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While reaching out to skeptical peers, high school senior Perry Frost has encountered her share of atheists and agnostics. That includes those who insult the Creator in videos posted online as part of the Blasphemy Challenge, an Internet campaign encouraging people to post clips of themselves cursing God or renouncing the Holy Spirit's work in their lives. Brazen entries even welcome the consequences of this rebellious act—including hell—should it turn out that God does exist. Blasphemy Challenge organizers admit a desire to promote atheism among adolescents. And for a limited time, one website offered teens who recorded a personal rejection of God a free DVD documentary belittling Christianity.

Time to Dig Deeper
These atheists base their challenge on scriptures such as Mark 3:29, in which Jesus says, "But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." Treating the passage like a theological loophole, they fault God for being either unable or unwilling to forgive this specific sin, which can confuse young people. But what exactly is blasphemy? Are there unforgivable or unpardonable sins? And how do we know if we've crossed the line and passed beyond the point of God's forgiveness?

Biblical examples of blasphemy imply irreverence or slander against God. But the term also means "to spurn." Scriptures alluding to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit imply a two-fold indictment against the leaders who encountered Jesus while He was on earth: They refused to acknowledge Him as Messiah, plus they accused Him of being empowered by Satan. To say the least, they spurned Jesus. Barry Leventhal, Ph.D., directs the Jewish studies program at Southern Evangelical Seminary. He and others believe that Jesus' ominous warning about blaspheming the Holy Spirit (which also appears in Matt. 12:31-32) may be uniquely related to his encounter with those Jewish leaders. Because the religious elite knew Old Testament scriptures intimately, and the incarnate Lord was right in front of them, they had been entrusted with unparalleled revelation. "For them to stubbornly maintain that posture of unbelief and then to attribute Christ's work to the devil," Dr. Leventhal says, "this rejection of God's overtures was the inexcusable, unpardonable blasphemy of the Holy Spirit."

That's an engaging perspective. I've always been comforted by verses such as 1 John 1:9, which reminds us that when people come to God in repentance and faith, Jesus "is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." Similarly, Romans 8:1 assures believers, "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

Jesus said part of the Holy Spirit's work in the world would be to reveal people's sinfulness and need for salvation (John 16). A healthy concern about sin is evidence that the Holy Spirit is at work in a person's life. To feel contrite about sin proves that one hasn't committed something unpardonable.

Dr. Leventhal states, "There is a difference between an unpardonable sin, and the unpardonable sin. The sin which ultimately places a person beyond God's forgiveness is to live and die in the act of unbelief. That is, to reject Christ." Therefore, it's hard to imagine a single YouTube tirade having the power to condemn a person to eternal separation from God.

A Christian Response to a Focused Attack
For the most part, taunts appearing on these video-sharing sites are directed at the God of the Bible. Frost observed, "The online atheists and teens who are into the Blasphemy Challenge are almost exclusively opposed to Christianity. There are almost no complaints against any other faiths."

Whether on a playground or at a sporting event, taunts usually occur because someone's looking to get a reaction. In this case, it's atheists. And young believers should give them one: a sincere, Christ-honoring witness. The rise of spiritual skepticism and outright blasphemy are vivid reminders that we must strive to be authentic. Therefore, we should answer the blasphemy of an unbelieving world with a tangible testimony of Christ-likeness.

Popular author and speaker Alex McFarland is Plugged In's teen apologetics expert.

Published August 2007




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