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About the Author
Graham A. Cole is Anglican Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School. An ordained Anglican minister, he has served in two parishes and was formerly the principal of Ridley College, University of Melbourne. He has written articles for numerous theological journals and has contributed to several books.
Graham Cole answers common practical questions about the Holy Spirit. He focuses on the primary role of Scripture in directing our theology for life together in a community of Christians animated by the Spirit of God.
Table of Contents
1. What Is Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
2. How May We Resist the Holy Spirit?
3. Ought We to Pray to the Holy Spirit?
4. How Do We Quench the Holy Spirit?
5. How Do We Grieve the Holy Spirit?
6. How Does the Holy Spirit Fill Us?
Graham Cole begins his treatment of the Holy Spirit by noting the dramatic shift that has taken place in the modern church over the last few decades. In 1967, it could be said by prominent authors that the person of the Holy Spirit was a neglected topic in theology. How much Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement have changed the landscape! Though far from being neglected presently, there are many questions which surround the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
This book sets out to deal head-on with such questions in an exercise in applied theology. We will progress in a way that assumes the foundational status of God’s revelation of himself in Scripture. In endeavoring to provide practical answers, we will engage with the past reflection of the church and take into account the human predicament of our fallen estate.
What Is Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
Many wonder with great anxiety of soul whether they have blasphemed the Holy Spirit. This is so because we have a teaching in the Synoptic Gospels that the one who commits this sin will not find forgiveness (Matthew 12:32, Mark 3:29, Luke 12:10). What does it mean then to commit the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit?
Some, including early Fathers Chrysostom and Jerome as well as more recent commentators such as Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, argue that this sin is no longer possible. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit for the pair of Church Fathers was something only possible before Christ’s ascension. For dispensationalists similarly, blaspheming the Holy Spirit was a particular sin of Israel’s national rejection typified in their claim that Jesus’ mighty deeds were animated by demons.
Louis Berkhof sees the unpardonable sin appearing in a few places in the New Testament, and so looks to those passages to guide the discussion. Hebrews 6:4-6, 10:26, 27 and 1 John 5:16 provide grounds to say that the sin is still possible, but not to the full extent it was in apostolic times. To blaspheme the Spirit is to participate in or witness in some sense the evidence and testimony of the Spirit, but then to wilfully and maliciously reject and slander that same Spirit. Another Reformed theologian, Edwin Palmer, aligns with Berkhof to a large extent and sees Judas as an example of someone who “tasted of the heavenly gift” of the Spirit (but in a non-saving way) only then to reject the Lord in a decisive way.
In surveying theologians throughout church history including Augustine and Melanchthon as well as contemporaries like Henri Blocher, a clearer line of exegesis emerges. When Jesus reasons with his opponents, the Pharisees and scribes, they had not yet committed the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Failing to recognize Jesus – they had done that. Rejecting the Spirit’s testimony to Jesus’ power to save – they had begun to do that. But given Jesus’ warning, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would seem to involve that next step of continuing in the rejection of the Spirit’s clear testimony to Jesus through his earthly ministry; though veiled in Jesus’ estate of humiliation, the Spirit’s work was clear. Persisting in the view that Jesus was an agent of darkness is blasphemy against the Spirit’s work and clearly no forgiveness can be found for a person continuing in such a belief.
This hard saying presses us to see the relationship between means and ends. God ordains both, and warning passages in Scripture, such as that which Jesus gives in these accounts, confirm that the warning, and the obedience which is meant to follow, contributes holistically to the Lord’s sovereign plan. A tender conscience and fear at a warning is a good sign: it means that just such a turning unto the Lord in obedience is beginning to come about….[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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Engaging with the Holy Spirit: Real Questions, Practical Answers