Faith seeking understanding

When is a sin unforgiveable?

Is apostasy the "unforgiveable sin"? Apostasy is essentially a Christological issue, related to how one understands Christ. As long as one believes in Christ's ability to save, salvation is possible, writes Fergus King.

By Fergus King

July 8 2019It’s not unusual for Christians at some point to feel that they have done something unforgiveable. For some, it may be some terrible mistake or tragedy; for others, their inability to stop doing something repeatedly. Spiritual directors, those who give counsel, and confessors have some strategies to counter this. Texts like Matthew 18:22 (“how many times must I forgive …?”) may be used to address the issue of repetition, but that can reduce the literally minded to a countdown mentality: what happens if I reach 491? And, to be brutal, there is an instinctive feel that a lack of progress or failure to change is somehow damning, no matter how frequently forgiveness is obtained. Others will give the advice that thinking one’s sins unforgiveable overlooks the fullness of Christ’ gift of himself, meant to cancel out all things, and perhaps that a sense of pride has intruded: of thinking one’s sins somehow more powerful that Christ’s sacrifice. That, however, can lead to a Catch-22 situation: even if the first sin has been forgiven, it has simply been replaced by that of pride ... 


The Revd Dr Fergus King is Farnham Maynard Lecturer in Ministry Education and Director of the Ministry Education Centre, Trinity College Theological School.

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