Sunday, April 29 2012
For a good while I have been thankful for Christopher Hitchens. Not in the since that he was an atheist or that he recently died. His very famous book, "God is NOT Great, How religion poisons everything," revealed a prodigious intellect, an vast vocabulary, and a violent passion. He was in some ways an independent thinker. He was politically liberal, yet he argued for the war in Iraq, he thought it was much better than doing nothing. He did a much better job than the Bush Administration in presenting an apologetic for how a world without Saddam Hussian was a better one. He did a lot of good for Christian thinkers, his challenge to the leaders of the Church sharpened our thinking, and improved the apologetic chops of many a Christian teacher, pastor and writer. Christopher overshadowed his younger brother Peter who is a journalist of some renown in England and who possesses the same polemical skills as Christopher. Peter like Christopher was an atheist, a Marxist, and was more badly behaved as a young man than Christopher. In his recent book "Rage Against God, how atheism led me to faith," Peter speaks of how he came to faith and it wasn't through debate. This is interesting since he and Christopher debated each other in 2009 about the Iraqi War and the existence of God. Neither one relished the idea, but it was battle made for our media age, all watchers wondering if a fist fight or name calling would break out like a Jerry Springer Show. Thankfully it did not, the debate went on for two hours and can be seen on utube. Peter Hitchens speaks of how he and his then girl friend,now wife were enjoying a lunch in Beaune, France. After lunch they wandered into the Hotel Dieu and saw a painting on the wall. There was Rogier van der Weyden's fifteenth century polyptych The Last Judgment. The image depicted people in Hell, and those people were naked and looked very much like modern figures. Hitchens wrote," I did not have a "religious experience." Nothing mystical or inexplicable took place-no trance, no swoon, no vision, no voices, no blaze of light. But I had a sudden strong sense of religion being a thing of the present day, not imprisoned under thick layers of time. A large catalogue of misdeeds, ranging from the embarrassing to the appalling, replaced themselves rapidly in my head. I had absolutely no doubt that I was among the damned, if there were any damned." It was this confrontation with a piece of art that God used to bring Hitchens to Christ. His mind and spirit were prepared through his great study, debating, and thinking about higher culture. And in the end it wasn't polemics that did it, it was the Holy Spirit using all that to melt his heart in a very personal way. We have lost one Hitchens, but there is now another who believes that God indeed is Great and that explains everything.