Thursday, November 26, 2009

Response to ‘God is Not Great’ by Christopher Hitchens

One of my favorite Thanksgiving break things to do is get a cup of coffee and roam the bookstore.

Last night at Huntsville Books-A-Million I did it for about 2 hours. Read Nick Saban, Sports Illustrated, Mac OS tips, and then finished with “God is Not Great” by atheist superstar, Christopher Hitchens.

I had read parts of it before, but I took some time and read most of it.

Anytime you read Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and other of the non-god media mafia you have to be impressed by their intellect. Hitchens really impresses me with his broad knowledge of science, history, literature, and logical talent.

At the same time- the arrogance and bitterness just leaps of the page to me. I don’t think it is just my bias (though my presuppositions do cloud my judgment as does theirs). It may also be a way to entertain- a wit much like Mark Twain- but Hitchens seems even darker and colder than Twain. Twain railed against the hypocrisy of religion while Hitchens stabs at the heart of the Creator. Twain seemed to hate religion, Hitchens seems to hate God.

Again, if you make this a contest between Coach Mathews and Christopher Hitchens… Hitchens wins. He is smarter than me and would run intellectual circles around me.

But this is not a battle for the mind primarily, this is a war of the heart. It involves intellect because I propose that Christianity is a logical faith- but I also propose that a dark heart provides the noose for the intellectually arrogant person to hang his own soul.

The Bible clearly points to the problem of the thoughts of a man who is at enmity with God. But here are a few of these again:

II CORINTHIANS 4:3-4 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

I CORINTHIANS 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

I CORINTHIANS 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Romans 1:18-22 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Around 1050 A.D., Anselm of Canterbury introduced an idea called “Credo Ut Intelligum” which hints to an important part of God’s design. Those who shake their fist at Him and in a rebellious spirit say, ‘fill my mind.. then I will give you my heart’ are at a dangerous starting point. Knowledge puffs up, it provides the point in which we can kill ourselves. And, who can know the thoughts of God? Anselm suggests we start with belief and then comes the knowledge for support.

I can hear the screams fro the intellectual elite already!

“Lazy”- “Stupid”- “Ridiculous”- “Incredulous”

But here is the problem. As I read Hitchens, he is obviously god himself. He makes his value judgments and edicts so forcefully. He points out faults and cries foul. When you kill God, you must become god in His place.

So let’s look at some of these pronouncements:

First, Hitchens sees all religions in one big poisonous pond. We all have to agree that hypocrisy in the church (some by false believers) and error in other religions has been a huge blight on history. At the end of time, the glory of God’s story will not be man’s good service and faithful devotion- it will be on God’s good compassion.

God is not tarnished by man’s unfaithfulness. When we point to followers as proof of the bad King we are missing true analysis of the King Himself.

Secondly, I also marvel at Hitchens ability to discount people like Augustine, Pascal, Aquinas, and Calvin so easily. As true of any man, we can find flaws in their positions. These men lived in a limited space and time dimension and were constrained by mortal flesh. But these men also were great men of character and of nobler mind and spirit than I find today. Sure, I see the gram of error, but it pales in the ton of profound logic and devotion. In the advance of time, we improve on their mistakes, but we also have fewer pounds of their nobility.

A man born with Hitchens attitude and ability in the day of Augustine would do the community much worse and have little significance in the world. A man born with Augustine’s attitude and ability would do the community much better and have much more significance in the world than Hitchens would ever dream.

Finally, Hitchens has a famous challenge to theists which goes like this: "Name me an ethical statement made or an action performed by a believer that could not have been made or performed by a non-believer."

This question shows over and over that Hitchens does not understand the gospel of grace or the biblical teaching of the nature of man. All men are capable of good because we are made in the image of God. Our understanding of ‘good’ or ‘fair’ actually comes from Him. But just as all men can do good, we ALL do evil. Our ethical statements and actions do not measure up to true goodness or perfect morality.

All non-christian faiths (including Hitchens’) are made up of a demand to live up to a standard. I’m sure I have failed Mr. Hitchens in many ways already. I have failed God even more.

Only Christianity offers forgiveness and mercy. Mr Hitchens does not love me, Jesus Christ does. Mr Hitchens would never die for me, Jesus Christ did.

And full pardon for any atheist still exists… but only for a short time.

Atheists hate Pascal’s wager, but it is not a proof of God, it is only a common sense idea. One of us is wrong. Either I am deluded and poisonous or Mr. Hitchens is. Either both of us are meeting an end of no future or a future of no end.

I will go to my end saying: ‘God is great… and He is good”.

My prayer is that Mr. Hitchens would repent but that would take a miracle that he does not believe in.

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