Rest easy, atheist friends. I am not seeking to make Mr. Hitchens a Christian. I am, however, promoting the kind of Christianity that Hitch (as he is often referred) encountered in the years leading up to his death.
Larry Taunton is the founder of the Fixed Point Foundation. According to the website:
Fixed Point Foundation is dedicated to meaningful exploration of the ideas and issues that shape our culture. To that end, Fixed Point has sponsored debates and symposia on topics ranging from atheism and Islam to gay marriage and the relationship between science and religion.
Larry Taunton, a southern evangelical Christian, was also a personal friend of Hitchens. The two debated Christianity vs. Atheism, and occasionally traveled together, studying the gospel of St. John as they went. As their relationship grew, Taunton came to the belief that Hitchens carried two sets of books in his life: one set vehemently defended the atheism embraced since his teens; the other set, however, seemed to wrestle with the claims of the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The main reason Hitchens wrestled with the Christian faith was because toward the closing years of his life, he developed close, personal relationships with men like Taunton, Oxford mathematician & physicist John Lennox, pastor Douglas Wilson, and geneticist Francis Collins. In each of these men, Hitchens encountered something he had either never seen or allowed himself to see–Christians who sincerely lived out their faith both intellectually and obediently to the teachings of Christ.
In a public debate with Larry Taunton, an interview asked Hitchens what he thought of Taunton. He stated: “If everyone in the United States had the same qualities of loyalty and care and concern for others that Larry Taunton had, we’d be living in a much better society than we do.” (p.150)
At a book signing, a fellow atheist asked Hitchens why he would even consider taking a road trip with an evangelical Christian (gasp!) like Taunton, and Hitchens replied: “Because he is my friend, and you, sir, are an idiot.” (p.116) [that one made me laugh]
Clearly, Christopher Hitchens was an unlikely evangelist. Like Pontius Pilate who sought numerous times to have Jesus acquitted because he saw a sincerity and an innocence in Him, Hitchens, knowingly or not, proclaimed the truth of genuine Christianity because he saw in the lives of his Christian friends sincerity, innocence, as well as intellectual rigor.
The gospels tell us that Pilate was “amazed” by Jesus (Matthew 27:14, Mark 15:5). The Greek word for “amazed” literally means to be “astonished out of one’s senses; awestruck.” Pilate couldn’t figure out this Jesus, but he was dumbstruck by His genuine truthfulness. In the same way, Christopher Hitchens was dumbstruck by his Christian friends.
Taunton tells of one such occasion when he says:
“Christopher found this kind of Christianity, the sort that took the Bible’s mandate to care for others, deeply seductive. He had no problem dismissing out-of-hand pretenders, “hucksters” whose sole objective was the acquisition of political power or the maintenance of that power. And it is here that Sasha (his adopted daughter from the Ukraine) enters the story. Just before meeting her for the first time, Christopher, recalling our conversation at the Ritz two years before, asked about the state of her health. “She had to have dental surgery for a root canal and the pulling of seven rotten teeth. But she has recovered nicely, and her HIV is under control.” He froze mid-step, his eyes staring blankly into the middle distance. “She is HIV-positive?” “Yes. I thought I told you that.” “No, you certainly did not. I should have remembered it if you did.” He still did not move. “Oh. Well, yes, she is.” It was not my purpose to shock him, but shock him I did. The effect this additional bit of information had on him was profound. So profound that I knew that something in his thinking had changed in that instant. There was not a hint of criticism in his remarks. It was something closer to astonishment that I had not said this before and that we had adopted an HIV-positive child.” (p.109)
Simply, Christopher Hitchens was stunned in the face of genuine, lived-out Christianity.
To this I say, professing Christian, does your life stun anyone? We can talk about all of the political and moral mess that our country is in until we are blue in the face, but where the rubber meets the road is this–does your Christian life “astonish” unbelievers? Are you in close relationship w/ any unbelievers so that they might see the reality of Jesus being lived out in your life? Does your life STUN anyone as it is marked by faith & love? Jesus, to the end, was stunning people by His life—Pilate, the thief on the cross, the Roman soldier after his death… This same Jesus commands you:
let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16
No, I am not seeking to make Mr. Hitchens out to be a Christian. There is no evidence to his conversion before his death. However, it is clear to see that genuine Christianity had a major impact upon his life–even to the point of his death.
Professing believer, if you were taken to court and were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?