Peter Hitchens

Well lo and behold, irony is still alive and well (even outside hipsterdom). Apparently Christopher Hitchens, famed Evangelical Atheist and author of God is Not Great, has a brother who is not only a Christian, but just as smart as Christopher himself. In a recent article in London’s Daily Mail, Peter Hitchens talks about his upcoming book The Rage Against God (trailer below), the end of his nearly lifelong feud with Christopher, and his conversion from atheism.

But my point in bringing this to your attention is not to say to all the Christians out there “Rejoice! We have another smart British guy on our side!” or “That’ll show that stupid atheist.” I think we too often mistakenly use the presence of faith in those we put on various societal pedestals to assuage our own doubts and fears (in Britain it may be Peter Hitchens; in America it’s Tim Tebow). I also think we get far too offended by some of the more rabid atheists out there, causing us to pray for their conversion not necessarily so they would return to the Maker of their souls, but so they can feel the sting of having to admit they were wrong.

I want to bring attention to a couple of very surprising and very refreshing things Peter says in this article. Referring to his brother’s atheism, and a hope for his future conversion, he writes:

It is my belief that passions as strong as his are more likely to be countered by the unexpected force of poetry, which can ambush the human heart at any time.

Later, he writes:

Beyond [a hope that Christopher might come to see faith as not being a character flaw], I can only add that those who choose to argue in prose, even if it is very good prose, are unlikely to be receptive to a case which is most effectively couched in poetry.

I love this. Growing up in the world of Ken Hamm, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, and other “evidentiary” apologists who use “proposition” and “science” to “prove” the validity of Christianity, I have grown tired of the same old 30-year old arguments that no one is talking about anymore. We can give all the “air-tight” reasoning for why people still suffer in a world under a Sovereign God, and it stills feels a bit hollow and simplistic at times. Faith in our current context seems more likely to spring from a deeply existential place in our souls that intellect and reasoning can’t quite seem to get to.

Which is why, I feel, more and more twenty-somethings are returning to early church basics like liturgy and mystery. We need something to touch us far more deeply than over-objectivism and over-subjectivism can, and what can do this more than beauty itself? As Hitchens seems to say, words by themselves can’t do this, but poetry can — words arranged in such a beautiful way that the harmony and dissonance of those constituent parts can create a whole that is far larger than us or this world. The mere facts of Science can’t do it, but art can — the interpretation of the world around us that is simply defined by science. Indeed, it was Rogier van der Weyden’s painting The Last Judgment that played an integral part in Peter Hitchen’s subsequent conversion.

And perhaps this is what was meant by that most forward-thinking of men — a man far beyond his time — Dostoevsky, when he once prophesied: “Beauty will save the world.”

 
About The Author

Paul Burkhart

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