Sunday, 18 December 2011

Christopher Hitchens and his Obedience to Scripture

Steve, in his comments about Christopher Hitchens, mentions Christian reactions to Hitchens' death. And it's fair to say they range quite widely. There are those that remark that Hitchens is on his way to the smoky place,those that hope God could find some kind of way in for anyone. I worried that those who continued to pray for Hitchens' conversion before he died were hoping for a propaganda victory - although some among us would rejoice in anyone finding God, knowing that one conversion more or less would not convince anyone else of anything.

I'd like to add one note of commendation for Christopher Hitchens - for his obedience to 1 Corinthians 15. In  it Paul is quite scathing of those Christians who would follow Jesus but don't believe in a Resurrection. He's quite clear - if Jesus isn't alive then all the persecution, all the struggle are for nothing. Paul would have no truck with a social Christianity that saw faith as above all about instilling good ethics or citizenship. What, he would have wondered, would the point be?  As Jesus would point out - even the pagans know you should look after your own, and that's ultimately what citizenship is about.

Paul's conclusion is stunning, stark and logically sound - "If the dead are not raised,'Let us eat and drink,for tomorrow we die.'" I reckon Christopher Hitchens kept that particular Biblical injunction pretty well.


  1. As Father Stephen Freeman always says, "Christ came, not to make bad men good, but to make dead men live."

  2. So Pagans look after their own and practice good citicenship but Christians need to believe in the Resurrection so they don't eat and drink, for tomorrow they die.

    I'm happy to trust the loving God that whatever will be, all will be well, whether that happens to co-incide with my possibly laughable human ideas about what the resurrection is or not. If we only follow Jesus because we're worried about an afterlife we've missed the point.
    "I am saved" are the most selfish words in Christendom and should be banned.

  3. I think Fr. Tim (Hermeneutic of Continuity) said it best: we pray for his soul, as we should be praying for the souls of all the deceased. I suspect that when we get to Heaven – or rather If (no guarantees here) – we may be surprised at some of the people we find there.

    There can be invincible ignorance even in the brightest of minds and “where ignorance is bliss…”

  4. If Christians don't believe in the Resurection, the whole thing breaks down; the whole narrative of love, sacrifice and redemption. You've just got another wandering preacher whose followers told a lot of exaggerated stories to convince the credulous. Why follow that preacher rather than any of the others whose moral teaching is, after all, fairly similar?

    It's not for me to say whether I or anyone else has been or will be saved in the religious sense, and I don't find myself entirely convinced by the various theories of exactly what happens after death. That doesn't worry me, although I'd rather like to think we'll be able to watch what is happening to people who are still alive. Alas, while I don't know what happens in the next life, I have to confess that satisfying one's curiosity about those you've left behind doesn't seem likely to be part of it. So I'm stuck with thinking that there is an afterlife, and I'll find out the details when I get there.

  5. "If Christians don't believe in the Resurection, the whole thing breaks down; the whole narrative of love, sacrifice and redemption."

    I'm not so sure about that. It is clearly true for many many Christians. But Jesus' love and sacrifice are not invalidated if the "ressurection" simply mean a genuine, deep understanding of and connection with the God in our lives. Resurrection in the here and now without feeling the need to have a future life is a genuine way of life for many Christians I know.

  6. Oh, I know a lot of Christians disagree with me. I sometimes think it would be nice to have a churchful of Christians who do agree with me on everything, but have to admit to myself that it would be a church with only one member, which would make it rather lonely and boring. It would also contravene the 'two or three gathered together' bit, wouldn't it?

    But I don't actually strongly feel a need for a future life, athough I believe that one exists. I think that taking that bit out kind of makes the whole story of redemption kind of pointless, without a triumphant climax. When I used to argue, I mean debate, religion with certain atheists, they always assumed that expressing a belief in an afterlife meant having some kind of desperate need to live forever, and I don't feel that way at all. There are times when oblivion is quite attractive.

  7. Cheryl,
    I didn't know that Christians agreeing with me was permitted, I thought there was a kind of rule that we must always have something to argue about:-)

    I'd agree that God's Will will win. I don't know whether that will be a triumphant climax in a way that I might recognise. And like you, I don't think it matters whether it includes me in some personal way or just as part of some kind of overall redemption.
    But yes, I do agree that without the belief that, utlimately, "all this mess will be sorted and healed" there is little but bleakness.


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