A couple weeks ago I started hearing buzz about a video on YouTube in which people deny the existence of the Holy Spirit. It's named the "blasphemy challenge" and dreamed up by the "rational response squad," a group of atheists determined to "destroy Christianity." Here's a link:
the official website for the "challenge"
In each video the maker must put the words, "I deny the existence of the Holy Spirit," referring to a passage in Mark 3:23-29 in which Jesus says whomever sins shall be forgiven, excepting those who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. So the "rational response squad" - so wittily named- in their desire to make themselves gods, promotes the public denouncement of the Spirit as a means to collecting people's souls. They want to encourage young people (they put ads on teen magazine websites, friendster, youtube, etc.) to "challenge" the fear that religion promotes (a fear of God) by "putting [their] souls on the line."
There are just a few things wrong with their argument. I'm not sure it's even worth the time to explain it all... because this is such a joke of a "challenge," but for reference purposes for the second half of this post, shall we carry on?
1. This reading of Mark 3:28-29 is wrong. Flat-out misinterpretation. Jesus was using this explanation of the nature of the Holy Spirit to demonstrate that Satan and God are not on the same side. He was chastising them for saying He (Jesus) could drive out demons because they thought He could therefore control demons because He was on their side. He wasn't.
Mark 14:17- "...the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neithers sees him nor knows him."
2. There isn't any sin Jesus doesn't have the power to forgive. Jesus forgives by way of the Father, God. As it was God's will to send Jesus to die for us, it became Jesus' will to do so. Jesus never did anything without asking first what God wished Him to carry out.
John 17:4- "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do."
God had but one command for us, "...love the Lord your God..." (Deuteronomy 30:16). Again, by Jesus' own words, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength" (Mark 12:30).
3. The "rational squad" doesn't believe in hell, but want peoples' souls. WHY? How do they rationalize the existence of souls? Or your free will, which allows you to do whatever you like with your soul? If they don't expect us to prove ourselves before God (because, they say, He doesn't exist), why should we like to prove ourselves before the rational response squad? Clearly this is a case of believers gone sour by way of a weak faith (more explanation to follow), conned into thinking they don't need a God. Why, then, do they want to be our god? After all they are collecting souls here; what do they plan to do with them?
There are many more points to be drawn up, but what am I driving at here? This so-called "challenge" isn't much of one. It presupposes that you already don't believe in God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit; if you already believe that your soul isn't in danger it's no skin off your nose to "put it on the line." For many making these blasphemy videos, the challenge has already begun taking place in a soul they once believed they had. Lost and bewildered, they seek out a god to follow (as human nature commands us to) and have here found the "squad." We love to worship, don't we? We crave devotion to and validation from something. Targeting teenagers in our country is about as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. Most of them, due to our nation's emphasis on the importance of this life, are already half dead.
So here's my challenge to the "squad:"
1. Target a stronger set of people. Try believers. Adults. Those who have been walking with the Lord for years. I'm sure they've struggled more than you and you might relate to that. Heck, you might even get a mentor out of it!
2. Establish consistency before you debate. For starters, come up with a better argument than, "there's no reason to believe in God." Move on to address the inherent contradiction in your promotion of your right way (to not believe) versus our wrong way (to believe); please explain a moral system on terms of an irrational world (without God). Finish with explain ing clearly where your reason comes from, and how you can prove it- rationally.
3. Take the challenge of the Bible: love God, love your neighbor. Have you tried this? It can be really difficult! Sure, it's easy to love your family, your spouse, your kids, your friends and anyone you see struggling... or is it? Families can be cruel. People can adamently and violently refuse your help. God can seem absent when you need Him most. But this is the true challenge, to love them regardless, especially God. And especially when He seems the most distant. You have to allow yourself to be drawn close to Him. That, my friend, is a challange. To do God's will and delight in it? This is not easy, but truly the only thing I find a blessing in my life. It's a long, sometimes dark, road I'm on, but I'm never alone on it.
I've got to feel empathy for the main guy in the "squad," because he was a Catholic, then born-again at age 13. Later, when his faith was challenged in high school, he turned away. In fact, his targeting teenagers belies his interest in saving them from an experience like his (which I have no doubt was difficult, obviously life-changing). But however demanding the devil was of his faith is no excuse to lead others into whatever fray he sees fit. He's dealing with dangerous territory and he's not really aware of what he's doing.
Let's follow that big commandment, our challenge as believers: love the heck out of this guy. Pray for him. Write to him. Send him scripture in the mail. Personal testimonials. Then let God do his work. Praise the Lord that Our God is sovereign and can save this guy!
"..When you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul.. then the Lord will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back."