The Faith of Christopher Hitchens

51rELKRwN+L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Even this far after his death in 2011, author and public intellectual Christopher Hitchens remains one of our cultures’ most prominent atheists. His opposition to God and religious belief was forceful to say the least. He even preferred the term “antitheist,” because a person “could be an atheist and wish that belief in God were correct,” while “an antitheist, a term I’m trying to get into circulation, is someone who is relieved that there’s no evidence for such an assertion.”

Given his views, I was somewhat surprised recently to run across a review of a new book called the The Faith of Christopher Hitchens. The book is written by Larry Alex Taunton, the founder and executive director of Fixed Point Foundation, an organization dedicated to articulating and defending the Christian faith. Hitchens, it turns out, actually cultivated a substantial personal relationship with the evangelical Taunton. In fact, toward the end of Hitchens’ life, the two took two road trips together, studying and discussing the gospel of John as they went.

I’m anxious to read the book, but the review itself already offers Christian believers a good deal to think about. I’ll mention a few points briefly:

Christians should happily cultivate meaningful friendships with people they may disagree with strongly with on the big questions of life.

In significant ways, Hitchens and Taunton could not be more different. Hitchens was a renowned and vociferous critic of God and religious belief. Taunton leads an organization that seeks to demonstrate the truth of Christianity. And yet the two evidently had a robust friendship. This is a far cry from any mentality that thinks Christians should stay behind the proverbial castle walls.

Christians must earn credibility from those who don’t share their beliefs.

According to the review, Taunton gained the respect of several leading atheists, including Hitchens, through organizing and moderating debates with them. My guess is that simply doesn’t happen if Taunton wasn’t respectful, fair, and charitable in the process.

If non-believers ever want to explore the Christian faith, these are the kind of relationships they’re likely to turn to first.

A friendship is a good and right thing regardless of whether we ever have the opportunity to share the gospel. After all, the command is to love our neighbor and even our enemies, not merely “those who demonstrate a spiritual interest.” But if and when non-Christians are somehow drawn to consider the claims of Christianity, it only makes sense that they’ll often first look to do so through the avenues of trusted friendships. In fact, such relationships might very well be one of the reasons for such interest in the first place.

A quote from Brian Mattson, the author of the review, sums up and expands on all the above:

Taunton’s book is a reminder that apologetics is never about winning arguments; it’s about winning people. By the end, Taunton was unafraid to boldly press the matter of repentance and trust in Jesus in a sobering, poignant, and vulnerable way. The “public” Hitchens—the sneering-and-jeering Hitchens—might have taken this effort as an affront. But the bonds of friendship and trust between them formed a context in which the real Hitchens clearly appreciated it.

Mattson continues:

If you’re looking for a melodramatic Christopher Hitchens “conversion story,” this isn’t it. If you’re looking for a “how-to” apologetics manual of decisive arguments, this isn’t it. But if you’re looking for a beautiful model of what charity, friendship, and evangelism ought to look like, this book is for you.

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