Thursday, September 25, 2014

Prayer Request and Reflection on Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

I should probably post these separately, but I'm not.

So there.

I've been struggling a bit since my father's pending death and in the aftermath. It's been a bit over three months now, and it's as if the gradual deflation of estate business finally allows me just to face matters. I started actually noticing about a month ago, but the last couple of weeks it has been more apparent. Anyway, my father is gone. We're sorting things out and sending bits and pieces of his belongings away, or keeping them when it matters. I have his USAF uniforms and his diplomas, and I'm not sure what I want to keep and what I want to donate. And what to do with those things that don't matter when we're gone.

Let that settle for a moment. My father's framed credentials. His class A uniform and hat (with its "farts and darts"). The multiple copies of the boy scout field handbook.

Essentially so much that mattered to him.

Anyway, this is the external struggle. The internal struggle is greater, and much of it is so submerged that I gather I will struggle with it for the rest of my life.

So, please pray for me. I am struggling with my father's death right now, even if I don't say much about it.

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I had an insight, probably wrong, about what it means to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. If you recall, this is the one unpardonable sin referenced in all three synoptic gospels (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-30; Luke 12:10).

Among Catholic scripture scholars, it is commonly accepted that this sin is of final unrepentance. All other sins can be forgiven but the sin of refusing to repent from ones sins. Now, this explanation is probably unsatisfying to most non-Catholics as it doesn't seem quite so clearly an offense against the Holy Spirit. So in what way could this claim be true?

I think it goes back to the identification of the Holy Spirit with the love between the Father and the Son. One of Augustine's analogies of the Holy Trinity describes the procession of the Holy Spirit as an act of will from the Father toward the Son (the first act being an act if intellect that images the Son). The act of will of Father toward Son is love, and it is reciprocated (which is why the Holy Spirit in Catholic theology proceeds from the Father and the Son or from the Father through the Son, both formulation being acceptable, but of course, inadequate to explain the reality).

So the Holy Spirit is identified with love. All three Persons possess love fully, but because of the character of the Holy Spirit's procession, the attribute of love is given to Him.

How, then, is unrepentance considered a blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? Here's a possible answer. Unrepentance springs from two different attitudes. The first is that of rejection: one doesn't want to be forgiven. This is out and out rejection of the love of God. I want what I want, and I care not a whit whether God approves. That attitude is rare, but real. It's the rejection of Lucifer: "Non serviam!" It is a rejection of God's love because of the obligations that love imposes.

The other attitude is one of final despair*—the attitude that God's love cannot possibly extend far enough to excuse someone like me who is so unworthy. So how can being in despair be blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? Because it imposes limits on God's love. It says that His love goes no further than here. It offends both in that it imposes limits on God (rejecting God's infinite goodness), but it also indulges in the same pride that compels the first case to say, "I will not serve."

So both attitudes limit the love of the Holy Spirit: the first by rejecting it outright, and the second by limiting its magnitude.

I'm sure this explanation is insufficient, and I would welcome correctives. The thought just came to me the other days as I was listening to a preacher on Air 1.

*Now, I'm not speaking of the kind of despair that arises out of grief or mental illness but of habitual attitudes of despair. The former are transient and situational, while the latter are cultivated.

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