August 12, 2015

In Their Own Words XXXIV: Can’t Find My Way Home

In reference to the flawed people God allows to speak on behalf of him, represent Him or act through proxy for Him in the Old Testament it is stated that the Jewish/Israeli people are essentially dimwitted and highly flawed, they are…

“…the ungrateful and mutinous children of Israel.” Christopher Hitchens - God Is Not Great, p.101.

Christopher Hitchens a militant atheist makes one of the most obvious observations of the Bible and he seems proud of it when he asserts this fact. He also does it in an attempt to point out the shortcomings in God and God’s judgment (hence the title of his book: God is Not Great). Hitchens believes by pointing out the highly flawed, capricious and stiff-necked Jews, he is somehow showing God is completely incompetent in picking people to represent Him (as if Hitchens is that proper judge of that). In so doing Hitchens completely reveals his ignorance of the Scriptures and the principles behind Scripture.

Hitchens is essentially wondering, “What kind of role model is Abraham who lies about Sarah and attempts to kill his own child. Moses who murders an Egyptian or David who power-rapes Bathsheba and then arranges to have her husband, Uriah, killed?" Hitchens has a point: This isn’t the way things ought to be done. But the biblical authors often don’t comment on such horrid actions because (at least in part) they assume they don’t need to. Hitchens construes this silence as God's approval. This is Hitchen's first fallacious error. He argues from silence (argumentum ex silentio). He assumes, in the abseince of any decenting opinion or God's silence, He must approve of the sinful action. Hitchens is hedging his bets in reasoning that is nothing more than a false dichotomy/dilemma argument.

People including Christians are highly flawed and the Bible purposely and honestly paints that picture. In actuality it is called Total Depravity. Mankind is so flawed it is only through God’s work and grace that a sinning man can even recognize his need for God and repent. Hitchens is stating nothing new. Perhaps for him and his militant atheist comrades it is new but for Christians, well, we knew this coming into the faith (or should have).

It seems as if Hitchens believes he is the first to stumble across this startling revelation. I have news for the late Hitchens. The idea that man is flawed and needs a savior has been known since the beginning of Christianity. It was planned since before the foundations of the world. It is revelatory to a Christian in that these human flaws and sin point to Jesus Christ and God’s plans for salvation but not in the way Hitchens is understanding it. It is one of the core premises and promises of the Christian faith. Hitchens inadvertently stumbled upon the Gospel and sadly…he didn’t even recognize it. Just as the Jews had God’s holy word and didn’t recognize Jesus.

Hitchens misunderstanding of this fact shows just how blind he was spiritually. He believes he is showing people something new in the Bible but it is something Jesus told people just like Hitchens in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus said the following to the Pharisees who doubted Jesus.

Luke 5:29-32 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

The Pharisees just like Hitchens were intellectually capable of reading Scripture but having read Scripture both were incapable of correctly discerning what its purpose truly was. Thereby they misappropriated it to their own illegitimate uses and used it in faulty reasoning to arrive at errant conclusions.

Hitchens makes a fatal flaw in assessing the situation. He attempts to impose an Is/Ought Fallacy onto the Scriptures. The way biblical characters acted wasn’t necessarily an endorsement of their behavior if God didn’t punish them immediately (that would be thr fallacy called an argument from silence). This is the same type of mindset that says because God hasn’t judged the United States for the unjustifiable abortions of 56 million infants yet, he won’t (this too is an argument from silence). We will not escape God’s justice forever, any more than the Israelites did for their child sacrifices of the Old Testament to Moloch or Baal. God’s patience and long suffering will end and his wrath will be unleashed. We must never confuse God’s silence for His approval. All of this is to show examples of the Is/Ought fallacy.

In layman’s terms the Is/Ought Fallacy occurs when the assumption is made that because things are a certain way, they should be that way. It can also consist of the assumption that because something is not now occurring, this means it should not or will never occur.

Hitchens having informed himself about the Bible narrative goes on to assume that because poor behavior is taking place in the Old Testament, it has been that way and will always be that way and God approves of it. Had he actually gone into the Bible and understood its underlying principles he would’ve realized that the Israelis were a “type”. They were a typology of the sinning totally depraved man. God eventually does judge the Jews. Quite harshly too I might add. Multiple times. Things did not just keep going on and on business as usual as alluded to by Mr. Hitchens. Eventually the Kingdom period came to an end. First the Northern Kingdom at the hands of the merciless Assyrians and then the Southern Kingdom by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians. By 70 AD, Rome had crushed Jerusalem and sent the Jews into the Diaspora where many remain until today.

Sadly ironic are the similarities between Hitchens and the religious elite of Jesus’ time. The Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees. All of them totally missed the point of the Law and Scripture and did not recognize the Messiah the Scriptures pointed to. Unable to recognize Jesus for who he was, they ended up killing Him. Hitchens like the Pharisees was so spiritually blind he too attempts to kill of Jesus (at least in his own mid) by not even acknowledging His existence and through mockery. In doing so he too totally missed the point of Scripture which he at least attempted to learn (and I use the word learn loosely). 

He missed that it was meant to be a guide for holiness for the lost people that turn astray from holiness and turn away from God. The word ἁμαρτία/hamartia or sin in Greek literally means “to miss the mark” as if someone has literally turned from God and righteousness. To repent or μετανοέω/metanoeo literally means to change one’s mind or turn one’s mind. Turn it towards God of course. We need to turn it back towards holiness. God is the only source of holiness.

God used horribly flawed people specifically because they were horribly flawed. This showed that Jesus’ work on the Cross can save anyone no matter what they have done…as long as they repent and seek God. For God to be able to show the way towards holiness to a fallen and corrupt human, God needed to meet mankind where they were at in their sin and gently coax them back to where he should be (or drum them over the head and drag them if necessary). This then leaves an example or path for even the worst of sinners to follow back to God. He did it through other flawed people in the Bible which Hitchens has so clearly point out (master of the obvious that he was). He also gave us His Son Jesus to lead by example…which Hitchens totally misses by a mile.

So why were the chosen people of God so flawed and chock full of different sins? Because they are/were a type of us (more properly a typology of us). God was essentially giving us all the possible sinful scenarios and what to do if we find ourselves in those scenarios. This wasn’t a capricious, uncaring and angry God as Hitchens will later go on to rant about but rather just the opposite. It is a God that cares so much He anticipated where all of His children might go when they got lost and left signposts in the road to help them find their way home.

Christopher Hitchens totally missed the mark on this one...yet he completely nails it at the same time.

[Yes, I purposely used the title of Blind Faith's song as the title of this post because, in reality, Hitchens would've needed faith to overcome the spiritual blindness in his life. My title is meant to be sadly ironic and a play on words for those of my generation. It just seemed to fit the post.]

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