Friday, December 16, 2011

The Death of a Foe

I woke up this morning to discover that the noted essayist and "New Atheist" Christopher Hitchens has died. I am not happy at his passing. In fact, I am very sad. God said that He takes no delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23). Therefore, I am not here to gloat over his death, but rather to reflect on the impact Mr. Hitchens, one of the so-called "Four Horseman of Atheism". A moniker he shared with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett.

What was the impact of Mr. Hitchens? On me personally, I loved his later political views. He began as a Trotskyite, but later moved away from the Left and to the Right of the political spectrum. I loved the rhetorical flair that he often used to deliver his ideas. He was a master of rhetoric. He called former President of the United States, Bill Clinton, a rapist, Mother Teresa a fraud, and former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger a war criminal.

Hitchens also had a less than chivalrous side. He left his pregnant first wife for another woman.

What vaulted Hitchens to worldwide fame was his response to the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. He and the other "New Atheists" tarred all religion with every evil act committed on the face of the earth. He wrote with a vicious pen that ripped into anyone that believed in God, as well as God himself.

I read his book God is Not Great. I love his style. Direct, to the point, and filled with biting sarcasm, which I love! That said, I do recall in chapter one of God is Not Great, Hitchens reminisces of his first inclinations towards atheism at the age of nine. Sadly, most of those inclinations that later became a full blown world view were never reflected upon, and refined.

Much of Hitchens railings against God, like the railings of the three other Horsemen (Dawkins, Harris & Dennett) are simply warmed over 19th century rationalistic attacks on Christianity by atheists of that age. These arguments have been summarily refuted, and continue to be. What made the "New Atheism" new, however, was the caustic manner in which they attacked religion. Saying that religion is not only unbelievable, but it was not even worthy of respect or tolerance.

My thoughts, however, are not on his writings or his style, but instead with his family. They lost a husband and a father. Their pain is real. I pray for them. I also pray that perhaps, before he died, Hitchens realized the futility and foolishness of denying his Maker, repented of his sin, and accepted the work of Jesus on the cross.  That is my hope, the reality may be opposite.

In either case, Christopher Hitchens is no longer an atheist. The writer of Hebrews, said, "...[I]t is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement" (English Standard Version). He has faced his judgement, for better or for worse, a judgement that I leave to God. Based on what Mr. Hitchens believed, however, leads me to believe that his judgement was for the worse. Consignment to an eternity in hell, where he will recieve full punishment for his sin against the God he so vociferously denied.

You might be saying to yourself, "What an intolerant thing to say!" Well, I ask, why would God allow a man that not only denied His existence, but HATED Him for even being a figment of the collective imaginations of humanity to spend eternity with Him?

The ultimate question, though, is not what happened to Christopher Hitchens, but rather what will happen to you when you die?

You see, you are a sinner. You have lied. If you have ever told one lie, no matter how small or how white, you are a liar. If you have looked at a man or a woman with sexually charged thoughts, then you have committed adultery. If you have gotten angry at another for no reason, then you have committed murder (Matthew 5:27-29).

You have committed idolatry. Worshiping other gods. No, I'm not talking about lighting candles to saints, or that. Rather, you have taking a good thing that God has created for your enjoyment, and made it an ultimate thing in your life! You have taken something or someone, and devoted yourself first and foremost to that someone or something to the exclusion of God! This is the essence of idolatry.

No amount of good performance can ever tip the scales of God's justice to your favor, let alone get them to even! You will never be able to satisfy God's wrath over your sin! There is only one work that can ever satisfy God's wrath over your sin, and that is the death of an absolutely perfect man. That man was Jesus of Nazareth. He lived a perfect life. A life that you should have lived. He never violated any aspect of God's law.  It was not just that he lived a perfect life, but he died a death that you should have died. A violent and bloody death on a Roman crucifix. On that cross, Jesus became sin by receiving the full wrath of God for sin.

That death, however, is not the end of the story. If Jesus simply paid the penalty to God for our sin, then we would be forgiven, but still under the power of sin. This is why the resurrection of Jesus is so important. SO important that Paul said in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 that if Jesus did not rise from the dead then we might as well, party on, for there is no hope. So three days after Jesus died, he rose from the dead and presented himself alive to his closest followers! Jesus' resurrection was so potent, that it not only convinced Jesus' closest followers, but also a hardened skeptic, James (how was Jesus' own brother), and a zealous persecutor of the church (Saul of Tarsus, who later became Paul). Not only these, but many others on the 2,000-plus years since then have had there lives radically changed by the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

I do not want to eulogize Christopher Hitchens. Rather, I want to say that here is a man that spent his whole life railing against God, and at the end of it, he may be facing a eternity feeling the full wrath of that very God he mocked, scorned and denied. I want to tell you, the reader, that you do not have to face that same eternity. Today, you have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and I implore you to choose life!

Christopher Hitchens will pay for his sin for eternity. I am deeply saddened by his death, because as the English Reformer John Bradford said, "There but by the grace of God go I!" It is only God's grace that kept me from a path similar to Hitchens'. You to can join us in Bradford's sentiment by accepting the free gift of God for salvation. I pray that you will accept it.

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