The wrestling angel gifted Jacob with a limp as a permanent reminder of his encounter with God. Jacob's life-long policy was to run. His final glory was that he learned to lean (Hebrews 11:21). A wound is a good thing if it is accepted as a stewardship from God, appropriated as a channel of God's strength and consecrated to God's purpose. Where dependence is the objective weakness is the advantage.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Death of Christopher Hitchens


The Death of Christopher Hitchens

Last night Christopher Hitchens discovered he had an immortal soul after all. As far as his present state of consciousness goes I'll leave it at that. His mortal frame expired at MD Anderson Hospital in Houston. He was 62.
He was a prolific journalist and literary critic, but he was most famous as a leading exponent of The New Atheism. Along with Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins he was included in the group known as The Four Horsemen, an elite coterie of particularly vocal and virulent atheists whom he confessed himself honored to be among. The New Atheists are distinguished from the old atheists mainly by an insistence that there is no reason to be respectful of religion in general or Christianity in particular. On the contrary, duty demanded that a thing as evil as belief in God be combated tirelessly. AJ Ayer, a pioneering hero of the new school, declared that Christianity was not only a bad religion, it was the worst religion. No person of faith was off limits and no cow so sacred as to be spared. He famously referred to Mother Teresa as The Ghoul of Calcutta and called her a "lying, thieving Albanian dwarf."
Positively I can say this about him. He was an adroit debater- far cleverer than Richard Dawkins. Dawkins knows nothing of history or philosophy-precious little about anything outside his specialty.
Hitchens came off like a polymath.
He wasn't.
He scraped by at Balliol College Oxford with a Third. He mocked CS Lewis' famous trilemma as "pathetic". (The 'Trilemma' was actually originated by an earlier Oxford scholar-Alfred Edersheim, a Viennese Jew converted in Budapest in the 1840's. The idea is as follows: When we look at the breathtaking scope of Jesus' claims we are not left with the option that He could have been a great teacher merely. Great teachers don't claim the authority to forgive sins. In fact Jesus assumed prerogatives of Deity. Jesus, according to Edersheim, Lewis and a host of others, leaves us with but three options. Either He knew He wasn't God, though He claimed to be, which would make Him a liar. Or He thought He was God but wasn't, which would make Him a lunatic. Or...His claims were true. Hence the Trilemma: Lord, lunatic or liar.)
It is particularly laughable that Hitchens would mock CS Lewis as a shabby thinker as Lewis was awarded three Firsts in one undergraduate career at Oxford, countering Hitchens' lowest with his highest.
But Christopher Hitchens' projection of a broad, urbane intellectualism was dazzling. There's little doubt that after University he began to do his homework. And he was indefatigable. Possessed of a roguish charm he could be self-deprecating, and it was seductive.
Charm is deceitful.
The coherence of his arguments was apparent not real. Like all atheist debaters he lingered not long over:
1) The inexplicable existence of matter and energy
2) The bridge from the material to the sentient
3) The powerful valence of morality as an intellectual and emotional force.
He steered clear because atheism (recent attempts of Stephen Hawking notwithstanding) cannot plausibly account for these realities. He preferred to rant along the lines of the hypocrisy of professing believers (a primary emphasis of the Gospels), the scandal that God would allow suffering (one theme of the Book of Job) and the alleged unfairness of hell -a charge his own stated preferences undermined.
He was an inveterate blasphemer.
Ironically, (and this would not have pleased him), he confirmed two of CSL's theories about unbelief. If God does not exist why the emotive focus? Lewis remembered that while he was an atheist he was absolutely sure that God was not there. He was also very angry with this God who-is-not-there kind of God. Christopher Hitchens hated the Christian God for the stupefying reason that he felt morally superior to Him. When you listen to his arguments Richard Dawkins is actually begging us not to believe in God simply because he himself cannot conceptualize such a being. It never seems to have occurred to Dawkins that God may not be a carbon based life form after all. The thrusts of Hitchens' own atheism moved along different lines. Hitchens’ consistent plea was that if God exists He is morally contemptible.
At least he served the noble purpose of proving that hypocrisy is not the exclusive domain of religion. Hitchens deserted his wife and two year old while his wife was pregnant. He deserted them for a woman he moved in with the day he met her. He blamed the God who wasn't there for all suffering (presumably also the suffering of his wife and children) but worshiped Leo Trotsky, a blood-curdling mass murderer. That’s not all, but the man is dead and there's no need to pile on.
Hitchens also confirmed Lewis' contention that it is a mistake to assume all unbelievers prefer heaven to hell. Hitchens said that heaven would be like living in North Korea. As he believed the Christian God to be at least as vile as Kim Jong-il he viewed the Christian heaven as a place so loathsome he wouldn't want to be caught dead there.
Therefore he met at least one of his goals by dying.
I had prayed for him as recently as two days ago.
Sic transit gloria mundi.


Sara Campbell said...

Ross and I just watched a BBC interview with him last night, a posthumous airing. As I look at life around me...tiny fingers that already know how to grasp, a diamond made from coal, a piece of fruit made the perfect size for a human hand...I wonder how someone can NOT believe. (Merry Christmas to you and Jane!)


wow, this is so eloquently written. a blessed Christmas to you and yours.

Tom said...

Re your first sentence; 'Last night Christopher Hitchens discovered he had an immortal soul after all.'
You know that because.........?