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I hope you will allow me to ask another question. We all know that there are many harsh statements in the Bible (Matthew 12:31-32, Hebrews 10).

Sometimes, these harsh statements are along the lines of "If such and such a condition is fulfilled, then there is no hope left for such and such a person to whom the condition applies" - i.e. the implication is that such and such a person is doomed to hell.

My question is: Sometimes, a given person does not even know if he or she has fulfilled one of those conditions. To my knowledge, people have tried to give explanations of these scenarios, but I do not know if there is a total, definitive, absolute, verdict, on what these conditions actually are that doom someone to hell without hope.

In life, we usually do not know things with absolute certainty, and a certain amount of belief in positive outcomes of uncertain events is usually needed to preclude a descent into total nihilism. Colloquially, one might say that as long as a person believes there is light at the end of the tunnel, he or she would be able to pick himself or herself up the next day and make an attempt to continue walking with God.

But if this person is faced with uncertainty over eternal salvation, can it trigger nihilism and despair?

Is there ever a situation (or can there be such a situation) where fear over damnation to hell due to the scenarios described led a person who need not have borne such fear, to descend to unnecessary nihilism and hence give up on Christianity with the attitude "well, since I am already condemned unconditionally, what is the point of seeking God any longer?"

(It is true that no one can really be sure of having been condemned unconditionally by the scenarios in Matthew 12 and Hebrews 10, but what if pessimism led the person to progress from the idea that he or she might have committed an unforgivable sin to a belief that he or she had committed it, with the resulting nihilism described above?)

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To be honest this seems like multiple questions merged into one. I think it could've formed two separate questions - What is unforgiveable sin? and How can a believer be sure of her salvation? –  Monika Michael Jul 9 '12 at 13:47
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2 Answers 2

"Is there ever a situation" essentially makes this a non-sensical question. Even is so far no one has done so, we can't answer whether anyone ever would.

Everyone is different, and everyone reacts differently. I know several people who have left the Church or rejected it all-out for similar reasons. I'm sure there are millions of cases where people have given up on (or rejected) Christianity for just that reason.

If you want solid examples, there are enough posts on this site where one atheist or another condemns Christianity as "immoral" or "evil" because of such interpreted cruelty, harshness, or impassiveness on the part of the God of the Bible. It could be argued that this stems from the same understanding of the nature of God that leads to the despair and hopelessness that you describe.
We all filter objective facts through the lens of our own experiences, genetic makeup, and adopted worldviews.

Two people may read the same verses and have completely opposite reactions - For example,

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (KJV)

9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

  • One person may read that and think "Well, I like to drink, so there's no point in me bothering".

  • Another may read it and say "Not only did cheating on my wife cost me my family, it is also a sin against God. Thank God, the blood of Jesus is enough to save me and that God's forgiveness isn't due to my own goodness, but the righteousness of Christ imputed unto me."

(those are two actual reactions of people I know, by the way - paraphrased, to be sure, but actual reactions to the same two verses.)

At any rate, even though I think the question is phrased to be too open-ended, the answer is "of course, there are people who have responded to Biblical teachings by assuming they aren't worthy enough, and have given up or fallen into despair because they thought they missed the mark.

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To the bold part of your question, I would answer: I am reasonably sure it has happened, but I cannot name a specific case. Dispair of salvation, and belief that one is "beyond hope" or belief that God "cannot forgive me" are not unheard of.

To your second question:

To the first part:

  • The Catholic teaching is that no one is beyond redemption prior to the moment of death.
  • Hebrews is taken to mean, "If you decide to live a sinful life after having believed, you will be condemned." (and, based on other passages in the Bible, it will be worse than had you never believed)
  • Dying in sin is what "blaspheme of the Holy Spirit" means.

To the second part:

  • Dispair of salvation, no matter the circumstances, is still dispair of salvation.
  • If someone will not accept forgiveness, for whatever reason, that person will be condemned.
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