"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Unforgivable Sin

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Unforgivable Sin

Bunless said...
I would like to start a new thread on this issue. I grew up OALC. I am now married with children and belong to a healthy church. In the OALC I was taught there is one unforgivable sin, they call it "selling your birthright" and explained that it meant either saying bad things about the OALC, or if you were born/baptized into the church and then left. I have assumed that this is the theoretical origin of the shaming and shunning of members who "stray away" (myself, for example). Can anyone please explain the theological thinking behind this, and if you encountered this teaching in your experience with OALC.

then Many Trails Home responded...
Bunless (love your moniker), when I tried to absolve my mom of responsibility for my immortal soul by telling her that I didn't want her to worry about me, that I had a relationship with God (she said it was the devil), and that I was responsible for myself, she started crying and said "you sold your soul for a mess of pottage." It took me forever - and I mean decades - to accept the fact that no amount of reasoning or discussion would ever shrink the gulf between her and me. I had to finally accept her for the way she is, including what she believes (staunch OALC) and what she thinks of me.
Actually, I don't think there is any theological basis to the "selling your birthright" threat. I think it's only meant to scare the crap out of people so they don't leave, and it's pretty effective for most.
Many blessings to you. Wishing you peace of mind and happy holidays. MTH

to which I add...

Fear of the unforgivable sin was a big fear for me as a child. Since I was already somewhat neurotic, I was ripe to be obsessed about something like this. I think in some ways Laestadianism gives neurotic people a focus (and victims for psychotic people, but that's a different blog post). Lots of rules to be overly scrupulous about. So when I read the biblical passage about "blaspheming the holy spirit" --the sin from which no one can be forgiven, young me obsessed about accidentally breaking this rule and thus being damned to hell for all eternity.

My parents, while I'm sure they meant well, could not allay my fears by telling me that I was in no danger of breaking this rule, which only added to my distress. The best they could do was tell me to pray about it, which I did compulsively until I was mentally exhausted.



  1. In the LLC, I remember vague discussion (in hushed tones) about blaspheming the Holy Spirit, but no one could ever tell me what that meant exactly. Mocking the church, basically, was the impression I got, but I don't know if anyone I talked to knew what it was!

    I was concerned about the same thing as a child, Tomte, and totally lived in fear of accidentally doing something that would cause me to go to hell and be damned forever. That is a lousy way to grow up.

  2. “Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven , either in this age or in the age to come.”

    -Matthew 12 31-32 NIV

    The LLC would bring this scripture up often, and this scripture would always haunt me all throughout my teenage years. Depending on your definition of Blasphemy, I am guilty of that unforgivable sin. Ok, im probably guilty of it regardless of what your definition is. So I was there thinking I was going to Hell and there was nothing i could do about it, and nothing God could do about it either.

    This is one of the topics that i have a difficult time being open with people, for its quite emotional for me. I'll probably post more on it when I have more time.

    There is one more thing id like to comment on regarding Bunless's post. In the LLC, we where taught that there is something called the Ultimate Sin. The Ultimate, or worst possible sin, is unbelief. But apparently unbelief could be forgiven. After reading the new testament I couldn't find any scriptural backing for this, and have often wondered where that teaching came from, perhaps just to scare people from leaving that denomination. But sense Bunless brings it up, perhaps the train of thought is tied into blasphemy and Matthew 12. Anyways, I believe the Ultimate Sin is failure to obey the greatest Commandment. I'm screwed because breaking the greatest commandment is the story of my life.

    Love God, Love People
    This is the Greatest Commandment

    with all your heart, soul, mind and strength

  3. Selling your Soul for "A mess of pottage".

    Thanks for the responses. The concept of selling your birthright for porrige refers to the genesis story of Isaac. His son Esau who was firstborn and had the "birthright" meaning he would inherit the all his fathers possessions plus a special blessing. Esau came in hungry from hunting and found his younger brother Jacob eating porrige. He traded his birthright to Jacob for the porridge. Extrapolating the analogy to one's own salvation: If you are so blessed to be born/baptized into the true Chirstianity, you have inherited the fathers kingdom. Foolishly rejecting that salvation equates to accepting porridge for your soul. Of course the OALC deems themselves the exclusive recipients of the spriritual "birthright."

    Regarding blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (or the Church). In the Catholic Church this was interprested to me specifically as blaming the Holy Spirit for evil doings. So in the OALC context, suppose we accuse the preachers and teachings that are held to be so precious and true of causing evil and wrongdoing. I wager that anyone active in this blog does this daily. Indeed myself and others suffered the effects of evil in the OALC. But this was not the doing of the Holy Spirit. This was at the hands of men who have twisted Christian faith and beleifs into something it was never intended to be.

  4. Many Trails Home12/15/2007 01:54:00 PM

    As I recall (OALC), we were taught that "the greatest sin is unbelief." I don't recall a lot of emphasis on "blaspheming the Holy Spirit." Interesting that each of these splinter Laestadian groups has its own obsessions.
    Polycarp gave me a chuckle. I realized as a teen that I did not believe and no amount of self-recrimination could change that. I was doomed to hell for sure. No point in pretending (ie staying in the OALC and outwardly "following the rules") since I was quite sure that God could read my heart anyway - at least they were right about that. So off I went into the big wide world, hoping that there was some possibility they were wrong - in fact, that was my only hope. I thank God for pushing me out of the nest, as I am sure it was indeed God's plan for me to be born into the OALC and then find my way out of it. All seems so right at this point in my life.
    Many blessings and happy holidays. MTH

  5. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit

    I was raised OALC and never heard this expression. I only heard mention of "selling your birthright" and mocking the Christians. When I was taking classes to join the Catholic Church I posed the question to the priest instructor whether or not there is unforgivable sin. The priest responded that scripturally there is "Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" as polycarp mentions in Matthew 12. He said Catholics have interpreted this as accusing the good works of the Holy Spirit as causing or being evil. But he said this is not well understood. Catholic theologeans have long debated what would constitute such a sin. But basically they have all agreed that it is rare and that they dont dwell on it. It is far worse to refuse the forgiveness Christ offers. If we wallow in selfish guilt and self-pity it keeps us from serving God and the charitable works our faith requires.

  6. I am glad you brought up this topic, Tomte. I remember The Unforgivable Sin being discussed when I was young, and I do recall the comments about Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. During one young people's gathering, someone asked the question, and I think the answer had to do with denying one's faith. However, usually by the time someone got that far away from The Truth, they wouldn't even be aware that they had committed the Unforgivable Sin. And I also recall, in that same discussion, some mention about one's name in Heaven growing dimmer and dimmer as one strayed from the Christianity until it vanished completely.

    Now, with the discussion here on this site, I'm wondering if it was this worst of fears that caused so much of my anxiety and pain through the dark years since I left the church. Who on earth wants to become nonexistent in this way?? The implication, of course, was that God no longer cared about you. You were Dead to Him. Ouch.


  7. I think one of the most common explanations to "blaspheming against the Holy Spirit" I've heard among Laestadians is that you blaspheme against the Holy Spirit when you regret ever being a Christian (which I think most of them equate with being a Laestadian). So, if you quit but still consider it the "one true faith" and want to return, there's still "hope" for you, but if you quit because you consider the whole thing false, you are blaspheming the Holy Spirit, and as a result there's no hope for your salvation.

    Another explanation I've heard among Laestadians is that as long as you have interest in spiritual matters, and as long as you are penitent, there's is still hope, and you haven't committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. If you have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, you will have lost any interest in spiritual things and will never even want to be a Christian any more.

  8. I don't think there is any theological thinking behind statements such as that. Some people tend to repeat what they've heard without really thinking, or make ridiculous statements when they feel they're losing control, and many wouldn't dare question anything.

    I grew up in the OALC, and as I can recall, we learned that the one unforgivable sin was blaspheme.

    I've grown tired of the whole church scene, and prefer to live my life as a Christian in my own quiet way, away from all that nonsense and control.

  9. This is off topic, but I would love to hear what other people have to say about this. How do you deal with your family that is still within the church? Do you speak about why you left and every reason why the church has it all backwards, or do you keep quiet? There is a part of me that realizes that I will keep my relationship with my family intact if I just keep quiet about everything that I believe and know, but there is also a part of me that so badly wants to pour my heart out to them. I love all of them so much and sometimes I look at there lives and suffering and so badly want to open my mouth and let them hear it all. There thinking is so ignorant and unselfish that they end up suffering so much through this one short life they have been given. My fear about speaking arises from hearing about 'evil workers' while I was a member of the OALC, and knowing how devoted my family is to the church and there rules, I would hate to speak my mind and lose my family. I have toyed with this thought thinking that well, if they choose to abandon me over this, they are not people I want in my life anyways, but I know that I would be brokenhearted if I lost my family, they mean so much to me. Who knows, maybe over time they will slowly disappear anyways. We are like oil and water now.

  10. Anonymous,

    Lots of people reading this blogspot are in the same predicament. I still have a relationship with my OALC family. Me and my "worldly" children still interact with and participate in OALC family events. We have even been to gatherings with preachers present, sang church hymns, the whole 9 yards. Yes, we get stared at and treated like outsiders. I have accepted that. But it is worth still having the relationships with family. We do not discuss religion. They know my spouse and I attend a different church and we are raising our children as such. We are setting an example. We refuse to accept shunning or exclusivity. We allow our children to see different faiths, including OALC. We participate in OALC family members weddings, funerals and the like, when invited. We invite them to our own non-OALC functions. Sometimes they attend, sometimes they dont. I dont hold it against them. Do not open up and pour out your heart to them. We all deserve to live out our faith as we desire, OALC included. Do not stoop to the level of trying to show people how wrong they are. Accept them as they are and be yourself. Just beware that you should only attend OALC services for weddings, funerals and baptisms (if invited). You may think you can visit the occasional Sunday service or holiday meetings in order to reconnect with old friends and relatives. But you can't. This gives them the false hope that you are planning to return and will ultimately set them up for disappointment. Be clear where you stand with your faith and beleifs. Ignore when you are being treated as an outsider. Treat them as you want to be treated. Be the good example that Christ has demanded of us.