Christopher Hitchens died this past week. May God have mercy.
I could wish that he had reconsidered in his last hours and had repented of his unbelief. If this was the case, God alone knows. But what I know is that his anti-theistic attacks on Christianity and Christ continue in his books and Internet debates. I wish to address one of his more regular arguments, that God is unworthy of our worship.
God, the God of the Bible, is unworthy of worship because God, as Hitchens oft wrote, ordered the mass murder of hundreds and thousands of innocent people, including women and children.
To that accusation Christians from Marcion onward to the liberals and some evangelicals of today have replied with various philosophical and theological sophistries in attempts to soften the force of Hitchens' point. In so doing they have both misrepresented God and have failed to give a biblical response.
So let me be clear. God did order the destruction of whole cities and societies. Why? Because God is at war, and God at war is a fierce God. God is at war with evil, with Satan, and with those who are caught up in evil or choose to identify with the enemy Satan.
This war is first of all in the spiritual realm. It is between Satan with his angels and God, who Satan desires to dethrone and to replace with himself. See Ezekiel 28 for an Old Testament description of the conflict and Revelation 12 for a New Testament example. But it extends to the realm of this earth and human history. See Ephesians 6 for Paul's description of the spiritual battle that extends in the the realm of flesh and blood.
At stake is the whole moral fabric of the universe and our eternal destiny. Satan would destroy both. God prevailing in this battle assures both.
In this war when men or nations take the part of evil, God has and will destroy them for the sake of those yet to be saved. In this way God judges nations and societies. Individuals, however, will face judgment in the future, at the Great White Throne judgment of Revelation 20.
Hitchens is right about the fierceness of God.
But Hitchens is wrong about the murder of innocents. Hitchens is judging God on the false premises that in God's wrath innocents perish and that death is the greatest of all evils. But God judges men on the basis of what they did with the truth of God they knew. Children do not know, therefore they can not reject God, and we are confident that the mercy of God in Christ Jesus covers them.
Hitchens' final error is that death is the greatest of all evils. However, he judges so from a purely temporal point of view. The Bible tells us that all are appointed to die. It is the common experience of every person. But the passage goes on to the more serious issue: "It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment. (Hebrews 9:27). It is this judgment that is rightly feared, not death. But, thank God, the passage goes on: "so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, without sin, to those who are eagerly waiting for him for salvation (Hebrews 9:28)."
It is upon that promise that innocent babes and sinners such as myself and Christopher Hitchens hope. I pray that even as the thief on the cross cried out for mercy with his last breath so Hitchens may have cried, and did he so, God, who is faithful and who in Christ Jesus provided forgiveness to all who call upon him, shall certainly have forgiven Hitchens.