Monday, 9 June 2014

The Sin Against the Holy Spirit (aka, Answers for an Atheist 3.5)

This is post is, in part, a part of my "Answers for an Atheist" series. In part two of said series, I argued that, I would not want a perfectly good and holy God deciding that there were some sins He would not pardon since I would have no reason for believing that He would draw the line where I thought it should be drawn. A priest friend of mine was kind enough to leave a comment, generally praising my post but qualifying that praise with a question. He asked what I thought about the sin against the Holy Spirit and whether the fact of such a sin, in way, effected my answer.

For those who may not be aware, the background to this question is Christ's statement that "All sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin." (Mark 3:28f c.f. Matt 12:31, Luke 12:10).

These passages have, it must be said, caused a great deal of confusion among Christians. Dorothy Sayers once wrote a "mock catechism" to satirise the ignorance of many church goers of her day in which she wrote, of the Holy Spirit "There is a sin against Him that damns you for all eternity, but nobody knows what it is."

In brief, my answer was that I didn't think it did effect my answer. I waited to give my reply in full, because I thought it was necessary to lay some groundwork about the nature of heaven and hell. That groundwork I laid in the third part of the series. In that post, I spelt out the Catholic belief that Heaven is not some arbitrary reward and hell some arbitrary punishment that God has imposed upon those who follow or don't follow a list of rules but are rather the necessary consequence of accepting or rejecting the kind of relationship that God wishes to have with us.

The Holy Spirit, has a unique role of working within our souls to bring us into this relationship. This is why the sin against the Spirit is unforgivable. It is not that God has decided that such blasphemy is such a horrible sin that forgiving it is beyond even His mercy. Rather, by rejecting the work of the One who is sent to bring them into a relationship with God, those who commit this sin are closing off the possibility of such a relationship.

This is the point that St. Thomas was making when he argued that "...the sin against the Holy Ghost is said to be unpardonable, by reason of its nature, in so far as it removes those things which are a means towards the pardon of sins." (S.T. II-II Q. 14 A.3 corp.) In other words, the sin is unpardonable because, by resisting the work of the spirit, the sinner closes his or herself of from the one who is to bring pardon.

Pope St. John Paul II, noting St. Thomas' exegesis, went on to say:

..."blasphemy" does not properly consist in offending against the Holy Spirit in words; it consists rather in the refusal to accept the salvation which God offers to man through the Holy Spirit, working through the power of the Cross. If man rejects the "convincing concerning sin" which comes from the Holy Spirit and which has the power to save, he also rejects the "coming" of the Counsellor-that "coming" which was accomplished in the Paschal Mystery, in union with the redemptive power of Christ's Blood: the Blood which "purifies the conscience from dead works." (Dominum et Vifificantem Part II:6:46)


No comments:

Post a Comment