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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Albert Mohler’s Hope for Christopher Hitchens

I cannot forget being constantly reminded, as a young boy, that people who spend their lives not believing in the Bible and God always wind up turning to God and the Bible on their dying bed. Most often, famous people who had a reputation for their non-belief and are now dead, are always cited as proof. For example, the Rastafarian and reggae artist Bob Marley is said to have converted to Christianity on his death bed. Of course, there was never real proof presented to substantiate this claim. And, obviously, Bob Marley and others are dead, and, thus, cannot debunk false claims made about them.
With that said, allowed me to comment on an article I recently read. I came across this article entitle “Christopher Hitches and the KJV?” written by Albert Mohler, author, speaker and president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In the article, Mr. Mohler tries to place Christopher Hitchens and his battle with terminal cancer within the premises mention above, a man who is fighting for life because of an illness, appears to be hedging closer to God. This Albert Mohler attempts to argue is the case because Mr. Hitchens in May 2011 wrote an article in Vanity Fair arguing “that our language and culture are incomplete without a 400-year-old book—the King James translation of the Bible”.
First, however, let me present what I believe to be the point of Hitchens’ article. As I understand it, apart from placing the King James Authorize Version of the Bible within its political context and the part it played in solidifying William Tyndale and the Stuart family dynasty rule, Hitchens was also juxtaposing the language and translation of the KJV Bible with that of other versions of its time and also with today’s modern versions. He was showing that, unlike today, not all translations were accepted as “authentically” correct, and had to go through a vigorous theological/political struggle for acceptance. A struggle the KJV Bible ultimately won, becoming the version to permeate our culture and help shape our speech. Thus, arguing that, as a result, the KJV Bible did played a significant role in shaping our language and culture. This it seems was the crux of Hitchens’ article, and to this, I also agree.

Hitchens writes that;

“America was the first and only Christian society that could take an English Bible for granted, and never had to struggle for a popular translation of “the good book.” The question, rather, became that of exactly which English version was to be accepted as the correct one. After many false starts and unsatisfactory printings, back in England, the Anglican conclave in 1611 adopted William Tyndale’s beautiful rendering almost wholesale, and out of their zeal for compromise and stability ironically made a posthumous hero out of one of the greatest literary dissidents and subversives who ever lived.”

Albert Mohler seems to also agree with Christopher Hitchens' view. He writes that “Hitchens is also an avowed enemy of banality, which means that he has little literary respect for modern translations that lack literary and linguistic taste and thus pander to mere popular taste”, and went on to say that “His (Hitchens) admonition that translations should not “rinse out the prose” is well stated and profoundly appropriate. Even an atheist can offer good advice on literary matters, and Hitchens is a writer of great ability”.
However, this was not Albert Mohler’s main concern with Hitchen’s article. His main concern was to read more into the article. According to Mr. Mohler, “the more interesting aspect of this article to note is this: Christopher Hitchens, one of the world’s most ardent and outspoken atheists and a man in the fight for his life against cancer, is reading the Bible”. What does Mr. Mohler really mean here? What is he really saying by highlighting that atheist Hitchens “is [now] reading the Bible?” simple; Mr. Mohler appears to be suggesting that Christopher Hitchens is reading the Bible because he is on his dying bed. He continues, “This is at least the second article on the Bible that he has written of late. I note this with a sense of hope”. The heathen is now pondering coming around to God. Is this not insensitive on the part of Mr. Mohler? I think it is. A fellow human being is clinging for his life and all Mr. Mohler can wish for is that Christopher Hitchens sickness forces him to embrace Mr. Mohler’s God.
However, sorry to rain on your parade Mr. Mohler, but most of, if not all atheists are fervent readers of the Bible (including other “Holy” books), and since they are locked in constant debate with you Christians, Mr. Christopher Hitchens being one such Atheist, it seems very unlikely that he did not read the Bible before he fell ill. Indeed, unlike many Christians, atheists actually study the Bible; stalwarts like Robert M. Price come to mind. Definitely, I don’t know the heart of Christopher Hitchens. I certainly cannot tell you how and what he feels, but, I can say this, I don’t see how Mr. Mohler can conclude that because the atheist Christopher Hitchens is fighting for life, coupled with him writing two articles on the Bible, one that celebrate the role that the KJV Bible played in shaping our culture somehow added up to signs of regret and is somehow pondering crossing over to God’s side. I cannot see how Mr. Mohler can assume this position to be the most interesting aspect of Christopher Hitchens’ article.

Christopher Hitchens, “When the King Saved God,” Vanity Fair, May 2011
Albert Mohler, “Christopher Hitchens and the KJV,” Crosswalk, April 2011

I wish you well Christopher Hitchens.

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