Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Hitchens’

Blog replay: Christopher Hitchens debates Tim Jackson

December 17, 2011

Christopher Hitchens died this week. I disliked his ideas and nearly everything he stood for. (I’m not meaning to disrespect the dead; he would want people like me to dislike him and say so.) In one important way, however, I owe him a debt of gratitude. He influenced me to start this blog and to formulate my own responses to the often shallow arguments put forth by him and his fellow New Atheist writers. He shook me out of my complacency about defending the Christian faith.

Not that I think I do the work of apologetics very well, but most of my fellow clergy (none of my blog readers, I promise!) don’t do it at all. They don’t seem to care about the ideas of people like Hitchens. For whatever reason, I do. Passionately. I think his ideas matter to many people—people who will never darken the door of a church. So I care about them, too.

Don’t get me wrong: No one comes to faith because of ideas alone. No one reasons their way into becoming a Christian. No argument by itself will cause someone to be a Christian. It’s a much deeper, more emotional decision (made possible by the Holy Spirit, of course). But arguments and reason do play an important role.

Regardless, I saw him in Atlanta in 2007 on his book tour for god is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. As part of this tour, Hitchens had been going from city to city, staging debates about God and religion with whichever local believer his publicist could find to debate him. Often, these debate opponents were overmatched (Al Sharpton in New York? Really?) or unprepared for Hitchens’s aggressively derisive debating style—often confused for wit by his tour’s enthusiastic fans. “Oh, you thought this was going to be a fair fight?” Hitchens seemed to say. “It’s personal, and I’m going straight for the jugular.”

Sadly, Hitchens often took advantage of Christians’ well-meaning impulse to be nice, which they sometimes mistake for the virtue of kindness. Niceness is not a virtue, especially when debating someone like Hitchens. Sometimes, as the song says, you’ve got to be cruel to be kind.

Dr. Tim Jackson, kind—even nice—but he knows the difference.

Fortunately, Timothy Jackson, my Christian ethics professor at Emory’s Candler School of Theology, understood this distinction when he debated Hitchens at the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta. This time, Hitchens seemed unprepared. Not that there was much give-and-take. Hitchens rarely responded to what Jackson said. He was mostly reciting a script. Still, even he conceded a few weeks later on a blog that Jackson was, “by far” his best opponent. I’m sure he was!

This audio recording is from the second of two debates that day. I attended the first. I assume the second is similar, although Dr. Jackson told me in an email that both of them were a bit grumpier the second time around.

UPDATE: Now it’s on YouTube!

Atheism again?

October 17, 2010

Four of my last eight posts have related to the topic. Sorry! This will be my last one for a while (fingers crossed).

Today I wrote the following in response to an atheist commenter way back over here. This is my last comment on that particular thread. The commenter kept making a mistake that’s very common for proponents of scientism. Be on the lookout for it the next time you see that friendly celebrity atheist on TV telling you why there’s no God. It is this: If science can identify a naturalistic cause for something, then God is not also involved.

He argues, for example, that since love is “grounded in biochemical processes,” love has no objectively real or deeper meaning. That simply doesn’t follow unless your metaphysical belief rules out anything other than that knowledge at which the scientific method can arrive. It is reductionist thinking in the extreme.

The physiological “ground” of love may be “biochemical processes,” but this says nothing at all about other possible grounds for love. It’s all so simplistic.

John Cleese tackles this very subject in a funny video I linked to at the end. Read the rest of this entry »

“Set apart before birth”?

July 22, 2010

In last Sunday’s sermon, I made the seemingly bold assertion that we Christians, like Paul, have been set apart before birth to take part in God’s saving mission in this world.

How do you feel about that? Maybe you think, “My life isn’t anything special. I mean, sure, Paul’s was special. He changed the world! Me, who am I? What am I doing? I would have to really flatter myself to think that God really cared about me in this way.”

Hmm… Maybe you buy into this pervasive, depressing, destructive idea that our lives are nothing more than a grain of sand on a nearly endless beach—and how could God—any god—care so much about us? Isn’t it wishful thinking? Aren’t we deluding ourselves? I’ve seen best-selling author and atheist Christopher Hitchens make that argument in a live debate I witnessed—that we Christians are really full of ourselves, really conceited, to think that our lives matter in that way. Read the rest of this entry »

Freedom, love, and… physics?

November 11, 2009

In my sermon on the Parable of the Rich Fool, Luke 12:13-21, I explored the theme that we are not ultimately in control of our lives. We are especially reminded of our lack of control when natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes strike. Insurance companies even use special language to emphasize this point: these events are called “acts of God.” I have theological problems with that description, but I get why they’re called that.

Read the rest of this entry »

Candler School of Theology’s Timothy Jackson debates a celebrity atheist

October 6, 2009

Here is an audio recording of the second of two debates between Dr. Timothy Jackson, a Christian ethics professor at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, and best-selling author and polemicist Christopher Hitchens, held in 2007 at the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta. The two were debating the premise of Hitchens’s book, god is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, on Hitchens’s book tour. I was a student of Jackson’s at Candler. I attended the debate earlier that afternoon.

So… who do you think won?