Apologetics for the Masses #406 - Mistakes Catholics Make and Sins Against the Holy Spirit (Part 2)

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Sins against the Holy Spirit


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General Comments

Hey folks,

Four things:

1) I will be on "Women of Grace" w/Johnnette Benkovic Williams again this coming week.  We did two shows on the Rapture.  They will air at 12:00 PM (Central) on October 13th and 14th.  They also re-air the same days at 10:30 PM (Central).

2) If you're interested, I did an interview about my book with Joe Sixpack at "The Cantakerous Catholic".  If you've never heard his podcast, you might want to check it out - he gets some pretty interesting guests on there: https://cantankerouscatholic.com/. My interview is in two parts:

a) https://cantankerouscatholic.com/episodes/apologetics-are-important-john-martignoni-interview/; b) https://cantankerouscatholic.com/episodes/john-martignoni-interviewpart-ii/.

3) The book is, according to the publisher, doing well for its first month out.  I want to thank all of you who have purchased a copy.  If you have read it, and would be open to leaving a review about it on Amazon, I would be grateful.  All you have to do is go to amazon.com and do a search on "Blue Collar Apologetics" and it should pop right up.  Thanks!

4) I am now able to offer the book through the Bible Christian Society.  I can offer it at $15 plus postage, which should be around $4.50, so let's just say $19.50 total.  I don't yet have a page up on my website for selling it, so if you want a copy - a signed copy (the signature increases the book's value by at least 4 or 5 cents) - you'll have to email me and let me know. 


     Last issue I published the first part of a dialogue I had on Facebook with one Jim Victor.  The dialogue is centered around his rather unique interpretation of Matt 12:31-32, which is a passage that refers to the "blasphemy against the Spirit".  I ended the last newsletter with a response from him and with a homework "assignment".  I have a winner of the assignment and will be notifying them in the near future and sending them a copy of my book: Blue Collar Apologetics

     I will pick up this week right where I left last time.  If you want to go back and read his response that I am replying to at the beginning of this newsletter, you can do so here:



John Martignoni

     Jim, you said that if what you were saying was contrary to Church teaching, then you would disavow it. Well, I've read through the entire Catechism, read Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott, read numerous papal encyclicals, read the teachings of numerous Church Councils, read a lot of the Church Fathers, and I have never come across anything along the lines of what you have put forth here. So, unless you can find something from Church teaching to support what you are saying, then this is indeed something you have come up with. And, as I said in my first reply, novelties in a 2000-year old church are generally not good things.

     Here's the thing, I believe you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what Jesus is talking about when He says that sins against the Son will be forgiven, but sins against the Holy Spirit cannot be, and this fundamental misunderstanding is causing you to go off into the Protestant woods where you are, essentially, crafting your own doctrines.  And, truth be told, those doctrines are indeed contrary to Church teaching.

     First point I want to make is that after I countered your claim that all sins against the Son are unconditionally forgiven, by demonstrating that the Word of God, in Matthew 25:31-46 most definitely disagrees with you - sins against the Son are not unconditionally forgiven there - you argued: "Well, those aren't sins against the Son, even though it says, 'Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren you do to me' - those are sins against the 'will of the Father,'" you said.  As if there is a sin that isn't against the will of the Father? 

     But, you then changed your argument to: Well, yes, they are sins against the Son, but they are sins against His divine nature and not directly against His human nature, so that’s why they are not unconditionally forgiven.  Which is where we now stand.  In other words, you're kinda making this up as you go along, which is why I say you are in the Protestant woods.

     Secondly, you seem to think that one can indeed sin against the Son without also sinning, at the same time, against the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Or one can sin against the Father without also sinning, at the same time, against the Son and the Holy Spirit.  And the same with the Holy Spirit vis-a-vis the Father and the Son.  That is not possible.  A sin against one Person of the Trinity is a sin against all the persons of the Trinity.  God is one.  His divinity is indivisible.  You cannot divide up the Trinity in the manner you are attempting to so do and say that you can sin against one person of the Trinity without simultaneously sinning against the other 2 persons of the Trinity.

     And, you cannot separate the human nature of Jesus from His divine nature, as you have done, and say you can sin against one nature of Jesus but not the other.  When you commit a sin against someone, you sin against a person, not a nature.  When someone sins against me, they don't sin against my human nature, they sin against me...a person.  Just so with Jesus.  He is one person, two natures.  If, to use your terminology, you sin against His human nature, you sin against His divine nature, because you are sinning against His person, not His nature.  And His personhood is, and always will be, divine.  It is simply not possible to sin against His human nature without also sinning against His divine personhood.  The two cannot be separated.  That's what Protestants do when they say Mary is the mother of Jesus' human nature, but not the mother of God.  It's a ridiculous notion!

     Yet another point to consider here, is that all sin is a sin against God.  If I sin against you, it is a sin against not just you, but God.  If you sin against me, it is a sin against not just me, but God.  If anyone sins against anyone, it is a sin against God.  Every sin man commits is a sin against the Divine.  I can sin against God without sinning against man (blasphemy, for example), but I cannot sin against man without also sinning against God. A sin isn't a sin if isn't something that is contrary to God. 

     But, getting back to the root of it all, again, all of your misunderstanding goes back, I believe, to a fundamental misunderstanding of that passage about sinning against the Son vs. sinning against the Holy Spirit.  You have failed to take note of the historical/theological context in which Jesus speaks these words in Matt 12:31-32, Mark 3:28-29, and Luke 12:10.  Jesus is speaking to an audience that has not yet been informed of the nature of the Godhead.  They do not know of the Trinity.  They do not know of the dogma of one God, three persons.  So, when He talks about sinning against the Son of man as opposed to sinning against the Holy Spirit, what He is talking about, in general, is sinning against man vs. directly sinning against God.  He is not talking about sinning against God the Son vs. sinning against God the Holy Spirit.  They had no concept of God the Son vs. God the Holy Spirit.  The “Holy Spirit,” for them, was the same as the Father.  The Holy Spirit was merely a manifestation of the one person Who was God - the Father.  They knew nothing of three persons in God.

     1 Samuel 2:25 says, “If a man sins against a man, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?”  That, essentially, is what Jesus is saying when He talks about sinning against the Son of man vs. sinning against the Holy Spirit.  

     So this division you have between sins against the Son vs. sins against the Spirit vs. sins against the Father is a false division.  You sin against God (all 3 persons) or you sin against man.  Period.  (Although, as I stated above, a sin against man is a sin against God.  After all, “Whatsoever you do unto the least of these, you do unto Me.”)  This false division you have come up with further affects your thinking about sinning against the human nature of Jesus vs. the divine nature of Jesus.  Again, that’s a false division.  A sin against Jesus, in His human or divine nature, is a sin against the person...Jesus Christ, true God and true man.  

     Here is an explanation from the Haydock Bible commentary: “[Whosoever sins] Against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; i.e. they who for want of sufficient instruction, were invincibly ignorant that Christ was God, might more easily be brought to the true knowledge and faith of Christ, and so receive forgiveness of their sins: but if he shall speak against the Holy Ghost, i.e. against the Spirit of God in Christ, and shall oppose the known truth, by attributing to the devil that doctrine, and those miracles, which evidently were from the Spirit and the hand of God, that sin shall never be forgiven him.”  Why will that sin never be forgiven of him?  Because he will never repent of it.  The only sin that God does not forgive is the unrepented sin.  

     Finally, one other flaw in your reasoning is that the Church teaches that “we cannot lay responsibility for the trial [of Jesus] on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole...still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different times and places...”  Vatican II says that neither the Jews of that time, nor the Jews of today, can be indiscriminately “charged with the crimes committed during His Passion” (CCC #597, see also #591).  Well, if not all the Jews of Jerusalem at that time, nor the Jews of today, can be charged with those crimes, than neither can the non-Jews.  So, when Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” He is speaking of those Jews who can indeed be said to be responsible for the crimes against Jesus, and only of them in that instance.  Now, in Romans 2, there is a broader sense in regard to ignorance when it speaks of how our “conflicting thoughts” (our ignorance) will “perhaps excuse” us on the day of judgment, but when Jesus asks the Father to forgive those who have crucified Him, He is speaking of those who were directly responsible for crucifying Him...not of every single person throughout time. 

     When we sin, we can indeed be said, in a sense, to be crucifying Jesus again, but when we sin against Christ, it is not out of ignorance.  If we don't know something is wrong when we do it, it's not held against us as a sin.  So, when we sin, it cannot be said of us, “For they know not what they do”.


My Comments

     His insistence on what is, in essence, a literalist reading of Matthew 12:31-32, is leading him down a path that is very dangerous.  Dangerous because it is causing him to believe in false doctrine and to also try and teach false doctrine.  That is never a good thing. 

     His main problem revolves around his interpreting Matt 12:31-32 in a Trinitarian manner and trying to divide the sin universe into sins against the Father, sins against the Son, and sins against the Holy Spirit.  This is kind of like the Protestant insistence on essential vs. non-essential doctrines.  Where exactly is that list of what is essential vs. non-essential?  Just so, where exactly is that list of what sins are committed against which Person of the Trinity?  Oh, and we have to further divide that list into sins committed against the human nature of Jesus vs. the divine nature of Jesus. 

     Yet, nowhere do we see in the teaching of the Church, sins being divided up in such a manner.  In the Catechism, it divides sin into all kinds of categories: capital sins, mortal sins, venial sins, sins against faith, sins against hope, anger, murder, hatred, lying, sacrilege, and more.  And there is blasphemy and then, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which Jim interprets as being a sin against the Holy Spirit and not against the Son or the Father.  But, how does the Church interpret blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?  Let's look and see...paragraph #1864 (which specifically cites Matt 12:31):

     "There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit.  Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss."  I.e., "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" is, essentially, the unrepented sin - whatever that sin may be.  

     Furthermore, in the Catechism, it talks of "distinguishing sins".  Well, how are sins to be distinguished?  #1853 of the CCC tells us: "Sins can be distinguished according to their objects, as can every human act; or according to the virtues they oppose, by excess or defect; or according to the commandments they violate.  They can also be classed according to whether they concern God, neighbor, or oneself; they can be divided into spiritual and carnal sins, or again as sins in thought, word, deed, or omission."  Guess what?  Nothing about distinguishing sins between those committed agains the Father as opposed to those committed against the Son or those committed against the Holy Spirit.  Nor is there anything about sins against the human nature of Jesus vs. sins against His divine nature.  No, it just says, essentially, sins against God and sins against man (neighbor, oneself).  Just God.  Not God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit...just God. Just man.  Not Jesus as man or Jesus as God. 

     I have to wonder how such an important classification as sins against the human nature of the Son of God - sins which are always and everywhere unconditionally forgiven according to Jim Victor's theology - could have been omitted from the Catechism of the Catholic Church?  It was omitted because there is no such classification of sin in Church teaching.  A faulty interpretation of one particular passage from the Bible is leading this person into potentially grave error.  He is doing exactly what the founders of all the Protestant denominations in the world have done - taken a private, fallible interpretation of Scripture, and developed brand new doctrine from it. 


Jim Victor
     Your argument here sounds vaguely similar to an argument often cited by Bible-alone Christians and it's not one I'd have expected you to use. Simply because something is not found in the Bible it does not follow that it is not worthy of belief. I've heard you say it many times. Similarly, simply because you are not aware of an argument being addressed by the Church Fathers nor even if they (or anyone else) ever addressed it, that does not make it invalid or heretical.

     From my read of Thomas Aquinas he said a lot of things I'd not seen in earlier writings. And modern theologians have expounded on things the scholastics never thought of. This is one of the strengths of Roman Catholicism as opposed to the rigid thinking of Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestant Fundamentalism. There's always room for new ideas so long as they do not conflict with magisterial teaching. That's what has kept our Church relevant to the modern age, while Young Earth Creationism seems to have cemented the Fundamentalists into the 16th century and the Eastern Orthodox can't seem to progress beyond the time of the 7th Ecumenical Council.

     So I guess I just think outside the box sometimes. And I'm not afraid to do it.


John Martignoni
You're putting words in my mouth. That is the sign of a weak case:
     1) Nowhere did I say anything about what you've said not being found "in the Bible". What I said, and I will quote, is this: "I've read through the entire Catechism, read Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott, read numerous papal encyclicals, read the teachings of numerous Church Councils, read a lot of the Church Fathers, and I have never come across anything along the lines of what you have put forth here." Where did I say anything about not finding what you've said in the Bible? So, your comparison of me to Sola Scriptura folks is false and should be retracted.

     2) Neither did I say that if something cannot be found in the Church Fathers or elsewhere that it is necessarily invalid or heretical. What I said is that if it is not found in the Church Fathers, or the Church Councils, or in papal encyclicals or anywhere else in Church teaching then it is a novel concept. And novelty, in a 2000-yr. old church, can be a very dangerous thing. Every heresy was a novelty that started with someone knowing better than anyone else, including the Church.

     3) Aquinas did indeed say a lot of things not found in the teaching of the Fathers or the Councils, and a lot of that can properly be classified as philosophy, not theology. Aquinas did not, however, come up with any novel theological ideas that were added to the Church's deposit of faith. I.e., he didn't invent new doctrines.  He wrote the Summa Theologica, not the Summa Nova [New] Theologica.

     4) You stated: "There's always room for new ideas so long as they do not conflict with magisterial teaching." But, that's the problem with your new ideas - they do indeed conflict with magisterial teaching. Your novel teachings separate the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in such a way that you believe a person can sin against the Father without, at the same time, sinning against the other two Persons of the Trinity. And the same goes for sins against the Son and against the Holy Spirit. That is indeed contrary to magisterial teaching. I noticed you have yet to address my arguments on that point.

     You also believe a person can sin against one nature of Jesus without also sinning against the other nature of Jesus - as if the human nature of Jesus can be separated from the divine nature of Jesus. And, as if you can sin against a "nature" as opposed to sinning against a person. All of that is contrary to magisterial teaching. Please address that point.

     5) "Thinking outside of the box," in a 2000-yr. old church is, again, a very dangerous thing to do, and I would advise you to carefully think and pray about what you are putting out there. You are not St. Thomas Aquinas. Despite what you might think, Aquinas' teachings built upon the teachings of those that came before him - Aristotle and the Church Fathers. That cannot be said of what you are putting forth in this thread. Your ideas are completely novel and have no precedent in Church teaching. Pride and hubris can take people into very bad places. I advise you to proceed with caution.  When it comes to thinking "outside the box" in regard to Catholic teaching, you should be afraid...very afraid...to do so. 

     Here are a few other people who would "think outside the box sometimes" when it comes to theology: Martin Luther, John Calvin, Arius, Donatus, Nestorius, Zwingli, Joseph Smith, Ellen Gould White, and the list goes on and on and on...


My Comments

     Always call people out when they try to put words in your mouth and try to re-interpret something you said through the prism of their theology.  Do not let that go unchallenged. 

     Our conversation continued, but it went too long to include all of it here (you can see all of it on my Facebook page - John Martignoni and the Bible Christian Society - it was posted in June).  I just wanted to give you a taste of it to exemplify one of the ways Catholics make mistakes when they go about engaging in conversations about the faith.  Again, the problem at the root of everything wrong that he says, is his misinterpretation of Matt 12:31-32.  If he had just gone to the Catechism, looked at the Index of [Scriptural] Citations in the back of it, and then read the paragraphs where Matt 12:31-32 is cited, he could have gotten the sense of the Church as to how it views the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and that it isn't the same way he views it.  And/or, if he had looked at the regular Index at the back of the CCC, and looked under "Sin(s)," he would have seen all the various classifications of sin and seen that nowhere does the Church classify sin as he is attempting to do.  Hopefully he will do that at some point and come to see the error in his thinking.

     Folks, if you ever are reading the Bible and come up with some interpretation of this or that passage that is something you have never heard or seen anywhere before...be humble, and realize that there is probably a good reason that you've never heard or seen it anywhere before.  And, if you wish to try and make something out of your new interpretation, make sure you check the Catechism before you do anything else.  If it's not in the Catechism, then my advice would be to leave it alone, unless, of course, you have it in mind to do as many before you have done...and start your own church. 

Closing Comments

Remember, the sin against the Holy Spirit is, essentially, the unrepented sin.  Sin will be unrepented if you confuse evil for good and good for evil - the work of Satan with the work of God - as the folks in Matt 12:31-32 were doing.  I mean, why would you confess to sin, if you believe the evil you are doing is good?  Case in point, those who call abortion good, or a blessing.  As long as they think that, they will never repent of the sin of abortion and will die in their sin.  Also, if one despairs of God being able to forgive their sin - "My sin is so horrible God will never forgive me!" - they, too, will never repent as long as they despair (a la Judas) and will end up dying in their sin. 


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Apologetics for the Masses