I thought it would be a worthy exercise to play - quite literally - Devil's Advocate, and do so by putting out an Atheist assertion as a scratching post we can sharpen on which we can sharpen our claws.
So, In that spirit:
God does not forgive man's sin. The bible is proof. The Old Testament teaches that God's wrath visits the third and fourth generations of a man's children - the great grandchildren are held accountable for their great-grandfather's sin.
The New Testament agrees. Jesus himself said:
Mark 3:28-29: I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.
As long as we're keeping this civil and constructive, I'll jump in with a few initial thoughts...
First off I think it says that the iniquities or punishments of the fathers will be visited on three or four generations, and not necessarily the wrath of God. There is, I think, a distinction, though it may be semantic and subtle. I tend to think of the wrath of God as the state of existence someone inhabits when not in His favor.
As I've come to understand it (and this is just through...what would the phrase be?...subconscious machinations?) the idea is moreso that the consequences of sin are passed down the line in both tangible and intangible expressions. I think of my father's decisions while he was still married to my mother and how their divorce still affects me psychologically and circumstantially. Probably not the best analogy, but the consequences exist, despite considering myself as one who does not exist under the wrath of God.
Does this mean my sins are not forgiven as the son of my father? I think not - they are separate ideas.
The second part of the verse in the Ten Commandments referring to the generational issue also says that He shows mercy to thousands of them that keep his commandments. The distinction seems illustrative in nature, showing that He is perhaps corrective in terms of weeding sin out of a family, but not sadistic in that He feels the need to make the lives of generation upon generation of someone's descendants miserable thanks to one man's blatant disregard of His commands.
I think (and I would need to discuss with a biblical scholar before going any further on this) we need to take ancient Israelite custom and law into account as well - and not impose our current First World, individualistic worldview onto the text.
As for Jesus' words - first we need to understand what it means to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Contextually, it would seem that he's condemning religious leaders for ascribing his work to the forces of evil. If that is a correct understanding (though it could be far from it - I have never fully understood the idea), then someone blaspheming the Holy Spirit is someone who refuses to acknowledge the true Source of the Christ's mission, and probably also refuses to live within that knowledge as well. It would seem, therefore, to be more of a lifestyle or life path a man follows, rather than a specific, unforgivable action.
THANK YOU FOR RESPONDING, JOSHUA!
Your defense of God by clarifying the New Testament I took out of context is virtually identical to the reply I would give. I would point out that the verb form rendered is the infinitive, not the past tense, so It does to me seem to say that an unrepentant blasphemer is unforgiven, but since clearly Paul was a former blasphemer when he was martyred, God does forgive a penitent former blasphemer.
Your answer correcting the assertion that the OT teaches God punishes the grandson for the sins of the grandfather is excellent, and I never caught the signifigance of the word visiting. You have sharpened my sword, and for that I thank you.
This truly is the spirit in which I posted, I think this forum could be more productive if we put on the armor and spar than if we preach to the choir.
I wish someone else would post an assertion so I could give answer.
You're welcome, sir. It took some time to think through the statement, and then articulate my own thoughts. I think you can see that in some ways I was working them out while "verbalizing."
Living in the Kingdom forces you to confront the upside-down ideas of the world at large, though, so it's good to get in some practice time (as you said).
I will leave a new assertion up to someone else for the moment...
Things follow laws- physical laws as well as spiritual. You can't set off a Rube Goldberg mechanism and say "oops!" in the middle of the sequence of events. Likewise, if you plant peas you shouldn't expect corn to grow.
As an example, abusive men often spawn abusive children. Though the first man can repent, his children will have a learned behavior. The first man has already set things in motion, and has been forgiven his sin while that motion is gaining momentum. The first man has planted the seed, the abusive children are the harvest. At this point, the children are then required to repent and have inherited the sin.
I think the second reference quoted from Mark is an entirely different sin, a deep sin against the core of the Trinity. The only example I know of this is in Acts 5:3-5, where Ananias and Sapphira lied about the amount they received for the sale of land. This is something that I haven't fully understood, and has confounded me.
One thing that I do notice about people's cursing- they will say "G-- d---" or the name of Jesus inappropriately, but notice that no one uses the Holy Spirit as a curse! Also- why are "Krishna" or "Buddha" never used in cursing? Could it be that these names have no power to condemn or redeem? (I think I answered my own question there...)
I hesitate to reply since there have been so many well thought out answers. I would like to approach this issue from a slightly different angle though. I don't have a problem with the idea that God does not forgive sins since he is not obligated to do so. I think of it this way:
-We commit crimes against God (we call this sin)
-God is under no obligation to pardon these crimes
-God does graciously pardon some of these crimes (undeserved favor)
Even if the skeptic does misquote the Scriptures, the thrust of the observation remains. God does not always forgive sin and God does not always circumvent the consequences of sin. The only sin God has covenanted to forgive is those of the person who accepts God's pardon through his son Jesus Christ. Unless I'm missing something, there doesn't appear to be an inconsistency. What are your thoughts?
The New Testament does not agree that God forgives NO SIN AT ALL. The New Testament names a single sin that would not be forgiven. But what is "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit"? Blasphemy is to show contempt or insult. But what is the Holy Spirit? In the full Christian context, the Holy Spirit is the Person of the Trinity who constantly animates and supports all of Creation, good and evil, believer and unbeliever. Thus, "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" would be to show contempt for all of Creation--someone who has chosen to hate everyone and everything. It is not merely saying naughty words directed at someone called "Holy Spirit". As the New Testament has shown over and over, it is hatred of others that is deadly. Putting down others--"Thou fool!"--puts one at risk of damnation. Pride goes before a fall. Refusing to give charity is dangerous. Only loving ones friends but hating ones enemies is not praiseworthy.
As for multi-generational punishment in the Old Testament, that is the old Law, for the old man. It is the Law of Death, put on for the world of Death. The New Man, who lives under the law of Life, does not have to worry about it.