Atheist Christopher Hitchens has died

The popular atheist and public debater and author of God Is Not Great has died of pneumonia, a complication of esophageal cancer. One who debated with Hitchens, Douglas Wilson, has written a piece on “How to think about the death of the outspoken atheist” over at the Christianity Today blog.

It is one of those quirky human realities that often atheists are more civil and “good” in the way they befriend others and live their lives than are people of faith. We ought not to be gleeful at the death of such a person as Hitchens, and, worse yet, judgemental of his ultimate destiny. Rather, as one of my seminary professors once told us—who himself liked to debate atheists—it is often better to be around atheists than Christians. Why? Because they keep us Christians honest in our faith, and make us think more deeply about the what and why of our beliefs when our beliefs are called into question. Moreover, most likely they are also able to see through our hypocrisy whenever our beliefs fail to match up with the way we live our lives.

Although I believe that most likely no matter how qualified and brilliant a debater you or I might become; I don’t think we can argue and debate a person into faith—only the work of God’s Spirit can give them the gift of faith. Why you or I have it and folks like Christopher Hitchens do not still remains a mystery. A mystery, by design, not to make the faithful puffed up with pride and superiority—rather, humbled, awed, and constantly grateful for the gift so generously given us beyond our deserving it.