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The Worst Sin Of All
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The Eternal Damnation Myth

By James Donahue

Back when I was exploring the Christian faith I recall hearing a sermon about eternal damnation. Doris and I had just moved into Kalamazoo and we were exploring various churches. This one turned out to be an especially hardline fire-and-brimstone pack of Bible thumpers; the kind that singles out newcomers as potential sinners in desperate need of salvation. Thus all eyes of that congregation were on us as we endured that hour of unique torment.

The preacher that day spoke of the one terrible sin that a person could commit for which there can be no forgiveness. Anyone who commits this sin, he said, is doomed to burn forever in hell. There could be no escape. Thus, he warned, no one must ever do this terrible thing.

Having never heard of the “unpardonable sin,” my curiosity was naturally spiked. And this preacher was clever in his presentation. He spoke of the sin, but didn’t tell us what it was until the very end of his sermon.

Knowing how Christians believed, I naturally assumed that the unpardonable sin was to deny accepting Jesus as my personal savior, and not changing my mind until the moment of death. Since I had been rambling around in fundamental churches for a few years, and even gone through alter calls and baptism by submersion, I felt assured that I had not committed this sin.

Imagine my surprise, however, when the answer was found in Matthew 12 and Mark 3, when Jesus is quoted as warning the Pharisees that “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.”

In other words, anyone who dares to curse the Holy Spirit is committing the unpardonable sin. At least that was what that preacher told his congregation that fateful Sunday morning.

I suspect at that moment everybody in the church thought the very words that flashed through my mind. I couldn’t help but mentally curse the Holy Spirit. It was impossible not to think it. Thus everybody stumbled out of that sermon thinking they were doomed to hell, no matter what.

That foolish minister, so typical of the Bible thumping preachers busy scaring the bejesus out of congregations all across the nation, missed the whole point of the story. Had he done his homework, as I certainly did after going through that agonizing moment, he might have reached a better understanding of the message.

Jesus reportedly said these words after the Pharisees attacked him for healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. Jewish laws at that time forbid anyone from working on that holy day of the week. Thus they accused Jesus of sinning because he dared to heal a man on the Sabbath.

In their arguments against the miraculous healing work that was occurring before their eyes, the Pharisees said Jesus was casting out demons, and that such miraculous happening could only be accomplished by a union with Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons. In other words, they were saying Jesus was in league with Satan.

To this Jesus responded in Matthew 12:26-28: “If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.”

But how, we might ask, can a creator God who loves us condemn anyone to an eternal damnation in a lake of fire just by saying or thinking a curse on the Holy Spirit, which is, according to the Scriptures, part of the Holy Trinity of God. Why wouldn’t it be just as terrible for us to curse the name of Jesus, or God in Heaven, which many of us do in our daily speech?

And why are we damned in the first place? Just because we were burn as descendants of a cursed human couple that dared to disobey God and sample the fruit of knowledge while hanging out in the Garden of Eden?

Canadian theologian Clark H. Pinnock once stated that the doctrine of eternal torture makes God out to be morally worse than Hitler “who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for his enemies whom he does not even allow to die. How can we love a God like that?”

The Scriptures speak of two deaths . . . the physical death of our bodies and the spiritual death that comes on a day of judgment. There is a promise that those who believe on Jesus as the Son of God will be rewarded with a life in glory, but the rest will be condemned to a final death which appears to be a cascade into total destruction of the body and the spirit. Even the Bible does not teach of an eternal punishment in a lake of fire.

If we want to believe the Biblical teachings, we have one of two destinies following the passing of our physical existence. Either our spirit goes off into the light to exist forever in bliss, or we just die and are no more.

This is about the best that our best minds in the fields of medicine and theology can offer even today, in this time of modern research and thought. Since no one, except possibly Jesus and the other alleged prophets of the ancient past, has ever died and returned to tell us about it, no one will really know the truth until we get there.

But eternal damnation is something we really don’t have to worry about. It is a myth that cannot be supported by personal experience, the Scriptures, or anyone else than a few wild preachers who like to thump on their Bibles but have no idea of what they are talking about.