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Christopher Hitchens died on Thursday night at the age of 62, after a 18-month battle with esophageal cancer.

He was a brilliant and entertaining man. He was enormously gifted, and in his final years he took those gifts and used them to mock God, using his considerable wit and sharp tongue to convince as many people as possible to do the same.

When I had a crisis of faith my freshman year at a secular university studying religion, I was deeply convinced that there were only two options: full-blown Christian orthodoxy or atheism. Liberal theology—with its fantasy of rescuing the “kernel” (or essence) of Christianity from the (disposable) “husk” of dogma—had no appeal to me. And this is one of the things I appreciated about Hitchens. He once expressed incredulity at the platitudes of a Unitarian minister who saw the beauty of Jesus’ moral teachings while rejecting his divinity:

I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

He was no admirer of C. S. Lewis, but he did agree with Lewis’s statement about Jesus: “Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse.” Hitchens wrote:

Absent a direct line to the Almighty and a conviction that the last days are upon us, how is it “moral” to teach people to abandon their families, give up on thrift and husbandry and take to the stony roads?

How is it moral to claim a monopoly on access to heaven, or to threaten waverers with everlasting fire, let alone to condemn fig trees and persuade devils to infest the bodies of pigs?

Such a person if not divine would be a sorcerer and a ­fanatic.

He saw the choice before him, and he rejected the Savior.

Hitchens suspected there would be rumors of a deathbed conversion—but even more he feared that he might actually call out to God. Speaking perhaps truer than he knew, he sought to give a preemptive strike against such a possibility, explaining that would not be the real Christopher Hitchens doing such a thing:

Even if my voice goes before I do, I shall continue to write polemics against religious delusions, at least until it’s hello darkness my old friend. In which case, why not cancer of the brain? As a terrified, half-aware imbecile, I might even scream for a priest at the close of business, though I hereby state while I am still lucid that the entity thus humiliating itself would not in fact be “me.” (Bear this in mind, in case of any later rumors or fabrications.)

The section that sticks with me most from the Hitchens/Wilson debate-documentary Collision is the final scene. It is a telling moment, especially given that the subtitle of his bestselling book God Is Not Great effectively summarized the thesis of the book: How Religion Poisons Everything. More specifically, he wrote that organized religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children.” But in the back of this car with Doug, he reveals a difference between himself and Richard Dawkins:

Our heart and prayers go out to Christopher’s younger brother Peter—the author of The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith—in his time of grief and sorrow.

Douglas Wilson’s obituary is worth reading, especially as he explores the possibility of Christopher turning to Christ at the end.


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136 thoughts on “Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011)”

  1. Ezekiel 33:11a

    “Say to them, As I live,declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked,…”

    Ezekiel 33:11a
    ESV

    It is with a sad heart that I read the news of Christopher Hitchens’ death. As a Christian, I know that he spurned the God I worship and rejected the Savior that I have put my trust in, but there was something about his bold honesty that I liked. I am drawned to people who are “real” with their warts and all. Christopher Hitchens was “real” and he was interesting.

  2. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Justin Taylor: “He saw the choice before him, and he rejected the Savior.”

    In some way which I don’t know how to explain I actually prefer the plain honesty, even if it’s militant, of an outspoken atheist to that of a vague, functionally atheist non-believer.

    1. In some way which I don’t know how to explain, I sort of agree with you.

  3. Daryl Little says:

    If not for an understanding of the sovereignty of God in all things, I would be depressed about this news.

    As it is, I am deeply saddened, more than I expected I would be. Which is odd, for a man I never met or knew.
    But to know that he saw things, in many ways, more clearly than a great many who call themselves believers, and still rejected the Saviour.

    Bless Doug Wilson, Father. Bless him today. He did a great work on Mr. Hitchen’s behalf, and I suspect that today will be a difficult day for him.

  4. Tom Gilson has a good little piece on the death of Hitchens over at First Things:

    http://firstthings.com/evangel/2011/12/on-the-passing-of-christopher-hitchens/

  5. Robert says:

    Justin,

    I thought you provided a thoughtful and fair post regarding the death of Hitchens.

    However in the midst of your comments regarding Hitchens you made a statement that is highly inconsistent with your Calvinistic theology.

    In the midst of your comments you wrote this:

    “He saw the choice before him, and he rejected the Savior.“

    What CHOICE before him?

    If all is predestined by God as you believe and espouse (including our mental thoughts, beliefs, desires, everything), then Hitchens never had a chance or choice to trust in Christ.

    His fate was sealed before the world was created as he was chosen by God to be reprobate (assuming he died as an unbeliever) or to be a believer (if he had a death bed conversion).

    Not only is everyone’s fate sealed before they arrive on earth according to your theology, their every action and thought is as well.

    This means that: In a completely predestined world, NO ONE EVER HAS A CHOICE.

    They may go through the motions of making choices where they even believed they had a choice between accessible alternative possibilities.. But in reality their belief that they had such a choice (where they could actualize either of two different alternative possibilities), is always false in a completely predestined world. And Justin you do espouse a theology in which everything that takes place is predestined (or as the Westminster Confession puts it: “He ordaineth whatsoever comes to pass.”)

    So Justin why your comment then?

    Why this inconsistency on your part here?

    Your comment **completely contradicts** your espoused theology/philosophy/Calvinism.

    Most people upon reading that statement would at first glance think that you are suggesting that Hitchens HAD A CHOICE between accepting the Savior or rejecting the Savior and that sadly he rejected Christ. But that is not at all true under consistent Calvinism which you espouse.

    Robert

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Robert: I’m not sure how fruitful it is to discuss this at length. I’m aware of, and reject, your view that consistent Calvinism is theological fatalism. In summary, I would say that (1) the Bible very clearly teaches genuine human responsibility along with the necessity of making choices; (2) the Bible very clearly teaches that God can do everything consistent with his character (whatever he pleases, Ps. 115:3) and that all things are in accordance with his will (Eph. 1:11)—you can see a small sampling of the biblical evidence here:
      http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2011/10/18/what-is-god-sovereign-over/ ; (3) the Bible is coherent and consistent.

      With those presuppositions combined, I have zero qualms about my assertion.

      1. Robert says:

        Justin,

        “Robert: I’m not sure how fruitful it is to discuss this at length. I’m aware of, and reject, your view that consistent Calvinism is theological fatalism. In summary, I would say that (1) the Bible very clearly teaches genuine human responsibility along with the necessity of making choices; (2) the Bible very clearly teaches that God can do everything consistent with his character (whatever he pleases, Ps. 115:3) and that all things are in accordance with his will (Eph. 1:11)—you can see a small sampling of the biblical evidence here:
        http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2011/10/18/what-is-god-sovereign-over/ ; (3) the Bible is coherent and consistent.
        With those presuppositions combined, I have zero qualms about my assertion.”

        I have to say that your response does not address my point.

        My point was this: theological fatalism/calvinism (which John Martin Fischer defines as: “I now wish to sketch an argument for fatalism and compare it with the first version of the Basic Argument. Fatalism is the doctrine that it is a logical or conceptual truth that no person is ever free to do otherwise.” p. 12, John Martin Fischer, GOD, FOREKNOWLEDGE, AND FREEDOM)necessarily entails that if all events are predestined then WE NEVER EVER HAVE A CHOICE.

        Your comment about Hitchens speaks as if Hitchens had a genuine choice of trusting in Christ or rejecting Christ. But your espoused theology/philosophy if true, does not allow for us to EVER HAVE A CHOICE (which is why Fischer’s definition applies so well to your view: if your view is true “then no person is ever free to do otherwise”, no person ever has a choice). In a completely predestined world we might make choices, but we never HAVE CHOICES.

        In your response you appealed to three points.

        We agree that (3) the Bible is coherent and consistent. My claim is not that the bible is inconsistent, rather your theology/philosophy is inconsistent with your statement about Hitchens having a choice. So your third point is irrelevant.
        WE also agree on the first point (1) the Bible very clearly teaches genuine human responsibility along with the necessity of making choices.

        But you have missed something extremely important. If your view were true, then while we would engage in the making of choices, we NEVER WOULD HAVE ANY CHOICES. And yet both scripture and our own daily experience testify that not only do we make choices WE HAVE CHOICES. But that is what your theology/philosophy negates.
        If your view is true, then we never have choices. And that is the inconsistency that I brought out from your comments: between your espoused view (which if true means that we never have a choice) and your comment about Hitchens having a choice. You did not speak as if he merely made a choice, you spoke as if he had a choice. But your philosophy/theology does not allow for that reality.

        Your second point is merely an affirmation of your calvinism (i.e. that God predestines every event, based upon your interpretation of certain biblical texts. (2) is not persuasive for a non-Calvinist and merely assumes your Calvinism to be true. (1) and (3) to not deal with my point. Therefore your response does not eliminate the inconsistency between your view and your statement that Hitchens had a choice.

        Robert

      2. Arminian says:

        Justin,

        I understand your reluctance to discuss this at length. But I wonder if you have unintentionally sidestepped Robert’s question. Robert did not explicitly mention fatalism. He points out that Calvinism does not allow for people to ever have a choice about anything, since it holds that all has been unconditionally decreed by God and people cannot do other than they do. People not being able to do other than they do is pretty much a basic tenet of standard Calvinism. It is also pretty much the definition of not having a choice. So the question is how you can speak of people having choices when your theology contradicts that. It is not the question of how people can be responsible if God predetermines all, though that is a good question. But it is the question of how you can state that anyone has a choice about what they do given Calvinism.

        A good article about this is “The Reality of Choice and the Testimony of Scripture” ( http://evangelicalarminians.org/Henshaw-Determinism-Free-Will-The-Reality-of-Choice-and-the-Testimony-of-Scripture )

        1. Arminian says:

          I did not see that Robert responded until I submitted my first reply. He also mentioned that you (Justin) did not actually address his point. Perhaps my post is still useful as a more concise statement of the issue.

          Also, my mention of Robert not explicitly mentioning “fatalism” applies to his initial post and was not meant to apply to his follow up.

      3. Arminian says:

        BTW, since you raised the term theological fatalism, allow me to mention that one standard definition of it applies fully to Calvinism. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states,

        Though the word “fatalism” is commonly used to refer to an attitude of resignation in the face of some future event or events which are thought to be inevitable, philosophers usually use the word to refer to the view that we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do. This view may be argued for in various ways: by appeal to logical laws and metaphysical necessities; by appeal to the existence and nature of God; by appeal to causal determinism. When argued for in the first way, it is commonly called “Logical fatalism” (or, in some cases, “Metaphysical fatalism”); when argued for in the second way, it is commonly called “Theological fatalism”.

        Now, it is fine and good to make sure it is clear that Calvinism does not *necessarily* fall under certain other standard definitions of fatalism, such as the one about an attitude of resignation the encyclopedia article mentions. But I don’t think it is a valid option to deny that Calvinism fits under a standard definition of the term, indeed, what the article says is the usual philosophical use of the word.

        1. Theology Samurai says:

          It would really behoove you two to study some standard works on Calvinism, so that you don’t have to go over this old ground again and again and again. As it is, you continue to illustrate your own inability to grasp it’s basic concepts as exegeted from the text of Scripture. Read Calvin’s Institutes at the very least. I find it odd that so many Arminian epologists want to refute Calvin without reading him. It’s also the primary reason they can’t re-state Calvinistic doctrine in a way that would gain their opponent’s ascent.

          Besides, Steve Hays already dismantled you two. Are you coming back for another black eye?

          by the way, the Arminian God *permitted* Hitchens to reject Christ (as far as we know). How does that remove His culpability?

          1. Arminian says:

            Perhaps I know Calvinist thought better than you do. Your post might even betray that. Can you identify even one point at which my posts in this thread misrepresent Calvinism? I didn’t even mention “culpability,” though I did mention “responsibility” to make the point that that was not the issue.

            As for Steve Hays, did you not read the conversation? He made faulty arguments. Or do you consider getting the last word as automatically dismantling someone?

            1. steve hays says:

              The Arminian commenters here are acting like Westboro Baptists who picket military funerals. Save your objections for a suitable occasion.

              1. The Official Steve Hays Fan Club says:

                LOL! Zing!

                That is awesomely true, Steve.

              2. Agree with Steve. Hijacking this post is graceless.

            2. Theology Samurai says:

              I see, could you demonstrate these alleged “faulty” arguments? I only seem to remember that you declared them to be so, but can’t remember how demonstrated this. One solid example will suffice.

              I would not identify Calvinism with “fatalism” at all, so that would be your first glaring misrepresentation. That may be your personal assessment of Calvinism, but that hardly represents the position accurately.

              1. Arminian says:

                TS said: “I would not identify Calvinism with “fatalism” at all, so that would be your first glaring misrepresentation. That may be your personal assessment of Calvinism, but that hardly represents the position accurately.”

                **** Did you not see that I cited the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as giving a definition of theological fatalism that fully applies to Calvinism (“the view that we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do”)? I was also careful to state that there are other definitions of fatalism that don’t necessarily apply to Calvinism. So I think your charge of not understanding Calvinism is quite unwarranted. If you deny that Calvinism holds “the view that we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do,” then it might show that I may indeed understand Calvinism better than you.

        2. steve hays says:

          It’s revealing that anti-Calvinists are more obsessed with Calvinism than Calvinists. Justin simply did an obit on Hitchens that attempted to thread the needle of tact while using the opportunity to present a Christian witness.

          By contrast, the militant Arminians have no sense of tact, discretion, or propriety. If their grandmother was a Calvinist, and she died, they use her death as a pretext, while the body was still warm, to argue with grieving relatives over the merits of Arminian theology. This is not the time and place for an intramural debate over theology.

          1. Arminian says:

            I don’t think there was any attempt to use Hitchens’s death bed for discussing theology. While I did not originate the discussion about soteriology on this post, it seems valid for someone to question Justin about his theology as reflected in the obituary he wrote about someone he did not know. It is not like Justin is a grieving friend or loved one of Hitchens, and he did venture to make statements about the man’s death that carry some theological import.

            Your judgmental and harsh comments and conjecturing on how we would act with grieving relatives betray your own incivility, and makes one wonder if you are just trying to seize an opportunity to make those with whom you disagree look bad. Are you using Hitchens’s death bed to argue against Arminians? If you hadn’t gone on the attack, but simply said, “Hey guys, this is not the time or the place,” then your post would make more sense. The posts we made were respectful and relatively objective, talking about Justin’s (Calvinistic) theology and how that relates to what he wrote about Hitchens’s death, whom again, he did not know. And he responded to Robert as if Robert’s question was appropriate. I then clarified Robert’s question because it seemed that Justin missed its thrust.

            1. steve hays says:

              Arminian

              “I don’t think there was any attempt to use Hitchens’s death bed for discussing theology.”

              Except for the little part about how that’s exactly what you and Robert have been doing–and continue to do.

              “…and makes one wonder if you are just trying to seize an opportunity to make those with whom you disagree look bad.”

              You and Robert are doing that without any assistance from me.

              “Are you using Hitchens’s death bed to argue against Arminians?”

              Which reverses the actual sequence.

              1. Arminian says:

                Steve said: “Except for the little part about how that’s exactly what you and Robert have been doing–and continue to do.”

                **** Except that I clarified that that is not what we have been doing. We addressed Justin’s view of Hitchens’s relationship to God as he expressed it in his reflections on Hitchens’s death. Was it wrong for Justin to reflect on this on the occasion of his death?

                I asked: ““Are you using Hitchens’s death bed to argue against Arminians?”

                Steve responded: “Which reverses the actual sequence.”

                **** Oh, so in your view, first we used Hitchens’s death to argue against Calvinism, and then you used it to argue against Arminians? Perhaps in your mind you’re using Hitchens’s death to argue against Arminians, and it’s somehow justified because you think we used it to attack Calvinism first. But for our part, we are not using Hitchens’s death at all. As I stated above, we addressed Justin’s view of Hitchens’s relationship to God as he expressed it in his reflections on Hitchens’s death, whom he did not know.

              2. Tom Larsen says:

                Another time, folks.

  6. Alex Guggenheim says:

    There is little praise of either Wilson’s chasing fame with Hitchens or Hitchens himself who sought virtue in questioning and not accepting answers. But his family, of course, will mourn his death as they should, this is what people do for loved ones.

  7. Phil says:

    The Atheist Came To TheParty…
    by me, today
    In memory of Christopher Hitchens –

    The atheist came to the party
    Declaring that God is a myth.
    Unable to grasp how intelligent minds
    Could succumb to thinking He isn’t.

    So he points to religious duplicity
    And rightfully names it a fraud
    Then concludes from the breach, that truth can’t be reached,
    On a topic as tricky as God.

    “I’m as good as any man living, he holds,
    And without the help of religion.
    My life has meaning and purpose for living—
    Which I find in defying your heaven.”

    So even the arrogant atheist finds
    His own purpose related to God.
    And though it’s opposed, I still think it shows
    A contention like his is quite odd.

    This “delusion of God” he disputes in his head
    To protect his existence from tatters,
    The atheist needs, for his life to succeed,
    His conclusion to be, “nothing matters.”

    The myth of morality—just an opinion—
    Nothing is ultimately evil.
    The myth of meaning (toward which he’s leaning)
    From cause and effect, inconceivable.

    Working the crowd from topic to topic
    The erudite skeptic, unflinching,
    Avoids the assertion that one can be certain
    Yet, deftly, holds firm his convictions

    Which never a positive premise can find
    On which his beliefs rest assured.
    So sniping from cover of smuggled conceit
    His ego, unbridled, inures.

    He’s a good guy to have at the party though
    Since he won’t let mere boredom prevail.
    His only contention, that God’s an invention,
    Is certain to stir up a gale.

    But as the revelry withers at last,
    The crowd who endured his belligerence
    Will remember the fact that his life was exactly
    The antithesis of atheist intelligence.

  8. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    “Our heart and prayers go out to Christopher’s younger brother Peter—the author of The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith—in his time of grief and sorrow.”

    o Would it be remiss if Peter Hitchens believes per Scripture that his brother Christopher is likely Hell-bound?

    o If Peter/Christopher Hitchens’ family and friends ask Peter if Christopher went to Hell (per Scripture) since Christopher was an avowed Christ-Rejector, what would be some appropriate responses by Peter to that question?

    1. Phil says:

      I do not presume to know what Peter should say, but something like this might be appropriate;

      “The answer to that question is entirely up to God, who knows both our words and our hearts, and my understanding is that God does not force Himself upon those who reject Him.”

      I’m sure Peter will do much better than that though…

  9. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Douglas Wilson reports: “But unlike Christopher, Peter publicly returned to the Church of England, the communion where they had both been baptized.”

    (Secondary Observation) Supposing that Christopher and Peter were baptized as infants/toddlers/young boys, …

    do Paedo-Baptists such as Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox

    teach that baptism does not necessarily save a person’s soul?

    Does their doctrine teach that baptism is not salvific in and of itself? And a case in point would be Christopher Hitchens.

    1. Eric says:

      (Short Answer) The first three see baptism as needing to be joined to faith to be effective, so no on its own (Lutherans would also see it as washing original guilt, but not what you accrue in your own life). For Catholics, I’m not sure an Anglican baptism would count anyway, but even if it did they’d see Hitchens as apostate and failing to continue in grace. I don’t about the Orthodox view, and don’t think this thread is the place to discuss them in depth anyway.

  10. Arminian says:

    I’ll probably bow out of this thread. I think it was ok for Robert to question Justin about the theology he expressed, but it seems like the conversation has become petty and off topic.

    Justin, I had mentioned that you missed the real thrust of Robert’s question for you. I would be interested in your answer to that thrust if you care to give it. And if you think it was bad form to question you about that, I would be interested to hear that as well. It did not seem to be your attitude. I would never want to act as Steve Hays has accused us of acting. I did not think that the question was of that nature in this context, talking about your (Calvinistic) theology and how that relates to what you wrote in response to Hitchens’s death about his relationship with God, whom I believe you did not know.

    Thanks.

    1. The Official Steve Hays Fan Club says:

      “I’ll probably bow out of this thread.”

      Bow out of this BLOG.

      You and Robert have no tact. Bring your game to Triablogue where Steve and the boys will show you what argumentation and logic are all about!

      1. Gary says:

        LOL that you of all people complain that others have no tact. Do you deal in irony often?

  11. Joshua says:

    A wonderfully written tribute for a brilliant writer turned in a stupid theological debate. Terrific.

    For my part, I will miss him. His family is in my prayers – Hitchens was a brilliant rhetoritician, writer and social/political critic. I wish more critics of religion wrote with his skill and wit and observational power. His theological/philosophical criticism were pathetic – but his overall points often rang true. I’ll miss him.

  12. Mike Gantt says:

    Justin, thanks for isolating that film clip of Hitch with Wilson. I had never seen it. How poignant!

    I loved Hitch and I take comfort from the Scriptures that he is in heaven now (for everyone goes to heaven). Nonetheless, looking at his earthly life just finished, I am more determined than ever to repent of all impurity and live fully for Jesus Christ…because Hitch lived passionately for only portions of the truth. How much more we should live as passionately for He who embodies all the truth.

    1. steve hays says:

      Mike Gantt

      “I loved Hitch and I take comfort from the Scriptures that he is in heaven now (for everyone goes to heaven).”

      Nothing crueler than offering the lost false hope. Not only will their hopes be dashed–dashed when it’s too late to turn around, but you rob them of the only true source of hope with this diabolical substitute.

      1. Mike Gantt says:

        Steve,

        An atheist who believes that Christ takes everyone to heaven would no longer be an atheist – he would be trusting Christ.

        1. steve hays says:

          An atheist who believes that Christ takes everyone to heaven would no longer be an atheist – he’d be a universalist in hell.

          1. Mike Gantt says:

            Steve, I’m glad that Jesus is the Savior and that you are not.

            You’re saying that faith in Christ is not enough.

            1. steve hays says:

              Jesus is Savior to some and Judge to others.

              The damned don’t exercise faith in Christ.

              1. Mike Gantt says:

                Steve,

                Jesus is Savior to all and judge to all. We shall all stand before His throne – even for this very conversation.

              2. steve hays says:

                Mike Gantt

                “Jesus is Savior to all and judge to all. We shall all stand before His throne – even for this very conversation.”

                A slap on the wrist before we get our wings.

              3. Mike Gantt says:

                “A slap on the wrist before we get our wings.”

                I can’t feel that glib about it.

        2. Theology Samurai says:

          Mike,

          You’re going to answer to Christ for the false hope you instill in Christ-rejectors. Hitchens didn’t even want to be in heaven, guess everyone gets there against their will one way or another under your scheme.

          So, eat, drink, and be merry…for tomorrow we die.

          1. Mike Gantt says:

            Theology Samurai,

            God forbid that we should “eat, drink, and be merry.” On the contrary, we must repent and let the Lord purify our hearts. Those who call on the name of Christ need to return to their first love. Christians love entertaining church services and complain when church is like the poor service of an airline.

            Read chapters two and three of Revelation and take those messages deeply to heart. If you care at all about this country, your children, and your grandchildren…repent. Stop living for each other’s approval and live for our Lord’s approval!

            One of the reasons Hitchens did not take Christ seriously is that so many Christians do not take Him seriously.

            I say again: live a life of whole-hearted repentance and do the deeds you did at first. Jesus Christ is worthy that we should love Him with an undying passion.

  13. steve hays says:

    Mike Gantt

    “God forbid that we should ‘eat, drink, and be merry.’”

    “God forbid” loses its bite on the lips of a universalist.

    “On the contrary, we must repent and let the Lord purify our hearts.”

    Sin at leisure, repent later.

    “One of the reasons Hitchens did not take Christ seriously is that so many Christians do not take Him seriously.”

    Why should he take Christ seriously if he denies Christ all his life, then goes to heaven the moment he dies?

  14. Mike Gantt says:

    “‘God forbid’ loses its bite on the lips of a universalist.”

    Not this one.

    “Sin at leisure, repent later.”

    God forbid. That’s blasphemous.

    “Why should he take Christ seriously if he denies Christ all his life, then goes to heaven the moment he dies?”

    Don’t you recall the radical change in attitude of the rich man in Luke 16? Everyone is heaven is an evangelist at heart – no matter what they were before they got there.

  15. steve hays says:

    Mike Gantt

    “God forbid. That’s blasphemous.”

    Yes, universalism is blasphemous. Glad you’re coming around to my position.

    “Don’t you recall the radical change in attitude of the rich man in Luke 16? Everyone is heaven is an evangelist at heart – no matter what they were before they got there.”

    The fate of Dives in Lk 16 is your idea of heaven? That’s quite a letdown.

    1. Mike Gantt says:

      steve hays,

      “Yes, universalism is blasphemous. Glad you’re coming around to my position.”

      Telling people to go ahead and sin because it won’t keep them out of heaven is blasphemous. To believe everyone is going there is not.

      “The fate of Dives in Lk 16 is your idea of heaven? That’s quite a letdown.”

      Luke 16 takes place in Hades (Sheol) which existed in the old heaven and earth. If you think that this cosmology still prevails then you must believe no one is going to heaven and everyone is still going there.

  16. ericm says:

    It’s worth mentioning that Hitchens had more reason than intellectual disbelief to reject heaven (though there was that too). It seemed to me that he found the idea of living in a cosmic autocracy utterly repugnant. Even if there WERE a God he would have railed against him in the same way as any other autocrat: The Pope, Saddam Hussein, Breznev, etc. So the idea of Hitch in heaven, even if it actually exists, is not that convincing.

    1. Mike Gantt says:

      ericm,

      If that’s the case, I’d encourage you to re-think your conception of heaven. Actually, that was one of Hitch’s big limitations: that is, he could only conceive of heaven in the traditional Christian way of egalitarian undifferentiated semi-catatonic bliss (usually with a few puffy clouds and golden harps thrown in). The God of the earth is the God of heaven and there will certainly be no less variation there than we see here.

      Also, consider that Hitch portrayed God as an autocrat. But assuming you know Christ, you should be able to imagine much more properly than that. And use the Scriptures – they are our standard for truth.

  17. steve hays says:

    Mike Gantt

    “Telling people to go ahead and sin because it won’t keep them out of heaven is blasphemous. To believe everyone is going there is not.”

    It’s not blasphemous according to universalism.

    “Luke 16 takes place in Hades (Sheol) which existed in the old heaven and earth. If you think that this cosmology still prevails then you must believe no one is going to heaven and everyone is still going there.”

    “Sheol” is a word that sometimes designates the grave. At other times it designates the afterlife. That’s a question of context.

    In the latter sense, “sheol” is just a generic word for the afterlife. Hebrew doesn’t use separate words for “heaven” and “hell” (in the postmortem sense). That doesn’t mean the *afterlife* was undifferentiated, just the *vocabulary* for the afterlife. The OT has other ways of differentiating the fate of the redeemed and the damned.

    Likewise, “sheol” is not a place. It’s just a word for the “afterlife” (when employed in that context). The OT sometimes uses picturesque imagery for the afterlife. Isa 14:15ff. is a striking example, although that’s satirical.

  18. Mike Gantt says:

    “‘Sheol’ is a word that sometimes designates the grave. At other times it designates the afterlife. That’s a question of context.”

    The grave always implies afterlife. Certainly no one in this life dwells in a grave.

    “In the latter sense, “sheol” is just a generic word for the afterlife. Hebrew doesn’t use separate words for “heaven” and “hell” (in the postmortem sense).”

    That’s because the Old Testament taught that everyone who died went to Sheol below. No one went to heaven above.

    “That doesn’t mean the *afterlife* was undifferentiated, just the ‘vocabulary’ for the afterlife.”

    Indeed, Sheol (Hades) allowed for differentiation within its confines.

    “The OT has other ways of differentiating the fate of the redeemed and the damned.”

    Yes, but going to heaven was not one of them. Sheol (Hades) was the destination of everyone who died.

    “Likewise, ‘sheol’ is not a place. It’s just a word for the ‘afterlife’ (when employed in that context). The OT sometimes uses picturesque imagery for the afterlife.”

    So Saul didn’t really call Samuel up from Sheol – rather he called him up from the “picturesque imagery for the afterlife”?

    Maybe since you are a particularist, you believe that you are going (by the way, is it a coincidence that particularlists always think they are the ones who are going to heaven?) to – not a place but rather – a “picturesque imagery for the afterlife”?

  19. steve hays says:

    Mike Gantt

    “The grave always implies afterlife. Certainly no one in this life dwells in a grave.”

    i) That’s not something you can get from the word “sheol.” At best that’s something you can get from the surrounding context, with or without the word “sheol.” You’re confusing words with concepts. Many OT occurrences of “sheol” are neutral on the afterlife.

    ii) It’s also arguable that “sheol” means more than one thing in OT usage. It doesn’t have a uniform meaning.”

    “That’s because the Old Testament taught that everyone who died went to Sheol below. No one went to heaven above.

    You’re repeating the same semantic fallacy I corrected you on. Learn how to adapt.

    “Indeed, Sheol (Hades) allowed for differentiation within its confines.”

    i) You’re confusing an alleged place with a state of being.

    ii) You also have a wooden grasp of spatial metaphors.

    “Yes, but going to heaven was not one of them. Sheol (Hades) was the destination of everyone who died.”

    Reiterating your question-begging assertions doesn’t advance the argument.

    “So Saul didn’t really call Samuel up from Sheol – rather he called him up from the ‘picturesque imagery for the afterlife’?

    Discarnate spirits are illocal. Only a body can occupy physical space.

    “Maybe since you are a particularist, you believe that you are going (by the way, is it a coincidence that particularlists always think they are the ones who are going to heaven?) to – not a place but rather – a ‘picturesque imagery for the afterlife’?”

    Are you just trying to caricature the orthodox position, or are you truly that ignorant? Orthodox eschatology distinguishes between the intermediate state (a disembodied state) and the final state (a reembodied state). You may disagree, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to misstate the opposing position.

  20. Mike Gantt says:

    steve hays,

    The OT portrays a consistent spiritual cosmology throughout: heaven above (the place of God and angels), earth here (the place of the living), and Sheol below (the place of departed souls). The only exception to this is when it prophesies of a new heaven and earth (which has nothing below it). By the way, you can take that same sentence and, knowing that Hades is the Greek term for Sheol, apply it to the NT as well.

    Sheol occurs 66 times in the OT and Hades 10 times in the NT. Search these 76 occurrence and see that they are part of the consistent cosmology I have described.

    Your unwillingness to acknowledge the clear and consistent usage of “Sheol/Hades” puzzles me.

  21. steve hays says:

    You’re describing the geocentric, triple-decker universe. Do you think that’s literally descriptive? Does God sit on a physical throne? Does he have a literal beard? Will oil rigs puncture the netherworld? Will demons escape?

  22. Mike Gantt says:

    steve hays,

    The answer of each of your questions is no. It’s a spiritual cosmology – not a physical one. The physical world (heaven, earth, sea) simply provides the analogy.

    1. Andrew says:

      Mike-

      I have noticed that you have popped up recently on a few high-profile blogs.

      It seems strange that you would choose to spread your message to those who obviously disagree with you- unless somehow you are looking to drive traffic to your blog/website/etc.

      Let’s practice what you preach: if universalism is true, then this discussion is pointless since all will go to heaven anyway.

      Prove to us that you are a Universalist by ceasing to post here.

      1. Mike Gantt says:

        Andrew,

        I don’t preach universalism – I preach Jesus Christ, crucified for our sins and risen from the dead. My message is that we should repent and walk righteously seeking the kingdom of God every day. Yes, there is ultimately good news for all of us after this life, but this is all the more reason we should humble ourselves and seek the purifying gaze of His holy eyes on every thought of our hearts. Woe to those who use the truth that everyone is going to heaven to live lawlessly.

      2. steve hays says:

        Mike Gantt

        “I don’t preach universalism – I preach Jesus Christ, crucified for our sins and risen from the dead.”

        You need to drop the dissimulation. Your position is a variant of universalism. That’s just a fact. And the further fact that you’re too ashamed of your position to admit what it is is quite damning (pardon the pun).

        1. Mike Gantt says:

          steve hays,

          What’s hidden? My blogs are up-front about everything I believe, and all founded on the truth that Jesus is Lord and the Bible is the word of God.

          You seem to believe that it’s impossible to believe that everyone is going to heaven and simultaneously call for righteous behavior. But I’m telling you that the Lord not only calls for righteous behavior, the state of Christianity in America today is an affront to His glory. Churchgoing has substituted for righteousness and it is entirely unacceptable to Him. He demands our love and holy separation to Him. Christians look for approval from each other instead of from the holy Lord who bought them.

          Turn to His reproof and He will pour out His Spirit on you.

          1. steve hays says:

            Mike Gantt

            “What’s hidden?”

            You play coy about the fact that you’re a universalist.

            “You seem to believe that it’s impossible to believe that everyone is going to heaven and simultaneously call for righteous behavior. But I’m telling you that the Lord not only calls for righteous behavior, the state of Christianity in America today is an affront to His glory. Churchgoing has substituted for righteousness and it is entirely unacceptable to Him. He demands our love and holy separation to Him. Christians look for approval from each other instead of from the holy Lord who bought them. Turn to His reproof and He will pour out His Spirit on you.”

            You’re not reasoning with people here; you’re just preaching at them and making sanctimonious pronouncements that do nothing to relieve the internal contradictions of your universalism. Universalism logically abets antinomianism.

            1. Mike Gantt says:

              steve hays,

              “You play coy about the fact that you’re a universalist.”

              That I believe everyone is going to heaven is one of the most obvious things about me to anyone reading this thread or my website. Coy?!

              “Universalism logically abets antinomianism.”

              It didn’t with me.

              “You’re not reasoning with people here; you’re just preaching at them and making sanctimonious pronouncements that do nothing to relieve the internal contradictions of your universalism.”

              That I am doing some preaching there is no doubt. Jesus Christ is Lord! (There I go again.). As for internal contradictions, you’re seeing something that isn’t there. I believe everyone is going to heaven. I also believe judgment is upon us. I also believe Jesus Christ has already come again and we are living in the kingdom of God. I also believe there is nothing more important than living a life of repentance in the presence of the Lord. (More of those sanctimonious pronouncements – but not an internal inconsistency to be found between them.)

      3. Gary says:

        Wow, so this is what it’s come to on Justin’s famous blog. People like you, Steve Hayes, and his fan club simply resort to telling people they don’t like, to “go away”, “stop posting”, etc. Nice “reasoning” there folks. But there you have it. If you aren’t a full fledged 5 pointer, credo-baptist, complementarian, infralapsarian (or is the correct belief supralapsarian??), then die heretic scum! LOL.

        1. steve hays says:

          Gary

          “If you aren’t a full fledged 5 pointer, credo-baptist, complementarian, infralapsarian (or is the correct belief supralapsarian??), then die heretic scum! LOL.”

          Feel free to quote me on that.

    2. steve hays says:

      Mike Gantt

      “The answer of each of your questions is no. It’s a spiritual cosmology – not a physical one. The physical world (heaven, earth, sea) simply provides the analogy.”

      In which case you don’t think Sheol was a physical place which all departed souls actually went to (much less down into) when they died.

      1. Mike Gantt says:

        steve hays,

        “In which case you don’t think Sheol was a physical place which all departed souls actually went to (much less down into) when they died.”

        Sheol was a spiritual place to which all departed souls indeed went down to when they died. This is what the Old Testament clearly teaches. Anyone can do a Strong’s word study on “Sheol” and see that this is true. I am surprised that you seem to be trying to deny it.

        1. steve hays says:

          Mike Gantt

          “Sheol was a spiritual place to which all departed souls indeed went down to when they died. This is what the Old Testament clearly teaches. Anyone can do a Strong’s word study on ‘Sheol’ and see that this is true. I am surprised that you seem to be trying to deny it.”

          You’re blathering incoherence. If it’s a “place” you can literally “go” to, then it’s physical. If it’s spiritual, then it’s not a literal place you can go to. That would be a spatial metaphor. To literally “go” somewhere, as in “going down,” implies passage through space. Implies a location that occupies physical space.

          You can’t combine a “spiritual” cosmography with real spatial dimensions.

          1. Mike Gantt says:

            I’m just talking about Sheol the way the prophets who wrote the Old Testament did. If you have an argument about it, you should take it up with them.

            1. steve hays says:

              Mike Gantt

              “I’m just talking about Sheol the way the prophets who wrote the Old Testament did. If you have an argument about it, you should take it up with them.”

              i) You’re not going to win any converts to your position by making smarmy comments like that. Remember where you are. You’re not playing to a sympathetic audience, here. It’s a steep uphill climb for you. So you need to up your game.

              ii) The question at issue is whether your position is internally consistent.

              1. Mike Gantt says:

                steve hays,

                “You’re not going to win any converts to your position by making smarmy comments like that.”

                To assert that my comment is smarmy is not an argument.

                “Remember where you are. You’re not playing to a sympathetic audience, here. It’s a steep uphill climb for you. So you need to up your game.”

                I assume the audience is largely populated with people who believe that the Old Testament was written by prophets inspired by the Spirit of God. I further presume that they are familiar enough with the Scriptures to know that I am accurately reflecting how the prophets portray Sheol, or to do the word study on “Sheol” and find out.

                “The question at issue is whether your position is internally consistent.”

                Again, it is the prophets’ view I am relating and I am amazed at its consistency.

  23. steve hays says:

    Mike Gantt

    “God forbid. That’s blasphemous.”

    And, according to you, all blasphemers go straight to heaven. So “God forbid” isn’t very forbidding on your view.

    1. Mike Gantt says:

      No one blasphemes in heaven. When I say “God forbid” I’m appealing for His help in stopping it here.

  24. steve hays says:

    Mike Gantt

    “No one blasphemes in heaven. When I say ‘God forbid’ I’m appealing for His help in stopping it here.”

    There’s no incentive to stop it here if all blasphemers go to heaven.

    1. Jane says:

      The reason that Hitchens had no respect for Christianity is its followers spend their time arguing about the particulars of a fictional place that no one has ever been able to prove exists – and yet you’re convinced that he’s not there.

      The whole thing makes me want to pour a very tall tumbler of Johnnie Walker.

    2. Jane says:

      PS.
      Have any of you even taken time out from debating about blasphemy thresholds long enough to have read this gentleman’s work?

      If not, then why are you even posting under this entry?

      1. Mike Gantt says:

        Jane,

        I imagine many people here are familiar with Hitch. I certainly am. He engaged with believers in Christ. And if you’ll view the two-minute video clip in the original post you’ll hear Hitch make a poignant statement that shows why he particularly among crusading atheists deserves to be remembered in a forum like this.

        I believe he’s in heaven, but I think that may put me in the minority of those commenting here. Nevertheless, I think most of us would agree it’s a place that’s quite real, and certainly more lasting than what anyone is experiencing here.

      2. Jane said:

        “The reason that Hitchens had no respect for Christianity is its followers spend their time arguing about the particulars of a fictional place that no one has ever been able to prove exists”

        Although Hitchens at his best offered weak arguments against Christianity, at least he tried now and again. You don’t even bother. Like a good little irreligious automaton, you just happily assert it’s “a fictional place” in a drive-by comment.

        “and yet you’re convinced that he’s not there.”

        Steve Hays hasn’t said one way or the other.

        Mike Gantt doesn’t believe what bona fide Christians believe.

        Ultimately genuine Christians would agree God has the final say with regard to Hitchens’ fate.

        “Have any of you even taken time out from debating about blasphemy thresholds long enough to have read this gentleman’s work?”

        Speaking for myself, I have read Hitchens’ work. Not all of it. He wrote voluminously. But a lot of it.

        But one doesn’t necessarily need to have read Hitchens to know whether he’s worth reading. For one thing, his reputation precedes him. Plus, one can trust the judgment of reasonable and competent people who have read and interacted with Hitchens.

        By the way, have you read the Bible and Christian theology, etc.? If so, why don’t you interact with it? If not, why are you commenting on a Christian blog?

        1. Jane says:

          “a good little irreligious automaton”

          When in doubt, pat someone you disagree with on the head – classy.

          And just what evidence do you have that there is a heaven to even go to? (inquires the good little irreligious automaton…)

          1. Jane said:

            “When in doubt, pat someone you disagree with on the head – classy.”

            On the one hand, you take umbrage with my apparent lack of “class” in commenting. But on the other hand it’s not as if your original comment was “classy.”

            “And just what evidence do you have that there is a heaven to even go to? (inquires the good little irreligious automaton…)”

            This is a broad question. I don’t have the time to rehearse all the lines of argument and evidence for you – e.g. biblical, philosophical, medical. Particularly since you say you’re “well-acquainted with Christianity” (below). You should be familiar enough with what’s available in Christian apologetics. If you’re not, then ask a specific question.

            1. Jane says:

              I have no trouble with you commenting – that’s what people who comment expect. Calling me an “automaton”, or for that matter, any name, is the class-less part. I am guilty of lobbing that one back over the wall – sorry, it was childish but I couldn’t resist.

              I am familiar enough with Christian apologetics to know that there is no actual, physical evidence. How could there be? No one has been and returned with an account – spare me Lazarus for whom there is no account of his existence and the folks who see light during a near death experience.

              It’s fine for people to have faith and believe that there is something beyond here. I’m only troubled when faith is used as a form of proof.

              Heaven is

              1. Jane said:

                “I have no trouble with you commenting – that’s what people who comment expect. Calling me an ‘automaton’, or for that matter, any name, is the class-less part.”

                Well, characterizing Christians as “spend[ing] their time arguing about the particulars of a fictional place” isn’t exactly too far removed from name-calling.

                “I am guilty of lobbing that one back over the wall – sorry, it was childish but I couldn’t resist.”

                Fair enough.

                “I am familiar enough with Christian apologetics to know that there is no actual, physical evidence.”

                But why would you expect there to be?

                And why should physical evidence count as decisive evidence in this case?

                There’s no physical evidence for a number. But we believe numbers exist.

                Also, there’s no physical, tangible evidence for a thought. But we believe thoughts exist. You may argue over whether thoughts or the mind or consciousness arises from or is dependent or independent of the physical brain or various neurophysiological and biochemical processes. But no one believes anyone has physically captured a thought in a container.

                “How could there be? No one has been and returned with an account – spare me Lazarus for whom there is no account of his existence and the folks who see light during a near death experience.”

                For one thing, this assumes the Gospels aren’t reliable eyewitness testimonial accounts. And it assumes testimonials about NDEs aren’t reliable.

                Of course, I’m not arguing all testimonial evidence is reliable. Sure, there’s a lot of false testimonial evidence with regard to supernatural events or NDEs or whatever else. Rather I’m suggesting some testimonial evidence could be reliable.

                Anyway, check out this article for starters.

                “It’s fine for people to have faith and believe that there is something beyond here. I’m only troubled when faith is used as a form of proof.”

                It sounds like you think faith is some sort of blind leap in the dark against reason, logic, and evidence. If so, you’re plainly mistaken. That’s certainly not how I happen to think.

              2. steve hays says:

                Jane

                “I am familiar enough with Christian apologetics to know that there is no actual, physical evidence”

                Since heaven isn’t physical, we wouldn’t expect physical evidence for heaven, just as we don’t expect or demand physical evidence for abstract objects like numbers and possible worlds.

                “How could there be? No one has been and returned with an account – spare me Lazarus for whom there is no account of his existence and the folks who see light during a near death experience.”

                i) We do have an account of his existence: the Gospel of John.

                ii) Your standard of evidence is evasive and irrational. Most folks who lived and died aren’t famous. In many cases, we don’t have direct, physical evidence for their existence. Rather, we have oral histories, letters, diaries, old newspapers, and so forth.

                Would it be reasonable to automatically doubt the existence of someone because he’s only mentioned in the diary of his daughter?

              3. Jane says:

                “Would it be reasonable to automatically doubt the existence of someone because he’s only mentioned in the diary of his daughter?”

                Yes.

    3. Mike Gantt says:

      steve hays,

      I’ll repeat here what I wrote this morning to “rockingwithhawking” on a Triablogue post.

      The recurring theme of your recent comments seems to be that if everyone is going to heaven, there’s no point in choosing righteousness over pleasure.

      The first thing I’d say to this is that you remind me of the laborers in the Matthew 20 parable who complained that others hadn’t worked long enough. The Lord asked them, “Is your eye envious because I am generous?”

      Second, you seem completely unaware of the judgment that is upon us – judgment here in the earth and final judgment when we go to heaven. Those judgments are exceeding fine and would inspire the fear of God in you if you really took them seriously. It’s not as if calamities in Old Testament times were caused by God but today they’re caused by science. God is one. Wake up to the wrath that is in the world, repent of your sins, and pray with me that God may forgive us so that our children and grandchildren will have a country worth living in.

  25. steve hays says:

    Jane

    “Have any of you even taken time out from debating about blasphemy thresholds long enough to have read this gentleman’s work?”

    If you’re alluding to _god is not Great_, not only have I read it, but I published a review:

    http://www.thephora.net/forum/archive/index.php/t-27384.html

    Conversely, what Christian scholars have you read?

    1. Jane says:

      Such a speedy and delicious rebuttal.

      I am well-acquiainted with Christian theology. And although it’s no guarantee that I’m well-versed, I was educated in a Christian high school, followed by a Christian liberal arts undergraduate education. But thanks for asking.

      “But one doesn’t necessarily need to have read Hitchens to know whether he’s worth reading. For one thing, his reputation precedes him. Plus, one can trust the judgment of reasonable and competent people who have read and interacted with Hitchens.”

      Sadly, I am required to be well-acquainted with Christianity (which I am) and you are allowed to understand atheism through osmosis.

      As well, I’d love to know what led you to the conclusion that his arguments against Christianity were weak.

      1. Jane said:

        “Sadly, I am required to be well-acquainted with Christianity (which I am) and you are allowed to understand atheism through osmosis.”

        Is that what I said? No. You need to brush up on your reading comprehension.

        Also, even if it’s true I’ve never read let alone understand Hitchens, Hitchens isn’t identical to atheism. In fact, he’s hardly atheism’s best proponent. He’s a charming, affecting writer. But his objections to Christianity are superficial at best. There are far more sophisticated and intelligent atheists available to read and study.

        In any case it doesn’t mean I’m “allowed to understand atheism through osmosis” or that that’s what’s taking place. That’s just a caricature of what I said.

        “As well, I’d love to know what led you to the conclusion that his arguments against Christianity were weak.”

        For starters, see Steve Hays’ book review above. Then search the archives on Triablogue for material on Hitchens. Not to mention material on atheism.

        1. Jane says:

          First I’m an automaton, then my reading comprehension is attacked. Hitchens was right – see how the Christians love!

          FYI – Steve Hays’ book review is so poorly written that I had forgotten what book he was reviewing by the time I finished reading it.

          You know, I came onto this blog because, while I have been gone from the faith community for years now, I like to check in and see what you’re thinking and writing about. Perhaps I have a glimmer of hope that one day I’ll come on one of these things and see real renewal of thought and people taking a critical look at what they believe and why they believe – and that a serious narrative of those things would emerge.

          Apparently I’m out of luck today….

          1. steve hays says:

            Jane

            “FYI – Steve Hays’ book review is so poorly written that I had forgotten what book he was reviewing by the time I finished reading it.”

            I present arguments, you respond with assertions. You say nothing to rebut anything I said in my review. Affecting a pose of intellectual superiority isn’t justified by your intellectual performance thus far.

            1. Jane says:

              I’m expressing an opinion about a book review. I’ve said nothing about being intellectually superior to anyone.

              I don’t come to chat rooms to “perform” intellectually. That would be wierd.

              I just didn’t like your review – why so defensive?

              1. @Jane

                On the one hand, you play dumb: “I’m expressing an opinion about a book review. I’ve said nothing about being intellectually superior to anyone.”

                But on the other hand you say stuff like:

                “The reason that Hitchens had no respect for Christianity is its followers spend their time arguing about the particulars of a fictional place that no one has ever been able to prove exists”

                “I am well-acquiainted with Christian theology. And although it’s no guarantee that I’m well-versed, I was educated in a Christian high school, followed by a Christian liberal arts undergraduate education.”

                “I am required to be well-acquainted with Christianity (which I am) and you are allowed to understand atheism through osmosis.”

                “I am familiar enough with Christian apologetics to know that there is no actual, physical evidence.”

                “Steve Hays’ book review is so poorly written that I had forgotten what book he was reviewing by the time I finished reading it.”

                “I have a glimmer of hope that one day I’ll come on one of these things and see real renewal of thought and people taking a critical look at what they believe and why they believe – and that a serious narrative of those things would emerge. Apparently I’m out of luck today.”

              2. Jane said:

                “I just didn’t like your review – why so defensive?”

                Speaking of defensive, earlier Jane took my telling her she had deficient reading comprehension as a personal attack (rather than, say, a statement of fact with advisement to improve): “First I’m an automaton, then my reading comprehension is attacked. Hitchens was right – see how the Christians love!”

              3. Jane says:

                I criticized your review – and stand by it. Those other comments were aimed at my person.

                I don’t know why, but I keep thinking that Christians are supposed to be nicer people.

              4. Jane said:

                “I criticized your review – and stand by it. Those other comments were aimed at my person.”

                1. Actually, all you gave was your opinion: “Steve Hays’ book review is so poorly written that I had forgotten what book he was reviewing by the time I finished reading it.” You didn’t actually offer a “critical” review.

                2. As I pointed out to you above, you’ve attacked Christians too. No need to pretend you’re innocent of aiming your comments at persons.

                “I don’t know why, but I keep thinking that Christians are supposed to be nicer people.”

                1. How do you infer from an online debate how “nice” people are in real life?

                2. “Nice” isn’t necessarily always a virtue. There are times when it’s virtuous not to be nice such as when the truth is at stake. Jesus himself wasn’t always “nice.” He had some harsh words for certain people.

                3. However, like I’ve said, you’ve hardly behaved impeccably. If we were to judge all atheists by your behavior, then atheists aren’t always very nice either.

                4. If you’re referring to ad hominem attacks, not all ad hominem attacks are always fallacious. See logicians like Peter Geach and Douglas Walton on the topic.

                5. You need to distinguish between personal behavior and objective moral standards. It’s possible for atheists to behave morally while it’s possible for Christians to behave immorally.

                6. More importantly, however, is what objectively grounds morality given the confluence of atheism and naturalism and evolution? If atheism is true, then there’s no objective moral grounds to be “nice.” Indeed, if atheism is true, then there’s a good argument to be selfish and self-centered.

              5. Jane says:

                They’re all opinions and the last time I checked, that’s all that’s on this comment thread – opinions. Not sure why mine are thrown back at me…Do I not have the right to them? Or do I not have the right to them here?

              6. Mike Gantt says:

                I welcome your comments, Jane, and I have to believe I’m not the only one.

              7. Jane said:

                “They’re all opinions and the last time I checked, that’s all that’s on this comment thread – opinions. Not sure why mine are thrown back at me…Do I not have the right to them? Or do I not have the right to them here?”

                Wrong. There are arguments and counter-arguments here. Also there are assertions. There are attacks too.

                For example, you’ve attacked Christians and Christianity. You’ve made assertions against Christianity and in favor of Hitchens. You’ve “criticized” others. But you don’t offer anything substantive. Just drive-by comments. That’s the problem.

                Imagine if I came on an atheist website and started making assertions like: “Hitch was a horrible writer”; “I am familiar enough with atheist arguments to know that there is no actual evidence for atheism”; “I’m troubled when atheists use their ‘faith’ as a form of proof”; “I used to be an atheist and I’m well-acquainted with atheism and atheology but atheism is a fairy tale”; and “the reason that theists have no respect for atheists is atheists spend their time arguing about the particulars of a fictional process that no one has ever been able to prove exists.”

                If I made these sorts of unsubstantiated assertions on an atheist website, I would expect atheists would challenge me to provide arguments for my assertions.

                But instead of providing arguments I just say: “What’s the big deal? These are all just my opinions and the last time I checked, that’s all that’s on this comment thread – opinions. Not sure why mine are thrown back at me…Do I not have the right to them? Or do I not have the right to them here?”

                That’s more or less how you come across.

              8. Jane says:

                You obivously didn’t get my ironic comment about Christians “being nice”. Sheesh!

                I don’t know about “behaving impeccably” – which of course, I haven’t because I didn’t promise to – but I’m not sure what’s up when a bunch of “theologians” pile on someone for expressing a thought or two (reference the dissertations that my posts have been met with).

                I loved the work of Christopher Hitchens because it made me feel less alone – something that the faith community, including you guys today, seem to fail miserably at.

              9. Also, Jane, you don’t interact with points against your assertions.

              10. Jane says:

                Comment sections are just that: someone writes a piece, people comment (ie. express an opinion) and we all benefit. (can I hear an “amen”?)

                rockingwithhawking – I have no idea where all of this hostility is coming from, but I find it disturbing…

              11. Jane said:

                “but I’m not sure what’s up when a bunch of ‘theologians’ pile on someone for expressing a thought or two (reference the dissertations that my posts have been met with).”

                Of course, reasonable people would appreciate a reasoned, thoughtful response. But apparently you’re just looking for fluff.

                In addition it’s unfair how you freely attack Christianity but then take offense when someone actually offers a detailed response to you.

                “I loved the work of Christopher Hitchens because it made me feel less alone – something that the faith community, including you guys today, seem to fail miserably at.”

                At the risk of stating the obvious, a weblog isn’t equivalent to “the faith community.”

                Also at the risk of stating the obvious, if you want to “feel less alone,” you’re not going to find it sitting in front of a computer and surfing the internet. Go outside and talk to people if that’s what you want. Talk to friends or family.

                If you don’t have any friends or family nearby, then I’d recommend you attend a good church where there should be plenty of people to befriend.

                “rockingwithhawking – I have no idea where all of this hostility is coming from, but I find it disturbing…”

                You have a strange habit of reading various emotions into what people write. I’m simply stating facts. Attempting to make reasoned arguments. And so forth. But you’re taking everything I say so personally. If anything, this is what’s “disturbing.” Perhaps you really should go offline and get outside.

              12. Jane says:

                “Perhaps you really should go offline and get outside.”

                This from the guy who was on here when I arrived.

                “If you don’t have any friends or family nearby, then I’d recommend you attend a good church where there should be plenty of people to befriend.”

                Because church is where atheists go to find company??

                (Why oh why did I engage in the first place? – I’ll never get this time back)

              13. Jane said:

                “This from the guy who was on here when I arrived.”

                Unlike you I didn’t intimate an issue with loneliness.

                “Because church is where atheists go to find company??”

                Why not. Everyone is welcome.

                “(Why oh why did I engage in the first place? – I’ll never get this time back)”

                Yeah, I know what you mean.

                But fortunately I don’t write for you alone, for instance. I write for others too. Such as lurkers. Or future people who pass by this blog.

  26. Theology Samurai says:

    This just in from the CNN newsdesk:

    {Anchorman Mike Gantt speaking}

    Kim Jong Il met with Christopher Hitchens today to discuss how perhaps they’ve been wrong about God and Heaven all this time. After some reflection, they have found it to be a really neat place. If they had only known during their life times, they would have believed upon the Lord and honored his Name with acts of charity and kindness. As it is now, they have to stand in the corner and wear dunce caps for a few millenia, but hey, it’s still heaven.

    In other news, Satan feels slighted after working so hard to get those two.

    And now a word from our sponsors…

    1. Mike Gantt says:

      Theology Samurai,

      I see in this comment thread that you identify with Calvinism. Do you not understand that morally-minded atheists hoist you on your own pitard? That is, they could point out that if it were reliably reported that Christopher Hitchens and Kim Jong Il both made credible professions of faith in Christ the night before they died, that your worldview would have them in heaven with you…and said atheists would mock you for making a mockery of morality.

      When it comes to the problem of bad people getting into heaven, evangelical Christians have no easier time explaining it than I do.

      1. Theology Samurai says:

        Mike,

        If Hitchens made a genuine profession of faith in Christ and repented of his sin 2 minutes before he died, I would have a perfectly biblical and consistent reason to give for his presence in heaven. You, however, have a facade of nonsense that even unbelievers can see through.

        Furthermore, this is a Christian blog. For some reason, you keep popping up here and on other Christian blogs. I find that odd for someone who denies the Trinity, the church, hell, and any number of other orthodox doctrines.

        Surely there are some other lone ranger heretics you can associate with on the blogosphere?

        Jane–Hitchens/Jong Il, cut from the same cloth, only Jong Il had more opportunities.

        1. Mike Gantt says:

          Theology Samurai,

          “If Hitchens made a genuine profession of faith in Christ and repented of his sin 2 minutes before he died, I would have a perfectly biblical and consistent reason to give for his presence in heaven.”

          But it would be completely unpersuasive, and even ludicrous, to a morally-minded atheist who would say you’ve comprised both your moral integrity and your God’s by allowing someone you call a blasphemer of your own God into heaven for giving the right answer to a question at the last minute. He would say your doctrine promotes licentiousness. And even more so when it comes to Kim Jong Il.

          “You, however, have a facade of nonsense that even unbelievers can see through. Furthermore, this is a Christian blog. For some reason, you keep popping up here and on other Christian blogs. I find that odd for someone who denies the Trinity, the church, hell, and any number of other orthodox doctrines. Surely there are some other lone ranger heretics you can associate with on the blogosphere?”

          This is a point on which you should examine yourself. You are viewing Christianity as primarily a social experience. Biblical faith is an experience with God. And since we live in the day of the Lord – that is, the days of the kingdom of God – this is all the more true. In ancient Israel, you needed to be a Jew. In New Testament times you needed to associate with the church where the Holy Spirit fell. But in the kingdom of God you need to relate to Jesus Christ our Lord. Your faith is more in people than it is in God (Jer 17:5-8).

          1. Theology Samurai says:

            Mike,

            Are you kidding?

            If Hitchens *repented* of his blasphemy, and *believed* upon the Lord Jesus Christ, he would no longer be a blasphemer and would be covered in the blood of the Lamb of God. This is not about him having the right answer to a question at the last minute. Are you really this obtuse?

            Furthermore, the kingdom of God is another term for those who submit to the rule of God, which is primarily the church of Christ. You are making some wingnut distinction (which you assert without the benefit of an argument) between the church and the kingdom of God. This is a general characteristic of heretics.

            Why don’t you contribute to blogs where the interlocuters agree with your particular brand of theological novelty? Oh, right, there aren’t very many. I’m sure Google will turn something up for you…

    2. Jane says:

      Please don’t couple Christopher Hitchens with Kim Jong Il in your silly little piece – it only serves to make you look like an absolute fool.

      1. Mike Gantt says:

        Like it or not, neither professed faith in Christ – which was the point of that particular part of this thread.

        As for looking at the two more broadly, certainly Hitch hated Kim Jong Il. But as much as I loved Hitchens, I always winced when he would compare God’s watchful presence over us as being like “a North Korean dictator.” It always struck me as a profoundly mean-spirited thing to say and unworthy of Hitch’s better qualities. It actually pains me to even remember him saying it.

        1. Jane says:

          The mark of a good writer is to stimulate and use imagery that often makes us wince and feel uncomfortable – invoking response is success to a writer. It’s not about people liking it or liking you – the question is: does he make you feel it the way that he does?

          1. Mike Gantt says:

            Give him an A+ as a writer. As a fellow human being, however, I hurt for him that he saw God that way. Or even if he really didn’t believe it but was just doing his “charming bad boy” schtick, that he’d feel comfortable portraying our Creator in that way.

  27. Jane says:

    I’m sorry – what was the topic of this thread??

    1. Mike Gantt says:

      Christopher Hitchens and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

      1. Jane says:

        With those two topics, it likely should have been a considerably shorter thread.

        1. Mike Gantt says:

          I’m surprised it’s not longer.

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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