13 SEPTEMBER 1975, Page 25


Search out the truth

Martin Sullivan

The sin against the Holy Ghost, Which Christ said he was unforgivable, has puzzled many good people because the Authorised Version refers to it as blasphemy. To take God's name or Christ's name in vain is understandable, but how does one use the title of the Holy Spirit blasphemously?

I remember sitting in a Sunday School class as a child listening to a dreary teacher reading some Passage from the Bible without explanation or commentary, and my wandering mind was suddenly halted when I heard him repeat this famous warning about blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, I was intrigued and challenged, and on the way home I stopped in my tracks, thought up what I took to be an effective blasphemy and fired it heavenwards. I waited for the thunderbolt but nothing happened Most people are still as confused as I was then. I take the warning to mean that we should never quench the light which is in us, or deliberately crush the truth, or knowingly and gladly espouse evil rather than good. A casual slip of this kind can and will be forgiven because it is Momentary and recognised for what it is, but a calculated and continuous activity of this nature will not be forgiven, because it will become part of our normal way of life and will never again seem to be wrong. Virtue will be turned into pitch.

It is, however, a great comfort to know that no one can give himself totally and completely to evil. If he did so he would cease to exist Physically. We sin only in part.

• Perhaps we grieve the spirit of God rather than make deliberate attempts to destroy Him within us, and most of this goes on in areas which we do not regard as religious at all. To nurse a grievance is to give place to the devil. Each time we rehearse our wrongs the conduct of our neighbour seems to get a little worse, and if we can pour our grievances into a sympathetic ear and be given a little encouragement and justification, before long we are ready for manslaughter.

Immense damage is done by conversation alone. One sentence of innuendo can destroy a man, and it can be made, and frequently is, without a shred of evidence to support it. The severest challenge remains to confront those who have accepted religious obligations and affiliations it may seem unkind or unfair to say so, but it often appears that in their conservative resistance to change, churchmen withstand the truth. Convictions can easily harden tint° prejudice and bigotry. Honest and careful examination of cherished doctrines can cause those who conduct them to be charged with heresy. Cold water is still quickly thrown on unconventional manifestations of religious enthusiasm.

The tragedy is that men who thus oppose the Spirit's working think they are doing Him service. What they must seek after is one of His best gifts, "A right judgement in all things," The Fourth Gospel attributes some famous words to Jesus which have a special relevance in this context. "You shall find out the truth and the truth will set you free." As Christians this search ought to be our constant religious experience.

Martin Sullivan is Dean of St Paul's.