Is suicide the unforgivable sin?
There have been many opinions to what, exactly, is the so-called “unforgivable sin,” to the point that there would appear to be unforgivable sins (plural). Traditionally, yet irrationally, suicide has been considered such an unforgivable sin; but, there is no biblical principle for such a belief. Self-murder can be considered many things, but biblically it cannot expressly be the sin which cannot be forgiven. I say “expressly” because the killing of one’s self does not necessarily qualify when no other variables are taken into account.
Mark 3:29 speaks of the so-called “unforgivable sin” as blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was casting out demons the Scribes accused him of having the power to do this by the devil (to which Jesus rightfully points out the irrational self-contradiction – 3:23-26). Therefore, attributing the work of Jesus to the devil, according to the context of the text, is the unforgivable sin (VS 30).
Thus, one can somehow blaspheme the Holy Spirit at the same time as committing suicide, but the act of suicide alone does not qualify as unforgivable. In fact, under the given parameters of the “unforgivable sin,” suicide is “murder” of self, and murder carries no such penalty as being unforgivable.
We must also mention that, psychologically, there are far too many variables to assume suicide occurs in a vacuum. No one in their right mind kills themselves. This being true, then, a variable of mental incapacity comes into the equation, thereby canceling the vacuum affect. And if this mental deficiency is genetic or hereditary, we have yet subsequent variables, all taken into account by God (even if not by humanity).
On the other end of the spectrum we have those who hold to an understanding closer to the biblical account, but far removed from any practical application. These hold simply to the belief that any work of the Spirit attributed to the devil, regardless of ignorance or lack of knowledge by the individual, is unforgivable and punishable by “eternal damnation.” In other words, do not mistakenly assume anything is the devil, because it may be the Spirit, and you will pay unending torment for your error. You know, this belief has more to do with “you can’t tell me what I’m doing is wrong,” then it does with anything about the Spirit. It also gives way to the fear of being “wrong,” and always having to be “right.”
Concerning this belief: Paul says that he, in effect, contributed to the devil the work of the Spirit when he persecuted the church (1Tim. 1:13). If the former interpretation of the “unforgivable sin” is true, how did Paul become an apostle of Jesus Christ? Simply stated, ignorance is a variable to the blasphemy parameter according to the biblical account.
Incidentally, in a less psychological and more theological (and logical) sense, if one does not know Christ then that one cannot comprehend reality (John 1:1). But one who does know Christ would not, then, deny that reality or it could be argued that one did not in fact know Christ and, therefore, reality. So, what we are dealing with is one who really does not know the reality of Christ and does not deny what he/she knows is real, but what he/she thinks is myth.
The King James interpretation of Mark 3:29 is not accurate. “Eternal damnation” as the punishment is not in the Greek texts; it should be (and is properly rendered so in the newer translations) “eternal sin.” This, I think, gives evidence of exactly what is the “unforgivable sin.”
Jesus said in Mark 3:28-29 that, “people will be forgiven their sin and blasphemy; but whoever blasphemes the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of eternal sin.” Add to this Paul’s account of his own blasphemy and we should understand that there is a space and time continuum. When Jesus speaks of the forgiveness of sin and blasphemy, He is speaking of the “time” mark. When He speaks of never having forgiveness and eternal sin He is obviously speaking of the “space” mark.
When we speak of the space and time continuum, theologically, we are speaking of immanence (inside of time) and transcendence (outside of time). The word “never” and the term “eternal” speak of being outside of time. So, as long as one is inside of time he/she can be forgiven of sin and blasphemy (such as the case with Paul). But once one leaves “time” and enters “space” that one can never have forgiveness of sin and blasphemy, because he/she did not receive it in “time” (no pun intended).
Plainly stated, according to the biblical (and logical) evidence, the so-called “unforgivable sin” is dying without accepting Christ. More specifically we could say that it is to exit “time” (the temporal) and enter “space” (the eternal) without recognizing Christ as the source of life and living. [This begs the question of what happens at death, which I deal with in another essay.]
And finally, a point of confusion in the Mark 3:29 text is the assumption that Jesus implied that the Scribes were committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Vs 30). Jesus made the comment contained in VS 29 because of what they said, but nowhere does He state that they had committed said blasphemy. It was a warning, what is called, “a teaching moment.”