Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Thursday, December 04, 2008

    Wilson - Hitchens Debate (Westminster Theological Seminary)

    Quick Reflections:

    1. Had the discussions followed the format of Wilson's opening arguments (i.e., How and Why are we to assume meaning/significance of thoughts that result from chance; What is the basis/warrant for truth/value/aesthetic claims by atheists; The relationship between a meaningless universe yet meaning in it's parts), the debate would have been a good one. However, it didn't, and while there's merit in other issues, I would have a hard time recommending a person taking the time to watch this one given the topics themselves and the length of the debate.

    2. Problems with Hitchens arguments

    a. Hitchens seemed to set up a false dichotomy in that if one doesn't look to God, then they will take (or be more prone to take) responsibility to deal with issues like slavery. The truth is that one is not limited to one or the other option, but believing in God actually provides motivation for taking responsibility.

    b. Hitchens though he states the items photographed by the Hubble telescope produce awe (and are more awesome than other things) fails to provide the basis/reason behind this.

    c. Hitchens argues the nature of a black hole is more awe inspiring than pigs running down a hill. The question is why? If both happen by chance, what makes one anymore noteworthy than the other?

    d. Hitchens argues that religion stands in the way of discovery. This is false in that the knowledge of God and the fact that the universe has order and meaning will reveals the glory of God motivates discovery. On the other hand, not knowing whether it has meaning, or whether our discovery will have any lasting significance could inhibit discovery.

    e. Hitchens states killing an Amalekite would matter if he were an Amalekite, but provides no basis for why it should matter. (Note: apart from an objective standard of ethics, even the human desire for life does not define the morality surrounding the situtation)

    f. Hitchens in asking why miracles are true only when they are Calvinist miracles shows he fails to take into account relationships between the miracles and the defendability of their supporting texts and proponents, the differences in that some are prophesied before hand while others are not, the different effects resulting from the miracles, etc. This shows lack of scholarship on his part.

    g. Hitchens in arguing against miracles assumes uniformity of nature which he does not prove.

    h. Hitchens suggestion that there was no questioning of the resurrection is unfounded. Even the disciples themselves questioned it until their eyes were opened.

    It still strikes me that Hitchens still does not understand the gospel itself. He still refers to Christians as perhaps thinking of themselves as "better" people. The gospel does not suggest Christians are any "better", only that their sins are forgiven.

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