A Time to Die
Christopher Hitchens, April 13, 1949 - December 15, 2011
I'm sure most of you saw the news about the passing of Christopher Hitchens last Thursday. Mr. Hitchens was a celebrated journalist and skilled orator, but was most familiar to Christians for his 2007 New York Times best seller, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.
Along with Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins, Mr. Hitchens was regarded as one of the "Four Horsemen" of New Atheism. While science and evolutionary dogma were the basis of Dawkins's rants against God, Mr. Hitchens took a more cynical and satirical look at non-belief: child-molestation by Catholic priests, the 9/11 atrocity, corrupt televangelists, and human suffering proved not only a lack of the Divine, but that man-made religion was the cause of most human ills. In his words, "Religion kills."
Because Mr. Hitchens could express his contrarian views so skillfully, he was seen ad nauseam on cable outlets and in numerous debates. He truly had become the voice of atheism In the United states, a label he wore proudly.
The cause of his death, esophageal cancer, was seen as ironic by some, almost as if God had silenced Mr. Hitchens. Some believers will unfortunately take this position, not considering that others hostile to faith have not met such a fate: Why has Hugh Hefner been allowed to live such a long and prosperous life? How about Mick Jagger? In His day, Jesus cautioned against such speculations. (See Luke 13:1-5.)
God loved Christopher Hitchens, of that we are sure. His career thrived due to the advantages of being born in 20th-century England, a land rooted in the biblical ideals of liberty, human rights, and justice. Because of this, Mr. Hitchens was allowed to assail the very tenets that enabled him to live a safe and prosperous life. Had he been born in Damascus or Pyongyang, his talented voice would most likely have never been heard.
When Mr. Hitchens was diagnosed with cancer, many evangelicals pondered a caving of his atheistic beliefs and the possibility of a death-bed conversion. Interestingly enough, in the final year of his life, he was under the care of and became close with Dr. Francis Collins, the lead scientist in the mapping of the human genome, former atheist and now vibrant Christian. He was also reconciled with his brother Peter, also a former atheist but now a strong evangelical believer.
Death is never easy, and we send our regrets to the family of Mr. Hitchens. But death also doesn't alleviate the harm Mr. Hitchens brought to the cause of Christ, and the false assumptions and half-truths he passed on to millions. The Bible states plainly that "it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27). Mr. Hitchens's eternity is now in the hands of God.
If the death of Mr. Hitchens teaches us anything, it is this: "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever" (Isa. 40:8).