Hitchens Dodging His Homework – Once Again

Watching a Christopher Hitchens (deceased December 15, 2011) debate is like watching a master manipulator, or like a guy whose bets are on the side of collective ignorance.

As Scott Berkun observes:

…proficiency in argument can easily be used to overpower others, even when you are dead wrong. If you learn a few tricks of logic and debate, you can refute the obvious, and defend the ridiculous. If the people you’re arguing with aren’t as comfortable in the tactics of argument, or aren’t as arrogant  [or informed] as you are, they may even give in and agree with you.

And we might add that if your audience is not versed in the extant data relative to the argument, like the progressive nature of the Biblical narrative, you might appear to win the debate.   

At least the debate of popular opinion.    

But the irony strikes me as this: While the theist must (and is expected to) do their homework in many disciplines like philosophy, physics (quantum, meta and classic), history, biology, etc, the atheistic can usually get off the hook with only a casting glance at the narrative of Scripture.  If he but quotes a few verses or makes reference to just a few aspects of religious history or philosophy, he is regarded as astute and the presentation of his data pertinent and persuasive.

That’s because he’s got a huge advantage – the relative ignorance of Scripture with the masses, both Christian and non-Christian.  It’s the day we live in.

One example is Hitchen’s oft-repeated “man’s been around 100,000-250,00 years-then-finally-God-acted” argument, with the obvious conclusion being that God just didn’t give a damn about all the people who died and went to hell prior to the incarnation of Jesus.  How could you believe in such a God? Hitchens affirms.

It is very much akin to the familiar “what about those who have not heard?” argument so often employed to discredit the Bible, the nature of the Atonement and of Christ Himself.

While the believer must be pretty darn acquainted with everything from astronomy to quantum physics, why hasn’t (or rather wasnt) Hitchens forced repeatedly to deal with verses like Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 9:25, etc.?

These verses do say something, (the retroactive as well as present and future nature of the Atonement) and they need to be introduced into the debate even though they are admittedly in-house arguments, but then so are things like m-theory, multiverse, etc, and whatever the current argument is to sidestep the ramifications that nothing still comes out of nothing if left of itself.

C’mon believing community.  It is just, right and beautiful to be aware of depth of the content of the Logosphere, the universe in which Jesus reigns – our universe and the words of Christocentric revelation.  Then this material must be introduced into the debate. 

From this I personally will never back down.  


8 thoughts on “Hitchens Dodging His Homework – Once Again

  1. Preach it, brother. I believe the failure to teach the Bible has been the greatest shortcoming of the modern church. The emphasis is all on simple reading and memorization. It’s far too shallow. Like the eunuch said, unless someone explains to me what I’m reading, how will I ever understand?

    • Thank you kindly for the comment. It’s lonely out here in this corner of the Logosphere, but with a Christ such as we have, in the center of this insanity…

      It will be exciting to see His unveiling. For that I live, and having read your blog I know you do as well.

      Hold on for the ride brother.

  2. The Hitchens speech you refer to points out the thousands of years human suffering that took place before some revelation at some arbitrary time in some illiterate part of the Middle East (not a literate part of China, who had to wait another thousand years for revelation to get to them).
    Speaking of doing one’s homework, I’ve read the passages you want to share, and they don’t claim to retrospectively give salvation to those that are unbelievers simply because they have no heard of Jesus:

    Romans 3:
    23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
    24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
    25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
    26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

    Hebrews 9:
    15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
    (This only talks of the people under the Old Testament. Hitchens is right to talk of 96,000 years of unsaved souls.)

    24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
    25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
    26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

    • I appreciate your thoughtful reply. Let me make a few observations in return.

      First, I affirm there to be something of an epistemological stand off between worldviews, a stand-off which is pretty irreconcilable due to the undeniable presence and pressure of a priori commitments. Epistemological neutrality is pure myth, and ontologically impossible. We are all pre-wired, so lets get that out in the open. You admit it, I admit it. Then we debate from there, by the way, using tools from my worldview like universal, transcendent laws of logic, okay? (Unless you want to affirm that universal, transcendent laws are just conventional, or are somehow “just there” as materialism affirms in the realm of cosmology).

      If you come to the revelation narrative pre-committed to a naturalistic worldview, these scriptures (nor will ANY body of extra-material revelation) have no convincing sway whatsoever.

      Nor do I claim that my pre-commitment to the possibility of supernaturalism is based exclusively on the efforts of evidentialism, empirical data or reason alone. Neither are yours, as much as you would like to affirm otherwise. And if they were, is our appeal to reason as high as we can go? After all, what is reason? Why reason? Why do we expect logical consistency in the first place? Why are we both subscribing to the same set of “laws” as we debate? And ultimately, WHO is the law-maker? Do transcendent, universal laws reflect anything above mere convention?

      I affirm my presuppositions. After that, more “in-house” arguments from scripture are buttressed but not based on other disciplines such as history, archeology, self-attestation, etc.

      Hitchens had a penchant for bashing religious atrocities, arrogance, subterfuge, manipulativeness, etc. Of course I am 100% with him in that, but in terms of the New Testament narrative found in the above-stated verses, he makes no reference to the vital themes. They need to be considered in a well-rounded debate.

      So in case you are interested in considering other references from extra-natural revelation, I would point you to Romans 1:20; Romans 2:15,16; the entire “federal representative” narrative of Romans 5; Acts 17:24-28, etc.

      Once again, thank you for your reply.

      • I didn’t come here to debate the existence of God. Perhaps another day we can get to the bottom of why your presuppositional stance of basing logic in God is unnecessary, and how I’m not borrowing from a theistic worldview in order to argue from reason and logic.

        No, I commented because the charge you make against Hitchens is wrong. Your claim that the Bible says it will retrospectively grant salvation to those that have not heard of Jesus is unfounded in the passages you offered. So Hitchens’ lament of the 96,000 years of human suffering, while Heaven looks on with indifference — each person falling sort of the glory of God and going to Hell — is an accurate one.

      • On a likeabilty scale, Hitchens was a ten. That’s why he was the champion spokesman for the new atheists (contrast for example Dawkins who is IMO a “one” at best). But in terms of “getting it” on New Testament and especially Pauline narrative, I’m sorry, he should have done his homework.

        As for your opinion of the meaning of the verses offered, you are certainly entitled to your position of denial, but I think you need to do a little homework yourself.

        And I look forward to your future replies on the matter of presuppositions. Be as objective as you can, okay? I’ll limit my expectations because I know what’s in the heart of man. Absolutely not a personal reflection on you, per se, but a generic, undeniable axiom.

        Debate, the marketplace of ideas is a wonderful thing.

      • Well, lets see: I do believe I have supplied ample scriptural citation to support the reality of the doctrine, perhaps not to your satisfaction, I understand. Of course if everything in our universe could only be reduced to simplistic, one-sentence blurbs…

        But you know better than that…

        From Max Andrews…


        From C.S. Lewis…

        “On the human level one person is one being, and any two persons are two separate beings… On the Divine level you still find personalities; but up there you find them combined in new ways which we, who do not live on that level, cannot imagine…If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about…Reality, in fact, is always something you couldn’t have guessed. That’s one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It’s a religion you couldn’t have guessed.”

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