My friend, Joshua Williamson, recently alerted me to the sad news that the famous staunch atheist Christopher Hitchens has died from cancer. What Josh said is worth repeating and a good reflection of the Christian worldview:
Sad news. Leading atheist Christopher Hitchens has died aged 62. He was the author of the book, "God is not great". Mr. Hitchen's now knows that God is indeed great. I hope that Christopher placed his trust in Christ before he died.
It is true that Christopher now knows that God is great beyond his comprehension. Christians led the way during Hitchens' battle with cancer praying for him and writing to him in pleading calls for repentance. Christopher was clearly taken aback by the compassion of Christians who had been the subject of his vitriolic scorn for many years. Hitchens wrote in Vanity Fair in September 2010:
These are my first raw reactions to being stricken. I am quietly resolved to resist bodily as best I can, even if only passively, and to seek the most advanced advice. My heart and blood pressure and many other registers are now strong again: indeed, it occurs to me that if I didn’t have such a stout constitution I might have led a much healthier life thus far. Against me is the blind, emotionless alien, cheered on by some who have long wished me ill. But on the side of my continued life is a group of brilliant and selfless physicians plus an astonishing number of prayer groups. On both of these I hope to write next time if — as my father invariably said — I am spared.
Ultimately none of us are spared from the ultimate statistic - that one out of one people die. I cannot take any moral high ground over Hitchens for all his years of fist shaking at God. I was no better - God's grace to me was unmerited favor so why should I pontificate? Like Josh, in the wake of Hitchens' death we can do nothing else but fly the flag of hope that God can save the worst of sinners at the latest of moments. Death bed conversions should not be treated as normative, nor should we plan on seeking God later in life after we have sown our wild oats. Romans 1 serves as a stern warning against those who persist in sin to the point of God "giving them over" to hearts so hardened that they, like Esau, cannot find repentance.
Spurgeon once preached to his congregation on why he believed the Bible contains only one death bed conversion - that being the thief on the cross. Spurgeon suggested that God only included one of these stories in the Bible to remind the complacent that it is very rare, and remind the hopeless that we are never without hope.
I do hope to see Christopher in heaven. God derives great glory from saving the worst of sinners. How do I know this? Because He saved me!
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