The unforgivable / eternal / unpardonable sin
What is the unforgivable sin?
Interpretations 1 to 12, all different.
What exactly is the unforgivable sin?
The three synoptic Gospels, Mark, Matthew, and Luke state that blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is considered the one sin that God will not
forgive. But what precisely is
against the Holy Spirit?" Theologians have been debating this question for
centuries. Many commentaries and guides to the Bible ignore or gloss over these three
A proper interpretation is critical to the Christian who believes
in the inerrancy (freedom of error) of the scriptures.
A major theme found throughout the Christian Scriptures are the horrors of
eternal torture in Hell that awaits the unsaved. Believers
know what behavior is unforgivable in order to avoid committing the sin and thus losing their personal salvation.
To prepare this essay, and two others to follow, we used various search
strings in Google:
- "unforgivable sin" produced about 11,900 hits
- "eternal sin" produced about 2,850
- "unpardonable sin" produced about 15,000 hits
Needless to say, we only analyzed those near the the top of the search.
Interpretations 1 to 12 of the unforgivable sin, in random order:
- Saying the Holy spirit cannot perform exorcisms: Some pastors feel that the verses in Matthew and Mark refers back earlier
text which describe Jesus
casting demons out of possessed people. They believe that this type of blaspheming is done
when a person states or believes that the Holy Spirit is incapable of performing exorcisms, even after
they have observed it happening before their eyes.
- Attributing Holy Spirit activity to Satan: Other sources believe that this form of blasphemy arises when one attributes to Satan
deeds that are actually done by the Holy Spirit. 1
- Demons performed exorcisms: Some suggest that this sin occurs when a person believes that demons, rather
than Jesus, expelled other demons from possessed people and animals.
They point out that this could only have happened when Jesus was on Earth -- that
is, in the first century CE.
- Inattentiveness to the Holy Spirit: Still others say that it is a
"failure to listen to the Holy Spirit in the hour
of trial." 2
- Denying part of the Bible: "Elijah," author of "The Underground Bible"
"... contradicting or denying anything written in the Bible is
the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit: which is the only sin Jesus did
not die on the cross to forgive: it is the only sin that will never be
forgiven in this world or the world to come." 3
- Permanently rejecting Jesus: Henry Morris defines the unforgivable sin as:
"... rejecting Christ with such finality
that no future repentance is possible. ... demonstrating an attitude
permanently resistant to the [Holy] Spirit, and to the deity and saving
Gospel of Christ." 4
- Rejecting message of the Holy Spirit: Robert Wells explains that the unforgivable
sin occurs in only a very special case: when the Holy Spirit is attempting
to bring the Word of God to a person, and she/he rejects it. 5
- Dying unsaved: James Akin provides many quotes from St.
Augustine where he discussed the unforgivable sin. 6
- "he who dies in a state of obstinacy is guilty of the sin against
the Holy Ghost." 7
- "impenitence is a sin against the Holy Ghost." 8
- "to resist fraternal goodness with the brands of envy is to sin
against the Holy Ghost" 9
- Persisting in evil: Akin quotes a statement by John Paul II:
"... it consists rather in the refusal to accept the salvation which
God offers to man through the Holy Spirit, working through the power of
the Cross. If man rejects the 'convincing concerning sin' which comes
from the Holy Spirit and which has the power to save, he also rejects
the 'coming' of the Counselor. ... Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit,
then, is the sin committed by the person who claims to have a 'right' to
persist in evil -- in any sin at all." 10
- Apostasy after having fully known God: Joseph Smith, founder of The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often referred to as
the LDS Church, or The Mormons) defines the unforgivable sin as the acts of
receiving the Holy Spirit, fully accepting the Spirit's teachings as true, and
then subsequently & intentionally rejecting them. Smith wrote:
"All sins shall be forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Ghost;
for Jesus will save all except the sons of perdition. What must a man do
to commit the unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the
heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against him. After a
man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him.
He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has
got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and
to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it."
- Apostasy, infidelity, schism, heresy: James Akin defines the unforgivable
sin as one or more of four sins. He writes:
"Like the parallel sins against faith -- infidelity, schism, and
heresy -- it only
becomes an unforgivable sin if one dies in it. Until death it is always
possible, God willing, for an infidel to convert, for a schismatic to return
from his schism, for a heretic to renounce his heresy, and for an apostate to
re-embrace the faith of Christ." 12
- Theologians equating the Holy Spirit and Satan: Rev. Ken Collins
"... in my opinion, the unforgivable sin, the blasphemy against the Holy
Spirit, consists in misusing one's training and education in the Scriptures to
publicly and knowingly slander the Holy Spirit by misleading people into
thinking that He is Satan. ... This is not the sort of sin that an ordinary
person can commit. Blasphemy is deliberate, public slander. In order to commit
this sin, you have to be in a position of learned authority. 13
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- W.A. Quanbeck, "The Letter to the Hebrews" in C.M.Laymon, "The Interpreter's
One-Volume Commentary on the Bible," Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN (1971), Page 905.
- Sorry, we have lost this citation.
- From "THE UNDERGROUND BIBLE," Chapter 11, Section 2, Part A, at:
http://www.undergroundbible.com/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from:
- Henry M. Morris, "The Defender's Study Bible," World Bible Publishers, (1995)
- Robert Wells, "The Unforgivable sin," at:
- Stephen Patterson and Marvin Meyer, Trans., "The Gospel of Thomas," The
Gnostic Society Library, at:
- Augustine, "Enchiridion," lxxxiii."
- Augustine, "De Verb. Dom., Serm lxxi."
- Augustine, "De Serm. Dom. in Monte xxii."
- John Paul II, "The Lord and Giver of Life," Pages 46 &47.
- Joseph Smith, "The King Follett Sermon," Ensign,
1971-MAY, Page 13. Online at:
- James Akin, "The Unforgivable Sin," Eternal Word Television Network, at:
- Ken Collins, "The Unforgivable Sin," at:
Copyright © 2006
to 2008 Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2008-DEC-08-