The one sin God cannot forgive

openjail

Dear John:

Is there any sin so bad that God, through Jesus Christ, cannot forgive it?

Holy cow; I sure hope this is just a theoretical question!

Either way, it’s a trick question. Because the answer is yes—and, simultaneously—no.

So in the Bible Jesus names one sin—and one sin only—that cannot be forgiven. At Matthew 12:31-32 Jesus says:

“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.”

For centuries theologians, philosophers, and others unsuited for normal employment have bent their minds trying to decipher what exactly Jesus is saying there. If Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one, they’ve pondered, how is it okay to blaspheme against one, but not the other?

Interesting question! Reason people go to seminary!

But I think the answer to this particular puzzler is positively easy.

I think that what Jesus is saying is that he understands perfectly well why some people will reject him. He has, after all, presented himself in mortal form—as the Son of Man—which he knows automatically renders subject to question the idea that he is in fact the creator of man.

I think what Jesus is saying here is, “I can forgive you for believing that I am not who I say I am. Apparently raising the dead just isn’t enough for some people—but whatever. That’s why I gave you free will; everyone has the right and power to doubt anything they want. But once the Holy Spirit has eradicated forever your reason to doubt who I am by awakening within in you the certain knowledge of who I am—once I have moved, in other words, from an idea outside of you to a reality inside of you—then … well, then we’re bonded for life, because the truth will then be a part of you that you could no longer willfully reject than you could eject your stomach right out of your body.”

See the trickiness? Having the only unpardonable sin be the rejection of Christ means that by definition no Christian can possibly commit that sin. And neither can any non-Christian, since you can’t reject from your life someone who’s never been in your life.

So the answer to your questions is that, yes, there is a sin that God cannot forgive—but it’s a sin that virtually no one on earth is capable of committing. Christians can’t commit it because they’re Christian, and non-Christians can’t commit it because they’re not.

As for Christians who renounced Christ, who are no longer Christian? Two things: 1. If they don’t care (and they can’t, since they no longer believe that Christ is any more real than the tooth fairy), then the question of what their new relationship is to Christ is the ultimate moot point; and: 2. As much ire as I know this will bring me [and it did: see below], my vote is that such a person was never really a Christian in the first place—by which I mean that their Christianity was always immature. And that’s certainly no crime.

What’s really interesting about Matthew 12:31 is that it says right there, in plain black and white, coming straight from the mouth of Jesus, that God forgives people who aren’t Christian.

[Update: I've shut down comments to this post because ... well, because how many times can I say that I didn't say what I'm being accused of having said?]

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter. If you shop at Amazon, help support John by entering the site through this link right here--Amazon will then send John 3-4% of the cost of anything you buy before exiting the site again.

 

  • Tim Bonnichsen

    John, Two years ago lost my 15 yr old daughter Aubrey to brain cancer. I was in a charismatic church at the time. When she died I felt as everything I had learned about God and his love and His healing changed. I am still very angry and disillusioned. At God and those who taught me those things. Does that or could that fall into this that you are talking about?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I’m sorry to hear of your terrible loss, Tim. That’s so painful. As to your question, if you’re angry with God, then you still believe in God, and so haven’t in fact rejected him/her/it. Which means you haven’t committed the unpardonable sin.

      • Tim Bonnichsen

        Thank for the response. I kinda figured that just wanting to get another take on it. Once again thanks! Love all your stuff!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Again, Tim, I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. (And thank you for your kind words to me; I count them as a real blessing.)

    • Diana A.

      Even if in your anger and your disillusionment, you were to abandon God, I don’t think God will abandon you. If God is Love (1 John 4:8) and Love never gives up (1 Corinthians 13:7) then I believe God never gives up on any one of us. And surely God understands your grief. So go ahead and give that rage and disillusionment to him. In the honesty of your heart, that’s where you’ll find God.

    • Jodi

      Tim that is a horrible experience and one I can’t say I understand. I haven’t lost a child and to me that is the worst that can happen to a person. I am so sorry for your loss. I will say, and I am sure you have heard this before, Heaven was a place your daughter belonged. Why? I can’t say..But I do know there are some that have passed away young that I felt too pure for this earth. That is a personal opinion. I also can say, sometimes we go through losses and experiences for reason. You can can say you have some things in common with God. You both watched your child suffer and die… God could have also stopped what his son endured and didn’t. But there was a reason why Jesus had to go through that. And for some reason, so did your daughter. And also? Do you know the story of Job in the bible? He lost all.. he lost home, family.. ALL.. again.. For a reason. To prove his faith. Reminds me of of 1 peter 1:7 “These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” I can’t answer why anyone goes through anything. BUT I have FULL faith, God is in control. Not a “hair falls from your head without him knowing” And one day you will be able to ask Him why you were put into the fire.. and lastly? I am a single Mom. After working hard to go to school and raise my son without help,. working my way up in my company to finally getting promoted and an income we didn’t have to worry how we are going to make it, I awoke disabled and sick.. on disability. I asked why. I was active in church, volunteered to help others, was loyal to him etc.. and again I don’t know how I am going to make it at the end of the month and its hard on my son etc.. BUT.. I do have an answer for what I am going through.. I am learning to REALLY connect to God. REALLY have faith.. that there REALLY IS a reason for everything. My son is learning qualities and compassion from experience. I know God doesn’t like to see us suffer.. I know He didn’t like to see his son suffer, you suffer, your daughter suffer.. but sometimes only during difficult times do we really learn faith. Will be praying for you…

    • http://thethreews.wordpress.com Ken Leonard

      You’re angry at God? Of course you are. Something happened that never should have happened. It’s a terrible thing, and I’m sorry for your loss.

      But anger is a part of many loving relationships. Ever argue with a spouse? Child? Parent? Of course you have.

      God knows what happened to you and why you’re feeling this way. The God that I know and love knows that there’s nothing to forgive in mere anger. It’s part of being human.

      I spent time angry at Him over the nature of my abusive marriage and divorce. I certainly don’t believe that God will condemn me for being hurt, for feeling emotions that He made and put in my heart.

      And I don’t see any way that He feels anything toward you except love and compassion.

      Again, Tim, I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through. Blessings.

    • Allie

      I find it helpful at times of great pain to read some of the psalms. Not the comforting ones, but the ones where David says, “Why, God, why are you such a mean and crazy bastard?”

      If God loved David, and the Bible says he did, then God is capable of loving those who are angry at him and demand answers.

    • Tim N

      Three thoughts here. First, of course you are angry. It is deeply unjust and I can’t expect you to understand what it is impossible to understand–why your daughter? Why wasn’t she healed (Charismatics are often all about the faith-healing either in tandem with or apart from medicine) when so many are? I hate to equate God to a politician, but in this case I see God as like the Cosmic President of Everything that Ever Was, Is, or Will Be. As such he can veto any ill to befall anyone or anything. However, being God he knows exactly the ramifications of that action, and he makes the best choice in favor of all. Of course you’d be hurt and not understand. You aren’t acting on complete information and your Daughter is unique to you in a way, because of the fact that you are also limited, God had to become man to understand.

      Second, the talk about “heaven being the place she belonged” has never comforted me, but if it comforts you, by all means embrace it. It always seemed to me that that made God seem greedy and self-interested in a weird and unholy way. Perhaps this is what was best for your daughter–or maybe it was you, her mother, some unknown third parties, etc. It feels like scapegoating, but I have never met anyone else who says that.

      Third, John and the others are right. Anger indicates a relationship–at some level. Of course losing someone special will change your faith. That kind of comes with the deal–faith isn’t static. I can’t remember how many times God and i have had it out (in much less dramatic fashion) and I’ve walked away feeling more sure than ever of Him. But it took me getting PO’ed as I ever get to get there. Sometimes when I’m laughing at it afterwards I could swear i can feel God laughing along with me. And I’m sure God hurts as much for you, if not more, than you do for yourself.

  • Jodi

    I understand what you are saying John, but what about the The Parable of the Lost Son? Who left his home but came back and was met by open arms? Or the Parable of the Lost Sheep? “He told them this parable. “Which of you men, if you had one hundred sheep, and lost one of them, wouldn’t leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one that was lost, until he found it? When he has found it, he carries it on his shoulders, rejoicing. When he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that even so there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance” If I am understanding what you are saying this isn’t forgiven? I feel the sin against the Holy Spirit? Is when you purposefully work to do damage against the work of God. I have seen it.. people don’t just lose their faith, but they do all they can to diminish or hurt someone’s faith. Tear down God’s work and the growth of Christianity with lies and hate. To me? That is “blasphemy against the Spirit” If someone loses faith? Okay..I have no problem with it.. I can understand that. But why can’t they leave the Christian Faith alone as they go?

    • http://thethreews.wordpress.com Ken Leonard

      I realize that you asked John, but I’ll bite.

      Here’s my answer.

      The Lost Son doesn’t represent a Christian who loses his faith and comes back. He’s a person raised with some of the trappings of the faith but who doesn’t get it, doesn’t ever really come to believe, and so flees. But then he comes to see it, comes home, and is a true believer. He never was before. He wasn’t a believer just because his parents were … that’s going through the motions. It never really got into his heart until he saw how much he really had at home.

      Why can’t someone just leave Christianity peacefully? Have you ever had a fight with a brother or sister? The line between love and hatred is often pretty thin. There is a struggle there. I’m not at all sure, though, that God condemns people for feeling hurt and expressing it.

      He knows how we get. He knows how we react to pain, and how often we lash back whenever we feel pain. Like any parent with a petulent, rebellious child he understands and loves even through the tantrums (toddler or teenager), knowing that we might come back stronger when we really see what He’s offering.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        Thank you so much, Ken.

        • http://thethreews.wordpress.com Ken Leonard

          No sweat, John.

          Heck, my kids range in age from 1 to 16. I’m familiar with tantrums … toddler and teenager.

          • Jodi

            What about the Sheep that was lost? I think in that someone lost faith and was brought back into the faith.

            I am not describing hurt feelings, or even temper tantums. I have had my own. Every relationship has a few of those!! What I mean is when someone set up a website literally bashing all Gods stands for, mocks it, lies and does all they can to tear down the work of God. I have seen those websites. It isn’t describing “hurt feelings” it is describing pure hate. I hope I am making myself clear, because to me there is a huge difference.

          • Tim N

            But hatred is understandable when you find something perverse. That is the thing–a lot of people are raised with religious trappings and never get to know Jesus. A good number of these people are deeply hurt by the church for some reason (being gay, being different, being young, asking the wrong questions they don’t want answered, pushing for change)–and lash out against that.

            But the thing is, the thing they are lashing out against may be broader than what they experienced–God is so much more than such broken people. But for them those other broken people who hurt them represent God–in a real way are the only image of God they have.

            I know when I left the Jehovah’s Witnesses (long story) I called myself agnostic. My thought was “There probably is something here, but everybody who has said they believe in Christ–the JW’s, the Baptists my mom was with before I moved to Dad and the JW’s, Fred Phelps, etc. etc.–that I have ever known has been out to hurt and quash my spirit. That can’t be right, but somehow it is. If this is what it means to be God, **** this, I’m going to go down fighting and take as many people from this perverted God as possible.”

            but you see, I hadn’t known God. The Devil, Judas (and if you believe they are historical persons, Adam and Eve) had. These are two very different types of things that just look the same from the outside.

          • Jodi

            Thank you Tim!! I get it more.. You reminded me of Saul when Jesus said “‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ Saul then changed and became Paul. Correct? I also understand why some would lash out. Under the “Christian” name people have lashed out at them. What I feel now? Even when someone loses their faith, persecutes God, and “sins”, only God can decide what a sin is and I will focus on my own actions and carrying the fruts of the Spirit for all!! And remembering .. the greatest of these is love!! ♥ Thank you Tim for reminding me of that!

          • http://thethreews.wordpress.com Ken Leonard

            Sheep are silly animals. I don’t see any reason to think that the lost sheep represents a person who made a deep, full commitment. Very much the same thing as how I described the son.

          • Jodi

            The focus of the parable wasn’t what animal it was but for the Shepheard to live the flock of 99 to bring back the one.

          • Jodi

            Opps sorry.. to LEAVE the flock.. and how important it was to get it! Please bear with me in regards to articulating things, spelling etc. I used to run a medical facility for disabled and seniors with medicals needs.. Now I am disabled, in wheelchair and sick.. the illness and meds? Makes it tough sometimes to focus, write etc.

  • Danielle

    Wow, uh… okay. So the fact that I was once a devout Christian and am now Agnostic sounds pretty much like unpardonable sin material, if it turns out that indeed Christianity is the only path to God. This pretty much makes me want to recoil even farther into Agnosticism, honestly (which in the first place was not a rejection of Christianity per se but merely a personal spiritual evolution). Ironic, since I spent several years of my Christian path, as a teenager, abjectly effing TERRIFIED of committing the unpardonable sin . . . which at that time I obsessed over not even knowing what it was! Argh.

    • Allie

      I feel like what you’re calling “devout” has nothing to do with it. Unless you’re saying that you used to know within yourself as a certain truth, revealed by being in and feeling the presence of God, that Jesus is Lord, you didn’t do what John is talking about. And if you did, well, why would you call yourself agnostic, which literally means one who doesn’t know?

      You’re not required to pretend you know things to be true when you don’t. That would be lying. Which I happen to believe also falls under sins against the Holy Spirit.

    • DR

      I was “devout” as well and I walked away from that experience. I did so because I needed to be healed from the brokenness that drew me into some false religion that felt very true. It’s a confusing thing, trying to be authentic and understand what the nature of God really is, why Jesus came, if He was real – etc. Being agnostic to me means you’re just not certain of anything and frankly, I think that’s an intellectually honest place to be. I don’t think you blaspheme the Holy Spirit when you step away from an experience that feels devout if it didn’t truly bring you any kind of liberation or redemption from destructive states of being in the mind and heart. I’d not stress about it, we seek what we find and if your heart and mind are open to the Holy Spirit, you’ll experience it. I don’t think the Holy Spirit always comes with a gold cross stamped on it. We forget that in the Christian tradition, at least, it is US who is being pursued and we are often led to walk away from an experience of church so we can eventually be led into a more authentic experience. Much love to you.

      • Jill

        Sometimes I think if I had the insight and wisdom that you have, DR, I might be able to get supremely cool with Christianity, or at the very least not having to search for it anymore. It would click, not that I assume it’s all come easy, rather you make it sound like it would be. I really appreciate your perspective.

    • Lymis

      Not to be overly glib, but I see church and a relationship with God as overlapping but independent issues. That there is being in a relationship with someone and being a member of their fan club.

      Finding that a particular form of interacting with God no longer works and seeking a new, more authentic one (even if it is one that other believers would see as apostasy) isn’t the same as denying God. In fact, honestly and truthfully saying, “On further reflection, I have no idea how all this works and can no longer pretend that I do” has a lot of merit and often takes a huge amount of moral courage.

      I’m convinced that a lot of the members of the fan club have never actually met the Star and wouldn’t recognize Him if they tripped over him. They sure don’t act like it a lot of the time. For there to be other people who have a true and genuine relationship with Him but just don’t do fan club stuff, makes sense to me.

      • Jill

        So it’s the opposite of me not having any sort of relationship with you, yet being the president of the I ♥ Lymis fan club? The bumper stickers are being ordered.

        (That’s not me being glib, by the way. I’m confident we could get a full membership from everyone here.)

  • Allie

    I love this, and it makes perfect sense to me. I think it would have made sense to Bunyan, as well.

    It seems to me that it is indeed possible to reject that certain, known truth. As someone who associates with a lot of atheists, who are sometimes very strident about their belief that only an idiot could be a Christian, it’s easy for me to move away from the position of, “But I know better.” I know, the same way you know you ate dinner tonight, or that you are sitting in a chair at a computer.

    There’s a classic psych experiment which involves sending one person out of a room full of people on some pretext. While the person is gone, the experimenter explains that he is going to show some slides, on the pretext of testing color vision. Actually he is testing group behavior. The group is to identify all blue slides as green. The experimentee returns, and the slides are shown. Raise your hand if this slide appears blue to you. Now green. The whole room acts crazy, as far as the person who isn’t in on it can tell.

    Now, the idea is that most subjects will quickly not only pretend the slides are the wrong color, but in time actually believe the slides are the wrong color, and there’s clearly something wrong with their vision.

    My friend did this in high school, to a cheerleader he had a crush on. (Yay, high school!) It took her exactly TWO SLIDES to start looking at the others before she raised her hand, then lying. She was kind of a dumb bunny, but still. She was a person, and a lot of people are like her.

    So that’s how you commit the unforgivable sin of denying the truth you know about Jesus. You raise your hand when you think others want you to.

  • Maya

    I don’t know… I don’t think it’s that simple. I think even the strongest, most genuine Christians still have moments of doubt. Not just moments; I think doubt is often an ever-present element within the life of faith. Frederick Buechner (brilliant Christian author) writes a lot about this. If, to be a “real” Christian, one has to always *know*, beyond any doubt, that one’s beliefs are correct… well, I think that’s asking a lot. I don’t think people should have to worry that their doubts are somehow putting their souls in jeopardy (by this “unforgivable sin” business). I think we can trust God to love us no matter what deep shadows of doubt we might journey through.

    • Tim N

      I don’t think that is what John is saying here. I think he is saying that Faith involves a certain level of knowledge–one could call it relationship as well, the two are largely synonymous here–that is irrevocable and both a responsibility and a blessing. To come to know Jesus, and then to say “get out of my life”, mean it, and act on it is to reject what is good, holy, and loving knowing that it is beyond a doubt good, holy and loving. Not that we won’t doubt, that we won’t sin, that we won’t fear. But if we deliberately shove God out of our lives for the purpose of going back to living like we once did, we’re sunk. If one takes the Biblical narrative seriously/literally, there are really only 3 people who come to mind for this–Adam, Eve, and Judas Iscariot.

      • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

        I wouldn’t place any of those people that category. Why? Well with Adam and Eve, they messed up. Royally of course, but God just made them move to new digs. He never stopped interacting with them or their children.

        Judas? he didn’t reject Jesus, as saying, “I renounce you, begone.” If he had then his remorse would have been non-existent. I think he got caught up in political intrigue and was an unwitting pawn.

        • Tim N

          He sold Jesus as if he were a slave. That is pretty stern rejection on that end. And I guess my reading of the creation parable is different from yours–God sure did do a lot of one-on-one talking all the way through Jacob and Joseph, but no one on earth to this day knew the Father like Adam and Eve should have. Then again (and the reason I separate them out) I think the vast majority of Genesis is oral history/story/parable that is spiritually vital but historically fanciful.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

            Sold Jesus as if he were a slave? I have never heard it put that way. What Judas did was more along the lines of taking a bribe, and he likely thought that there would be a vastly different outcome, maybe along the lines of Jesus finally exerting his military might and beginning an insurrection to finally throw of the usurpers/Romans. We don’t know the conversation Judas had with those who paid him, but I can bet all my shekels that they lied.

            As for the Adam/Eve story. I personally think its a legend, but not about actual people. It reads to ancient mythical epic to me to be about actual people and events. AND if they knew God so well, why would they be remotely swayed by the snake?

            Which brings me to this question…If eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was a bad thing…how would they know whether what they were doing was good or evil, if that tree was what supposedly made them aware they were doing either? (if that fabled tree did actually do that) To me, its tempting toddlers. Its like putting a bowl of reeses pieces on the coffee table and telling the three year old he can’t have any, then kicking him out of the house when caught chipmunk cheeked. He didn’t know why it was forbidden, just that they were.

          • Tim N

            30 Shekels was the price of a slave–and a lot of hymns around Easter cite that fact. I have a hard time, given the previous actions of the powers-that-be, thinking Judas didn’t know exactly what would transpire. He had been robbing the common treasury for the longest time. After Jesus died all of the previous statements about “one of you will betray me” must have come fully to light, no doubt. But I have a hard time seeing past the fact that Judas’ greed led to Jesus’ death.

            As for the Tree–has our knowledge of good and evil ever been incomplete. There is something to testing someone’s obedience without giving them a reason why. They were communing daily with God, had all they needed and more, and they still did the one thing God said not to do (perhaps for a very arbitrary purpose of providing a red line). The storyteller in that part of Genesis seems resigned yet astonished in the telling. I think that is for good reason.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

            Oh Judas was hardly the innocent. He was a thief, and a political opportunist who likely would have fit in well with the militant mindsets so common these days. He was just one cog in the machine though. Jesus tended to draw misfits, the social outcasts, the not exactly pure of spirit or repuation. He offered them something society tended not to, acceptance.

            We must consider that when Judas’ story was written down, a fair amount of time had passed. He gets cast as a villian, but even if he was Jesus never is said to condemn the man for his faults.

          • Allie

            Actually there’s a bit where Jesus says Judas is necessary to what’s to happen, but that for Judas it would be better if he had never been born. He sounds pretty condemning really.

      • Lymis

        I have to agree with sdparris.

        Judas, especially – he certainly had the opportunity to know Jesus directly. But I’m prepared to believe he falls under John’s category of “never really Christian to begin with.” Whatever it was that he thought he was doing, it’s hard to believe that he truly knew, and loved, Jesus as God, as the Savior of all humanity, and as the eternal and divine manifestation of God in the world, and then betrayed him to civil authority for the purpose of having him put down.

        I am prepared to see him as someone so swept up in the day to day that he never really saw what was right in front of him, that it never occurred to him what he was in the presence of, and had no idea of the full nature of the consequences of what he was doing would be. He certainly could have, and nothing about that excuses the betrayal. But I think it was a deeply human betrayal.

        And Adam and Eve didn’t exist. There’s too much wrong with that story to try to use it in this context.

        • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

          You make a great point Lymis, which is that Judas was caught up in he day to day, being unable to see what was right in front of him. I don’t think anyone, other than Jesus, knew exactly what was going on. They thought they did, but what they thought ended up being overturned, upended by the events that unfolded. It was too inconceivable to consider that the Messiah was what He was and not a military conqueror of men and nations. It was well after the fact that things fell into place for the disciples, and still Jesus had to make a few appearances to help them figure it out.

          As for some of the quotes attested to Jesus, I have to wonder if he actually said all of those things. As the gospels were written decades after the fact, its not out of the realm of possibility for some quotes to be added or embellished by the writers. To me the statement attested to Jesus about it being better if Judas had never been born, seems out of character, or the content of what was actually said has been altered to keep Judas clearly in the villain role.

  • http://www.exilemusings.blog.com Amaranth

    I always interpreted the “unpardonable sin” not as Christians leaving the faith, but Christians using the faith as a cover to do evil things to each other. Like denying people food or care or succor in the name of Jesus. Like using God as a tool to control someone’s actions and thoughts and crush their spirit. Etc.

    If it’s the Spirit who moves people of faith to do good and act as Jesus acted, then it would make sense to me that the absolute worst betrayal of that Spirit would be to call evil good in its name. I would think this was what Jesus was talking about when he said there will be many who claim him as Lord, but he does not know them.

    Which I guess means I believe a vast chunk of the modern American conservative party and too many church leaders to count are guilty of this sin.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

      But are those actions unpardonable? Is God lacking the compassion, or the ability to forgive people for being selfish, or bigoted,or callous just because of a religious alignment? I suspect that the things we cannot forgive, or really have a hard time even making the attempt are not a problem for God. After all, God sees the big picture, not being hindered by the thing that limit our insight into how and why people do the things they do.

      • http://www.exilemusings.blog.com Amaranth

        I don’t know, and that’s a good question.

        Deep down I don’t think there’s any sin God absolutely will not forgive. I guess maybe when a person does evil specifically in the name of good, it’s far more difficult to persuade them that what they’re doing IS evil and they need to stop…and so the repentance part of the equation doesn’t happen when it needs to. But when it *does* happen, I don’t think God’s going to respond with, “Eh, sorry, that’s the one unforgivable one”.

  • Allison Merkle

    Interesting idea!

  • Amy AntiAmy Calvin

    Sorry John, I adore you. and your posts. But I disagree. Jesus is our salvation for everything. I grew up a hardcore republican Christian…then I read the Bible for myself….then I realized, I don’t have to try so hard, and feel guilty all the time. He loves me. No matter what I do or say….He loves me. If I don’t have that I have nothing. I have nothing when I talk to agnostics, atheists…I have nothing without Jesus and his forgiveness. Also forgive me for being a Calvinist. I believe once I am forgiven…that’s it. I’m saved. Any advice? am i wrong? I love your opinion and I will listen.

  • Daniel Erwin

    Compelling way to think about this verse. I’m gonna have to ponder this one for a few.

  • Myra Trost

    I loved your answer because for me it speaks to me even more that every “religion” holds a piece of universal truth..that we are all spiritual beings, and that in fact, are all here on a journey, whether we realize it or choose to take a path…I loved your answer..it gave me pause for thought

  • Sonya Ireland

    Question, I know people who once believed who have given up their faith. Often it’s in response to bad things happening, hypocrisy in religion, etc etc. I myself have had times of doubt and held on to my faith by a thread. People do stop believing. Does this mean God rejects them because they rejected him? Or does God still pursue them as he does the rest of the world who have yet to believe?

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

      Lots of us have “given up on our faith” or maybe in other term, have allowed it to change. Maybe what we once thought we were supposed to believe later turned out to be unpalatable for us. Maybe that is intentional as part of the journey God has set us upon. Maybe its not about adherence to a set of theological ideals at all. Maybe it isn’t rejecting God, but ideas about God that just didn’t make sense anymore.

      Does God still “pursue” us? Well first of all I don’t think spiritual tag is necessary to God. God already knows exactly where we are, who we are, what is going on in our lives, our struggles, our pains, so chasing us down just isn’t necessary. I think religious categories matter so little to God, even though they matter way too much to us. God just adores us, nudges us, understands we are “slow on the uptake” on a lot of things so is really really patient.

      I also can’t see God rejecting anyone. Its possible of course, but I think that rejection would be on some really extreme grounds, much more stringent then ours.

    • Lymis

      God isn’t doctrines. God isn’t beliefs. God isn’t rituals. God isn’t in a book. God isn’t an intellectual concept to be accepted.

      Most often, when people speak of “losing their faith” they are speaking of losing their religion, not losing God. They may have forsaken ideas about God.

      Why would God reject them for it?

      If they gave up because of some hurt or shame or harm or because they couldn’t bear up under the burden, that’s an injury for God to lovingly heal.

      If they gave up because they were taught or came to believe some simplistic version of things that they could no longer pretend to accept, that’s an act of honesty and courage that God won’t condemn them for, especially if there way nobody there offering them a better alternative.

      It’s hard to imagine someone with a whole and healthy genuine relationship with God just suddenly deciding that it would be more fun to be evil. Generally, a loss of faith has a human dimension of pain and despair to it, and often, it is the Holy Spirit leading someone into the desert to get something out of their system.

      God knows his own. Sometimes he chases us down and smacks us on the head, but sometimes he sits quietly with us while we go through what we need to go through.

  • Britt Miracle

    When Jesus was being crucified, Peter denied Jesus 3 times yet Christ later made him the foundation of His church. God understands our circumstances and emotions even better than we do ourselves.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

      When Jesus was being crucified, he was rejected by a whole heap of people. People who knew him, but wrote him off as a heretic and a dangerous one at that. And what did Jesus do as he hung there dying, thanks to the betrayel of those folks, and those to physically did the deed of killing him, and those who mocked and scorned him as he went to the place he’d soon die? Asked God to forgive them.

      One would think those actions were deal breakers to God, but obviously they weren’t. So how can anything else be unforgivable?

  • Marinaa Lawson

    Imagine that … forgiving folks (to start with) … and forgiving folks without judgement — for simply not knowing Jesus? and at the way some ‘Christian moralists’ carry on, i can understand why some folks wouldn’t want to get to know Jesus. it’s almost as if they are better off and cloaked in grace by staying away from what most Christian fanatics preach & practice today, anyway. THANK YOU for your posts — i enjoy them and share them!

  • Carrie Houtz Mooney

    I’ve been batting a thought around in my head for a few days… what if people who don’t understand/believe that Jesus was a Jewish carpenter walking on earth accept Him anyway… as the Holy Spirit. (and conversely, people who don’t accept or know about Jesus can understand and know God differently. They might call Him Allah, or Brahma.) And when they meet Jesus, they’ll run to Him because they knew Him all along and He’ll forgive them for misunderstanding. Just a thought.

    • Lymis

      And, of course, conversely, the Word which existed before the world was created and has always been co-equal with the Father, through whom all things were created and in whom all things exist, is more than a Jewish Carpenter who walked the earth.

      It’s not just that those who worship Allah will realize that it was Jesus all along. It’s that everyone who has the blinders that our human life put on us fall away will see more than we ever imagined, and truths we couldn’t understand.

      I don’t think that it’s only non-Christians who will need (and find) forgiveness for misunderstanding.

  • Marti Gilley Smith

    Wow! Just wow!

  • Lymis

    I can see John’s point given what I think of as traditional Christian doctrine, and I think it’s well stated, and within that view, convincing.

    I’ve always seen it a bit differently.

    If you see sin, not as forbidden actions or rulebreaking, but as deliberate human acts that interfere with your relationship with God, then as long as you are connected to God and in any way open to the loving influence of God, you can reach out and find the forgiveness waiting for you. And the mechanism for that connection and that forgiveness is the working of the Holy Spirit.

    So, as long as you retain that connection and open channel (no matter how clogged) to the Holy Spirit, any damage you’ve done to your relationship to God is open to being healed. The only way you can completely close that off is to cut yourself off from the Holy Spirit.

    I don’t see that is “the sin that is so offensive to God that God cannot forgive it” but rather more along the lines of “sawing off the branch you are sitting on.” And that it’s blasphemy – showing contempt or irreverence – rather than something more objectively wrong in the human sense, because it does no damage to God or to God’s love, it just cuts ourselves off from it, like tossing a gift back in his face.

    It’s unforgivable, not because it’s supremely offensive, but because it refuses the mechanism by which God forgives.

    You can’t actually cut yourself off from God, or you wouldn’t exist, or ever have existed. None of us exist independently of God. But we can stick our fingers in our ears and shout “La la la!”

    It’s one of those “the only way to lose is not to play” things – the only way not to be forgiven is to refuse to ask.

    • mike moore

      hey Lymis, this may sound glib, and, if so, know that is not my intention.

      I’ve always believed I should forgive a person even – or especially – when they refuse to ask. Admittedly, this is not one of my forte’. But … surely I’m not being held to a higher standard than God?

      • Lymis

        If you’re holding a party and inviting everyone, but they lock the door from the outside and refuse to come in, who’s not being welcoming?

        Personally, I don’t think “forgiveness” is quite the right word for all this anyway – we don’t hurt God, we hurt ourselves, and God offers consolation, love, healing, and comfort. But the traditional term for all that is forgiveness (perhaps valid in the sense of canceling a debt rather than absolving a wrong). That forgiveness is there, fully available and freely offered by God. We just can’t experience it unless we are open to it.

    • Hall

      THAT – Mr. Lymis – articulates precisely my own perspective. Thank you!

      When you’ve decided that whatever that thing is that’s happened – that brush of grace or puff of wind which makes you pause and ask, “what on earth was *that*?” – is merely a random firing of neurons, or happenstance, or whatever science or psychology might want to call it and nothing more, then you’ve plumb taken the air out of God’s sail, and zing out of God’s swing.

      What then can God do, how then will God reach you, if you convert every instance into a “not-God”? It’s an unpardonable sin because it’s an irretrievable turning away from possibility. What’s God to do?

      • Lymis

        Wait until we come to our senses. I don’t think that is limited to while we are alive.

      • Cylon

        Really? Your all powerful god is so impotent that he is cannot think of a way to convince someone who thinks that subjective spiritual experiences have natural causes that he even exists? If he’s omniscient he knows exactly what it would take to convince someone to believe in him. Seems kinda lame to blame his failure to do so on the nonbeliever.

  • DR

    I feel like this response has lots of really big holes that feel concerning to me and I want to be honest about that.

    To “walk away” from our faith can sometimes be a very necessary thing to discover it again. CS Lewis went through a period of belief, of true atheism and then back to belief again. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is a very, very serious thing, it is done with GREAT deliberation and involves a very serious decision of will. I once had a spiritual director who told me he thought I had blasphemed the Holy Spirit and I almost had a nervous breakdown, I was so terrified. It was a confusing time in my life spiritually and because I trusted him so much, the belief that I “couldn’t get back to God” locked in and took me years from which to recover. With the help of a lot of people, I realized I hadn’t but it took me years to recover my faith from that one statement. As a result, I hope I’m not projecting anything and inserting it into this response as a result, let me know if I’m doing that, but I thought it important to mention my experience and note my thoughts.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I don’t see anything in what you’ve said, DR, that contradicts anything in what I wrote. (But maybe you meant what you wrote to be a response to one of the comments?)

  • mike moore

    I have a hard time with this one … I haven’t kicked Jesus out of my home, but the Holy Spirit got the boot, but good, many years ago.

    Why? Because it seems clear to me that the Holy Spirit has, for about 2000 years, been slacking on the job.

    I became a Christian when I was 16. It was a profound spiritual awakening for me.

    I was 4.0 smart but didn’t really think too much. Clueless. Thanks to my parents, I lived in a insulated ivory tower and the world around us didn’t much penetrate the walls around our home and my brain; good and bad were easily categorized. Vietnam bad. JFK and MLK good. USSR bad. USA good. Nixon bad. Reagan good. Nukes good. California Coastal Commission bad. And, of course, Christian = good. Other faiths? A bit shaky.

    College opened my eyes to a new world. Big dose of reality. And I started to suspect that Christians – at laid-back UCSB, in easy-going Santa Barabara, and at national and global levels – were actually kind of a mean, judgmental, and bad group of people. Most disturbing was the frightening disconnect between the smiling loving facades of Christians and their actions. Attendance to multiple and various churches, and to Christian camps and retreats, pretty much confirmed this.

    In my sophomore year, it dawned on me, for the first time (consciously,) that I’d prefer to be kissing other guys. (Living in the dorm with the UCSB water polo team will do that.) By senior year, I’d begun to come out, and then I really came to understand the degree of hate and judgment that lives behind the “peace be with you” smiles. Among my Christian family, Christian friends, and Christian churches … zero sign of a Holy Spirit.

    In the years since, Christian history and Christian’s contemporary actions have only reinforced this thought: the Holy Spirit doesn’t really change people’s lives.

    Christians talk a good game about Holy Spirit, but when I look around the Christian community, the evidence seems to reveal the Holy Spirit, if it is indeed active in Christians’ lives, to be ineffective, at best … and, possibly, downright malevolent.

    Throughout my life, Christian friends (good wonderful people, like so many of you here) have pointed to the beauty of the Holy Spirit and those who are inspired by It … the good deeds, brave deeds, selfless deeds, dangerous deeds, and sacrifices made by people inspired by The Spirit.

    However, this seems to gloss over the same noble deeds done every day by self-motivated non-believers. (With no religious strings attached.)

    So, now, when I hear the knock on my door and discover Jesus has come for a visit, my response is, “welcome, my brother … but sorry, dude, your creepy Ghost Friend has to wait in the lobby where the doorman can keep an eye on it.”

    In other words, John, if you’re right about the sin which cannot be forgiven, I’m really fucked.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      But you don’t really think you’re hosed, Mike; you’re just being clever (which you do so well!). Really thinking you’re hosed would mean you’re still a Christian—in which case you haven’t committed the Unpardonable Sin. And if you’re no longer Christian, then, again, it’s entirely mute point: then you’ve got no fears whatsoever about any of this.

      • mike moore

        Well, John, I wasn’t too worried about being hosed … until now! (thanks for that, btw .. still love ya, though.)

        Where I’m stumbling is exactly where you thought I might, but no ire is involved:

        “2. As much ire as I know this will bring me, my vote is that such a person was never really a Christian in the first place—that their Christianity was always immature.”

        I don’t believe that applies to me. I could go on at some length as to why I believe this. But if your “#2″ that is the only out for a guy like me … I’m hosed.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Well, again–and even though of course this will almost necessarily feel offensive to you–I’m saying the Christianity you had before you went to college was too immature to … count. And the proof of that is the reason you lost your Christianity. You didn’t give up on Christ because Christ failed you. You gave up on Christ because people failed Christ. And that’s an immature reason to abandon your faith. And it makes sense you would then be spiritually immature: you were 18, 19 years old. How could you not then be immature?

          But, yeah, intrinsically no one ever thinks they’re immature, of course. But I say that in this case the proof is in the pudding. “People suck; therefore God is not real,” is manifestly immature reasoning.

          • mike moore

            I think you’re off about me. Which is OK. But if you’re right about me, I want it to be fully informed.

            You’re correct that at 18 and 19 I had immature faith. I knew this at the time. I had begun actually thinking … and I recognized that immaturity. In an effort to nurture, deepen, and strengthen my faith, I transferred to Westmont. I pursued Christian theology and history. I read and studied great Christian authors and philosophers. I watched and listened to my fellow students. I actually stayed awake during Chapel in order to hear the differing perspectives on all things Christian.

            During and after college, I stayed involved in varying ministerial outreaches (youth, homelessness.) I considered attending Fuller Seminary and sat in on classes for a semester. And, I know this will sound silly, but it wasn’t to me … I taught Sunday school until my late-20′s.

            And as my regular presence here on your blog will hopefully convey … at 52yo, I’ve never stopped trying to figure out Jesus’ relationship to me and my world. Was he a Gandhi or a Mandela on steroids, or was Jesus something more?

            In the end, I suppose we may agree this tomato vs. to-mah-to conversation.

            From my perspective, I gave up on Christ not because people failed Christ, but because people’s belief in Christ, and for our purposes today, the Holy Spirit, seems to make the world a worse place in which to live.* It feels that Christ, which is not the same as Jesus for me, has failed humanity because believers in Christ, when taken en masse over the centuries, and when viewed today, seem inspired only to make our little planet far less humane.

            Yes, people suck. But Christ seems unable to inspire His followers, and that feels like His failure.

            (* I’d say the same about most religions.)

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            “Christ seems unable to inspire his followers” is an assertion much too broad/sweeping. It hurls out the baby with the bath water. We all know–as do you, I’m sure–Christians who use their relationship with the Holy Spirit within them to function and be in the world in a way that makes the world a better and kinder place. That some people refuse to give it up for God is no failure of God’s, and no reflection of his efficacy. It just means people have and use their free will.

            At any rate, the only question that matters is, has God/Christ/Jesus failed to inspire you? If so, why? And that’s not meant as a challenge at all; you certainly have a right not to be inspired by God or anything else. But the question remains: What’s the problem there? What’s the … point of resistance? It may be for you that since you perceive what lousy Christians others are, you feel you personally can’t be Christian. But … I think you’d agree that’s maybe not the most, well, mature reasoning. (Sorry for not being more … delicate/nuanced; just now rushed.)

          • mike moore

            No apologies necessary, we’re buds. But neither do I want to be misunderstood. (Plus, since we’re now moving into the realm of my therapist’s sofa, I’ll be as brief as I can.)

            Yes, I used broad generalization in saying Christ seems unable to inspire His followers, and I stand by that sweeping statement. Has the world seen wonderful acts and wonderful lives inspired by a faith in Christ? Of course. I need go no further than you and your readers. I see that everywhere, in fact.

            Nonetheless, when weighed on the Big Scale, and from what I see as empirical evidence in the history books and in the world around me today, I believe the world is worse off because of Christianity*, and at some level that fault lay with the construct, or the actuality, of Christ.

            Also, while my disappointment in “lousy” Christians is, admittedly, deeply affirming of my rejection of Christianity, that disappointment is not the cause of my rejection.

            On a parallel track unrelated to Christianity, over the decades of my life, I’ve stopped believing in a personal God. I believe in a deity of some sort, but I feel he/she/it does not intervene in the forces of this world or the behaviour, good or bad, of this world’s inhabitants.

            If Christians as a whole became the sweetest, kindest, most loving and non-judgmental inhabitants of this planet, I’d be delighted, but it wouldn’t change my belief that God is sitting passively on the sidelines, watching and waiting to see what we do with this world He’s given us. If He’s still watching, at all.

            Am I completely absolutely irreversibly sure of this? No. I try hard to be open to new revelations, to a differently focused lens, to the knowledge that, tomorrow, something could happen to change my view of the world.

            And were I still a believer in a personal god, I would no more allow a lousy Christian to keep me from my faith than should a loving Muslim allow the Taliban to ruin his faith. To do otherwise would, indeed, come from immature reasoning.

            Yes, I’m still trying to fit the pieces together. Jesus changed the world. but was He God? Was he an mystically enlightened human being? Was he simply an exemplary example of what each man and woman can be? And how does one ultimately discover the real Jesus? I’m not finished on my path.

            These are the reasons I hang out with you and my friends here. But if my beliefs spring from immature reasoning, then I have to hope for reincarnation, because I’ve got miles to go before I sleep.

            (*and other religions as well.)

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            So that’s interesting: you believe there’s a God, but one who’s … not interested in this world.

            A fun/funny rearticulation of that: You believe the God you believe in doesn’t believe in you.

            See, right there is why I make the big bucks.

            Oh, that’s right. I get paid nothing for blogging.

            And let that be a lesson to you: you get what you pay for.

            Thanks, as ever, Mr. Moore, for your kind heart and … passion, basically.

          • mike moore

            oh dear, more theology … we should start a blog.

            Does God have to be a daily active presence in our world to care about it? Of course not.

            Does God need to be interested in me, personally, to believe in me? Absolutely not.

            The best comparison i can come up with … I’ve worked on a number of start-up businesses. Take a new Las Vegas hotel, for example:

            First, there is the – dare I say it? – intelligent design.

            Second, we break ground and begin construction. As a rule, we try to avoid literal “Big Bangs,” but this our Big Bang moment.

            Third, the hotel construction – dare I say it? – evolves from a dangerous uninhabitable piece of raw ground into a gorgeous semi-self contained world.

            On parallel track to the structure’s evolution, all kinds of little human societies rise and then disappear. The demo guys. The steel workers. The construction workers. The finishers.

            On opening day at a major hotel/casino, I know a little tiny world has been set in motion. 20,000 employees and guests will fill this little universe … they’ll love and fight there. There will be politics. There will be honesty and dishonesty. People will be born there, and people will die there.

            In theory, if our design is, indeed, intelligent enough, I never have to visit the construction site or finished hotel. Just set it in motion and watch it unfold.

            And with my projects, there are some with which I’ve remained involved and active. There are hotels upon which I keep an interested eye, but from a distance. Maybe I make an occasional visit to help out with problems.

            And then are the properties which were gorgeous when I last saw them, and much time goes by … and I still care and am hopeful they are flourishing. And then, upon seeing them again later, I shake my head and think, “WTF have people done to this place, it’s a nightmare.”

            For me, personally, I never stop caring or believing-in my projects, even the ones I’ve never seen again or that fizzled and closed .

            Is it so hard to believe that the designer of our universe could – in a divine sense – fall into any one of these categories? I think so, but I’m not sure which category. Thus, the continuing spiritual journey.

            As for kind hearts and passion, the feeling is mutual, and I also want thank you for your saint-like patience.

            (I am sorry about the pay. Let me talk to Big Boss and see what we can do. In the interim, always remember and take comfort in, “It’s easy to become rich and famous, but it takes real talent to become just famous.”)

          • Jill

            Mike, I’m so with you on the reincarnation tip. It makes so much sense to me. I’m not smart or wise enough to learn everything I need to be in one lifetime. Hell, I squandered the first 2 decades being a jerk fake-Christian. :)

          • mike moore

            dear Jill, don’t sweat it … in a world of squandered years and opportunities, most people can look back and say the same thing. And at least you were a jerk fake-Christian … I’ve met waaay too many people who were just plain jerks.

            xo

          • Jill

            You always know the right thing to say to make me feel better.

        • Jill

          Wow, did I pick the wrong night to go to bed early and watch Bleak House! What an awesome post and comments! Sheesh.

          I’m catching up yet, but in humble reply to the ‘heated’ point, I would wholeheartedly agree that my childhood experience with Christ wasn’t Christian at all. My claim of the Christian label in my youth was not merely immature, but uninformed and even dangerous, even though I was a twice-baptized bible reader as I was taught to be. And boy did I ‘follow the rules’—which again points to dangerous.

          I have no problem stating here and now that I was never Christian in a true sense, but I want to say to those that know me out here that it wasn’t for lack of trying on my part. (Still feeling pretty ashamed about it all, I guess.) My problem now, such that I label it ‘a problem’, is that Christianity isn’t much more real to me yet than it was back then. It’s an ongoing thing… ah well.

          Maybe this is me admitting my problem—my name is Jill and I am a recovering non-Christian.

          I just keep going back to my basics—what keeps me grounded and centered and a decent human contributor to society and compassionately driven. I admit Christ is not my first thought on the matter, but he’s always, always in my thoughts and my heart.

          • mike moore

            Hi Jill, welcome. (said the people in your 12-step group.)

            It’s hard to for me to think you were never a Christian in the true sense. In matters of faith, doesn’t the fact of “trying” – especially as you describe it – make you a faithful believer?

          • Jill

            And yet, I believed that my trying and following the prescribed rules of my church was the ultimate way of God’s big seal of approval.

            Following rules such as: converting as many ‘false believers’ and ‘wordly people’ as I could, consider homosexuality sinful, view disagreement with church leadership as apostasy, using a form of excommunication as a tool for repentance. I could go on.

            It may have made me a faithful believer of my particularly warped variety of Christ-branded religion, but I can safely say it was by no means Christian, and by default, I was not either.

            This actually gives me some hope, that I am finding out what Jesus is about beyond what I cluelessly once understood him to be. Without rules and labels, or expectations for that matter.

          • Matt

            To me, one is a Christian because they say they are. One is not a Christian because they say that they are not one. That’s it. We can add story and ritual and ornament, but that is the core of being Christian. I don’t mean evangelizing or proseltyzing; I mean if someone asks, you simply say “Yes, I am a Christian” or “N0, I am not a Christian.” So Jill, you are a Christian because you say you are (I believe that’s what I’m getting from your comments), and you were not before because you say you weren’t.

            I also believe that every person’s actions need to be judged on their own merit, not as a reflection on their particular group or ideology. People hurt each other whether or not they believe in God (Yahweh, Allah, Buddha, polytheism, etc.). They also care about each other regardless. They choose to do these things. They can look back and say “X made me do what I did,” but that’s a cop-out. They did it, no one else.

            It frustrates me to watch Christians use others’ actions against atheists as a whole, and watch atheists (non-Christians, agnostics, etc.) do the same. We can dredge up “examples” of others’ horribleness and our own virtue until we’re blue in the face, but it won’t change anything. We are all human, we all do the most horrible and most beautiful things.

            I invite you, Mike, not to think of those who rejected you as “a group of Christians,” but “a group of people,” who used their faith to hurt you, and had their own personal reasons for acting like they did.

            And about choosing an awful day to be away (work, in my case), I second your thought Jill! What a great discussion!

          • Jill

            Yeah, I don’t know if I’m plain stubborn or just terrified, but I found it much easier to say that I was never Christian than to say that I am now a Christian. Seeing those words you typed Matt, and I gave a little shudder.

            I feel so much of what Mike has said. It is still me looking into the abyss instead of looking into paradise or heaven or nirvana. Organized religious expression of any flavor is such a mixed bag for me. I dabble, but I don’t commit. Each that I’ve tried on has felt two sizes too small.

            And yet, I cannot point to a day in my life that I was not a believer in something bigger, grander, and more enlightened than me. That sixth sense remains as my north star, and I keep following it. But sometimes I just stop and wonder, where exactly am I going?

          • Matt

            I apologize for upsetting you, Jill. And you’re going exactly where you please, and there’s no right way to go–that’s the beautiful and scary thing about free will.

          • Jill

            Oh, my apology for seeming like I was upset (I forget you can’t see/hear me).

            I was actually glad you said that, but I didn’t express myself well. It made me face up to what I’m doing, and where I’m intending to go.

            I’d much rather face my demons than pretend they don’t exist. Apparently it’s not been as easy as I’d hoped it would be. Maybe if it was easy, I wouldn’t believe it?

            I just thought that maybe I’d feel a sense of ‘rightness’ or maybe comfort by going to a new church, figuring out a place to belong. I put up a good front, but I go home feeling awkward and more unsure. And apparently this UCC is the only open and affirming in my community, so…

            Like I said, it’s a process and I don’t give up, if only to put my doubts to rest finally. Talking helps, thanks for indulging me. :)

          • Allie

            The thing about revelations of the Spirit is that you can’t force them, and they don’t seem to be in any way connected to the niceness or worthiness of whoever they happen to. Paul was a stone-throwing murder, for goodness’ sake. God knows where you live and will find you if it’s needed. That you haven’t had some earth-shattering revelation may mean that you’re simply not a bad enough person to need one, or it may mean something entirely different, who can say?

  • boy jesse

    Gah! The stereotypically anal retentive Virgo in me feels it prudent to point out that a point can be “moot” (rhymes with “boot”) but not “mute”.

    i’m so so so sorry…

    It’s a sickness, i know…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      no, no: I knew I had that wrong. Thank you! Will go correct.

      • boy jesse

        You are very welcome, John! i absolutely cannot read something without automatically proofreading as i go along. *g*

        God bless you!

  • Aggie

    Allie (and others), you might enjoy this Sufi poem about “The Perfection of Allah.” I don’t have any firm ideas about God, but Him being both a lover of the soul and “a stubborn, difficult, argumentative pain the ass” is an intriguing combination of ideas. I have to say I like this guy’s stuff…

    http://najatozkaya.blogspot.com/2010/10/perfection-of-allah.html

    • Janet

      Absolutely beautiful.

    • Ananke

      loving the poems on this site

      • Aggie

        Glad to hear. I do too. A bunch of great ones on there…

    • Lymis

      “If you want to know Allah, be prepared for the mess He leaves in His wake.”

      Now that’s something I can definitely relate to!

    • Allie

      I find I have a lot in common with Sufis. Very cool, thanks for sharing it.

  • Hannah Grace

    This is a lovely response.

    I’d like to add a little to your point about people who used to believe, John. I was raised by my fundamentalist dad, who was also an alcoholic. He used to struggle in church, always feeling like he wasn’t good enough for God, and feelings judged. He’s an earnest guy, and would try to bring all of his very real and often harmful failings to God, often through people at his church. People at his church would act awkward, not admit to ever sinning, and blame the problems on him. Their theology condemned him, and often didn’t make sense intellectually, and eventually, my dad left, hurt and doubting.

    After leaving the church, the old fundamentalist belief structure, with all of its hellfire and demands of perfect behavior, fell away from my dad. He became more like himself. He explored all kinds of other religions. Sometimes he felt like there was no God, or all of it was nonsense. But he told me, “Somehow, through the whole thing, I would keep praying. And I didn’t know who I was praying to. But it was the same one I had been praying to all along.”

    Since then, he’s been enriched by many traditions, and even started rethinking the old Christian tradition he comes from, and to which he had converted with such passion and fire long ago. He often speaks of Jesus as a teacher, and of God as both a kind creator, and a confusing, hurtful creator of the painful circumstances we humans experience. I know he sometimes feels moved by God, when all the old pain and suffering will allow him (he’s a recovering alcoholic, sober for some 5 years now). I don’t know if he would call himself Christian, but I know I have experienced God speaking to him and working through him. I know that he finds God in ways that change me and make me better, and bring me peace on my journey, helping me to find grace, and to see that a God who truly speaks to and loves me and my dad must be a kind, humorous, warm old guy indeed.

    What does it mean to know God? I don’t know. But I’m not sure people who decide they’re not Christians might not have been Christians in the first place, or remain so. God speaks in mysterious ways, and whatever you think about the intellectual problems of the faith doesn’t mean that love and spirit isn’t working in you with all of its almost shocking reality.

    What does it mean to know God? Surely we all know God, and the more we know of God, the more we cling to God. I know my atheist girlfriend would believe in a second, if she thought all this stuff was real, and not a fairy tale. But I feel like the spirit works in people regardless of belief about dogma – and when the time comes, we’llall know that the spirit was a part of us, all along.

    • Hannah Grace

      Would it be very different if we were a muslim family? I don’t think so. When you experience God, you experience grace. Who God was once we’re all wrapped up in those loving arms doesn’t matter – the only reason it does matter is because we all want to make sure everyone gets there.

      In my theology studies, we’ve often talked about people who suffer from dementia, or who have severe learning disabilities, and the problem of grace. Surely grace can’t be an intellectual knowing. It’s something deeper – maybe something so deep, the intellectual part becomes moot. It isn’t that you hold on to God. It’s that God holds on to you.

      • Song

        Hannah, This is lovely and thought provoking in the most positive way!!!! Thank you for sharing this!!! :)

        • Hannah Grace

          Thanks, that means a lot to me.

      • Jill

        I can believe in this kind of God too, Hannah. Very cool. Thanks for sharing something so personal.

      • Mindy

        Beautiful, Hannah. On so many levels, in so many ways. Thank you for all of this.

  • Janet

    My 2 cents:

    I became a “born-again” Christian back in the 70s, while in high school. In my 30s I finally left fundamentalism behind for good, saving my sanity and self-respect. Now attend a “flaming liberal” Episcopal church. In that process, and on to the present (where I’m in my 50s) the number of things I absolutely *have to* believe to consider myself a Christian has dwindled to what can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

    I do not know what the unforgivable sin is, or even if there is one. What I do know is this: where there is life there is God. God is love. Those who work to alleviate suffering are therefore in communion with God, whether they themselves believe in God or not. Or no matter *what* they believe about God. Feeding the hungry, saving a tree, rescuing a stray dog, all alleviate suffering. I don’t care much about anything else.

    • mike moore

      I think your words are worth way more than 2 cents.

    • Song

      Those are precious life- giving, life- living words. Thank you!!!’

      • Janet

        Shucks!

        • Song

          :)

    • Jill

      This, I get. This tells me just about everything I need to know about another human being, or God for that matter, and I only want to know people like this. Or a God like this.

  • Brian

    Some years back, a friend of mine and I were attending an late afternoon mass at the Catholic Student Center in Gainesville, FL. One of the readings that day was about the “unpardonable sin.” At the conclusion of the reading, my friend turned to me and said, “I think I know what it is.”

    At the conclusion of the mass, I asked him what he thought. His answer, “A sin you refuse to forgive yourself for.” He explained further, that Yes, Jesus can and does forgive us all of our sins, but if we refuse to forgive ourselves, what difference does it make.

    How can we know we haven’t forgiven ourselves?

    There are many people who are extremely homophobic. There is a common wisdom that suggests they are trying to kill those tendencies within themselves. If true, it may mean that whenever a “believer” judges and condemns others for some “sinful” action or attitude, the one passing judgment maybe judging and condemning the very thing in themselves. Jesus told us not to judge. When we judge others we really are rejecting the spirit of God in the person we malign. To push that Spirit away, puts God’s saving Grace and Love out of reach.

    There was a time when I did that very thing; passing judgment on LGBT folks. In time I came to recognize I was gay. That was a 30+ year struggle. Only when I could finally accept myself for who God created me to be, was I finally able to accept his Grace.

  • Lymis

    Does “unpardonable” automatically and always mean “permanently unpardonable?”

    And does “unpardonable” automatically and always mean “irredeemable?”

    I’m not prepared to believe that anything a human being does while they are alive can be irrevocably unforgiven, regardless of whatever change of heart or personal remorse and honest attempts at reconciliation someone engages in. I can believe we can stubbornly refuse to reengage God. I don’t believe we can cause God to cut us off.

    • Brian

      @Lymis – Like you “I don’t believe we can cause God to cut us off.”

      However, because we have “unlimited free will,” we do possess the ability, I believe, to cut ourselves off.

      In my view, God’s Unconditional Love for us is irrevocable and unchanging, in the final analysis, I think my disposition in eternity will be the result of my own choice. I see God desiring to envelope us fully and completely in his Love, but it is entirely possible that not all of us will want to be there. Like I said, it is not God cutting us off, we cut ourselves off.

      • Lymis

        That was my point, as expressed below.

        My question here is, if we’re the ones cutting ourselves off, can we stop doing so, and allow the re-establishment of that connection? In other words, does it have to stay “unpardonable”?

  • dana111

    In my personal opinion, I think this verse should be taken in context with the entire chapter. Jesus said this directly in response to the Pharisee’s actively trying to undermine his ministry and his message by purposely equating his works with the works of Satan. They did this because they desired to maintain their power and their hold over the people who were beginning to believe in Jesus as the Son of God. I was reading an article providing a pretty sound exegesis of this verse, and they posed the question, How evil can someone be to be literally right there, in front of Jesus, as he is healing people, and compare what he is doing to the works of Satan? Can that idea truly be applied to individuals living today, who have not actively seen Jesus personally heal people right in front of their faces? I think that we should take that verse in look at it in the context of what was going on at that specific place and time.

    If a former Christian just stops believing in God, stops believing and Jesus, and stops believing in Satan, not out of anger, but just because it doesn’t make sense to them anymore, but they don’t actively try to outwardly commit blasphemy, have they committed the “unpardonable” sin?? I know there are many people who were Christians but just stop believing not because they are pissed of at God for some reason, but just because they just don’t believe anymore…

  • http://BruceGerencser.net Bruce Gerencser

    John,

    I am shocked at the statement you make about those of us who have left the faith. I hope you will rethink what you have written and realize it is offensive to those of us who left Christianity, not because our faith was immature or because we had no faith at all, but because we no longer believed the claims of Christianity. I would love to see how you would square my life with what you have written here.

    In this post you sound just like the Evangelicals who frequent my blog. I hope you will think about this.

    Bruce

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Bruce: You used to be an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preacher, yes? I don’t know how to say this without offending you–in fact, there is no way, of course–but … well, honestly, wouldn’t you agree that of every possible iteration of Christianity, the IFB is the most intellectually and spiritually immature? Just … by its very nature? I think I know as much about IFB as you do, and I’m very comfortable saying that. And I’m hoping you’ll be too–what with you having so … extremely outgrown it and all.

  • http://www.thedrantherlair.com Scottie

    John, I have a lot of respect for you and your voice in the Christian community, but I am frankly shocked by the conclusion you’ve come to in this post. Claiming the haggard “no true Scotsman” fallacy to insist that any ex-Christians were never true believers in the first place is just as baselessly assumptive and degradingly belittling as any Bible-based misogynistic or homophobic rhetoric.

    Sorry to shatter your bubble, but some of us really were Christians. Our faith was mature. We had deep, personal relationships with a personal God. We saw him move in our lives. We clung to him when everything and everyone else failed us.

    And now we do not believe that he or any god exists. For some it is a positive assertion that no god does exist; for others (like myself) it is merely an understanding that no god exists to our knowledge — or, put another way, God may exist just as aliens, Zeus, or the Loch Ness Monster may exist — there is no reason to believe that he does, but no positive proof that he does not.

    I don’t know what Jesus meant by “blasphemy of the holy spirit”. I don’t know if he was referring to something understood in his culture at that time, the meaning of which may have been lost to history … I don’t know if it was misinterpreted or deliberately inserted in later translations … I don’t even know if the “holy spirit” he speaks of is a member of the Triune God which Judaism calls blasphemy and mainstream Christianity can only provide shaky prooftexting to support.

    But I do know that claiming all ex-Christians’ faith is false, less than genuine, or immature is an insultingly intimate assumption to make about hundreds of people you have never met.

    I have come to expect far better from you. You have disappointed me.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I think you missed the modifying ” … — by which I mean their Christianity was always immature.” I’m not saying you never believed. I’m saying that my vote (another phrase I was careful to employ) is that your belief was immature; that your idea of what Christianity is was immature. But if it wasn’t, fine. I mean … why would you care what I think about what you used to think about something you’ve outgrown? (And also, as long as I’m taking this moment, why would you think that I care if I’ve disappointed you? I don’t know you from Adam.)

      • http://www.thedrantherlair.com Scottie

        I guess I missed the part where you clarified what you consider to be “mature” belief. I meant to include in my previous comment this link to a post I recently wrote in response to the accusation that my apostasy is the result of a faith that was somehow lacking. I wonder what part of my “idea of what Christianity is” you would consider “immature”.

        Why do I care what you think? Because oddly enough, as an agnostic, I still like — and feel a responsibility — to work out what I understand the nature of God and the message of the Bible to be, assuming they are in fact true. To that end, I look to people I respect, believers and unbelievers alike, who are willing to examine the tough questions about faith and ethics and religion while doing their best not to put God in a box. You are one of these people. (I don’t know if I have commented here before or not, but I do read your posts occasionally, I own one or two of your books, and I am one of your Facebook followers.)

        Why should you care what I think? Perhaps you shouldn’t … if your goal is to estrange all of your ex-Christian fans and followers. I am not the only person who feels this way.

      • http://www.thedrantherlair.com Scottie

        *sigh* Apology time.

        The tone of my last two comments was decidedly more abrasive than I intended. Part of the reason being that I was typing them on hostile mobile devices while on timed breaks at work, and I directed some of my frustration at you, which was entirely inappropriate. For that, I sincerely apologize. I am at times my own worst enemy and the greatest detriment to my own arguments.

        The other part of my frustration is simply with the fact that you — a brilliant, outspoken, compassionate advocate for people too often oppressed or marginalized by misguided Christians — would write something like this. I said earlier that your assessment is “just as baselessly assumptive and degradingly belittling as any Bible-based misogynistic or homophobic rhetoric,” but I fear I failed to explain why I felt that was a fitting description.

        Conservative Christianity is notorious for persecuting non-heterosexuals with such emotional and spiritual abuse tactics as insisting they are living in rebellion to God, that they are confused, or that they are denying their true nature.

        Fundamentalist Christianity is equally notorious for oppressing women with such notions as “God does not speak to you directly, but through your husband/father;” “God will never call you to a position with authority over men;” and “a life as a stay-at-home wife and mother will bring you the most joy and satisfaction.”

        These ideas, of course, are expressed and insisted upon with (ostensibly) the support of the whole weight of Scripture. And yet it doesn’t take a master’s degree in hermeneutics to refute these claims — all it takes is asking a gay Christian, “are you rebelling against God in your heart?” All it takes is asking a lesbian, “would you naturally prefer a relationship with a man to a woman?” All it takes is asking a Christian woman whether in her walk with God he has ever led her to a different understanding than her father or husband. All it takes is asking a Christian businesswoman if she would not be happier as a homemaker. The insult in these ideas lies not only in their abuse of Scripture and not only in their longstanding history of oppression and control, but also in the arrogance of insisting that the oppressors could know the mind, the heart, the will, the desires, and the spiritual status of the oppressed better than they know themselves.

        In accusing me and every other ex-Christian to walk the earth of simply leaving an “immature Christianity” (whatever the deuce that means), I feel you are making a similar mistake. Of course I don’t intend by any means to imply that ex-Christians suffer persecution or oppression on par with the way the church at large has treated women and non-heterosexuals — merely to ask who and how are you to judge whether someone else’s beliefs are mature, or whether their understanding of Christianity is properly developed (or more or less properly developed than your own)?

        Honestly, I would rather see you condemn me to hell for my apostasy; I would rather hear you accuse me of blaspheming the Holy Spirit; I would rather know that you believe my leaving the faith is the surest indicator I cannot be saved than discover that one of the great Christian voices in today’s civil rights movement still believes there are some hearts he can discern better than their owners.

        Again, I apologize for the tone of my previous comments, and I apologize if anything in this comment comes across as imperious or pedantic. It is not my intention to tell you how to think or what to believe; merely to question your conclusions and express my dismay at your earlier statement.

  • AnyBeth

    Hm. One night, I went to sleep Christian and I awoke an atheist. I did nothing different, it’s just one of the ways a neurodegenerative disease can get interesting.

    (I shan’t go into my Christian bona fides, as I expect they’d make no difference to you.)

    How shall you judge me, I wonder. Would you say I’m still a Christian as I clearly didn’t reject God? If so, what exactly do you think makes someone a Christian? Or would you choose the option that I am not and never was a Christian? But what would be your reasoning there aside from commitment to the idea that anyone who isn’t a Christian could never have been one? Not to mention that everyone is at risk for this particular neurological disease and it’s entirely possible (if unlikely) for this sort of change to be the first symptom. This means that if you might be an atheist tomorrow, you cannot be sure whether you’re a Christian today. Shall you tell me, like the others, it was because my faith was immature, presuming that if it was more mature, it would have been preserved? But not only would you have no basis for that, it’d also suggest God chose to punish my immature faith by stripping it away and leaving me wholly unable to regain it. Rather cruel, no?

    I went to sleep a Christian and I awoke an atheist. Considering how it happened, I suppose that if there is a god, said deity wants me to be an atheist. And it could be any of you tomorrow.

    • Allie

      If a degenerative disease is indeed the true cause, then it seems not to be a question of volition.

  • Soren

    I guess John Shore just have the following definition of mature and immature.

    Any faith that someone abandons is immature.

    So we cannot pass judgement on a persons faith until they are dead. If they abandon their faith on their deathbed, the faith was immature, if they come to faith at the deathbed, the faith is mature.

    The no true scotsman of faith. Only the ones who still believe are the real believers.

    • The_L

      That line bothers me, too. I was a Catholic for over 20 years. I tried to do everything right, I genuinely loved and believed in Jesus, and I wanted desperately to make him happy. I was so obsessed with the idea of Making God Happy that I constantly failed to measure up to my own high standard and fell into despair and self-loathing because of it.

      I clung to Catholicism as a lifeline through various emotional traumas, which I don’t wish to discuss here.

      But clearly, none of that matters at all because I am now Pagan. Nope, clearly I never believed in or trusted Jesus at all in my life, ever.

      I despise No True Scotsman arguments, I really do. They do nothing but exclude and offend.

      • The_L

        Libby Anne explains it better than I could:

        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2013/03/according-to-john-shore-i-was-never-a-christian-huh.html

        John, please, PLEASE read that blog post. I know I’m not the only one who was deeply hurt by the “you were never a Christian” line.

        • Jill

          L, I won’t speak for John, but I can confidently speak for myself that I read that line with great comfort instead of ire because I do not believe that Christianity was ever meant to be as hard as some/many organized groups have made it to be.

          What I read what John wrote, I heard that if my experience with Christianity was not a true oasis, a shelter, a stronghold, a comfort, but also character-building and empowering, then I have yet to fully experience Christ. That message gave me hope.

          • http://www.thedrantherlair.com Scottie

            And yet what of those whose experience with Christianity WAS a true oasis, a shelter, a stronghold, a comfort, and also character-building and empowering … and yet they STILL left the faith? I wish John would explain what the devil he means by “immature Christianity” — and make up his mind whether he believes these people really were Christians or not. He’s not Schrodinger; he can’t have it both ways.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

            I utterly abandoned the faith I grew up in. Shed it completely like last week’s leftovers. Was it immature? I don’t think so, as it was a very difficult thing to do, and it took me a few years to “clean out the fridge”.

            But by doing so, it allowed my faith to evolve..something that is ongoing years later.

  • swmr1

    IMO, if a supposedly “loving” god will let a completely sincere follower be fooled into thinking they believe “correctly” (whatever that means) then I don’t think the word “loving” is accurate. This is a wily and deceitful god that should not be followed at all.

    Like you, Libby Anne, I was completely sincere in my love for god. So sincere that I went into full time ministry after college because I was sure that Jesus was the answer and that nothing could be more important than sharing that information with others. It was only after encountering god through the ministry that I stopped to think about some of the things I was being taught. It was only then that I actually took an honest look at the evidence behind what I believed (not a cursory study of only the “evangelically approved reading list of apologetics”, but an honest study from various sources). The evidence does not hold up if put to a truly honest test.

    This was the most painful journey I’ve ever had. To see your most cherished beliefs crumble before your eyes and the world as you know it fall away is incredibly painful and difficult. For another person to simply dismiss that journey as if it were insincere or inadequate is wrong.

    - See more at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2013/03/according-to-john-shore-i-was-never-a-christian-huh.html#comment-139677

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I didn’t say it was insincere, inadequate, or wrong. I said it was my vote that it was immature.

      • http://www.thedrantherlair.com Scottie

        What do you mean by “immature”, then, if neither “insincere”, “inadequate”, nor “wrong”? What sincere, adequate, accurate faith would you call immature?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          If you don’t know the difference between the meaning of the word immature and the meaning of each of the other three words you’ve mentioned, then … then I have no idea how to proceed.

  • Aggie

    Great discussion. I also am a current agnostic and would have considered myself a very devout Christian. I would also call my deconversion process heart wrenching.

    The question of how “mature” I was is certainly debatable (with different people coming to differnt conclusions no doubt)– but for me personally John’s comment didn’t offend. I don’t believe the Christian metaphysical ideas, so I’m forced to think that there are not really “Christians” anyway– although there really are mature, caring people who believe in Christian ideas. Of course, many of these Christians are more loving and mature than I am– and thus better people than I am by my own standards. So I’m all for mature, caring people, no matter what their metaphysics…

    I’m a people-pleaser by nature. I don’t like that people think I’m damned. But they do. Lots of people. And if I thought like John or any other particular Christian there would still be tons of Christians who would think I was damned, immature, or just plain stupid. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any condemnation-free position in the world, so I’m looking for an internal one…

  • kaye

    John,

    I don’t mean this in any disrespectful way, but couldn’t the same “no true scotsman” fallacy apply to your conversion to Christianity? Couldnt someone say that there is no way you could have been an real true atheist/unbeliever because there is no way one could not believe in God on an intellectual level and then suddenly become a Christian? That you were never a real “rabid anti-Christian”? Would that excuse make your conversion less amazing if you were never a true unbeliever to begin with?

    Also, what if one converts from Islam or Hinduism to Christianity? Would it be fair to say that they must have never been a true follower of that religion if it was so easy for them to convert to Christianity? In my opinion, if you can use that excuse for former Christians, can’t you use it for any kind of conversion experience?

  • Nathaniel

    So, if you used to be a Christian, but are not anymore, its because you were “immature?” Well, how bloody convenient for you. No need to ever actually engage the ideas of the people who left, you know by pre-judgement that such people are “immature.”

    And not just that. For if atheists like me reject Christianity for similar reasons as the former Christians, we must be doing it for “immature” reasons as well. We’re just too stupid or pig headed to realize it.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I never said that the move from Christianity to atheism or any other belief system is an act of immaturity. For a lot of people it’s a sign they’re maturing.

      • Nathaniel

        By claiming that the Christianity of leavers was “immature” you are making that claim, whether you desire to own up to it or not. Even with that aside, you seem to fail to realize just how incredibly patronizing your stance is. By necessity, declaring other forms of Christianity “immature,” or declare yours mature. If you demure from that, you are declaring it more mature, more adult, and therefore more correct.

        With your work on promoting tolerance and acceptance for the LGBT community, there are many Christians eager and willing to declare you are not a Real True Christian. I would have hoped that your experience with that would help you see how that’s a game where the only winning move is not to play. But I see now that from your perspective, the importance difference between you and such people is that you’re right about who’s a Real True Christian, and that they’re wrong.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Of course I understand that it’s patronizing to call anyone immature. But the truth is that some belief systems are more immature than others. I can’t help that. That’s just a fact. And I can’t say I’m terribly interested in pretending it’s not.

          If you know anything about the Independent Fundamental Baptist … version of Christianity, for instance, you know it’s the least mature understanding of Christianity it’s possible to have. And I’m real comfortable saying so.

          I do play the “game,” all the time, of asserting what is and isn’t mature. That’s pretty much all I do here on my blog.

    • Jill

      Having a belief not fully formed, not fully informed, or not fully realized is an un-matured/immature belief.

      It doesn’t make the believer immature, nor does it make a non-believer immature having rejected it. I obviously read it differently than you did Nathaniel, but I can guarantee he was not saying the believer was immature.

    • Nathaniel

      Hypothetical here John:

      Say that we have a Christian you shares beliefs that are pretty much 100% identical to yours on religion and faith. Then they end up deconverting. In that case, would that prove that their faith had been “immature” given that they ended up leaving it? Why or why not?

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        Yes, it would prove to me their faith was immature. It wouldn’t prove they were immature; in fact, I would assume them to now be more mature than they were when they were Christian.

  • Keljopy

    Congratulations. You’ve fallen for the no true Scotsman fallacy. No “true” (in your words “mature”) Christian would ever stop believing. Sorry, but you are dead wrong. There are plenty of atheists who were once mature Christians. I had a very deep “personal relationship” with Jesus. That was my reality. For years he was the one I relied on with my whole being. I was certain of being saved, and that was a major part of my identity. Like many others I became an atheist for the not at all immature reason that all the evidence pointed away from there being a god, and especially away from the idea of a Christian god. The more I learned about the world/universe the more the evidence grew until the evidence and my desire to accept the truth (of where the evidence pointed, obviously you won’t agree this is the truth) outweighed my years and years of faith and personal experiences and strong desire to continue to be a Christian.

    Of course you will say this is evidence that I wasn’t a mature Christian. Your logic is severely flawed. Your statement is that no “mature” Christian would reject Christ and then your proof of that is that anyone who has rejected Christ is an immature Christian. That is circular reasoning at its finest.

    The reason a statement like you made draws ire is because it’s kind of offensive that you, a stranger think you know more about the state of the inside of my mind than I do. Your opinion of me may mean nothing to me, however you are spreading a myth that is already quite common among Christians (including people I know personally). It’s quite arrogant for you to presume that you are a more “mature” Christian than every single person who was formerly a Christian was before they became an atheist/agnostic/something else. Or deciding that someone else’s brand of Christianity is far more immature than yours, and that explains why they no longer follow it. It’s preposterous, and, to engage in the sort of mind reading that clearly think you can do, I think you (and others who say this) are making this argument because you can’t imagine that someone like you, a “mature” Christian could ever change their mind, because that would mean that there is a possibility it could happen to you, which is unimaginable, and it would mean there is a possibility you could be wrong. Also the very existence of all of us who are atheists or agnostics or something else who were previously (true) Christians raises the theological issue of if (according to Christianity, since we don’t believe any of it) you can be saved and then lose your salvation or if those atheists/agnostics/etc. are still saved, neither of which is all that palatable, so you try to solve this instead by convincing yourselves we were never really saved in the first place.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      You start by claiming that I’ve equated “true” with “mature,” when I’ve done no such thing. I’m real clear on the difference between those two words.


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