Mourning Christopher Hitchens
Plato warned us that a worldview that was naturalistic in nature would lead to brutish behavior. (see more on this farther down) This is revealed in the attitude of many modern Darwinists. Yet I do mourn the recent passing of Christopher Hitchens, whose dialogue with Douglas Wilson formed the basis for the Collision DVD that I have mentioned in posts previously. While I was quite sure that Christopher Hitchens was wrong, I will say that I did not consider him to be brutish. My hope was always that he would, like his brother, find faith in Christ. We can be pretty certain that did not happen. I refer you to Wilson's article which is found here. It is quite obvious that Douglas Wilson was mourning the passing of a man who probably did NOT repent upon his death bed and in fact had warned people in advance that it was NOT something that he, Christopher, would do if he were in his right mind. Christopher Hitchens was a contrarian who never followed for the sake of following and made up his mind after consideration rather than simply making knee-jerk assumptions.
Christopher's brother Peter is actually a Christian author and speaker so he is mourning Christopher's passing and has written on the subject and I shall post this:
How odd it is to hear of your own brother’s death on an early morning radio bulletin. How odd it is for a private loss to be a public event.
I wouldn’t normally dream of writing about such a thing here, and I doubt if many people would expect me to. It is made even odder by the fact that I am a minor celebrity myself. And that the, ah, complex relationship between me and my brother has been public property.
I have this morning turned down three invitations to talk on the radio about my brother. I had a powerful feeling that it would be wrong to do so, not immediately explicable but strong enough to persuade me to say a polite ‘no thank you’.
Many more such messages are arriving as comments here. My thanks for all of them. They are much appreciated not only by me but by my brother’s family.
Much of civilisation rests on the proper response to death, simple unalloyed kindness, the desire to show sympathy for irrecoverable loss, the understanding that a unique and irreplaceable something has been lost to us. If we ceased to care, we wouldn’t be properly human.
So, odd as it would be if this were a wholly private matter, I think it would be strange if I did not post something here, partly to thank the many who have sent their kind wishes and expressed their sympathy, and partly to provide my first raw attempt at a eulogy for my closest living relative, someone who in many ways I have known better – and certainly longer - than anyone else alive.
We both knew it was the last time we would see each other, though being Englishmen of a certain generation, neither of us would have dreamed of actually saying so. We parted on good terms, though our conversation had been (as had our e-mail correspondence for some months) cautious and confined to subjects that would not easily lead to conflict. In this I think we were a little like chess-players, working out many possible moves in advance, neither of us wanting any more quarrels of any kind.
At one stage – and I am so sad this never happened – he wrote to me saying he hoped for a ‘soft landing’ (code, I think for abandoning any further attempts to combat his disease) and to go home to his beautiful apartment in Washington DC.
But alas, it never happened. He never went home and now never will. Never, there it is, that inflexible word that trails close behind that other non-negotiable syllable, death. Even so, we did what we could in Houston, as the doctors, the nurses, the cleaners, and who knows who else, bustled in and out.
I forgot, till I left, that I was wearing a ludicrous surgical mask and gown, and surgical gloves (I am still not sure whose benefit this was for, but it was obligatory) all the time I was sitting there, and – this is extraordinary – time seemed to me to pass incredibly swiftly in that room. I was shocked when the moment came to leave for the airport, that it had come so soon.
I don’t have much of this myself, so I recognise it (and envy it) in others. I have a memory which I cannot place precisely in time, of the two of us scrambling on a high rooftop, the sort of crazy escapade that boys of our generation still went on, where we should not have been.
A moment came when, unable to climb back over the steep slates, the only way down was to jump over a high gap on to a narrow ledge. I couldn’t do it. He used his own courage (the real thing can always communicate itself to others) to show me, and persuade me, that I could.
I’d add here that he was for a while an enthusiastic rock climber, something I could never do, and something which people who have come to know him recently would not be likely to guess.
This explains plenty. I offer it because the word ‘courage’ is often misused today. People sometimes tell me that I have been ‘courageous’ to say something moderately controversial in a public place. Not a bit of it. This is not courage. Courage is deliberately taking a known risk, sometimes physical, sometimes to your livelihood, because you think it is too important not to.
My brother possessed this virtue to the very end, and if I often disagreed with the purposes for which he used it, I never doubted the quality or ceased to admire it. I’ve mentioned here before C.S.Lewis’s statement that courage is the supreme virtue, making all the others possible. It should be praised and celebrated, and is the thing I‘d most wish to remember.
We got on surprisingly well in the past few months, better than for about 50 years as it happens. At such times one tends to remember childhood more clearly than at others, though I have always had a remarkably clear memory of much of mine. I am still baffled by how far we both came, in our different ways, from the small, quiet, shabby world of chilly, sombre rented houses and austere boarding schools, of battered and declining naval seaports, not specially cultured, not book-lined or literary or showy but plain, dutiful and unassuming, we took the courses we did.
Two pieces of verse come to mind, one from Hilaire Belloc’s ’Dedicatory Ode’
And T.S.Eliot’s ‘Little Gidding’ (one of the Four Quartets)
These words I love because I have found them to be increasingly and powerfully true. In my beginning, as Eliot wrote elsewhere in the Quartets, is my end. Alpha et Omega.
John 5:39-40 - English Standard Version (ESV)
"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life."
2 Peter 3:9 - English Standard Version (ESV)
John 14:6 - English Standard Version (ESV)
There was a night in September of 1973 when I was made aware quite clearly that there was such a thing as the supernatural. Without going into detail, that understanding caused me to pursue witchcraft and demon worship and meditation and psychedelic drugs and anything and everything EXCEPT GOD to find some kind of supernatural power within myself or within the Universe that could be tapped for my use. After years of trying and studying every conceivable philosophy and religion other than Christianity, I gave up and decided to just please myself. It was right about then that God sent a messenger to me in the form of one Charles R. Wood, pastor and author and on this particular night a courageous evangelist. March 13th of 1978, if I have my dates right, was the evening when I suddenly believed that Jesus Christ really was the Savior and I immediately wanted this Truth in my life. I wanted to know Truth and I wanted to understand what meaning life might have. It was philosophically unacceptable to me that life would be meaningless. At last I did find meaning. Having come to know Truth, I have been able to appreciated the Beauty and Wonder of God and the magnificence of His creation. It may be running downhill but it remains wondrous and beautiful even today.
One of my commenters accused me of becoming a Christian because I feared Hell. The truth? Pastor Wood did not even mention Hell to me on that night (as far as I remember) and I was not likely to have believed in the idea at that time, anyway. He recognized that I was a seeker of truth and he used the Bible to present truth to me in a positive way, that God was the God of all and that Jesus was the Door through which one would come to know God. So Jon Woolf's charge was completely false. Yet that was not an acceptable answer to him, so he then answered. I will repeat the dialogue below:
I said -"Jon Woolf said...
"You are the one who throws evidence and proven laws away to hope against hope that there is no God and you'll slide by."
Actually, on that count I'm a more honest man than you are, Radar. You hold to your beliefs out of a craven fear of punishment and hope for reward. I hold to mine because I honestly believe they're correct."
No, Jon, that was a crass thing to say and entirely inaccurate as well. I had no fear of Hell when I became a Christian and in fact was unsure if Hell existed. Also, I never saw much value in piling up "rewards" because the only reward that means much to me is to see God face to face and hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." So you could not be more wrong.
If you are even as honest as me you would be reviewing your belief system after I have shot it so thoroughly full of holes, but you do not go there. You are willing to say it might all be a joke? Truth is a joke? Fine. You be the Joker and I will be Batman.
So then Jon Woolf replied:
Jon Woolf has a very brutish and crass idea of Christianity. After all this time he has absolutely no concept of how Christians think at all. I NEVER even think about the possibility of me winding up in Hell. Early in my new life as a Christian I saw that Hell was taught as the last dwelling place of Satan, his demons and all unbelievers and I did not like the concept. I studied the scriptures to be sure that I understood my relationship with God so that it was clear to my mind just exactly what Salvation was and what it meant and how God accomplished it.
Salvation is complex. God needed to satisfy His own law because God is Just. God needed to be a Just Judge and therefore all who fall short of the law must either pay the price for that failure or allow another to pay the price, but the breaking of the law requires justice. As the Book of Romans tells us and a knowledge of the five books of the law will confirm, God counted faith as righteousness for Abraham and his descendents and then established a series of sacrifices along with the Mosaic Law that was presented to the Children of Abraham, the Jews, to which they agreed. Faith was always the key to having a relationship with God from the moment that Adam and Eve sinned until now. God counted faith as earning righteousness in advance of the Cross before Christ died, He accepted the sacrifices of His people under the Law before the Cross and then Jesus came to live and die and rise again.
Jesus Christ came to establish His personal righteousness in that He did everything He was supposed to do and never did anything He was not supposed to do. Therefore Jesus did not have to pay for His own sins, as He did not sin nor did he have to atone for having failed to do good, because He always did the will of His Father. As a man He could be the Second Adam, atoning for the sins that began with Adam and have continued in all men and women since. As the Son of God He could be strong enough to endure the weight of all the combined sins of all mankind past, present and future and as our Messiah He was willing to endure the hated sins and even separation from God the Father and Spirit for the sake of mankind at the moment He became sin for us. Having endured torture and mocking and the shame and curse of being hung from a cross and having taken sin upon Himself and gone into death as a man, Jesus Christ could then take back life and reclaim His rightful place as Son of God and Lord over all creation. Jesus Christ came back and showed Himself in His glorified body to several groups of people so that all of his disciples and followers could see and understand and have faith in His Sacrifice, His Atonement and His Salvation. He then returned to Heaven to take His throne as Lord of all and sent the Holy Spirit to live within all who would believe and receive His Gift. Being born again is not a phrase, it is a reality.
When I trusted Christ as Savior I repented of my sins and accepted that He was rightfully Lord over all. At that moment my dead spirit was reborn and I became a child of God. Before I was a creation of God but not yet His child. I am now part of His family and an heir to all that He will bequeath to me, which is relationship with Him while on Earth in this life and eternal life with Him forever once this finite body dies. I do not ever fear Hell and neither do I think that my actions can ever sever the connection between me and my God. Jesus used the phrase, "born again" because He wanted both Nicodemus (to whom Jesus was speaking when John recorded the conversation for posterity in the Gospel of John) and all Christians to understand that becoming a Christian is a permanent change. No one can be unborn. I do not depend on my actions to justify me before God, I depend upon the Atonement and Justification of Christ for that. Since Christ's Salvation is forever and even beyond forever (since God invented time) I do not fear God in the sense of terror. I love God as my Lord, my constant Companion, my Friend, my Guide and my source of Peace and Strength. I "fear God" in that I revere and respect God as Almighty and Transcendent who is Omniscient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent. I am in awe of God when I view the Universe or the tiniest organism and see the design of a Mind far superior to mine.
Romans 3:21-30 - English Standard Version (ESV)
The Righteousness of God Through Faith"But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Romans 5:1 - English Standard Version (ESV)
Peace with God Through Faith
Romans 8:1 - English Standard Version (ESV)
Life in the Spirit
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."Look, guys, if you know Greek or Norse Mythology and then compare it to genealogical charts it is obvious that some cultures turned ancestor worship into something bigger and more complex but it was still nothing more than making your ancestors into little "g" gods with human flaws and therefore no comparison to God at all. Even many of the great Greek philosophers understood that the concept of "GOD" was superior to either following a pantheon of so-called gods or, even worse, naturalistic materialism. To Plato and his followers, being a naturalistic materialist was a crass and brutish way to perceive the world. I agree.
From my post of December 1st, 2010
Included in that post was a review of Science's Blind Spot: The Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism by Cornelius G. Hunter
"...Presuppositions and axioms: are Christians rationalists?‘Moderate empiricism’ is a philosophically and theologically ‘loaded’ issue. A Christian should not embrace Hunter’s position carelessly. It follows, to some extent, Bacon’s naïve idea that religion should not precondition results, and that science could not speak to religion. This is a position that has been thoroughly discredited by history: either a theologically-informed science will operate, or an anti-theological science develops.7 This in itself should be a warning signal.
In response, we will take for granted the position of orthodox Christianity that the Christian does have a duty to acknowledge God in every sphere of life, and should not partition his thought life between the ‘sacred’ and the ‘secular’. But this does not turn us into ‘rationalists’.
In evaluating ‘moderate empiricism’, we should recognize that it is impossible to actually abandon all presuppositions in favour of completely open possibility—impossible to do that and still live with the results, that is. For instance, suppose one gave up the presupposition of regularity in the universe. There would then be no reason to suppose that the experiment you did yesterday would turn out the same today, or that the sun would rise again. All prediction would be destroyed. The fact of the matter is that a host of presuppositions is required to even carry on a rational conversation: presuppositions about the nature of logic, about the existence of other minds, and about the regularity of nature, to name a few. Hunter could never advocate an abandonment of all presuppositions.
So how do we distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate constructs ‘imposed’ on science? This subject needs to be handled carefully, for both empiricist and rationalist positions are problematic. In walking a fine line between extremes, a very helpful distinction could be made between rationalistic ‘axioms’, and ‘presuppositions’ necessary for all reasoning, including science itself.
An ‘axiom’ is the term Hunter uses for the rationalistic propositions or premises assumed a priori to be true and then used as the filter for determining the truthfulness of other investigations. But in contrast, we can call the Christian’s pre-theoretical commitment to the existence of a Triune Creator God and to Scripture a ‘presupposition’.
Plato’s warning (360 BC . . . yes, 2,350 years ago) on the inherent amorality, nihilism and ruthless factionalism rooted in evolutionary materialism
|July 5, 2011||Posted by kairosfocus under Intelligent Design|
As he said in the voice of The Athenian Stranger in his dialogue, The Laws, Bk X:
If we admit that we all equally have the right to be treated as persons, then it follows that we have the duty to respect one another accordingly. Rights bring correlative duties: my rights . . . imply that you ought to respect these rights.[p. 81.]
But, why should we consider that people have rights at all? The only enduring answer to this has been aptly summarised in the US Declaration of Independence of 1776, the 235th anniversary of which was celebrated just yesterday:
But, as we look on and see the consequence s of that rejection, we can begin to ever more deeply appreciate the wisdom of the founders of modern liberty and democracy who grounded liberty in the premise of the inherently good Creator God, who made us all equally in his image and placed us under the moral government of the Golden Rule.
Haldane, by the early 1930′s, knew better:
Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [[= evolutionary materialism] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can’t infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ [[the 'is' being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces]. (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.)
Given our se
cond assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an ‘ought’. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action.
Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action . . . [[We see] therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’.
For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.
Now, we all know that at least some actions are really not permissible (for example, racist actions). Since the conclusion of the argument denies this, there must be a problem somewhere in the argument. Could the argument be invalid? No. The argument has not violated a single rule of logic and all inferences were made explicit.
Thus we are forced to deny the truth of one of the assumptions we started out with. That means we either deny atheistic naturalism or (the more intuitively appealing) principle that one can’t infer ‘ought’ from [[a material] ‘is’.
Given what has been going on over the past few days and weeks, the usual talking points on how atheists can be “good without god,” are pointless; for we can see for ourselves how they are plainly paralysed in the teeth of Internet thuggery by their fellow atheists, how they have no firm anchor for principles of thought and action that should tell them where to draw firm lines and stand by them.
We have been warned. So, now, let us heed the warnings from Plato to Hawthorne.
End? In this life, you will not meet your end until you have expelled your last breath and your heart has made the last beat. Then, while your moral body will begin to immediately begin to decay and your soul will no longer have a home it is your eternal spirit that will have left existence and enter into the rest of eternity. By definition, eternity has no end. Some of you are betting on no eternal spirit, no existence after life, no sense or reason for living and even no free will at all. Those who take Darwinism to the logical conclusion must have much trouble finding joy in life. There is only pleasure or pain or boredom or interest, there is no Truth and no Beauty and no Wonder at the Eternal and Almighty God. I mourn for Christopher Hitchens and send condolences to his family and friends. Please do not follow Christopher into death believing in a 19th Century myth! Please at the very least look into the idea of Jesus Christ, as Lee Strobel did as an investigative journalist. He began his look at God as an unbelieving naturalist and a cynical one at that! Having begun the post with a Strobel quote, I will end with one: