Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011

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What are Christians to make of the death of perhaps God's most outspoken critic? What is the Christian attitude to the death of the wicked? I must confess my first response was undignified, self-righteous and downright sinful. I could see the headlines in the blogosphere "Does Christopher Hitchens believe in God NOW?"  On reflection, however, a more moderate and sober approach to the subject will aid us all in seeing his passing for its real tragedy. Some random thoughts:

1. God made Christopher Hitchens. He was "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Ps 139:14), in spite of his protestations to the contrary.  Hitchens died of pneumonia after a long and public battle with oesophageal cancer that wracked his God-made body. There is nothing in the wretched manner of his death which should bring delight to Christians.  We are soberly reminded that we ought to "number our days" (Ps 90:12) for we know not the hour or manner of our death. What God made "good" and "very good" (Gen 1) has been torn asunder by sin. This death should give us a renewed hatred for sin.

2. God does not delight in the death of the wicked (Ez 18:23). Rather, His revealed will is that all men should repent and live. That is what he calls all men to do, by the gospel and through the church.  Paul tells us in Romans that the kindness of God is meant to lead us to repentance (Rom 2:4). Hitchens had much good in his life, a privileged upbringing, and a first rate education (Oxford University). Moreover, he had close proximity to the gospel through his own believing brother Peter Hitchens and of late, his association with Douglas Wilson. He was in no way ignorant of the gospel, but chose to ignore and deride the claims of Christ. Yes, the kindness of God should have led to Hitchens' repentance but he disobeyed the call of God.

3. God is a just God (Ps 117:7) and so cannot leave sin unpunished. It is the Christian's peculiar sin to jump to the conclusions that every time a God-denier suffers or dies, he is getting his comeuppance. Scripture teaches that is not always the case (remember the tower of Siloam).  Yet Scripture also teaches that God "opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (Jam 4:6; cf Prov 3:34). There were few, who so publicly displayed their pride and arrogance against God, than Hitchens, perhaps with the exception of his co-belligerent Richard Dawkins. He described Hitchens as a "valiant fighter against all tyrants including God." Nevertheless, "God is not mocked, and whatever one sows that he will also reap" (Gal 6:7). God has vowed to overthrow his enemies, by the gospel or by the sword, so to speak, and Hitchens's spirit is now confronted with this reality. It seems to me to be our duty, as Bible-believing Christians, to proclaim this truth. It is also or duty not to be triumphalistic  while saying it.  That God has, once again demonstrated his rule over sinful man, reminds us to be more urgent in the proclamation of the gospel, as we see the day of his coming approaching.

 4. God is a gracious God, and is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Ex 34:6). Had Hitchens repented of his God-hating, he would have been a recipient of that overwhelming and immeasurable grace.  Yet, as we think of Hitchens life, and how much we disagree with him, how much damage he had done by leading others astray, how much enmity he exhibited towards God, are we not reminded, that "there but the grace of God, go I"?  Were it not for God's grace and mercy to us, we would be no different from Christopher Hitchens in life or death. As Paul reminded the Corinthians, so we remind ourselves "and such were some of you". As we meditate on the passing of the wicked (for we can describe him no other way), we are soberly aware that the "Hitchens gene" is in every one of us. It is the gene of self-exalting, God denying pride. Sadly, it is all too often alive and well in us as individual Christians and in the church.  Yet grace has overcome. Yes, grace and not works. Not by the striving of our own souls have we achieved a standing before God that Hitchens did not have. Take grace out of the equation and we are just like Hitchens - "guilty, vile and helpless" as Philip Bliss once wrote.

As you think on the death of Christopher Hitchens, rejoice in the goodness of God that led you to repentance. Give thanks that "though you were separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenant of promise, having no hope and without God in the world", Christ "came and preached peace" to you (Eph 2:12, 17). Thanks be to God.

Our guest blogger is Matthew Holst, pastor of Geneva Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Woodstock, Georgia.
Posted December 19, 2011 @ 9:24 AM by Guest blogger

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