Is Atheist Hitchens In Hell?

Title: Is Atheist Hitchens in Hell?

Text: John 14:6, Hebrews 9:27, 10:31, Matthew 25:41, 46,

Time: February 11th, 2012

 

At the end of last year the world famous atheist Christopher Hitchens died of esophageal cancer. There were news reports about his death; there was much talk about his passing. In the aftermath of his death, someone asked me as a Christian pastor whether I thought this atheist was in hell now, because of his rejection of the Christian gospel message. At first, I tried to avoid answering the question out of politeness, but my questioner wouldn’t let up and kept on asking me to give a yes or no answer. I told him I didn’t like it when people spoke ill of a person immediately after they died – like Hitchens did of Mother Theresa after she passed away. Even during the televised funeral on ABC, as Mother Theresa’s casket was on display, ABC’s Peter Jennings was interviewing Christopher Hitchens about his critical book on the world’s most famous nun – and the awful and disrespectful things that were said forced Jennings to end the interview early! Even though Hitchens deserved it, it wasn’t my intention to bad-mouth him so soon after his death. But the questioner kept asking me to give a straightforward answer, even accusing me of fudging or waffling in my response. I kept saying that I wasn’t interested in speaking ill of anybody after their passing, even if they had it coming. But still that didn’t satisfy my challenger. Finally, after repeated requests I gave this answer in reply to the question, “Is atheist Hitchens now in hell?” I said, “If the biblical Christian gospel message is true, and if Christopher Hitchens never repented of what he said and did in opposition to God and the gospel, then he’s in now in hell forever. My interlocutor then used my answer to criticize me for being unloving and irrational in my traditional, biblical beliefs. I think he labeled it “hate speech,” that I was guilty of. All because I answered a straightforward question with a straightforward answer. But as I thought about it, I guess my answer deserved an explanation, because it’s easy to make over simplistic comments – and I don’t want to be guilty of that because of the seriousness of the issues. It’s a pretty serious thing to conclude that a soul that has perished is now in hell. That’s why I couched my answer in a hypothetical – If,  . . . thus and so; Then,  . . . and so on. “If” Christianity is true, and “If” Hitchens didn’t repent, “Then” he’s in hell. I put it that way because at the end of the day, only God can judge a soul, in life or death. Who am I to make that judgment for God? But because I was forced to give an answer, I answered the way I did. But let me explain why I believe I answered correctly.

 

First, if the biblical Christian gospel message is true. “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,’“ John 14:6. The Bible was given as revelation from God. The New Testament was given specifically to reveal the way of salvation, namely, through the sacrificial atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross – plus our faith in it. The startling claim of Jesus was that he alone held open the door of heaven; only through him could one enter. But the gospel message already presupposes a number of other things, namely, that there is an Almighty God, a Creator, a Lawgiver, and so forth. It also presupposes that there’s a heaven and hell, a place of blessedness for the faithful and a place of punishment for the unrepentant. Most of the assumptions that make up the foundations for the gospel are found in the Old Testament and carried on through into the New Testament. Another important assumption of the gospel message is that everyone is sinful and deserving of punishment. Unless a Savior saves us from our sinfulness, we all die and face Judgment Day. Jesus is the Savior who offers us salvation in exchange for our faith. When we come to God through Jesus Christ, and repent of our sins, and place our faith totally in the grace of God, we are saved from judgment and hell. This message is nothing new; most people of the Western World for nearly two thousand years have heard it – and either accepted it or rejected it. Christians believe it, and that makes them Christians. While non-Christians reject it, and that makes them non-Christians. Some people try to suggest that Jesus taught one gospel message, but the Apostle Paul came along later and taught a different gospel message – but that division is false. If we take a careful look at what Jesus taught and then what the Apostle taught, we’ll see that they are basically one and the same. Jesus spoke of himself being “the way, the truth, the life, no one comes to God in haven except through him,” that is, salvation. While Paul explains the meaning of the gospel of salvation in more theological terms, but it’s the same message. And the message is that salvation has come in Jesus Christ for everyone who receives it; but you have to receive it, you can’t reject it and expect to be treated the same way someone who accepts it will be treated. There are plenty of warnings in the New Testament to those who would reject the gospel; these are all stated clearly. So in answering the question, “Is atheist Christopher Hitches now in hell?” we must answer from the biblical Christian standpoint. It comes down to this – if the Bible, Christianity and the gospel are true, then it doesn’t look good for Hitchens, obviously! What else would we expect! But this isn’t the only condition; let’s look at another.

 

Second, if Christopher Hitchens never repented of his sinful words and deeds before he died. “It is appointed unto man once to die, and then the judgment,” Hebrews 9:27. What did Christopher Hitchens do that is so bad that anyone would ever conclude that he’s now in hell? Why would the question even come up? Because he spent the later part of his life, up to the very end, uttering public blasphemies against God and encouraging people everywhere to reject all faith in God. He was probably the world’s most famous atheist at the hour of his death. He had just recently written a book entitled, “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.” He traveled all across the United Sates and Europe arguing against God, against the Bible, against Christianity, against the gospel message – even against all religious belief. If you’ve ever heard samples of his public lectures or talks, you’re shocked at the outright blasphemous things he said. Thing like saying the atonement of Jesus is ridiculous, or worse, that it is evil, because it promotes irresponsibility because someone else pays for your misdeeds. He goes through the Bible and tries to argue that God is a bad God, unfair, cruel, irrational, and so forth. I watched an interview with Hitchens less than a month before he died, where he was given an opportunity to take back anything he’s ever said against God or Christianity, and he used the occasion to reaffirm his total rejection of everything associated with the faith. Now there have been famous atheists who have softened their heart in old age, who have actually recanted of their unbelief and actually repented of their blasphemies against God and embraced the faith in the end. A most famous case is Anthony Flew, who in his younger years was a leading atheist professor, but in later years converted to a faith in God. But there is no evidence, no indication that Christopher Hitchens ever repented of his sins or recanted of his blasphemies. Now could he have done so at his last dying moment? Could he have uttered a short one-sentence prayer to God, like, “God, I’m sorry, forgive me?” Yes, he could have done that, but we have no evidence for it. And like the biblical verse states, “It is appointed unto man once to die, and then the judgment.” There is no second chance. When I was watching his last interview I kept thinking to myself, “Wow, this man’s betting everything on God not existing, and the Bible not being true, and Christianity not being valid, and the gospel not being real.” In poker terms, he was “all in” against God. He would have nothing to do with Pascal’s Wager, that is, the idea of hedging one’s bet in favor of God, just in case it’s all true, rather than losing everything. No. Hitchens was wagering everything against the biblical God. So that leaves him in a position where he was either totally right or totally wrong, because he didn’t mess with “Mr. In-Between,” as they say. But there’s one more thing to consider in answering the question, “Is Hitchens in hell?”

 

Third, if the biblical gospel message is true, and if Hitchens never repented of his sins before he died, he’s probably now in hell forever. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life,” Matthew 25:41, 46. Now we shouldn’t single Christopher Hitchens out as the only sinner, because the New Testament clearly teaches that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23. His sins are particularly pointed because he was a public figure who made his living uttering blasphemies against God, but that doesn’t mean that he deserves hell any more than anyone else. The New Testament teaches that “there is no one righteous, no not one,” Romans 3:10. All of us are in the same boat as far as sin is concerned. We all need to repent; we all need God’s forgiveness; we all need to place faith in Christ for salvation. Many, many people reject God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ, but they aren’t as public and famous as atheist Hitchens. But getting back to the question, “Is Christopher Hitchens now in hell?” If we grant the truthfulness of the first two premises, that biblical Christianity is true and that Hitchens never did repent of his sins or embraced the gospel of salvation offered through Jesus Christ, then it follows logically that he is now in hell. That isn’t something that’s easy to say, but if the first two conditions hold, then the conclusion flows logically from them. But as I heard Hitchens speak and read what he wrote against God and against the Christian gospel faith, it struck me that he didn’t appear to really care if his words or actions might get him in trouble. You’d think out of sheer humility and our human inability to know everything, you’d think out of the possibility of error, out of the mystery of the unknown — that he’d show a little self-restraint in his blasphemy, but he didn’t. Like I said before, he was “all in” against God. It was almost as if he was daring God to do something, anything to stop him. You might say that he commit spiritual suicide by blasphemy. Like some criminal who decides to end his life, but wants the cops to do it for him, so he intentionally provokes the police to shoot and kill him. So too, it was as if Hitchens deliberately tried to end his life by provoking God to do something in response to his many blasphemies. Just the title of his best-selling book, “God is Not Great,” dares God Almighty to respond, to do something in judgment. Maybe God has done something to stop Hitchens’ blasphemies. Let’s consider something else.

 

Hitchens died of cancer of the esophagus, which is close enough to the throat to make you wonder, “Was God shutting Hitchens up, silencing his blasphemies by stuffing cancer down his throat as payment for bad-mouthing God?” Was Hitchens’ cancer and the death that followed a form of judgment from God? Knowing how Hitchens would respond, he’d probably reply that if this were the case, how petty God comes across for doing so. Yet one could also reply, how foolish is one for tempting God to do so. Like the New Testament says in Hebrews 10:31, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” And I guess that’s what bothers me so much about way Hitchens conducted himself while living – his blatant disrespect for God and all things related to God. You’d think that there might be a healthy respect for the unknown, like I said before, or humility due to our limited, human ability to comprehend the totality of reality. But for Hitchens this didn’t seem to make any difference. He was willing to act with absolute certainty on his part against the Almighty. In essence, he picked a fight with God. That takes a lot of nerve, a lot of guts, and a whole lot of foolishness. “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God,’” Psalm 14:1. If God did send the esophageal cancer upon Hitchens it would make perfect sense, and it would serve Hitchens right. He gets what he deserves. But maybe God sent it to humble him, to shake him up a bit, to put questions in his mind, to ask, “Maybe there is a God Almighty; maybe I’d better watch what I say and do.” But if Hitchens did entertain such thoughts, there’s no evidence that he acted upon them in any way. Like I said, all the evidence points to his stubborn, willful disbelief up to the bitter end. Not even the possibility of his suffering from cancer in a spot on his body close to where he uttered his blasphemies against God could break his stride. I truly hope that Christopher Hitchens did repent of his sins before he died. I really do hope he made his peace with God, in some way, in some thought, before he passed away. I really do wish he cried out to Jesus for salvation upon his deathbed at the final hour – the way atheists have been known to do on the battlefield, in the foxhole. But again, I’m afraid there is no indication, not one shred of evidence that would support that hope. It looks like he never did repent of sins or put his faith in Christ for salvation. It looks like he really did die in a state of rebellion and defiance towards God. To be honest, it doesn’t look good for Christopher Hitchens. He did just about everything you could do, in word and deed, to get thrown into hell. And he had just about every chance possible to change his mind, repent and believe – but it looks like he never did take that opportunity. From his public lectures it’s clear that he understood the Christian gospel, but it’s equally clear that he deliberately rejected it. It doesn’t look like God had any other choice than to follow through on the many warnings in the Bible about hell and who goes there. It’s too bad Hitchens’ life had to end that way. Let it serve as a warning to anyone and everyone – don’t bet against God, you’ll lose.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


%d bloggers like this: