Monday, January 29, 2007

Blasphemous Rumours

I may be a Christian, but actually, I do think that God has a sense of humor, and when I die, I do expect to find Him laughing. (And Depeche Mode is a pretty decent band, too.)

So, I was reading that an interesting trend has exploded on the Internet scene, and I said, "Wow, that's going in the blog for sure!" What is it? Well, in case you missed it, it's the Blasphemy Challenge! The site explains it pretty well, but let me summarize: According to Mark 3:29, there is one sin that God will not forgive, known as the "Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit". Inspired by this concept, the folks of The Rational Response Squad (an online atheist group, natch) are encouraging people to post videos on YouTube containing the phrase "I deny the Holy Spirit", and in return, they will send you a copy of a supposedly (not to disparage it, I simply can't vouch for it personally) very good documentary on atheism, or something like that. Jokingly, they suggest that they've set the price at $24.95 or one human soul.

Oooo. Well, the whole concept is pretty funny, and I'm pretty sure they know that. Of course if you're a person who doesn't believe that you have a soul, you're not going to be too upset about "losing" it. If you believe that the Holy Spirit doesn't exist, you're not going to be really worried about offending Him. If you'd like a copy of this movie or just want to be part of a trendy new Internet thingie, it's pretty easy to jump on board. (Actually, I was considering making a video myself, just for the free documentary; more later on why I personally would or would not do such a thing.) Actually, as I began writing this entry several days ago (I've been distracted by real-life issues), a search for "Blasphemy Challenge" on YouTube turns up over 800 videos, most of which are probably entries.

I'm not sure what the point is, though. I mean, for the guys that started it, not the responders, who have at least two clear and simple motives, but may have other more complex ones under the surface which may or may not be expressed in their videos. Why start a movement to publicly blaspheme the Holy Spirit? Is the desire to raise the profile of atheism in America? I suppose if that's the point, it's an easy and effective way to do it. But then I'd have to wonder what the point is behind that point. I've never understood the idea of so-called evangelical atheism, but maybe it's just me. If there's nothing to believe in, then who cares what you believe? I suppose it has something to do with affirming truth, but then affirming truth through more or less lying? Denying something that doesn't exist, and call it brave? I defy the power of the Genie of the Lamp! Do you consider me brave for that? It's pretty much nonsensical on some level. Maybe it is just meant to be humorous

Aside from showing personal support of a particular world-view, though, it has nothing to do with supporting reality. If I were to go on YouTube and post a video saying that I affirm the power of the Holy Spirit, does that then counteract the effect of one denial video? Putting the overall societal effect as a phenomenon of popular culture aside, there is absolutely nothing that making one of these videos will show about the Holy Spirit in particular. I mean, despite the fact of the Bible passage stating that there is the possibility of an unforgiveable sin (whether this be it or not), there is no statement that committing this sin or any other will bring God's wrath down on you in any immediate, tangible sense. Are we expecting to see the people in these videos struck by lightning, or inflicted with leprosy or something? Maybe the figuring is that there needs to be some critical mass of blasphemers to see this effect, since God seems more likely to put a good old-fashioned smiting over on a collective group rather than an individual? I don't know what it really proves.

Really, it's more compelling to see a person denying the power of the Holy Spirit if they actually believe in it. There may have been a few. Disgruntled Christians, maybe Satanists? I don't know. I wonder how the folks running this might feel about, say, a Muslim who denied the power of the Holy Spirit while testifying to the supremacy of Allah? Or a Jehovah's Witness who might be able to perform the challenge without contradicting their beliefs? (I'm not sure, that's a tough one.)

Anyway, are these people really committing the "Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit"? I don't think so. There are two standard explanations for what this term really means. One of them is taken from the immediate context, and isn't the sort of thing an atheist is likely to find appealing. Jesus makes this statement about BotHS after an accusation is leveled at Him in verse 22: "And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils." Many Bible scholars have therefore taken it to mean that this particular sin is characterized specifically by making the claim that the work of Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit is actually the work of the Devil. I'd like to see a large group of atheists make such a claim; it would be entertaining.

But then I would be condemning them to Hell, right? How can that be entertaining? The other common explanation of this blasphemy is one taken from the overall context of the whole New Testament. In this view, the idea is very simply that to Blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to deny the redemptive power of Christ. This makes sense in the traditional manner of thinking of Christian salvation: A person is saved by believing in Christ, and accepting His sacrifice on his/her behalf. If you don't believe in the power of Christ, then you've already committed that blasphemy, video or no video! God doesn't forgive that sin, you simply stop it when you accept Christ.

The end result of all this is that even from a Christian point of view, these videos mean nothing. Sure, some people might find them offensive, since it is a form of blasphemy, but I think God is laughing. Ultimately, I think this will bring more publicity for Christianity, and a deeper understanding of some important Christian principles. It will also give more weight to the perceived concept that atheism is not so much a belief in itself as it is a rebellion against Christianity. Whether the atheists behind this think that is so or not, they're promoting it indirectly, and for better or worse, raising the profile of the Bible's challenge.

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