Reflections on Phariseeism: Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit
A post I read today reminded me of the importance of understanding and being wary of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The roots of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit begin with rejecting the authentic work of God as a work of evil. We see this illustrated clearly in the Gospel of Matthew:
Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul,by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, butwhoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matt. 12:22-32, ESV)
Theologians and the Christian Tradition more broadly have summed up blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as a refusal to accept salvation through Christ. We see in the passage above where such a refusal begins. It began with the religious leaders of the day seeing the works of Jesus and the ostensible power of God, and refusing to acknowledge it as such. And beyond simply being unable to recognize it as the power of God, they actually attributed the works to the power of Satan. It was obvious that *something* significant had occurred, but the explanation they reached for was that the power was evil rather than good. Jesus confronts their thinking, saying that the works that He did were good works, meaning that they worked toward a godly end. How could those works be done of Satan if they are promoting the Kingdom of God? Satan does not cast out demons or bring people into closer communion with God. If he did so, he would be undermining his own purposes.
We cannot both have faith in Christ, and at the same time, call the work of Christ the work of Satan. We cannot both claim Christ’s name and at the same time deride the works done in His name. For it is those very works which testify of Him.
The post I referenced above focused on the testimony of the couple in the video below.
It is the story of Raeul and Susan, a married couple that speaks of growing distant and cold over the years and of affairs had both by Susan and Raeul. Wanting to survive as a married couple, they sought help through counseling and became involved in the Re|Engage marriage ministry at their church. Highlights from what they shared:
Raeul: “Re|Engage was just a pivotal point for me in that the Bible just came alive…[W]e would come in and we would have issues; and there was always a biblical principle there for us; there was always something there that God had that we could hold onto.”
Susan: “As we really began to do that and to vertically align ourselves with Christ…horizontally the marriage began to heal.”
Raeul: “We are in the best place that we have ever been in our marriage.”
Susan: “Oftentimes when we think about what Re|Engage really is, we think about the three components: God’s word, God’s people, and God’s Spirit.”
Raeul: “Re|Engage brought to us the urgent need for us to follow Christ. It put our marriage in a place where it talks about oneness in Genesis, that we’re not out for each other, but that we’re out for us together.”
Their testimony is derided as being of the “Book of Oprah.” Some would have us believe that this couple overcame mutual infidelity and distance to be closer than they have ever been, to feel an urgent need to follow Christ, and to express a dependence upon Scripture through Oprah-principles. Oprah does not teach people to follow Christ. She does not teach people to depend upon Scripture, and she does not encourage people to submit to accountability within a Christian community. Those things promote the Kingdom of God and the Lordship of Christ. I would be extremely wary of deriding someone who testifies of their decision to follow Christ in obedience and the healing they experienced thereby. It comes very close to blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.
The Pharisees hated Jesus and the works He did because He did not do it according to the prescribed order of the law (as they understood it) and it didn’t come through their authority. When they saw His power, they hated it, even when He performed miracles for people and tremendously changed their lives for the better. Why did they hate Jesus even when He was obviously doing a great work for people? Because He wasn’t doing it their way. The manosphere posits a lot of ideas about how men and women are supposed to relate to one another. This couple bucks their advice and ideology and is successful in doing so. But it seems that some would rather hear the husband say “I gamed my wife until she finally bent down to lick my boots,” than they would rejoice to hear, “We chose to obey Christ more faithfully and He has done an amazing work between us because of it.”