Christians believe that Jesus Christ died for their sins; they are free and escape hell; or, this apparently is the Christiani teaching. Then the question arises why still the fear of going to hell. Apparently there is a sin when committed cannot be pardoned or forgiven.
Christ spoke of this sin, “Verily I say unto you, all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies with which they shall blaspheme; but he that blaspheme against the Holy Spirit has never forgiveness but is in danger of eternal damnation; because they said, he has an unclean spirit” (Mark 3:28-30).
The biblical description of this unforgivable sin is that it consists of blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. Such blaspheme was not clearly defined only it was directed toward the Holy Spirit. The Catholic Church interpretation is principally based upon catechism teaching which describes the sin as being the denial of God’s forgiveness, envy of another’s spirituality, refusing to repent for sin, or clinging to one’s sins. It could any one or a combination of these offenses. However, the catechism does not completely exclude this sinner from forgiveness saying that Christ desires the gates of forgiveness to always be open to those turning away from sin. Many would see this as a biblical contradiction. It adds the sacraments of baptism and penance are for the remission of sin when received.
Protestantism is more direct in characterizing the sin. These characteristics include the person’s resistance of God’s grace for the sake of resistance, the renouncing of Jesus Christ, and attributing to Satan the works of Christ, or labeling good as evil. Regardless the imperfection, the Protestant definition infers the one committing it afterwards is unable to repent; therefore, if the person still worries about committing the sin, that means he has not committed it.
There is an exception here; it is believed Satan can appear as Christ. A person thinking he is doing Christ’s bidding but is really doing Satan’s may be guilty.
Christianity always presumes the person is unable to repent after the commission of such sin. This presumption rests on the presumption that sin weakens man’s free will, his ability to choose between right and wrong. However, the truth is Christianity has itself weakens man’s free will by asserting this second presumption which is based on original sin, beyond the scope of this article. With the presumption that sin weakens man’s free will Christianity asserts that man is not able to distinguish between right and wrong and must rely on the Church for guidance. All of this rationalization, however, becomes useless when man acts according to his will and freely and willingly commits the unforgivable sin. It is not that he is unable to repent rather he has decide, made up his mind, not to repent.
The one sin described in the Bible directly related to the unpardonable sin has no connection to the characteristics or rationale described above. This incident concerns Ananias and Sopphira who sold a possession but had not given the Christian community the full price they received for it. They kept part of the price for themselves. Peter said they not only lied to men but unto the Holy Spirit. He accused Ananias first who fell down and died. Peter next accused Sopphira who also fell to her death. Men had carried Ananias, her husband, out and buried him and now buried her. All of this brought great fear on people of the church (Acts 5:1-11).
As noted the couple’s sin was lying to men and the Holy Spirit. One is given the impression that lying to men could be forgiven but lying to the Holy Spirit could not. Peter accusing each of this caused each to die from fear; and those seeing and hearing of the incident were afraid. Also, as previously stated this sin had none of the characteristics listed above but was called a sin against the Holy Spirit which leads one to think any sin might be labeled as such. The sin cannot be forgiven and the sinner goes to hell. Thus one sees the necessity for the unpardonable sin and the necessity for hell.
Upon examination one sees the reasoning for this. If, as preached, all sins of mankind were forgiven by Christ’s death there would be no necessity for hell, or the fear of hell, because sinners would be free from going there; but there remains the unpardonable, or unforgivable, sin which necessitates hell. One might reason the one necessitates the other. Each brings about the emotion of fear; have I committed the unpardonable sin that will put me in hell? This is seen in the sin of Ananias and Sopphira, each of them died of fear and all witnessing the incident and hearing of it were afraid. This leads one to deduce two things: fear was intentionally early introduced into the Christian Church and it was to continue or the couple would have been forgiven their sin.
The comprehension as to the reason why they were not forgiven is essential. As stated, (Peter said) they not only lied to men but unto the Holy Spirit. Lying to men could be forgiven, withholding money could be forgiven, but lying to the Holy Spirit was unforgivable. Therefore, all sins are forgivable, covered by Christ’s crucifixion, but sins against the Holy Spirit. If this was not true there would be no longer the necessity for hell, or rather the fear of going to hell; and this establishes the necessity of the unpardonable sin. Fear is the basis of Christianity.
The unpardonable sin being mentioned in three, Matthew 12:30-32, Mark 3:28-30, Luke 12:8-12, pretty well establishes the importance of the sin. As it has been shown, the sin establishes fear. Since the Christian Church established itself as being the one instrument that could remove sin it had to retain one sin which always produced fear.
Yes, this is part speculation, but examination of the writing of the three biblical books seems to bear this out. From the evidence of its contents of the Book of Mark, the suffering and death of Jesus, the repetition of the performance of miracles, the linkage to Rome, and the roughness of the language giving the resemblance to the Aramaic language spoken by Christ, scholars believe the book is the earliest of the Synoptic gospels containing first hand material written in Rome between 65 and 68 CE. The author of the Book of Matthew is debatable or unknown. Some critics claim its author is Mark while others say the sources are the Book of Mark and a lost source Q. If the critics’ contentions are true then the linking of the book’s authorship to Matthew is untenable. The book does have many Jewish characteristics and is assumed to have come from a Jewish Christian Church. More important to our speculation is the date of writing. Verse 22:7 possibly describes the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 CE, therefore, placing the book’s writing between 65 and 150 CE. Scholars speculate that the Book of Luke was authored by Luke before he wrote the Book of Acts while Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea around 61 CE.
Two things are evident judging from the dating of at least two of these books, Mark and Luke, and possibly Matthew that the disciples of Jesus were very aware of the unpardonable sin; and when a person was accused of committing the sin it caused fear as seen when Peter accused the couple. Most of the disciples were Hebrew, no doubt knowing of the Mosaic Laws and their purpose, making early Jews obey the Commandments. Moses is known as the law giver to the Israelites, but even this did not always make the people obey. Knowing this, the disciples knew people had to be controlled; what better way of doing this than with the fear of being afraid of committing the unpardonable sin? The killing of Ananias and Sopphira set the principle.
However, Christian Churches cannot rely upon the unpardonable sin too earnestly or they will diminish themselves. It may be true that people need churches, or religion, but it is an absolute fact that churches need people to function, operate. Therefore, they cannot always be condemning people for committing the unpardonable sin, their congregations would dwindle. As noticed the Catholic Church says that Christ always wants the gates of forgiveness kept open. The Protestants say anyone still worrying about the sin has not committed it. This writer accidentally found in a Bible dictionary a paragraph under “Forgiveness” stating now this sin can never be committed. The dictionary says there were unique conditions under which the power of the Holy Spirit could be attributed to Satan but these conditions do not exit today. These conditions only exited during Christ’s earthly ministry. This is false considering the belief that Satan can appear as Christ. Evidently the dictionary does not consider this valid. However, the writer knows people who still worry about committing the sin and others who think they have while others have deliberately committed the unpardonable sin and considered themselves free.
One would be justified in considering these exceptions to the unpardonable sin. Again,, churches need people not only for attendance but for tithes, money. Money fills the coffers. The unpardonable sin proves to be a double-edged sword: enough fear keeps the people coming to church while too much or thinking that they have committed the sin drives them away.A.G.H.
Unpardonable sin. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unpardonable_sin>
Unger, Merrill F., Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Chicago, Moody Press, 1966, Forgiveness, p. 377