Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Meaning What You Mean When You Say It

Christopher Hitchens, recently deceased, was one of the best known of the "New Atheists."  He and others were not simply atheist in their own conviction.  They were also virulently anti-faith of any sort.  No "live-and-let-live" sort of guy, Hitchens made a career out of vitreolic attacks on any expression of faith but his own.

Though I most often found myself disagreeing with him - usually very old arguments and observations served up with new hyperbole and snarky sarcasm - I was taken by his observations in an interview shortly before his death.

Ben Stevens refers to it and then comments in his post entitled, The Gospel According to Christopher on the Huffington Post, which follows:

While being interviewed by minister Marilyn Sewell on Dec. 17, 2009, Hitchens was asked a proto-typical question about Christianity.

    Sewell: "Mr. Hitchens, the religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I'm a liberal Christian, and I don't take the stories from the scripture literally. I don't believe in the doctrine of atonement -- that Jesus died for our sins, for example. Do you make a distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?"

    Hitchens: "Well, 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."

I am a Christian theologian (Steves writes), so naturally Hitchens and I would disagree on many things. Yet I confess that the "Gospel According to Christopher" is essentially the same thing as the Gospel as explained by Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. Those men believed, and Hitchens didn't, but Hitchens at least did us the honor of trying to understand our position on its own terms.

As the empirical pluralism of our nation continues to grow, the danger of playing rhetorical games with religious jargon will only increase. Regardless of the side of the religious divide you fall on, I propose we join in affirming Hitchens' unencumbered definition of Christianity, and to that end, I encourage you to consider taking these simple steps in the new year:

  • Spend time researching the resurrection, giving experts on both sides your due attention.
  • Dare to pray the agnostic's prayer, "God if you're there, show me," while reading through a book like the Gospel of John.
  • If God reveals himself to you and you come to faith, submit your life to Christ.
  • If that doesn't happen, don't call yourself a Christian.

The world of the 21st century is a confusing place, but we need not be nearly so confused on this point.

Thank you Ben Stevens!  Click Here for the entire post.

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