Can an apostate be forgiven?

Hebrews 6:4-6 seems to indicate that someone who leaves the faith can never return. I was baptised and took communion, however, raised secularly since then and became a serious atheist. I now am trying to return to Catholicism, but this passage is making me fear that it is too late for me. Is this true?

  • 4For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

6If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. *

Absolutely not!

The Church welcomes you back with open arms.

What that scripture refers to is someone who gets themself into a state of "permanent" apostasy i.e. they have left the Church "for good".

Fear not. The Lord wants you back. :)

1 Like

Hi,

If I may be so bold to say the last poster meant absolutely in reference to your question.

And I would say that God can and does forgive any sin that is repented of, sorrowed over, and brought to the Keys of Confession. No sin except that which is not asked to be forgiven will be unforgiven.

It is never too late, until your soul seprates from your body, then all is final at that point.

If I might encourage you to read Luke 15:11-32. Hear the words of Jesus speaking to you.

What was interesting is that in both of my commentaries on Hebrews 6:4 the words "to commit apostasy:" It is saying the Greek verb used here means to "to fall away" in the sense of falling to make good on a commitment. Perhaps someone versed in Greek can shed some light on this.

I would exhort you to go to Confession when you are ready and start attending Mass. Be at peace.

I will be praying for you.

God Bless.

It is NEVER too late to want to be next to God!! Start going to mass. Go to confession. Meet with a priest. Ask lots of questions.

I am happy for you!! :)

Same with me. Although I never would have said I was an Atheist. I knew there was too much stuff about the universe, ghosts, etc. that could not be explained by natural means alone, not to mention the beginning of the universe. However, I was "agnostic" and extremely anti-Christian. Even still, God never fully let me go. God never forgets those who are baptized, even if we don't remember.

I would suggest going to confession and confessing everything God puts on your heart. You will feel so much better. Confession is real, you'll know when you hear the words of absolution.

[quote="Link0126, post:5, topic:242999"]
Same with me. Although I never would have said I was an Atheist. I knew there was too much stuff about the universe, ghosts, etc. that could not be explained by natural means alone, not to mention the beginning of the universe. However, I was "agnostic" and extremely anti-Christian. Even still, God never fully let me go. God never forgets those who are baptized, even if we don't remember.

[/quote]

I was in a similar situation. I truly hope that forgiveness is applicable in our cases.

[quote="Little_One0307, post:3, topic:242999"]
Hi,

If I may be so bold to say the last poster meant absolutely in reference to your question.

And I would say that God can and does forgive any sin that is repented of, sorrowed over, and brought to the Keys of Confession. No sin except that which is not asked to be forgiven will be unforgiven.

It is never too late, until your soul seprates from your body, then all is final at that point.

If I might encourage you to read Luke 15:11-32. Hear the words of Jesus speaking to you.

What was interesting is that in both of my commentaries on Hebrews 6:4 the words "to commit apostasy:" It is saying the Greek verb used here means to "to fall away" in the sense of falling to make good on a commitment. Perhaps someone versed in Greek can shed some light on this.

I would exhort you to go to Confession when you are ready and start attending Mass. Be at peace.

I will be praying for you.

God Bless.

[/quote]

Yes, quite right. My answer was that the Church is absolutely not against forgiveness for apostasy.

Guitarist4, it is not too late for you.

According to Canon Law, apostasy is the complete rejection of the Christian Faith, so becoming a committed atheist would fall under that category. Moreover, Canon Law states that apostasy carries with it the penalty of automatic excommunication. In other words, it is the act of apostasy itself which imposes the penalty, rather than requiring a statement of excommunication to be formally issued by a bishop. But excommunication is ultimately supposed to be considered a warning rather than a punishment. Because it is a warning, the Church desires that a person heed it and take the steps to have it removed. Therefore, it is not irreversible (regardless of what Hebrews seems to imply - and I'm not saying that Hebrews got it wrong, I'm talking about the questionable validity of certain interpretations of Hebrews).

A bishop is considered the minister who ordinarily lifts this penalty of excommunication resulting from apostasy, and this is done in the context of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (i.e., going to Confession). But many bishops have delegated the authority to do this to the priests of their dioceses.

Therefore, I suggest that you set up an appointment with your local priest and discuss the matter with him. He will guide you in terms of what needs to be done (and he may be able to handle the situation then and there).

Rest assured, life gets complicated and we may often find ourselves getting derailed here and there. But while there is still breath in our bodies it is never too late to get back on track, experience the mercy and forgiveness of God, and fully enter back into the sacramental life of the Church.

I am not sure about the original Greek word used in Hebrews but the English word impossible can be used in a less than absolute sense to mean not being capable of being done **easily**.

The saying, Once bitten, twice shy, seems to apply. Once a Christian renounces Christ, only with difficulty can he be brought to repentance and re-accept Christ.

Maybe difficult for the sinner to renounce his ways. . .

Nothing is too difficult or impossible for God!

No sir, it's never too late. All you need is a sincere desire for repentance, see a priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the Holy Spirit will do the rest.

Welcome home!

Thank you all for your responses. I have discussed this in detail with a Priest (as well as the "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" issue which I also feared I committed in my rejection of all that is Christian) and he explained to me quite clearly that all sin can be forgiven if you ask, the only unforgivable sin is that which is not repented due to hardness of the heart, fear, arrogance, etc. Please pray for me, everybody, as I try to put my faith in the mercy of God :)

[quote="Guitarist4, post:1, topic:242999"]
Hebrews 6:4-6 seems to indicate that someone who leaves the faith can never return. I was baptised and took communion, however, raised secularly since then and became a serious atheist. I now am trying to return to Catholicism, but this passage is making me fear that it is too late for me. Is this true?

  • 4For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

6If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. *

[/quote]

In my experience, former atheists make some of the most admirable Christians in the congregation, presumably because they have made a more conscious and intentional decision for God than those who left the Church but never really stopped believing.

You returned from a greater distance than many of us and represent a greater victory for God and conversely a greater defeat for satan. Gods Kingdom is greater because of your repentance and forgiveness.

Don't hesitate in confession. I made too big a deal of and waited to long. I actually spent more time worrying about it than it took to do the confession AND the penance combined.

This may help....

LUKE 15
1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.
2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
4 What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
7 **I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.**

The quote from Hebrews needs to be understood within the historical context in which it was written. At that time Christians were persecuted and routinely martyred for their faith. The Romans would give a suspected Christian the opportunity to deny the faith and swear an oath to Caesar as their emperor "god." Naturally, this is a very serious and grievous offense and in the gospels Jesus even says:

"So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven."[Matt 10:32-33]

The apostle Peter denied Jesus before men. Peter repented and became one of heaven's greatest saints. Peter did not, however, swear an oath of belief in Caesar as his emperor god. Moreover, it is important to note that once we leave Jesus as the source of our salvation, that we have left the "only" source of salvation. If we sin after committing apostasy, we have no available restoration of repentance. That which we have adopted as an apostate cannot restore us to repentance upon falling into sin. Only within faith in Jesus do we receive forgiveness. This is why an apostate cannot be restored to repentance. One who returns to the faith is no longer an apostate and they can be forgiven just as Peter was forgiven.

I hope this helps.

[quote="Pax, post:13, topic:242999"]
The quote from Hebrews needs to be understood within the historical context in which it was written. At that time Christians were persecuted and routinely martyred for their faith. The Romans would give a suspected Christian the opportunity to deny the faith and swear an oath to Caesar as their emperor "god." Naturally, this is a very serious and grievous offense and in the gospels Jesus even says:

"So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven."[Matt 10:32-33]

The apostle Peter denied Jesus before men. Peter repented and became one of heaven's greatest saints. Peter did not, however, swear an oath of belief in Caesar as his emperor god. Moreover, it is important to note that once we leave Jesus as the source of our salvation, that we have left the "only" source of salvation. If we sin after committing apostasy, we have no available restoration of repentance. That which we have adopted as an apostate cannot restore us to repentance upon falling into sin. Only within faith in Jesus do we receive forgiveness. This is why an apostate cannot be restored to repentance. One who returns to the faith is no longer an apostate and they can be forgiven just as Peter was forgiven.

I hope this helps.

[/quote]

Hi,

Thanks for putting it into historical context, that helps my understanding of the verses in question.

God bless.

[quote="Guitarist4, post:11, topic:242999"]
Thank you all for your responses. I have discussed this in detail with a Priest (as well as the "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" issue which I also feared I committed in my rejection of all that is Christian) and he explained to me quite clearly that all sin can be forgiven if you ask, the only unforgivable sin is that which is not repented due to hardness of the heart, fear, arrogance, etc. Please pray for me, everybody, as I try to put my faith in the mercy of God :)

[/quote]

Guitarist4,

You are in my prayers. I will pray for you in Mass tomorrow. Pray to God for the grace to have faith in His Mercy. You ever need prayers or someone to talk to feel free to PM me.

My confessor tells me that His mercy is like a huge ocean and our worst sin is like a drop in that ocean of Mercy. That is comforting to hear all the time.

God bless.

I like the OPs question. I can relate to it aswell. Though I was only baptised but raised secular, never made communion or any other sacrament. I came to the church for the first time last year, though fell away into Judaism. Now I have come back to the church, but I feel ashamed for I have denied once again Jesus and even rediculed Him, his mother and the catholic church at points in myy life. I feel nothing but shame for my previous actions.

Am I still allowed to return?

[quote="EzraJacob, post:16, topic:242999"]
Am I still allowed to return?

[/quote]

I'm reminded of the parable of the prodigal son (see Luke chapter 15, verses 11-32). Not only will you be allowed to return, we will celebrate your return. Welcome home.

[quote="Soldier_Of_God, post:17, topic:242999"]
I'm reminded of the parable of the prodigal son (see Luke chapter 15, verses 11-32). Not only will you be allowed to return, we will celebrate your return. Welcome home.

[/quote]

=] thank you. Though I do not think I can ever allow my shame to rest.

[quote="EzraJacob, post:18, topic:242999"]
=] thank you. Though I do not think I can ever allow my shame to rest.

[/quote]

You are not alone in this regard. We are called not to sin again, not to live in shame.

[quote="EzraJacob, post:16, topic:242999"]
I like the OPs question. I can relate to it aswell. Though I was only baptised but raised secular, never made communion or any other sacrament. I came to the church for the first time last year, though fell away into Judaism. Now I have come back to the church, but I feel ashamed for I have denied once again Jesus and even rediculed Him, his mother and the catholic church at points in myy life. I feel nothing but shame for my previous actions.

Am I still allowed to return?

[/quote]

EzraJacob,

Of course come on home. Welcome back home. Do not hang your head in shame. We have all been there, we can hold our heads high becuase of who Jesus is and what He has done for us.

Have you gone to Confession yet? The Keys can forgive all sins and the peace that the Sacrament brings is beyond all telling and all price.

I am praying for you.

God Bless.

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