I was making a comment on some blog about the unforgivable sin in reference to some Bible interpretation, and the preacher who writes it responded with, among other things, that we are justified by faith in Christ, etc., which of course every Protestant knows, because that’s the basis of being a Protestant.
Unfortunately- here I get myself in trouble- the words of Jesus in this passage directly contradict that. Matthew 12:30-
30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 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.”
So disbelief, or even antagonism towards Jesus not only can but will be forgiven, it is only speaking against the Holy Spirit that is unforgivable. If you say Jesus worked miracles through Satan, you are permanently damned. But this only really applies to the Pharisees on the scene, and those who accept the statements in the Talmud to this effect.
Jesus says something similar in John 10:34, brought up by Wheeler the other day. 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’[d]? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.
So if you don’t believe in Jesus, at least believe in his works, which are from the spirit of God. But if he does works through God’s spirit, then you would reasonably believe God is in him, but you don’t have to.
So Jesus says, on two occasions that come up in casual reading- I don’t know the Gospels exhaustively so I don’t know of other examples- that belief in him is not required for salvation. Believers in justification by faith seem to rely heavily on the writings of Paul. But I don’t see how the letters of Paul are needed for Christianity. It’s either there in the Gospels, or it’s not.
I think- in my amateur way- this points to salvation by grace, but not anything else. The idea that grace will inevitably lead to faith, which will lead to works, seems to be formed out of a desire to cover all bases. If you blaspheme the Holy Spirit, you are damned, otherwise you are a potential candidate for salvation.
I suspect salvation can either come from faith or works. God could save Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, but why would he? What did they ever for him? But you could be an unbeliever with grace producing works. Or you could be a believer who is graced with no works.