Monday, July 06, 2009

Who can never be gorgiven?

So another thing to unpack in my journey through The Gospel of Mark...-

Mar 3:29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin."

First lets look at the setting...

Jesus said this in response to the Pharisees, the religious elite, who were calling the Jesus and the spirit he was infused with a demon or unclean spirit (see Mar 3:22). We can also see that this is one of the popular responses to what He was doing and saying because his family had come down "to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind." (see Mar 3:21)

Often what happens is this verse is taken out of context and used to mean "if you have said somthing bad about The holy spirit, Jesus, God, the Church, The Pope, (or what ever other ax the person speaking has to grind) then God will turn his back on you and you get the punishment you deserve...

But we can see from the preceding verse that Jesus is not talking about this.

Mar 3:28 I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.

Which harmonizes well with the other things Jesus said:

Jhn 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.
Jhn 6:38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.
Jhn 6:39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.
Jhn 6:40 For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

When Jesus said this to the religious elite he did so knowing they had an excellent knowledge of scriptures (most of them had them memorized). So when he uses the term Blasphemies he is drawing on a very specific understanding of what it means to blaspheme..

Which brings to a more important point...

What does it mean to use the Lord’s name in vain or blaspheme?

This is a question that might seem self-evident to most people in western society. Whether you are religious or not, you would probably not even hesitate with your answer...

I often struggled with how to reconcile my faith in God with my occasional under my breath damming of something or other. So I've done some researched on the original words used, naqa (vain), I read several commentaries, researched on-line, and prayed. These are the best explanations I have found.

Some people believe the reason why this is a violation of the third commandment is because people are using God’s name in a “vain,” “worthless,” or “empty” way. In this case, to say “God damn it is not the same as seriously calling upon God to damn something or someone. For these people, if you say it seriously, fine, but if you say it casually, then you have used His name in an empty way and thereby broken the third commandment.

If the principle that we are going by is that we are not to use God’s name and not really mean it, then I believe that we are very inconsistent in what we take offense to as a culture.

Why don’t people get offended when others say “God bless you?”

Do you think that every time someone says this that they really mean it?

Do you think that in their mind they are talking to God, beseeching on your behalf for a blessing?
Just about every email I get ends with the phrase, “God bless.” I seriously doubt that that person actually said a prayer for me before he or she hit send. If this is the case, then why is saying ”God bless you” not just as much a violation of the third commandment as saying “God damn you?”

Is it more biblical to ask for God’s kindness or judgment?

I don’t think anyone who is honest with themselves can say that they are consistent in this regard. Saying “God damn it” and not meaning it should be just as bad as saying “God bless you” and not meaning it.

This is the most important reflection so I have saved it for last. In fact, if what I am about to say is true, then other arguments really don't make any difference.

The question is this: What does it mean to use God’s name in an empty or vain way?
What does the third commandment really mean?
What would the orginal hearers have understood it to mean?

It is hard to tell from a simple word study on the Hebrew term naqa (vain). Also our understanding of a “name” and what it signifies is much different than what it meant in the context in which this commandment was given. What we have to do is to try to understand what it meant then, so that we can understand what it means now.

It does us no good to anachronistically impose our understanding upon an ancient text. This is exegesis (reading into the text what we presuppose), not exegesis (letting the text speak on its own terms).

This is what my studies have shown.

The nations to which the Israelites were going had many gods. They were highly superstitious. Their prophets would often use the name of their god in pronouncements. The usage could be in a curse, hex, or even a blessing. They would use the name of their god to give their statements, whatever they may be, authority.

To pronounce something in their own name would not have given their words much weight, but to pronounce something in the name of a god meant that people would listen and fear. They may have said;
“In the name of Baal, there will be no rain for 40 days.”
“In the name of Marduk, I say that you will win this battle.”

This gave the prophet much power and authority. But, as we know, there is no Baal or Marduk. Since this is the case, they did not really make such pronouncement and therefore the words of the prophet had no authority and should neither have been praised or feared.

God was attempting to prevent the Israelites from doing the same thing. God was saying for them not to use His name like the nations used the names of their gods.

He did not want them to use His name to invoke false authority behind pronouncements. In essence, God did not want the Israelites to say that He said something that He had not said.

This makes sense. God has a reputation to protect. He does not want anyone saying “Thus sayeth the Lord” if the Lord had not spoken. All of you have experienced this. You have had people say you said something you did not say. This can be very damaging to your character.

It is very destructive to your name. Why? Because it makes you out to be something that you are not. How much more important is it for God to protect His character? It is fitting that God would have put this as one of the ten most important commandments as the nation of Israel moved towards Canaan.

What does this mean for us?

Well, for starters we understand that the third commandment is certainly not focused on something so trivial as saying “God damn it!”

The funny thing is that while some people may never think of using that phrase, people all over the Christian religious landscape are breaking the third commandment every day, damaging the Lord’s reputation. “Thus sayeth the Lord . . .” “God told me to tell you . . .” “God says that if you send in money to build our minstry you will be blessed.” I could go on and on, but you get the point.

Using the name of the Lord in vain means that you do damage to His reputation and character through false and unsure claims. This is what Blaspheme is all about.

They were trying to speak for God and comdeming the spirit that was in/working through Jesus.
And Jesus lets them know that what they are doing is highly offensive to the trinity...

It has nothing to do with you having said somthing bad about The holy spirit, Jesus, God, the Church, The Pope, (or what ever other else people try to use this passage to mean)

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