Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens Died

Douglas Wilson & Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens died last night.  Journalist, atheist, author, etc., I first became acquainted with him a few years ago when I heard of a spate of books being published by the new atheists—Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens.  Hitchens’ book was irreverently titled, God Is Not Great.  Cancer took him.

I became enamored with Hitchens when I watched Collision, a documentary which focuses on a series of debates that Hitchens and Pastor Douglas Wilson engaged in after they co-wrote, Is Christianity Good for the World?  I’ve watched Collision at least three times.

Hitchens struck me as an honest intellectual, at least as honest as a non-Christian intellectual can be.  He did not tow any particular line all the way.  While in some respects liberal, he was in other respects conservative.  He whole-heartedly supported the war in Iraq.  The enemy that defined him and his response was not specifically the notion of God; it was totalitarianism, whether that took the form of a god or of a dictatorial regime.  He promoted freedom.  He loved and wrote on George Orwell, and no doubt was influenced by Orwell’s own concerns on the subject.

I love the debates themselves for a number of reasons.  1) Douglas Wilson, no intellectual slouch himself, quite capably holds his own in debating Hitchens.  2) The behind-the-scenes repartee and friendship between the two men is heartening and humorous and stimulating.  3) Hitchens seems at least honest about his views, about how he came to those views, and about his own (selfish) motivations.

I mentioned that I was enamored with Hitchens.  I liked him, despite his positions and sometimes offensive statements.  I’m not the only one; many Christians came to like him and pray for him as a result of his appearance in Collision.  Unfortunately, Hitchens worked even harder to ensure his spiritual doom.  When asked about all the Christians who were praying for him after his cancer became known, he indicated that any deathbed conversion would not truly be him.  If there were a deathbed conversion, it would no doubt be a lesser mind ravaged by cancer.

I can imagine that the possibility of “succumbing” to a conversion would be a horror to such a vocal opponent of faith as Hitchens.  It would be a betrayal of his life’s work, an undermining of his legacy, the only part of him that would survive his death.

Hitchens’ death is a tragedy.  What a mind and what gifts the Lord gave to him!  And he used them against the Lord.  The Lord Jesus died for him, but Hitchens refused what had been so richly and lovingly provided for him, denying the reality of a God to whom we are responsible and the reality of the cross.  Mr. Hitchens, if only … 

The Lord is gracious and merciful, and he pursues men and women to extraordinarily great lengths.  The blame here lies not with the Lord but with Mr. Hitchens.  How tremendously stubborn people can be.

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