Sometimes the Bible tells us not to accept certain outrageous things, and we wonder to ourselves, “did churches really need to be told that?” The answer is yes, they did. So do we.
For example, Paul once said that no one speaking by the Spirit could say certain things. “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Cor. 12:3). This is a head scratcher. Did anybody in a Christian church ever think that you could call Jesus accursed?
Well, the father of lies is good at what he does. We are saved because Jesus became a curse for us, dying under the curse of God (Gal. 3:13). This substitution is the glory of our salvation, but if we substitute something else for that, something that might sound like it, we are blaspheming. And the Spirit of the Lord is not the spirit of blasphemy.
Another example would be how the church at Thyatira was misled by that woman Jezebel. A bunch of them had been dragged off into the “deep things of Satan” (Rev. 2:24), which would seem to be a bad place to be dragged, would it not? Didn’t anybody cover that in the new members class?
Isaiah pronounces a great woe on those who invert things (Is. 5:20). When the Pharisees persisted in doing this, Jesus warned about the consequences of such obstinacy.
“But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.” (Matthew 12:24)
“Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.” (Matthew 12:31).
Notice that Jesus does not say that they have committed the sin against the Holy Spirit, but it is here, when they are behaving this way, that He warns them about it. The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is this — to attribute the works of God to the devil, and the works of the devil to God. The moral order of the universe is inverted, and the one guilty of this intellectual crime wrestles his soul into that position, and holds it there until it sticks there forever.
So I am convinced that this is not a sin that can be committed at a punctiliar point in time, but rather is crossing over the threshold into damnation, there to remain forever. The lack of any possibility of forgiveness is related to the very nature of the sin. There is eternal lack of forgiveness because the sin is persisted in eternally. “Whoever blaspehemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29, ESV).
Jesus does not tell the Pharisees that they have committed this sin, but at the very least He is warning them about their trajectory. That same trajectory is on display in Greg Boyd’s recent article. You can read what he said here, and go through my first response here.
“For example, it’s significant that when James and John wanted to follow the precedent of Elijah and ‘call fire down from heaven to destroy’ a Samaritan village, Jesus ‘rebuked’ them and, according to many early manuscripts, told them; ‘You do not know what spirit you are of’ (Lk. 9: 54-55; cf. 2 Kg 1:10, 12, 14). As shocking as it is, this episode clearly suggests that Jesus regarded Elijah’s enemy-destroying supernatural feat to be ungodly, if not demonic.”
The thing that is shocking here is not that Jesus was rebuking Elijah, but rather that Boyd resolves things in this way, when there was so little call for it.
First, what Jesus was doing was rebuking His disciples; He was not “rebuking” them. They wanted vengeance on someone who had slighted them, and they had a Bible verse for it. For Jesus to point out that they were not in the same position as Elijah was (2 Kings 1:10) is not to say that Elijah was in the same position they were in. I mean, for pity’s sake. Elijah was facing down a company of soldiers who had come to arrest him for speaking the Word of God to Ahaziah. The disciples were irritated by a rude Samaritan clerk at the Holiday Inn Express.
Any pastor who has had to sit on an overly-exuberant 18-year-old boy who loves to sing psalms of imprecation has been in this position. To tell that boy that “he ain’t David” is not the same thing as saying that David is that boy. Unless you’re Greg Boyd.
But wait, it gets worse. Elijah and his demons apparently had some allies in high places, and these allies were at the very least complicit in the slaughter of these poor soldiers. This destruction of the soldiers is something that Boyd grants is “a supernatural feat.” But whose power was on display there? John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb (Luke 1:15), and this Holy Spirit was one and the same with the “spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17).
In other words, Elijah did not have servants in the bushes with flame throwers. Elijah spoke the word, but God did all the killing. This was not a situation where a prophet sinned and went rogue, disobeying the Lord. This was part of his ministry, and it was holy — every bit of it.
So when you have painted yourself into an anabaptist corner, and your theology requires you to say that black is white, and that up is down, and that holy is unholy, and that God is the devil, and the devil is God, perhaps it is time to go back and review some of your foundational assumptions. You don’t ever want “I love the devil” to show up in your conclusions.
Now I have said before that many Christians are better Christians than they are logicians. Another way of saying this is that blasphemies are hidden in the premises of many false doctrines, or in true doctrines wrongly applied. Who does not see that an arrogant husband could not abuse the doctrine that a wife is to render obedience to her husband “as unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:22)? There is a way of understanding this that is the aroma of life, and another way of applying it that is the stench of death.
So when someone holds a doctrine that implicitly sets the Old Testament and the New Testament at odds (as I believe Lutheranism and dispensationalism do), this does not prevent the existence of Lutherans and dispensationalists who are godlier than I will ever be. The same is true of some anabaptists, who are dear to the Father. But then there are anabaptists like Boyd, in the grip of an idea, who say things — out loud, into the microphone — like “Elijah’s power was demonic.” Crikey! For those just joining us, I rarely use exclamation points.
There’s a new take on the Mount of Transfiguration. We all knew that Jesus cast out a strong demon when He came down off the mountain (Mark 9:29). What we didn’t know is that He was up there practicing on Moses and Elijah, who were, as it turns out, the toughest cases of all.
Wrong. F. Go back. Do over.