Christopher Hitchens passed away last night. He was one of the "new" atheists that went on the offensive when it came to his conviction that Christianity was not only wrong but harmful to the world. Yet because of my studies over the past 5 years I have not followed Christian Apologetics very closely. Which means that I was only aware of Hitchens' atheist apologetics work through a few Christian responses to him. I did hear anecdotally that while he could be very harsh towards his opponents during a debate, he was also very sharp and very thoughtful.
I was just reminded that he was dying of cancer a couple of days ago in a thoughtful article by Justin Taylor. And I was greatly saddened by the news of his passing that greeted me this morning.
Doug Wilson, one of Hitchens debate partners, wrote an excellent article in response to Hitchens' death. It is both thoughtful and respectful piece that should be a model for all Christians whenever we are dealing with the death of someone that was so obviously an enemy of Christianity. We as Christians should never rejoice in the death of anyone, especially someone that we suspect has died apart from Christ. (Wilson details Hitchens concerns of false rumors of a deathbed conversion being spread.)
The Bible makes it clear that dying without the forgiveness for our sins that only Jesus can provide is not a pleasant experience. I don't wish that on anyone. I would greatly prefer that even the worst people in the world would turn away from the evil that they do and towards God. It doesn't matter what they have done. I would rather that they repent and find forgiveness.
I also do not find any great joy or pleasure that such a great opponent to Christianity is gone. There is no singing "Ding, dong the witch is dead."
What may sound a bit counter intuitive at first, I think that smart and worthy challenges to Christianity are a good thing. In the past I have enjoyed listening to how Christianity stacks up in the arena of ideas. As Christians we are supposed to have good reasons for what we believe and not a subjective or blind faith. To that end, I dislike bad arguments for Christianity just as much as I dislike bad arguments against it. If we as Christians really believe that Christianity is the truth then we should never be afraid of any challenges to it. If Christianity is the truth it will be borne out to be the true. This doesn't mean that we will not hear challenges that will initially cause us to pause. Some of these challenges will take some very careful thinking to get through. There will also be those challenges that may cause us to modify certain ancillary beliefs. But ultimately the core of Christianity will hold fast.
It just saddens me that Christopher Hitchens will no longer be a part of that discussion.
Photo from Vanity Fair.