Defending The Faith Against Christopher Hitchens
(The Following Article Is By Christian Apologist And Mental Health Advocate, David Lee Chu Sarchet. He Defends The Christian Faith Against Christopher Hitchens Book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything).
Christopher Hitchens opens up the chapter by guilt-tripping his audience by telling them that if they are going to try to “identify the sins and deformities” that caused him to write this book, then they will be “defiling the memory of a good, sincere, simple woman of stable and decent faith named Mrs. Jean Watts”. Well, no offense to Mrs. Watts, but I honestly do not care about her memory.
However, for the sake of honoring my Lord I will refrain from trying to point out Mr. Hitchens’ “sins and deformities”. I will just stick to critiquing his arguments that he makes in this chapter. Now, before I continue I do want to say that I am not neutral nor do I pretend to be neutral. I have a specific perspective (which you would know if you read my first blog). There is no such thing as neutrality anyway. No one is truly neutral and if someone tells you they are, then they are either ignorant or intentionally being dishonest.
Anyways, so Hitchens goes on to talk about how this woman was his teacher in Scripture Reading class at his school on the outer edge of Dartmoor, in Southwestern, England. He literally brags about how much he “excelled” in understanding the Scriptures he was assigned to read.
Then, he goes on to say:
“However, there came a day when poor, dear Mrs. Watts over-reached herself seeking ambitiously to fuse her two roles as nature instructor and Bible teacher, she said, ‘So, you see, children, how powerful and generous God is. He has made all the trees and grass to be green, which is exactly the color that is most restful to our eyes. Imagine if instead, the vegetation was all purple, or orange, how awful that would be’. And now behold what this pious old trout hath wrought. I liked Mrs. Watts: she was an affectionate and childless widow who had a friendly old dog who really was Rover, and she would invite us for ‘sweets and treats’ after hours to her slightly ramshackle old house near the railway line. If Satan ever chose her to tempt me into error he was much more inventive than the subtle serpent in the Garden of Eden. She never raised her voice or offered violence–which couldn’t be said for all my teachers–and in general was one of those people of the sort whose memorial is in Middlemarch, of whom it may be said that ‘if things are not so well with you and me as they might have been’, this is ‘half-owing’ to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs. However, I was frankly appalled by what she said. My little ankle-strap sandals curled with embarrassment for her. As the age of 9, I had not even the conception of the argument from design, or of Darwinian evolution as its rival, or of the revelation as its ‘river’ or of the relationship between photosynthesis and chlorophyll. The secrets of the genome were as hidden from me as they were, at that time, to everyone else. I had not visited scenes of nature where almost everything was hideously indifferent or hostile to human life itself. I simply knew, almost as if I had privileged access to a higher authority, that my teacher had managed to get everything wrong in just two sentences. The eyes were adjusted to nature, and not the other way about”.
Now, as you may or may not know, I am not fond of the argument from design. Please don’t get me wrong, I think it is a good argument… for a generic theism. I’m not interested in generic theism because I am not a generic theist. The problem with the argument from design is the fact that it does not get the unbeliever anywhere. Even if one does manage to convince an unbeliever of intelligent design for the universe, they are still bound for hell because believing that the universe has a designer (a fact which is evident to all) is not a requirement for salvation. Only faith in Christ’s atoning work on the cross will save sinners. This is why I present and defend only Christian theism when speaking to unbelievers.
Next, Hitchens goes on a tirade of posing a series of irrelevant and nonsensical questions:
“Why, if god was the creator of all things were we supposed to ‘praise’ him so incessantly for doing what came to him naturally? This seemed servile, apart from anything else. If Jesus could heal a blind person he happened to meet, then why not heal blindness? What was so wonderful about his casting out devils, so that the devils could enter a herd of pigs instead? That seemed sinister: more like black magic. With all this continual prayer, why no result? Why did I have to keep saying, in public, that I was a miserable sinner? Why was the topic of sex considered so toxic? Those faltering and childish objections are, I have since discovered, extremely commonplace, partly because no religion can meet them with any satisfactory answer”.
Okay, I will attempt to give some satisfactory answers to each of these questions to the best of my ability one at a time:
1) Why if God is the Creator of all things must we praise Him?
Well, the Westminster Larger Catechism answers this question perfectly well. So, I will start by quoting the answer found in that document:
Q. What is the chief and highest end of man?
A. Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever
You see, God created us, and all of creation, to glorify Him. So, when we glorify Him, we are fulfilling our purpose for which we were made. There is no higher calling than to glorify God. As a matter of fact, whenever we fail to bring the Lord honor, we inevitably end up honoring (or worshiping) something else, and thus bring all kinds of pain and torment into our lives. As St, Augustine once said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum inside each of our hearts”. So, by requiring us to glorify Him, God is actually being very loving because He wants us to fulfill the purpose for which we were created to our fullest potential.
2) If Jesus could heal a blind man, why not heal blindness?
This question misunderstands the mission for which Jesus came and the purpose for miracles. As I have stated in my previous blog, Jesus came to save His elect individuals by taking the full wrath of God, that we deserve, upon Himself on the cross. He experienced total alienation from The Father so that we could be brought near to Him. Also, as I stated before, a biblical miracle was a sign confirming that the message being preached was indeed from God.
What does this all have to do with the question? Well, when you understand the mission of Jesus, then you will know why He did not heal all blindness. He simply did not come for that purpose. He came to fulfill a specific task and that was it. I know that the average reader might not like this answer but it is true. Its just like the fact that Jesus did not come to save everyone, but instead came only to save His elect. In the same way, He didn’t need to heal everyone in order to confirm that He was from The Father.
3) What was so great about Jesus casting out demons?
This is an easy one to answer. The fact that He was able to cast out demons is evidence that He is the Messiah who rules over everything in all of creation, including the devil and his demons. This is evidenced by the fact that whenever someone who was demon-possessed sees Jesus, they would run up to Him and yell, “What do you want with us, son of David? Have you come to judge us before the appointed time?”
4) Why pray if there is no answer?
For this question, I now turn to the Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s day 45:
Q. Why is prayer necessary for Christians?
A. Because it is the chief part of thankfulness which God requires of us, and because God will give His grace and Holy Spirit only to those who earnestly and without ceasing ask them of Him, and render thanks unto Him for them.
I have nothing more to add because that was beautifully said.
5) Why do I have to keep publicly saying that I’m a sinner?
By this question, I assume that he is referring to the Corporate Confession of sin done inside of church. Well, I personally see a couple of different benefits to the Corporate Confession actually. The first is to remind us to remain humble before God and not be judgmental towards our brothers and sisters in Christ. The second benefit is to remind us that we are not alone in our sin. Everyone in the church is struggling with the same sins or similar sins and the only reason anyone is saved is because of God’s grace found only in the blood of Jesus.
6) Why is the topic of sex considered to be toxic?
Obviously, Hitchens has never read the Song of Solomon!
However, I do admit that this is a gripe I do have with many of my fellow Christians. Sex, within its proper context of marriage between one man and one woman, is actually a beautiful thing that is to be celebrated not condemned. I think we do a disservice to the Body of Christ when we shun sex for whatever reason. Sex is a wonderful gift from God to married couples. I cannot stress this enough because our culture has abused this gift in many ways, but that doesn’t make the gift any less wonderful. It just means we need to guard and protect this gift from God.
After this, Hitchens goes on to make four objections to religion, specifically Christianity:
- It wholly misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos
- because of that error, it manages to combine the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism
- It is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression
- It is based on wish-thinking
Now, just like I did with his nonsense questions, I will address these four objections one at a time to the best of my ability. Please forgive me if you do not find my answers satisfactory.
1) Christianity misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos
As an Old Earth Creationist, I see no problem with reconciling the established science that says the whole universe came into existence at the Big Bang over billions and billions of years ago. I don’t see that as a contradiction to the Bible and I believe that those who do see a discrepancy between science and the Bible are only misinterpreting the Bible. However, this topic is an in-house debate between believers in the Lord and thus it is irrelevant to this post.
2) Christianity manages to combine the maximum of servility and the maximum of solipsism
For those of you who may not be aware of these terms (I confess that I wasn’t until fairly recently), I will define these terms for you now:
Servility: Abject or cringing submissiveness
Solipsism: The view, or theory, that the self is all that can be known to exist
I do admit that this objection sort of perplexed me because I am not sure what he means by saying Christianity combines these two. Sure, we are called to humble ourselves and submit to the Lordship of Christ, but that is because, as I have already stated, our highest calling and our purpose is to glorify God. That’s the only way we will find real everlasting joy and peace. When we don’t honor God as God, that is when chaos happens.
As for solipsism, no where in Christian theism does it state that the self is all that exists. As a matter of fact, Christian theism, teaches the very opposite so I would challenge any of Hitchens followers to show me where the Bible supports solipsism.
3) Christianity is the cause and the result of sexual repression
Again, Hitchens has never read the Song of Solomon. I’ve already explained why this is wrong so I will not repeat myself here. I will, however, admit that many well-meaning Christians throughout history have abused and misused the text to make it seem like Christianity is against sex but that should not reflect on Christian theism itself though.
4) Christianity is based on wish-thinking
This objection would make sense if Christianity were demonstrated to be false, but the vast majority of evidence and scholars out there agree that Christianity is a historical religion based on solid facts surrounding the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you do not believe me, look up the evidence for yourself and don’t just take my word, or any atheist’s word, but actually do the research for yourself.
As a matter of fact, well-known and respected New Testament scholar N.T Wright wrote a book documenting all the evidence and rational arguments for the resurrection. The book is called “The Resurrection of the Son of God”. I strongly suggest anyone check that book out if you are not scared of research. I say all this because since we know that Christianity isn’t false, then our belief in the new heaven and new earth when Christ returns is a reality and definitely not wish-thinking. It would be wish-thinking if it could be demonstrated to be false, which no atheist has succeeded in doing, even though many have tried.
Next, Hitchens goes on to continue making a monumental fool of himself with the following statement:
“We believe with certainty that an ethical life can be lived without religion. And we know for a fact that the corollary holds true—that religion has caused innumerable people not just to conduct themselves no better than others, but behave in ways that would make a brothel-keeper or an ethnic-cleanser raise an eyebrow”.
First off, I would like to say that I agree with Hitchens that many atheists can live ethical and moral lives. As a matter of fact, many atheists live far more moral lives than many Christians do. However, an atheist cannot account for morality from their worldview that denies any standard for good. Without any standard, an atheist has no justification for morality and thus when they live a morally upright life, or get morally outraged over injustice, they are living inconsistently with their own worldview.
The next blunder Hitchens dives into is on page 8 where he makes this odd claim:
“,,,what a difference when one lays aside the strenuous believers and takes up the no less arduous work of a Darwin, say, or a Hawking or a Crick. These men are more enlightening when they are wrong, or when they display their inevitable biases than any falsely modest person of faith who is vainly trying to square the circle and to explain how he, a mere creature of the creator, can possibly know what the Creator intends”.
This statement wrongly assumes that believers aren’t as wise or “enlightened” as atheists. /This smacks of pride and Hitchens was on a massive ego trip when he wrote that. He obviously never read John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion or any of the books by the Puritans or anything by Martin Luther or anything by the church fathers.
What about contemporary Christians? Well, he obviously never read anything by Dr. Michael Horton, Dr. Kevin Vanhoozer, Dr. David VanDrunen, Dr. Robert Godfrey, Dr. Scott Clark, Dr. R.C Sproul, Dr. Greg Bahnsen, Cornelius Van Til, and many many more. These theologians works are much more complex and sophisticated than the most intelligent atheists out there. As a matter of fact, any of their works would literally blow the minds of even the most sophisticated unbelievers. So, this notion that Christians are somehow dumb, or less intelligent, than atheists is just plainly wrong. Michael Horton, along with Dr. Voddie Baucham, received Ph.D’s from Oxford University, which puts them in the same league as Richard Dawkins.
Hitchens next monumental blunder is closely related to his last one. He states:
“If you read Hawking on the ‘event horizon’ that theoretical lip of the ‘black hole’ over which one could in theory plunge and see the past and the future… I shall be surprised if you can still go on gaping at Moses and his unimpressive ‘burning bush’. If you examine the beauty and symmetry of the double helix and then go on to have your own genome sequence fully analyzed, you will be at once impressed that such a near perfect phenomenon is at the core of your being, and reassured that you have so much in common with the human species–‘race’ having gone, along with ‘creation’ into the ashcan–and further fascinated to learn how much you are a part of the animal kingdom as well”.
Well, this comment makes the same exact mistake his last comment made and that is it assumes that Christians are not as intelligent as atheists and that only atheists study science. One need only to look at the works of Dr. Francis Collins (the founder of the human genome project), Dr. Hugh Ross (an astrophysicist) Dr. Stephan C. Meyer (scientist and author of Darwin’s Doubt), Dr. Michael Behe (microbiologist and author of Darwin’s Black Box), and many other scientists who are Christians in order to see just how wrong and ignorant Hitchens’ claim really is.
About the only intelligent comment made by Hitchens in this chapter that I found is on page 10. He says:
“Those who have believed what the priests and rabbis and imams tell them about what the unbelievers think, will find further such surprises as we go along. They will perhaps come to distrust what they are told–or not to take it ‘on faith’, which is the problem to begin with”.
Now, I only agree with this statement to the extent that I believe he is correct that you shouldn’t believe whatever your pastor or priest tells you, but instead you should do your own research to find out what the truth is. I had an old pastor, who was more like a father to me, who instilled into me that you don’t really know what you believe until you’ve studied the very best arguments against what you currently believe. That is a lesson that I sincerely hope to instill into any children the Lord may bless my wife and I with someday. You should always question what you are taught because it is true that if you’re taught wrongly about something and you later find out it is false, the aftermath will be disastrous.
This next statement, and the final one I’ll address for this chapter, is the most humiliating blunder for Hitchens I’ve ever seen him make. I am surprised anyone takes him seriously after seeing this. He literally says on page 11:
“The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted”.
I’m sure you’re well aware of the answer to this statement is to point out Hitchens own blatant hypocrisy because while he is condemning people who have certainty he himself is presupposing his own certainty! So, by his own logic, he should belong “to the infancy of our species”.
This concludes my critique of the first chapter of Christopher Hitchens’ book. He titled this chapter “Putting It Mildly” and based on what I just read, I am not looking forward to the headache I’ll receive from reading the rest of his work. Thanks for taking the time to read this blog and please stay tuned for the next blog on chapter two. I sincerely hope this edified you and brought glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.
-David Lee Chu Sarchet
Christian Apologist and Mental Health Advocate