The Death of An Atheist
There isn’t any plus-side to the death of an atheist, nor is there any pleasure in reflecting upon it. It is a pretty negative subject to say the least. Yet when noted atheist Christopher Hitchens died last December, there were all sorts of positive things said about him. Yet he, along with Richard Dawkins, had become known in this country as the strident voice for atheism.
When it was discovered that he had an untreatable serious illness and that his days were definitely numbered, some thought, or hoped, that this might cause him to reassess his life without God. It only amused him when he heard that some Christians hoped that he might undergo a late-life conversion. When an interviewer tried to get him to admit to the existence of God, Hitchens contemptuously dismissed the thought and said, “That would be like living in North Korea.” If anyone should hear that he had had a deathbed conversion, Hitchens asserted, they should “attribute it to sickness, dementia or drugs.”
One of Hitchens’ admirers was Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker. After a column full of worshipful admiration for the man, she concluded, “In his last article for Vanity Fair Hitchens said he wanted to be fully present at death so that he might experience it actively rather than passively. How perfect that a man who was never passive about living would go ungentle (but surely gentlemanly) into that dark night, and dare death to have its last word.”
An atheist may put on a bold front in the face of death and “dare to have the last word,” but the sad truth is that for the unbeliever, death does have the last word. God’s Word states, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).
The secular world may admire a brilliant atheist. But brilliant or not, he does not have the last word. God does!
Great Britain a “Christian Nation”?
A couple of months ago at an event in England celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, prime minister David Cameron declared that his country was a Christian nation and that it should not be afraid to stand up for Christian values. He spoke against what he called a “passive tolerance” toward wrongdoing and that “live and let live” had too often become “do what you please” among the British people.
In a tribute to the King James Bible, he said it “has helped to give Britain a set of moral values…values and morals which we should actively stand up and defend.”
We can sympathize with the prime minister in his honest attempt to rally his people to stand up for the values and morals of the Bible. We can understand his deep concern when he says, “We are to confront the slow-motion moral collapse that has taken place in parts of our country these past few generations.”
But while we may admire his ardor to right what is wrong with his country, we at the same time know that real change does not come simply by using the Law, by treating the Bible as merely a source of Christian values and morals. A certain amount of outward conformity may be achieved that way, but the real change—spiritual change—is achieved only by the Gospel, the vital element that is missing in the prime minister’s appeal to his people.
This should really come as no surprise since this lack-of-Gospel approach to the use of the Bible and its teachings has been present in the Church of England for a long time. This lack can also explain, to a large extent, the poor church attendance in the country that gave us the King James Bible. Even the prime minister describes himself as only a “vaguely practicing” member of the Church of England. Not unlike our own USA, a return in England to using the Bible for its primary purpose, the Gospel of Christ, is greatly needed. We pray that it happens.
“House Cleaning” in The Holy Land
Sometimes life can get complicated. Just ask the group of clerics who had the task of cleaning the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the church built on the site where Jesus is said to have been born. Giving the church a thorough cleaning is an annual event before every Christmas.
It was during such a cleaning this past Christmas that a fight broke out. It seems that a cleric of either the Greek Orthodox or Armenian Apostolic group accidently pushed his broom into a space that was the province of the other group. This action was all it took to set off a brawl between the rival clerics. As was reported, “Brooms, fists and vicious insults flew in all directions between 100 monks and priests dressed in their traditional robes.” The fight was ended only after Palestinian riot police rushed in with batons to restore order.
It should be explained that control of the sacred site is split between the two denominations, along with the Roman Catholic Church. They each guard their respective territory very jealously, as is seen by this episode.
But is it not a shame that the traditional site for the birth of the Prince of Peace is turned into the site of a battle between broom-swinging monks and priests? They may appeal to tradition as giving them the control of a certain area in the church, but there is a higher authority than mere tradition. That authority says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Romans 13:9). Such love does not come from slavishly honoring tradition, but from honoring the word of Him who came to earth to bring true peace, who now has “made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20).
Paul Madson is a retired pastor living in North Mankato, Minnesota.
The Death of An Atheist