Monday, April 25, 2011
A Response To Christopher Hitchen's Letter To American Atheists
In a recent edition of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, Christopher Hitchens published a new Message to American Atheists. Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great, is a self-described antitheist who has championed the New Atheism Movement. Hitchens expresses his opposition to all “Abrahamic” religions by declaring that the “real axis of evil is Judaism, Christianity and Islam”.
Mr. Hitchens had to postpone a book tour in June of 2010 to receive treatment for oesophageal cancer. He explained in his recent letter why he was a ‘no-show’ at a recent meeting of American Atheists. "Nothing would have kept me from joining you except the loss of my voice (at least my speaking voice) which in turn is due to a long argument I am currently having with the specter of death." We hope Mr. Hitchens the best in his battle with cancer. By his own words he admits that “no one ever wins” the argument with death.
Mr. Hitchens wanted to put to rest any rumors of a possible death-bed conversion. He stated that "redemption and supernatural deliverance appears even more hollow and artificial to me than it did before." Hitchens mocks those who believe in God and wrote to his fellow atheists that he was placing his trust in science and in his atheistic comrades.
It is perplexing to observe a man who has dedicated all of his life and energy to disprove the existence of God. If God does not exist and one is so thoroughly convinced of it, why does it matter that others might fantasize about a mythical being? If there is no God then the belief in God has no more significance than the belief in dinosaurs, or flying saucers, or the planet Pluto. Is not their belief in such things is harmless? Why do so many fear those who believe in God? Why try so hard to disprove them?
Is it possible that Mr. Hitchens is attempting to convince himself that God does not exist by convincing others? Every time he wins a convert to atheism he feels a little more assured that he is right. Is it possible that Mr. Hitchens has poured his life blood into the atheism movement because no matter how hard he tries, no matter how well he develops his arguments, there is something deep inside that counters what he believes? Is it possible that Mr. Hitchens is living out Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end”. We can run but we can't hide from the eternity God has weaved into the fabric of our being.
Mr. Hitchens blames most of the world’s problems on the ‘surrender of reason to absolutism.’ I know that the erasure of absolutes in one’s life frees the conscience to participate in certain sinful acts and habits. In a sense, it eliminates God so that you may be your own God. Belief in God can never be totally eliminated from the heart. The ‘eternity’ that God placed in the heart demands we believe. They who determine in their own minds what is right and wrong by trying to eliminate absolutes set themselves up as their own gods. In Hitchen's mind there are no absolutes but one. The one absolute that stands like a lonely tree in a barren field of unbelief is the absolute certainty that there are no absolutes. It is a contradictory absurdity that begs an answer from the New Atheist Movement.
I am reminded of the account of Esau and Jacob. Jacob was the weak, wimpy one who was very deceptive and sneaky. He connived a way to finagle the birthright away from Esau. Esau didn’t have any time for his weak, twin brother. He was a man’s man, a man of nature, a proud man fully capable of caring for himself. He looked at Jacob’s sensitivities as a weakness. He thought Jacob’s religion was a crutch for weaker men. Esau was so self-sufficient he felt no need for the birthright.
Malachi reminds us that God ‘loved Jacob’ but not Esau. Why did God have no feelings for Esau? Because God can do nothing with a man who thinks he has no need of God. A man who is so full of himself, who revels in his own pride and self-sufficiency is useless to God. Esau repudiated God and all those who stood for God. Esau’s sin was to declare God irrelevant. This reminds us of William Henley’s poem, “Invictus”.
“It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll.
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.”
God can do nothing with a man who believes he is self-sufficient. God never forgave Esau for his arrogance. The Psalmist said, “The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."
God was able to use Jacob because he finally came to a point in his life (remember the wrestling match) where he realized his real place. Jacob humbled himself before God and named himself, “a deceiver, a conniver” and totally unworthy of the grace of God. Jacob was finally in a place where God could use him. God renamed him Israel, Prince of God.
Christians believe that atheism is very short term. Maybe there are no atheists in foxholes. Maybe there are no atheists on death beds. But we know for certain there are no atheists in eternity. We know that one day we will be bowing our knee to God and confessing his glory with our voices. We believe it because God told us, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” (Romans 14:11
Don’t be surprised. Mr. Hitchen's voice will be restored and you will see him bowing there also. In that day no one will question the existence of God but all will wonder why atheism ever existed.
Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.