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Christopher Hitchens, Atheism, and Evil

Douglas Wilson, writing at The Gospel Coalition, discusses Christopher Hitchen’s recent Slate article on 9/11:

[pk_box width=”600″ align=”none” text_align=””]All this is Hitchens doing what Hitchens does best, and he does it for most of his article. And then, fulfilling the promise of the title (“Simply Evil”), he veers into incoherence at the very end when he only had about two column inches to go. It was like watching a bicycling Tour de Something rider, 50 yards ahead of the nearest competitor, anticipate the finish line by raising both hands above his head, at which point he triumphantly bites it.

“The regimes of Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fully deserve to be called ‘evil.’”

Evil? Since the 2009 publication of God is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens has spent a great deal of energy trying to persuade all of us that the idea of God is a false and pernicious one. But now he ups and calls these bad guys . . . evil. Given the premises, what might the definition of that be? Who determines what is evil and why? By what standard? But there may be a wiggle-room word in there. Hitchens only said they deserve to be called evil. But that generates the same questions. By whom? And whoever that person is, how did he wind up in charge of our moral lexicon?

We have to grow up, Hitchens has said. We have to reject outmoded concepts. We have to get rid of the idea that there is a God in heaven, telling us the difference between right and wrong. But if these things be true, then there are other things that follow. For some reason, Hitchens is willing to affirm the premises but will not own any of the obvious conclusions. You cannot throw away your suitcase at the beginning of your journey, and then, as you are nearing the end of the trip, pull out all the things that you packed in it. There may be shrewd ways of avoiding baggage handling fees, but that’s not one of them.

If there is no God, then Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have no God. But if they have no God, then it follows that Hitchens is not their god either. And if Hitchens is not their god, why should they care what he calls them? There is no god, and Hitchens is not his prophet.

Evil? Unless such men are treated as evil men, there is no justice. And if there is no actual justice (not paper justice, not name-calling justice, but actual justice), then there really is no such thing as evil. If there is no such thing as final justice, then how can we manage to define the concept of injustice? Hitchens wants to call them evil after they are largely out of ear shot. Let us all agree to call Stalin evil. On Hitchens’s account of things, does Stalin care?

Hitchens may counter that he fully intends to fight them. He fully intends to treat them as evil, and his article was a call to arms. All right then. Is evil then determined by who wins that fight? Does this fight have a referee? Is there a rulebook? Who wrote it?”[/pk_box]

And his conclusion:

[pk_box width=”600″ align=”none” text_align=””]I for one am glad that Hitchens wants to repudiate the big lies. I am glad that he stands against vicious totalitarian ideas. Thus far I can applaud him. But in order to stand against anything, however obviously bad it is, you must have something to stand on.[/pk_box]

Read the whole thing here.

What Does Jesus Save Us From?

In this video, Douglas Wilson talks about the human predicament and why we need a saviour.

[vimeo 14483003]

Friday Night Miscellany

This week, we saw technology feature prominently in the headlines, with tens of thousands of New Zealand Telecom XT mobile customers losing their connections over the last few days. However, the big news of course was the announcement of Apple’s latest tech gadget, the iPad. Weighing in at one-and-a-half pounds (.68 kg) and a half-an-inch thick (13.4mm), with a 9.7-inch screen, the most surprising detail of the portable computer was the price: $499 USD. Will it change the world? At the very least, it will offer a serious challenge to Amazon’s Kindle. And Christians may wonder if it has the potential to revolutionize the virtual church movement.

Until then, here is some reading to take you into the final weekend of January.

Christianity and the Haiti disaster

Christianity and Theology

  • Douglas Wilson: “How shall we understand our afflictions? Our God sometimes strikes us, but only as the accomplished pianist forcefully strikes the keys.”
  • The Judgmental Jesus
    Matt’s column in the latest Investigate Magazine addresses one of the most quoted (and misunderstood) verses in the Bible: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”
  • Greg Beale discusses inerrancy
    Martin Downes interviews professor Greg Beale about the exegetical foundations of inerrancy and the status of the doctrine today among evangelical theologians and biblical scholars.
  • The Church and the surprising offense of God’s love
  • Inerrancy and its denial
    Jeremy Pierce discusses why inerrancy should be the starting point for our doctrine of Scripture and some of the implications of its denial.

Christianity and Ethics

Christianity and Philosophy

Christianity and Politics

Christianity and Fiction

  • Vampires and God
    An interview with a professor Emeritus of English Literature at the University of Central Missouri about vampires, folklore, literature, and the how these themes connect to death and religion.
  • More discussion about The Shack
    Yesterday, we posted Tim Keller’s impressions of the enormously popular novel by William Young. This week, Albert Mohler also considers the popularity of the book and what this means about the lost art of spiritual discernment within the Christian community. Fred Sanders, at the Scriptorium, also has some thoughts on how we can make the most of The Shack.

Christianity and Film

  • Exegeting Avatar
    Sophie Lister deftly analyzes James Cameron’s epic crowd-pleaser from a Christian perspective.

A bridge to nowhere: Wilson on New Atheism and morality

Douglas Wilson, pastor at Christ Church in Idaho and a senior fellow of theology at New St. Andrews College, reflects on his recent debate tour with Christopher Hitchens (the documentary of the tour, Collision, is now available on DVD) and the problem of morality for atheists:

“Can I be good without God? Sure. Knock yourself out. May I be good without God? Again, sure, but here is where the question starts to cut both ways. The question is double-bladed because it is here that we realize that we are alone by ourselves, and we are not really asking anybody for anything. I may be good without God for the same reason that I may be evil without Him or, as it suits me, indifferent without Him. There is no one here to get permission from. For anything. Mom doesn’t care if I go play ball, and she doesn’t care if I shoot my sister. She doesn’t care because she doesn’t exist. Turns out I have been asking questions of a deaf and indifferent universe.

Near the end of our film, Christopher [Hitchens] admirably acknowledges that you can be a fascist and an atheist, a communist and an atheist, a sado-masochist and an atheist, and so on, and you can do it all without contradicting anything within the tenets of atheism. Christopher does not think of this as a concession to my central point, but I do want to press it. He wants to go on to insist that atheism does not commit you to the “absurd belief” that if you are an atheist then you “have no morality.”

If we piece all this together, the only thing he can possibly mean is that every atheist has the authority to generate his own code of morals, and that these morals do not need to conform to the tenets promulgated by the International Society of Nice Atheists, and that they further do not need to conform to the code of morals being generated in the fevered brain of the fellow next to me. But notice what this does. It makes all morality a matter of radical personal choice.

But once we do this, how can we come back in later to restrict or limit the choices? Once the individual generates his code, he certainly may seek out other like-minded people in order to form what sociologists call a plausibility structure. But there is no such thing as an overarching moral code, independent of the individual, one that is authoritative over him. There is no ultimate reason why he cannot decide to defy his societal norms (his plausibility structure), or move to northwest Pakistan to join up with another plausibility structure–one with more excitement and explosions.

Once we have gotten to this point, we may certainly fight with those who have made different choices. But we may not appeal to a standard that overarches both of us, which they are disobeying and which we are not. They have as much right to generate their code as we do ours. We may fight with them, but we have lost the ability to reason with them.

Centuries ago, David Hume pointed out how deep and broad the chasm was between is and ought. The new atheists, for all their vaunted skill in engineering, have not been able to build a bridge.”

Read the whole article at On Faith.

Preorder the Hitchens v Wilson DVD documentary "Collision"

Collision

The documentary of the debate tour involving new atheist Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything) and evangelical theologian Pastor Douglas Wilson comes out next month. Their tour addressed the topic “Is religion good for the world?” and the documentary is directed by Duane Doane. You can preorder it now on amazon. Check out the official site to watch the first 13 minutes.

Hitchens & Wilson Debate

Apologetics in Action: Aesthetics and the Existence of God – Atheism vs. Christianity

It has happened! MP3 here. Right-click, save-as…

This debate interests me especially as I hope to see a presuppositinal approach in action. That is not because I am explicitly presuppositional in my apologetics, but because I am intrigued by this methodology.