Mark Wilson has written a compelling book entitled, “Filled Up, Poured Out: How God’s Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose.” In it he tells a story about the avowed British atheist, Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens may be most notable for his anti religion book entitled, “God Is Not Good.”
He recounts an interview with Hitchens by a Portland Monthly Newspaper reporter named Marilyn Sewell. She is a Unitarian minister. Their dialogue was trenchant.
SEWELL: “The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the Scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example.) Do you make any distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?”
HITCHINS: “I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by His sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.” See http://www.portlandmonthlymag.com/arts-and-entertainment/category/books-and-talks/articles/christopher-hitchens/ for the whole article.
Wilson’s book is a treasure trove of good sermon illustrations. This one particularly piqued my interest. Even non-Christians… or those who are exceedingly hostile to the faith can have an understanding of the clear necessity of the atonement in the gospel.
In today’s post modern church Hitchens might feel better. The less didactic the message the less the offense to the unbelieving mind. I listened to a well-known personality in the postmodern movement a couple of years ago explaining that he taught a concept he called, “Belong Before You Believe.” If I understood him correctly he was saying that the critical thing was to get people inside the tent. After they join we can set them straight. I get the pragmatism… but it is entirely without Biblical support as a methodology.
How compellingly sad that one of the most prominent atheists in the Western world understood the essence and implications of the gospel and some evangelicals apparently do not. Today, of course, Hitchens knows what he formerly denied and defamed. The admitted bisexual died December 15, 2011.