of thinking that gave rise to the Nazis. Because the people of Germany didn't stand up for their moral convictions and speak out about Nazism, these hated monsters were allowed to consolidate absolute power and start killing the Jews, Gypsies and everyone else that didn't agree with them. You should reconsider your thinking: The atheists are only doing this because they know they won't be attacked and murdered. They would never DARE stand up for 'their' moral convictions in an Islamic country like many Christians already do...and they know it. Shallow people, these Atheists. I shall pray for them.
BTW, I do know what denying the Holy Spirit is and I could tell you...
...but then I'd have to kill you. *wink*