Sunday, December 18, 2011
Christopher Hitchens: Life and Death
By Brian Nixon
Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS) -- It is fair to say that Christopher Hitchen’s life (born April 1949) was celebrated. As a prolific author and journalist, his books, essays, and articles have spanned the globe, creating controversy—both positive and negative—in several fields: politics, religion, and history.
I think for many Christians, it meant a lot.
The answer to why he is important is hard to articulate.
How can he be important when he criticized religion so vehemently, some may ask? Didn’t his book, God is Not Great, wreak havoc on Christianity and religion in general, they continue?
Well, yes, and no. Yes, he did write candidly about his distrust and repulsion of religion, but no, he didn’t do so in an overtly hateful, embittered way.
As a matter of fact, he befriended many strong Christian believers along the way: Douglas Wilson (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkGPceR-pIs) , Larry Taunton (http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/12/16/my-take-an-evangelical-remembers-his-friend-hitchens/?&hpt=hp_c4), Alister McGrath (http://fora.tv/2007/10/11/Christopher_Hitchens_Debates_Alister_McGrath), and William Lane Craig (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9NlRKJBKt4) . In each case, the Christian men appreciated their interaction with Hitchen’s, calling him a friend and a brilliant writer.
It is true that Hitchen’s was part of the New Athiesm, led by men such as scientist, Richard Dawkins. But whereas Dawkin’s lowered himself to insult of people of faith, Hitchen’s tried to stay the course of reason (many argue poorly).
In all, Hitchen’s argument against God can be summarized in his debate with William Lane Craig. It is as follows: there are no good reasons to believe that God exists, and there are good reasons to believe that there is no God.
Though there are great answers and rebuttals to all Hitchen’s claims (check out the debate with Alister McGrath or William Lane Craig online), the point I am making here is not a philosophical or apologetical, rather it is Biblical.
To answer the question as to why Hitchen’s life mattered is simple: Christians believe that God created all life, calling it good. Genesis 1-2 clearly gives reason to celebrate life.
Thereby, the fact that Hitchen’s lived is in itself a gift that he—to our knowledge—didn’t pause to give thanks. Life, itself, is a reflection of the Life-giver.
Secondly, his life mattered because he was seeking truth. Though we Christians would disagree—and be saddened—with his conclusions, we can’t criticize him for the path he chose to take; it was his journey. And we believe God was well aware of his sojourn on this earth. So though his pursuit of truth kept him at arms length from religion and ‘god,’ I somehow doubt God was impaired or threatened by his arguments. Rather, it seems to me that God—during Hitchen’s 62 years on Earth—was calling for him (2 Peter 3:9), bringing many fine Christian thinkers in his path.
Finally, his life mattered because he had the courage to tackle religion head on. Courage, you ask? Yes, courage. The sad truth is that there is a lot of muck in religion: hatred, unmerited violence, oppression and the like. Hitchen’s was brave enough to ask some hard questions of religion, causing many to pause and reflect.
Yet herein lies the greatest sadness: Hitchens somehow could not separate (at least to my knowledge) religion from relationship. Whereas he attacked religion (the formal systems of belief, tradition, and institution), he couldn’t see the fact that Christ did not come to establish a religion, but bring humanity into a relationship with God.
Of course Hitchen’s would deny all premises of my statement. Yet it is an important distinction to make: Christianity (in its base form) is not just another religion, it’s about a relationship with the Creator, as made possible by Jesus.
None-the-less, the world has lost a fine writer, social critic, and thinker. We as Christians can be thankful for his life, learning from his writings. As a British born, American citizen, Hitchen’s life was cut too short by pneumonia from a weakened system of esophageal cancer. His last chapter is now over.
And I can’t help but think that Christopher Hitchen’s now knows God is great, contrary to his life and work.
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This story is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSIST News Service or ASSIST Ministries.