When I have a rare day alone I do chores for a couple of hours then indulge myself by setting up temporary housekeeping in my comfy second-hand ultra suede recliner with a book. The event is staged with a great light, fresh cup of coffee, one piece of ultra-dark chocolate, and a slick dachshund lap warmer.
What does that have to do with unforgivable sin, I hear you ask. Fair question. The book I chose had a problem that led to me to consider the danger of playing chicken with sin by presumption.
Don’t Take Unpardonable Sin Lightly
Maybe I’m overstating the case, but when the topic is unpardonable sin, I’m not sure it’s possible to sharpen the point too finely. Sure, it’s an uncomfortable topic, but what’s more important that eternity?
I waited seven months for just the right opportunity to read a title I picked up at a Christian writer’s conference last summer. Thirty-eight pages later, I closed the book forever.
Usually I wouldn’t waste your time with a rant about a book I didn’t care for, but there’s a bigger issue in this instance that pushes one of my buttons.
The Book Didn’t Grab My Interest
The book I chose was lauded as one of their best by the head of a Christian publishing house I met at the conference. It’s an historical novel written by a Christian man about a woman mentioned twice in the book of Luke and her fictionalized experience with Jesus.
I confess that, in most instances, I have a big problem with dialogue attributed to Jesus. There are exceptions to my objection to using Jesus as a main character in a story with completely imagined scenes, but this wasn’t one of them.
What’s worse, in my opinion, is adding red-letter type to a time period when we already have all the red-letter type God intended for us to have.
The story itself didn’t intrigue me, with most of the early pages sharing the drawn-out whining of a privileged young wife and mother with a surly Roman husband wearing the imperial uniform.
But I Stuck With it a Little Longer
The title character annoyed me, begging at least the question of male authors writing as young wives and mothers. I continued reading.
Surely, this highly recommended book would improve.
The FULL STOP came when Jesus answered a query from the title character about the men in rich robes who walked off in a huff after He forgave a man his sin.[In the novel] Jesus explains that the Pharisees came up with 600 laws designed to advance their own position among the Jews.
Did I really just read that?
Then the Book Went Off the Rails
How is it possible that no one in this Christian publishing house with Christian editors, and a Christian author writing about Jesus, knows that the 613 laws were written by Moses at God’s behest?
Admittedly, I don’t know everything. Not even a tenth of everything, but this is an issue on many fronts. We’re responsible for what we teach, even if we teach it in error.
This isn’t just a mistaken citation or innocuous historical gaffe, but teaching something opposite of the truth about God’s laws. Instead of something God breathed for His people, the author attributes these laws to human self-aggrandizement for the purpose of exploiting God’s people.
This is my personal opinion, so take it as such, or toss it for the same reason.
Putting words in the mouth of the Lord is a perilous exercise. How egregious is the error in this book? Read on.
The Unforgivable Sin
Jesus, in Matthew 12:31, introduces the existence of an unpardonable sin and offers a clue to what it is. The oft-discussed and never-settled unforgivable sin is “blasphemy against the Spirit.”
Many conclude that the unpardonable sin is attributing an act of God to Satan. If that’s true, then using Jesus to teach that God-given laws were the devilish product of evil people may qualify. In the book, we learn that the rules aren’t from God, but from Satan.
The message is blasphemy. Even worse, in this example, Jesus speaks it.
I don’t want to get anywhere near that line. Ever. Never.
Fictionalizing Christ is a Problem
Do I believe that the publisher and authors intentionally mislead readers? Not in the slightest. I understand that my opinion isn’t relevant, but God’s is.
Yes, fictionalizing Christ is a problem for me.
But bad facts is an even bigger problem. Aside from my personal distaste, it opens the door to getting the message horribly wrong and teaching error to others. Is it worth the risk?
I closed the book wondering, “What does God think about this and how can I keep from making similar errors?”
Literally Suffering for the Message
Remember “The Passion of the Christ“, a full-length movie with a screen play that didn’t add one word to what God left for us? Actors spoke Latin and reconstructed Aramaic. If you need a powerful reminder, here’s part of an interview with Jim Caveizel, the actor who portrayed Christ.
In obvious distress during one scene, the doctor listened to Jim’s heart and told director, Mel Gibson, that Jim could die if he continued. He continued, saying,
“This is between me and God. Because I never thought I was good enough. At that moment, it was, I’m ready to go home.”
If you’re tempted to dust my rant off as silly, watch the clip. See what happens when someone dares to stand in Christ’s sandals. Jim Caveizel was sick, injured, and even struck by lightning.
What is the consequence of putting words in Jesus’s mouth? It’s a weighty question for all preachers and creatives to consider before jumping into a related project.
The next book in my “can’t wait to read pile” is a highly recommended history of the Roman Empire. So far, it lives up to its press and I’m enjoying it.
Related post: The Devil Owns the Fence
Two titles to challenge you
Be sure you know precisely why you believe as you do and why it absolutely matters if what you believe is true.