Sin Against the Holy Spirit

Anti-Climacus concludes his analysis of the continuance and intensification of sin with an account of'sin against the Holy Spirit', which is identified in the New Testament as blasphemy or speaking against the Holy Spirit—a sin that can never be forgiven (SUD 125).56 The intensity of despair reaches its highest level in this form of sin, in which the despairing individual positively abandons and discards Christianity by declaring it to be a lie and untruth. Anti-Climacus likens this sin to waging an offensive war against God in an outright attack upon Christianity, particularly against the paradox of God's incarnation in Christ, who presents a possibility of offence that cannot be removed. The lowest form of offence at Christ is to remain undecided or neutral about him, which for Anti-Climacus is tantamount to denying the divinity of Christ since the earnestness of existence requires that everyone shall have an opinion about him (129). At the next stage of offence at Christ one is preoccupied with making a decision about him but cannot bring oneself to believe and thus suffers inwardly from an unhappy relation to Christ. Sin against the Holy Spirit, which is the positive form of offence at Christ and thus the highest intensification of sin, involves the outright denial of Christ as the absolute paradox, either by denying the humanity of Christ in the docetic (from the Greek dokein, 'to seem') claim that he only appeared to be an individual human being or by rationalistically denying his divinity in the claim that he was merely an individual human being. The first form of denial corresponds to the Gnostic heresy that was rejected by the early church fathers; the second is particularly associated with an early Jewish Christian sect called the Ebionites, which Anti-Climacus explicitly identifies as holding this view in Practice in Christianity, another book attributed to him as 'author' (PC 123).57 In that work, however, he suggests that the modern age suffers from a different confusion that is 'far more dangerous' than these early forms of offence (123). To see what that confusion is and how it is addressed in Kierkegaard's writings, let us turn next to his view of Christ.

57 On Gnosticism and Ebionitism see Grillmeier (1965: 90-101).

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