Doug Johnson: Lessons to be learned from the existence of ‘challenge’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 17, 2023

A few years ago, a group known as the Rational Response Squad issued a nationwide “Blasphemy Challenge.”  

Their challenge was based on the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:31, 32: “I say unto you, ‘All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men… neither in this world, neither in the world to come.’” 

The Rational Response Squad’s guidelines stated: “You may condemn yourself to hell anyway you like, but, somewhere in your video, you must say these words, ‘I deny the existence of the Holy Spirit.’”  Then post the video on YouTube…those who take the challenge are offered a free DVD. 

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At first, I thought it was just an advertising gimmick.  But I was surprised to find over 3,300 videos on the website of people taking the blasphemy challenge.  I was shocked by what I saw! 

The first video showed a man standing in the rear of a church, during a worship service, with his back turned to the congregation.  As the choir continued to sing in the background, the man turned the camera on himself and said, “My name is Mark…I deny the existence of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  I am not afraid.  If I can do it– you can, too.”

Other videos showed teens hiding in their cars at night, trying not to wake up their family, while videotaping themselves ‘blaspheming the Holy Spirit.’

I wondered: “What would cause someone to do that—thinking they were condemning themselves to hell– all for a DVD?”

Mark stated in his video that the reason he doesn’t believe in God is because he’s never seen Him. I personally believe if Mark hasn’t seen God it’s because the Christians around him aren’t living the truth of the Gospel in front of him!  

Too many Christians are afraid to share their faith, afraid of “offending” someone by talking about Jesus.  Jesus said in John 14:6= “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No man comes unto the Father but by me.”  If people aren’t told about the Truth, then they will believe a lie– a lie that says they can get a one-way ticket to hell by videotaping themselves denying the Holy Spirit.

‘Blaspheming the Holy Spirit’ doesn’t mean denying His existence. Atheists have been denying the existence of God and the Holy Spirit for centuries. Popular author and speaker Josh McDowell was once an atheist who denied God’s existence. He set out to disprove the Bible, but in doing so, found it to be historically accurate, reliable and became a Christian himself. He wrote a book about his findings entitled, Evidence That Demands A Verdict.

Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ, was once a journalist who did not believe in God.  He also tried to disprove the Christian faith but, through his research, became a Christian and is now a popular speaker and apologist. So simply denying the existence of God and/or the Holy Spirit doesn’t condemn someone to hell. 

I believe the reason many have responded to the “Blasphemy Challenge” is because they are fed up with religious hypocrisy in America. They would rather think they were condemning their souls to hell than to put up with what has been labeled ‘Christianity’ in this country. 

St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the gospel at all times — if necessary, use words.”  If you are a Christian, I pray that you’ll see this challenge as a wake-up call to begin living the truth of Jesus, not just preaching about it. Don’t be afraid to let people see the difference that Christ and the Holy Spirit have made in your life. Or else an entire generation of people could be led astray.

Rev. Doug Johnson is the senior pastor at Raven Assembly of God in Raven, Virginia.