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The incomparable Christopher Hitchens has died.
I love Jesus Christ, but I also love Christopher Hitchens (and the irony of his first name is not lost on me).
Christopher is in heaven, where all of us go when we die. I wish he could have gone there having confessed Christ here. He is certainly confessing Him there.
Christopher was misguided but still admirable. May God judge Him mercifully, and may He judge us all mercifully.
God bless Christopher Hitchens.
It will be interesting to see if any stories pop up about a deathbed conversion, as happened with Darwin. Within a week after Darwin's death, preachers were already spreading the tale of Darwin's supposed last-minute conversion. About 30 years after Darwin's demise one "Lady Hope" published a detailed account claiming that she had interviewed Darwin shortly before his death and that he had renounced his theory of evolution and professed faith in Christ. This false story spread rapidly despite vehement and consistent denials by members of the Darwin family who had been present through Darwin's last illness.
It always strikes me as odd when apologists say that the Gospel writers would have been corrected by still living eyewitnesses had they recorded anything false about Jesus. We know from the Darwin case and many similar ones that people believe what they want to hear despite the explicit and unequivocal denials of eyewitnesses.
Keith,Hitchens went to some effort to make sure that such lies could not be spread about him. You can here him address the issue at the Huffington Post article about his death.
Concerning whether we could expect that eyewitnesses who disagreed with the Gospel w
While I appreciate your merciful compassion and respectful tone, and while we do share some commonality in our viewpoint, I must respectfully disagree with you on a few points.
Apart from some "deathbed conversion," which Christopher Hitchens went to great lengths to refute any possibility of in advance of his final days, Christopher Hitchens is not in heaven right now. For many who follow and contribute to this blog, that truth will not dismay them, because they do not believe in heaven. However, I do believe in heaven and hell. And, based upon Christopher Hitchens own testimony, I do not believe that he is in heaven right now.
I also share your sentiment regarding God judging Mr. Hitchens mercifully. I believe in God and believe that He is merciful. I also realize that His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. However, knowing that God's mercy endures forever, one must consider that perhaps it would be incredibly unmerciful for God to sentence Mr. Hitchens to an eternity in the presence of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, supreme being that Mr. Hitchens certainly did not know or love, nor would even acknowledge the existence of. Perhaps, that would be unmerciful, rather than merciful. No, I think God will grant Mr. Hitchens his desire, and will allow him to spend eternity separated from God. That grieves my heart excessively, for I would not wish that fate for anyone. But, Mr. Hitchens has chosen for himself, and God will grant his choice.
One more note in summation. You stated your love for Jesus Christ in the beginning of your comment. I also share your love for Jesus Christ. In that respect, we are brothers. However, the salvation that Jesus provided through His selfless sacrifice on the cross, while available for all, is not automatically or unwittingly experienced. Jesus Himself stated that if we were ashamed to confess Him before our generation here on earth, then He would not confess us before His Father in heaven. Everyone does not go to heaven. God has provided the way through His Son, Jesus Christ. But, we must honor His provision. We come to God on His terms, not ours. He is God; we are not. By virtue of His magnanimous character, God accomodates our weakness and lack of understanding. But, such accomodation has boundaries. For God to accomodate too exceedingly, He would cease to be God, and we, mere humans, would be elevated above Him.
It's both obviously false and offensive to claim that Christopher Hitchens chose eternal suffering in Hell, and that the biblical god would be granting his wish for doing so.
Any minimum degree of thinking will lead one to the clear conclusion that monster would be solely responsible for eternal torture.
Yuck. Thanks, "Jess" for reminding me of why I am so glad to be an unbeliever. I am sooooo happy not to feel obligated to believe that stuff anymore! If I ever feel myself backsliding in my atheism, I can depend on guys like Jess to give me an atheistic energy boost.
I am sorry that you find such a thought as "free will" to be "obviously false and offensive." However, we cannot have it both ways. Either God grants us the right to choose, or we are just "robots" that are created with no real control over our final destiny.
Also, I would request clarification on the "monster" comment. There may be a typo that is causing a lack of clarity. By "monster" are you referring to God, or any entity that would be responsible for eternal torture.
In response to your "biblical god" reference, the bible does state that it is not the will of God for any to perish. Therefore, He (God) has provided the way of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. However, He has left the weight of responsibility upon ourselves. We either "choose" to believe, or we "choose" not to believe. Either way, great consequences follow such a decision. The fact is, that each of us make innumerable choices on a daily basis. Some choices have weightier consequences than others, but most have some degree of significant consequence whether we are cognizant of such consequence or not. Mr. Hitchens chose consistently throughout his life to reject the biblical God. He is now subject to the weight of the consequence of that choice.
Regarding the "obviously false" nature of such premises, I would welcome your citation of such obvious observation and "minimum degree of thinking." It is one thing to throw such inflammatory comments into the discussion, it is quite another to back up such comments with well-thought premises.
Even on your view, Angra Mainyu was correct to challenge your assertion that Hitchens "chose" hell. I know it is commonplace in evangelical theology to say what you did, but even on the view that some go to heaven and some go to hell, it's not logical to insist that everyone who goes to hell chose it. At most, you can say it's the consequence of what they chose – but not what they chose.
Fortunately, it's moot because the Scriptures do teach that everyone goes to heaven as I have explained at length here: http://wp.me/PNthc-i6
While I recognize that evangelicalism largely denies this at the present time, this does not make it any less the truth. Alas, Christians are the main reason the world hears about Christ and yet the main reason the people don't respect the message of Christ.
I recognize what I'm saying may be new to you, but I encourage you strongly not to reject it out of hand. Pray and search the Scriptures yourself. The good news is not being fully told, and it is time to do so.
Hitch was an independent thinker par excellence. I tend to think that had he been exposed to Christ in the right way, he would have recognized a thinker even more independent than himself…and admired Him. In any case, he's admiring Him now – of that I am convinced.
If you use the failings of those who proclaim Christ to deny Christ, you will always have a reason to deny Christ for there will always be someone failing Him. And for this reason, there is wisdom in your strategy for avoiding a loss of your atheism. However, this is a counter-productive, self-destructive, and misplaced focus. Consider Jesus of Nazareth. He is one who will never fail you. Don't listen to Christians. Don't listen to me. Listen to Him. You will be glad you did.
Your assertion regarding the "chose" detail is well-taken. We may be doing semantic gymnastics here, but I will re-phrase to this degree. Hell is the default destination of those without Christ, therefore Hitchens chose hell to the degree that he chose to reject Christ.
I did briefly review the link that you posted. It is too lengthy for me to read at this time. However, that is not a "cop-out." I will seek to read it carefully and in its entirety asap. I appreciate your devotion to the Scriptures as being completely true and trustworthy. I too share that view. I am just curious how two who share such a view regarding the Scriptures can come to such opposite conclusions regarding what they teach when it comes to Jesus and heaven and hell.
It is apparent to me that you have universalist leanings, perhaps along the same lines as Rob Bell. I believe such a view is errant. However, I certainly owe you the courtesy to read and seek to understand your view, especially since you have gone to such great lengths to explain it in detail. Again, I am sincere when I say that I will do so asap.
Finally, I think for the benefit of discussion, clarity, and "Keith" I must restate. God is a loving and compassionate God Who does not desire for any to perish. Therefore, He has provided the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. Jesus paid the price and suffered once for all sin. I strongly encourage Keith to read the Scriptures from the perspective of grace-God freely giving what we do not deserve and can never earn, His forgiveness provided through the sacrifice of Jesus.
It's also offensive that you misrepresent my position by saying that I a thought as "free will" to be obviously false and offensive.
What I find obviously false and offensive is your claim that the biblical god is granting Christopher Hitchens' wish by placing him in Hell.
He made no such choice, and if the biblical god existed and Christopher Hitchens were to endure eternal punishment in Hell, the biblical god would be inflicting that infinite torment on Hitchens, rather than granting Hitchens' desire, or respecting his free will.
Of course, you won't be persuaded because you're committed to your religion above reason, but that is not going to make your claims any less false or offensive.
Even if you claim that Hell is not imposed by the biblical god, it can be established based on other beliefs of yours – and generally, Christians who believe in infinite Hell – that it is imposed by him.
That's not the same as the claim that Hell is very unjust – it is, but that's another matter.
The point is that he did not choose that.
As for "monster", I'm talking about the biblical god. Other entities responsible for eternal torture would have to be considered on a case by case basis: for instance, if a monster is throwing people into a pit where they will suffer infinite torture, just for fun, and the only way to stop him from doing so any longer is by throwing him into the pit, I do not believe it would be immoral to throw him into the pit in order to save people from him, even if that means infinite torture.
Regarding your characterization of my comments as "inflammatory", are you serious? Could you please stop and think about it for a moment? You're stepping in a mourning thread, saying that Christopher Hitchens is in Hell for eternity, and that God (whom you claim is the same as the biblical god) is actually granting his wish.
My reply is quite moderate, given the context.
As for the citation you ask for, I don't think there is any burden on my part. Still, I have shown the absurdity of such a claim in many debates – Christians are persistent -, and I also posted an article in my blog in which I show – among many other things – that the position in question is untenable. So, for those interested in a debunking of the claim that Hell is a free choice made by the damned, I'll post a link to the relevant part:
Jess's characterization of your comment as "inflammatory" is absolutely fair because you called God a "monster."
As for your chastisement of him for "stepping into a mourning thread" and saying something you don't like, you are being unfair. Mourning is not for the deceased but rather for the survivors. Jess communicated a message he believed in the best interest of the mourners. On his view, his message was showing you kindness – giving hope where there was none. Even on your view, he would only be deluded and therefore causing you only distraction, not distress.
Jesus Christ is alive. And because He is alive, Hitch is alive. If you would rather believe that you will never see Hitch again, then so be it. Even disagree with others if you must. But don't try to shame someone for showing you kindness.
@ Mike Gantt
First, actually, it seems you misread. He did not call my comment “inflammatory” because I called the biblical god a monster, but because of the “obviously false” and “minimum degree of thinking” part.
Second, the situation was already in flames, given that he entered a thread that wasn't a debate and claimed that:
a) Hitchens will suffer eternal torment.
b) He actually chose it.
c) The entity who will put him in Hell is respecting his wishes, and is morally good.
The situation was already inflamed.
Third, regarding calling the biblical god a monster, that is accurate, but if you characterize that as “inflammatory” because of the condemnation of the biblical god, I would disagree and say that Christianity is inflammatory, given its claims that we ought to obey that monster.
Fourth, the fact that he communicated a belief he believes is in the interest of the mourners does not change the fact that his behavior is inflammatory.
For that matter, you can go to a funeral and start communicating that the person is being tortured in Hell, and then say that others should repent to prevent that.
And someone might as well go to a Christian funeral and tell the mourners that the dead person is really dead – i.e., he does not exist anymore; there is no Heaven or Hell.
The difference between those is that the latter is true, and less inflammatory since they're not saying someone will suffer eternal torment, but still inflammatory.
Granted, this is not a funeral, and the connection between most readers and Hitchens is much more tenuous if it exists, but it should be clear that the claims are even more offensive than usual given the context (Of course, that does not change the fact that Christianity is offensive in other contexts too).
By the way, to be clear, I am not feeling the loss in particular (i.e., no particular emotional connection to Hitchens), so if I were the only reader, this would be just the usual level of offensiveness of Hell claims – which is a lot. But I'm not the only reader.
Fifth, I do not “rather” believe that I will never see Hitchens again. I believe that I won't (I know it), but I do not choose to believe so (i.e., choice does not enter the equation).
Sixth, to be frank, your own stepping in to claim that he's in Heaven and preaching is rather out of place too. You probably noticed already that in the comments following other posts (in other blogs) about Hitchens' death, your comments have not exactly been welcome. Still, your comments of course were far less offensive than Jess'.
Now you also made a claim that is seriously offensive now, but for other reasons:
Mike GanttEven disagree with others if you must. But don't try to shame someone for showing you kindness. Very patronizing of yours, but that aside, are you even serious?
You're seriously saying that Jess is showing us kindness?
I don't reject everything you say here, but neither can I accept it all. What is "inflammatory" or "offensive" to a person is a function of his worldview. The same thing is true of what is considered "kind." The unspoken assumption of your comments, however, is that your worldview is the correct one and therefore whether something is "inflammatory," "offensive," or "kind" is something only you, or someone shares your worldview, gets to define. That sort of attitude discourages communication.
Hitchens was full of life and eminently likable. Few people can charm with stridency, but he managed it. As for respecting other worldviews, even ones with which he disagreed, consider this quote from him captured just a couple of years ago. It's even more touching if you view the two-minute video clip in which he uttered it from the back of a limousine after a debate with a Christian apologist. The bemused smile on his face at that moment speaks to a certain inward innocence and respect for others that was him. I believe Christ likes to see this sort of attitude in us.
Sorry – forgot the link:
Well, I don't know what a world view is, but surely I have not an assumption but a justified belief that there is no Hell and that Christianity is not true.
As for what's inflammatory, offensive, or kind, both Jess and you called my comments "inflammatory" – though for different reasons, because you misunderstood his – and you called his actions "kindness".
Yet, now you question me for assuming my worldview and making assessments myself?
Do you see the problem with your criterion?
For instance, you say:
Mike GanttThe unspoken assumption of your comments, however, is that your worldview is the correct one and therefore whether something is "inflammatory," "offensive," or "kind" is something only you, or someone shares your worldview, gets to define. That sort of attitude discourages communication. Now, with the same criterion, I can say that the unspoken assumption of your comments is that your worldview is the correct one and therefore whether something is "inflammatory", "offensive", or "kind" is something only you, or someone who shares your worldview, gets to define. That sort of attitude discourages communication.
You're doing the same you're accusing me of doing, and somehow implying that I shouldn't do it. Well, by your own criterion, you shouldn't either.
Of course, I do not think there is a problem with making assessments like that. I just disagree with your assessments, and with Jess', for the reasons I've given.
Regarding communication, I don't see what kind of communication I'm supposed to be seeking with Jess, other than rebutting his points. I obviously won't be able to persuade him that he is in error about his religion.
As for Hitchens' statement, I surely would do it, but I don't see the relevance of that.
By "worldview" I simply mean the comprehensive way one looks at life, including one's view of what is true and what is not.
I said that Jess was showing you a kindness according to his worldview. I agree with you that it was not a kindness according to your worldview. It was not even a kindness according to my worldview. But it was clearly a kindness according to his worldview because in his world he was the neighbor who bolts into your house in the middle of the night to wake up you because he spotted your house on fire.
I don't have to agree with his worldview to appreciate that. Nor do you.
As for the Hitchens quote, my point was that even though hated the worldview of Christ he retained some measure of respect for it.
I was not saying that he wasn't showing us a kindness according to my worldview. I was saying that he was not showing us a kindness, just as you claim that he was showing us a kindness – not just a kindness according to your worldview.
But if you want to relativize this to worldviews, let's see:
You rebuked me by saying "don't rebuke someone for showing you kindness".
Should I understand that you were telling me "don't rebuke someone for showing you what is kindness according to their worldview, even if it's not kindness according to yours or to mine"?
If so, then it seems pretty much anything can be a kindness according to a "worldview" – even telling people that they are predestined for eternal torment -, so I guess one should just just up in any case, no matter how offended one is by their words.
In fact, with your criterion, if a group of extremists show up at an actual funeral and start telling everyone that their loved one – who just died – is being burned with fire, and she will burn for millions of years, trillions of years, and then more, forever, then they're doing the people in the funeral – say, her parents, siblings, etc. – a kindness, according to their worldview, so apparently one shouldn't reply in the way I did.
Why should one do that?
Why should the parents of a dead teenagers that happens not to be of the religious persuasion of the extremists at the funeral not respond to them as I did?
Or consider a real case: Fred Phelps, and his Westboro Baptist Church.
From the article: Phelps's followers frequently picket various events, such as military funerals, gay pride gatherings, high-profile political gatherings, university commencement ceremonies, performances of The Laramie Project, mainstream Christian gatherings and concerts with which he had no affiliation, arguing it is their sacred duty to warn others of God's anger.
Now, I'm not suggesting that the actions of Jess are in the same category as those as Phelps, but that's beside the point, given your general claim:
Phelps believes it's his duty to warn others of the biblical god's anger, so it seems by your criterion, and for the same reasons you mentioned, he's like the neighbor who bolts into your house in the middle of the night to wake you up because he "spotted" that your house is on fire, and so he's showing people a kindness.
Does that mean others shouldn't rebuke him?
I do not agree. And while Jess obviously didn't do anything on the same scale here, my reply was in line with that – my reply to Phelps would have been a lot stronger.
Besides, according to my worldview, I was doing most of the people here a kindness by replying to Jess as I did – not to Jess himself since I know that I cannot persuade him, but then I don't see why I should in this particular context be kind to him, instead of to most of the people his "kindness" is seriously offending.
I think you give a key when you say, "I'm not suggesting that the actions of Jess are in the same category as those as Phelps…" You go on to suggest I would disregard this with my claim, but I wouldn't. Distinctions should be made.
In the first place, while this post bears some resemblance to a funeral, it is not a funeral.
Second, Jess' original comment was rebuking me and not you. And he did so because he thought I was giving you erroneous, unbiblical, and misleading information that, if you believed it, could cause you untold misery for all eternity. Now, I think his worldview is wrong and I'll say more about that in a minute. But for now I hope you recognize that he was acting consistent with his worldview and in that worldview he was showing you and other readers here a kindness by trying to protect all of you from what he believed was false information coming from me.
I don't know much about Phelps and Westboro but you seem to know more than I do and you grant that Jess' action does not reach that level. And I'm glad to hear that.
According to your worldview, Jess (and you could lump me together with him on this point) is like the autistic adolescent who goes from one family member to another at the funeral blurting out what seems like gibberish to everyone – but he means well and can be taken in stride. After all, in your worldview Jess and I are merely deluded about Jesus Christ.
By the way, your analogy is off point in an important way when you talk about someone "going around telling people they are predestined for eternal torment." That would not be a kindness even in Jess' worldview. It would only be a kindness to tell people how to avoid the torment. And that was Jess' message.
One of the things I hope Jess will realize through this process is that his worldview cannot be exactly right. Here's why: According to his worldview he actually should go to funerals and warn people about eternal hell. In fact, he should spend every minute of every day warning people about it. If there really is an eternity of fiery torment awaiting every person who dies without Christ, then there is no justification in that worldview for caring about football games, getting married, having fun, going to school – or anything but keeping people from such a dreadful place. But Christians hardly ever act this consistent with that worldview. (Their consciences, and other factors, hold them back.) In fact, you can't even find Jesus acting consistent with that view. Ipso facto Jess and others need to revisit their Bibles and find out what they missed. That worldview is only purported to be biblical; it is not actually biblical. Your point is correct that a kindness in any worldview is not automatically acceptable. Distinctions should be made. I hope Jess and other Christians will make them.
First, I'm not suggesting that you would disregard that distinction.
Rather, I point out that your proposed criterion – based on which you rebuked me – actually did that already, even though apparently you did not intend to do so, or realized the implications of your claim.
Clearly, I agree that distinctions should be made, and I did not treat Jess the way I would have treated Phelps. I already pointed that out.
Also, clearly, I agree that this is not at all a funeral. I already pointed that out as well.
Second, that Jess' original comment was rebuking you is more than debatable. He explicitly addressed you, but he could have done that in your blog. He may well have been targeting others.
Third, I don't even know whether his "world view" is consistent, but I have no trouble recognizing that he very likely believes that some of his actions are required to help save people. The same can be said – once again – about Phelps' followers.
Again, I'm not suggesting that Jess' actions here are as offensive as the actions of those people, which is why my reply was also different.
Fourth, no, I don't think he means well, at least not always. He means to help save people from Hell (which is good), but he means to do that because he believes that the creator of Hell wants him to do that, and that because of that reason, his actions are good – and yet, the creator of Hell would be an evil monster.
Again, with that criterion, someone could say that Phelps and his people are deluded but they mean well – and yes, I'm not ignoring relevant differences, because the morally relevant differences are not relevant with regard to the criterion you offer, since they too intend to save people, because they believe that's their duty – and they believe that that is their duty because the biblical god commands so.
Fifth, regarding the predestination, my point is that if you want to relativize kindness to "worldviews", that too could be a kindness according to the worldview of those telling them that they're predestined to that, if they defined "kindness" that way.
But now you don't seem to relativize kindness in that way – even though you accused me that we would get to "define" kindness -; rather, it seems that you're recognizing a common meaning of "kindness", and then consider the "world view" in order to claim that Jess' acts are acts of kindness.
But then, I disagree with that. I don't think that a motivation to prevent people from going to Hell because one believes the creator of Hell has ordered one to do so makes an act like the one in this thread an act of kindness, just as I don't believe the behavior of Phelps and his followers are acts of kindness – they're just a lot more unkind than Jess', but Jess' is unkind too.
Sixth, actually, I guess your latest point indicates that Phelps and others are being a lot kinder than Jess, given that they do picket funerals and the like, instead of wasting their time in, say, more football games. While they don't use up all their time in their "warnings", they do so more often than Jess and than nearly all Evangelical Christians.
So, by your own criterion, it seems Phelps and company are indeed being kind by their own worldview, and more so than most people who believe in eternal Hell.
I don't know enough about Fred Phelps and his church to respond beyond what I've already said. And as for the exchanges with Jess, I don't have any more to say. I'm happy to let what you have said be the last word in this exchange.
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