Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Is Christianity Good for the World?

Is Christianity Good for the World? is a written debate between Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson. This debated was hosted originally by Christianity Today and then published in book form by Canon Press. It is, in short (and it is short) a fascinating read. At a quick 67 pages, it should take no more than an hour of actual reading time. However, your thought processes following the reader may take up a bit more time than that.

I really don't want to engage in any sort of debate on my site here as to whether or not Christianity is good for the world. If you check out my archives, you can gather my answer easily enough. I am what I am without apology. I am curious to hear how other people view of Christianity though. Years ago I read a fabulous book by Betrand Russell entitled Why I Am Not a Christian that was tremendously eye-opening for me in helping to understand what it is that Christians do to get the gospel so wrong. Sure, we're sinners and we mess up constantly. We can't help that. It's our basic nature. However, we are saved by grace and we also realize that. No one is perfect. I wouldn't want to even try to pretend to be. While I know I am forgiven my faults, I also cannot ignore the fact that my actions/attitudes/thoughts have consequences to the people in the world around me. The things I say can and often does effect their emotions. That's another fact I can't escape. So understanding how a non-believer would translate a statement/action/attitude of a Christian is helpful as I try to eliminate making as many mistakes as possible. I won't ever succeed fully as my basic belief is basically offensive to some. However, I can try. I should try. I do try.

Both Russell and Hitchens are interesting to listen to. I think one of the most interesting aspects of Is Christianity Good for the World? for me was Hitchens' statement that he would be disgusted by the concept of forgiveness. In the middle of a discussion as to how morality is decided apart from a god, Hitchens makes the following statement:

"There seems to be no easy way to discuss this other than in personal or individual terms. You and I have no idea what it is like to be a sociopath -- someone who does not care about other people except inasmuch as they serve his turn -- or a psychopath -- someone who derives actual delight from inflicting misery on others. But we know that such people exist, and that they must be guarded against. I regard their existence as part of our haphazard evolution and our kinship with a nature that often favors the predator. You do not. Indeed, you apparently adopt the immoral and suicidal doctrine that advocates forgiveness for those who would destroy us. Please take care not to forgive my enemies, or the enemies of society. If I have to call such people "evil" (and I find no alternative), I do not deduce peaceful coexistence from that observation and do not want you being tender to them when it is me or my family's life that is at stake." (page 60, emphasis mine)

I find that completely and utterly fascinating. He simultaneously rejects forgiveness for both himself and for anyone else. He makes a bold statement that to forgive is "suicidal".

Now here's where I'd usually launch into a diatribe about this but this time I think I just want to let the statement stand:

Forgiveness is suicidal.

Isn't that the truth?

And aren't I so glad for it!?!

To forgive is the worst and hardest thing to do. He almost suggests its an easy and pleasing thing to do. Oh no, Mr. Hitchens. It is the most awful thing ever sometimes. Sometimes the idea of forgiveness is enough to drive a person mad. But again - aren't we thankful for it?

He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13b-14
And then we turn around and do the same:

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19
It isn't easy. It is painful. But it is healthy and we live in forgiveness and then should turn around and let others live with the same peace of mind.

Is Christianity good for the world? Is forgiveness?


Anonymous said...

fabulous brought tears to my thankful for the forgiveness I've been given!

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

Great review, Carrie. This book does sound like an interesting read.

And I agree that it's very important for us, as Christians, to understand how others (non-Christians) view Christianity so that we can better be God's light.

Ronnica said...

Sounds very interesting; I'm putting it on my list!

Cindi M said...

That does sound like an interesting read. Sounds like the author may be a little confused about what confusion is though. I don't think it means we let dangerous people walk free in society to hurt others, it's something that happens in our hearts, separate from any justice system. It's something that is more for us and our relationship with God, than it is for the offender. I'll have to give it a closer look.

hopeinbrazil said...

Great post, Carrie. I was amazed and perplexed when my next-door neighbors told me that they could not accept Christianity because of God's forgiveness. How could God let a murderer get off "scott free"? they wanted to know. When we tried to explain they shut us right off. I hadn't known that grace could be a deterrent to belief.

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