Footnote 23 — How To Think About the Death of An Atheist

Footnote 23 – Douglas Wilson, “How To Think About the Death of An Atheist: An Opponent Reflects Upon the Death of a Famous Atheist” (Christianity Today, December 16, 2011)

This excerpt comes from an online Christianity Today article by Douglas Wilson, reflecting upon his relationship with Christopher Hitchens.  The two formed a relationship during the course of Hitchens’ promotional book tour for “God Is Not Great.”

Wilson’s article reminds us that Christ died for atheists as well, and we should not allow strong feelings of antipathy for their beliefs to deter us from seeing them as fallen human beings, as we all are, and praying that the good news of God’s grace might move them to repentance and salvation. Observing the frequent hypocrisy and self-righteousness apparent in the lives of many “Christians” may help explain the virulent anti-Christian rhetoric which seems to abound these days.

My memory of this article was triggered by a request from a friend that we who claim to follow the Messiah should pray fervently, specifically, and by name for another well-known atheist, Richard Dawkins, whose recent bizarre comments about child sexual abuse are easily explained as a perfectly logical consequence of atheistic assumptions.  Still, such abhorrent views do not excuse Christians from our duty to speak with grace and truth.

Excerpts of Douglas Wilson’s article, originally posted 12/16/2011, are reproduced below. Read more of Wilson’s reflections at

Christopher Hitchens was a celebrity intellectual, and, as such, the basic outlines of his life are generally well known… I came to know Christopher during the promotion tour for his atheist encyclical, God Is Not Great. True to form, Christopher did not want to write a book attacking God and his minions only to have the release be a wine and cheese party in Manhattan with a bunch of fellow unbelievers, where they could all laugh knowingly about the rubes and cornpones down in the Bible Belt. So he told his publicist that he wanted to debate with any and all comers, and in the course of promoting his book, he did exactly that. I believe his book tour began in Arkansas, and the range of his debate partners included Al Sharpton, Dinesh D’Souza, and numerous others.

In response to this general defiance he delivered to the armies of Israel, my agent Aaron Rench contacted Christianity Today to see if they would be willing to host a written exchange. They were, and when Christopher was contacted, he quickly agreed as well. That online exchange attracted some attention, and the debate was made into a small book (Is Christianity Good for the World?). The short promotion tour for the release of the book was a series of debates that Christopher and I held in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, which were filmed for the documentary Collision.

As a result of all this, we were thrown together in a number of situations. One time we shared a panel in Dallas, and I told the crowd there that if Christopher and I were not careful, we were in danger of becoming friends. During the time we spent together, he never said an unkind thing to me—except on stage, up in front of everybody. After doing this, he didn’t wink at me, but he might as well have.

So we got on well with each other, because each of us knew where the other one stood. Eugene Genovese, before he became a believer, once commented on the tendency that some have to try to garner respect by giving away portions, big or small, of what they profess to believe. “If other religions offer equally valid ways to salvation and if Christianity itself may be understood solely as a code of morals and ethics, then we may as well all become Buddhists or, better, atheists. I intend no offense, but it takes one to know one. And when I read much Protestant theology and religious history today, I have the warm feeling that I am in the company of fellow unbelievers” (The Southern Front, pp. 9–10).

….Unbelievers can smell accommodation, and when someone like Christopher meets someone who actually believes all the articles in the Creed, including that part about Jesus coming back from the dead, it delights him. Here is someone actually willing to defend what is being attacked. Militant atheists are often exasperated with opponents whose strategy appears to be “surrender slowly.”

G. K. Chesterton once pointed to the salutary effect that the great agnostics had on him—that effect being that of “arousing doubts deeper than their own.” Christopher was an heir of the Enlightenment tradition, and would have felt right at home in the 18th-century salons of Paris. He wanted to carry on the grand tradition of doubting what had been inherited from Christendom, and to take great delight in doubting it. This worked well, or appeared to, for a time.

But skepticism is a universal solvent, and once applied, it does not stop just because Christendom is gone. “I think, therefore I am. I think.” We pulled out the stopper of faith, and the bathwater of reason appeared undisturbed for a time. But modernism slowly receded and now postmodernism is circling the drain. Our intelligentsia needs to figure out how to do more than sit in an empty tub and reminisce about the days when Voltaire knew how to keep the water hot.



Where Were You?

Numerous posts on Facebook and other social media by friends (virtual and real-life ones) have asked, “What were you doing on 9/11?”

I was prepping to lecture to my Tuesday classes at the University of Kentucky – History of Journalism (JOU 535) and an introductory survey section of HIS 109 – grappling with Reconstruction (which A. Lincoln called the greatest challenge ever presented to practical statesmanship) and the aftermath of the Civil War (stagger your imagination by thinking of the loss 9/11 EVERY Tuesday for four years).

After a brief lecture, I let the students, disturbed and full of emotion (as we all were) talk and ask questions – “Does this mean we are at war?” or “how could this happen?!” – and then dismissed to gather around the TV sets tuned to news broadcasts all over campus. Many of the History of Journalism students (and I) were scheduled to leave the next day for the annual meeting of RTNDA (Radio and Television News Directors’ Association – professional society of the equivalent of “managing editor” bosses in TV newsrooms) which was scheduled for Nashville that year.  The convention was cancelled – which did not help any of the NDs who had already assembled there for advance-prep and committee meetings, and had to manage the biggest news story of their careers via cell phones, trapped hundreds of miles from home with flights cancelled, airlines grounded.

That was one of the eeriest things about the day – the absence of air traffic.  The only aircraft flying that day were Blackhawks transporting the 101st Airborne from Ft. Campbell to guard the Bluegrass Army Depot (chemical weapons storage) south of Lexington.  The other really disturbing matter was the phone conversations with one of our daughters who then worked in one of Atlanta’s a tall buildings. Even routine things were disturbing; trying to eat while watching breaking news on the restaurant TV was appetite-suppressing – even at one of my favorite places near campus (Billy’s Hickory-Pit Bar-B-Q, if you’re ever in Lexington).

Today we live in a Chicago suburb (Naperville) which is on the approaches to both O’Hare and Midway – as well as the flight school at Lewis University and “Clow International Airport” (general aviation) as well as several “flight communities” (homes with attached hangars and access to runways) .  The planes overhead, high enough not to be a nuisance, are comforting in a routine sort of way – a subliminal reminder of the freedoms we enjoy of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (or, property, as Jefferson originally wrote).  The other day we were buzzed several times by a B-17 on tour – a reminder of Bette’s father, W.C. Ashworth of blessed memory, who was a B-17 pilot in World War 2. Gotta love suburban Chicago.

Random reflections on a somber day by an average guy happy to be living, despite all its imperfections, in the land of the free and the home of the brave. God bless America!

Flight Paths – Dene Ward

Flight Paths – Dene Ward

Starting Lineups – September 6, 2013

It’s that time of year—college football season, overlapped and immediately followed by, college basketball season.  My family will be excitedly quoting stats from September through the first weekend in April—from the first kickoff of the year till the last tip-off.

Of course, I begin hearing about it during spring practice.  Who is outplaying whom for which position?  Who will the starters be?  I bet if one of the players went to the coach and asked, “Do I have to be at every practice to be a starter?  Do I have to do extra work in the weight room?  Do I have to show up early and stay late shooting baskets?” that he needn’t bother checking the list to see if he even made the team, much less if he made the starting line-up.
And I bet those players do not have to be told so.

My parents recently celebrated their 64 wedding anniversaries.  I wonder how many they would have made if they had each said, “Now give me a list of what I have to do to be a satisfactory spouse.  How many times do I need to remember your birthday?  How many times do I need to remember our anniversary? How many times do I need to say I love you?  How many
times do I even need to be polite?”  They never would have married in the first

What would my boss think if I showed up tomorrow and asked for a list of
the minimum I need to do not to lose my job?  Hmmm. I think I just lost it, especially since this is something I get paid to do.

Service is, by definition, voluntary.  Otherwise it is forced labor.  It does not expect repayment.  It does not seek to know the minimum to get by.  Asking that very question does not even cross its mind because it desires to do the most it possibly can, and by doing that often succeeds in doing even more.
But it understands from the depth of its soul that even that is not enough.

Here is the problem for those who want to just get by: on God’s team, everyone is a starter. Sitting on the bench is not an option. There will be no
third-stringers, who never set foot on the field during a game, but still
receive a championship ring. Only God’s starters get the trophy, and with God you either make the starting lineup or you don’t make the team at all.

Now, what was that question you had?

Now beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak; for God is not unrighteous to forget your work and the love which you showed toward his name, in that you ministered unto the saints and still do minister.  And we desire that each one of you may show the same diligence unto the fullness of hope even to the end. That you be not sluggish, but imitators of those who, through faith and endurance, inherit the promises, Heb 6:9-12.

Dene Ward

Homeschooling History and Statistics

Homeschooling History and Statistics

VERY interesting infographic — via Lindsay Wolfgang Mast and

April 2013 TOS
April 2013 TOS
April 2013 TOS
April 2013 TOS
April 2013 TOS
April 2013 TOS
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine | PO Box 8426 | Gray | TN | 37615

On taking yourself too seriously

Ferrell's Travel Blog

On the way from Luxor to the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank of the Nile one passes two huge statues known as the Colossi of Memnon. The statues are nearly 60 feet tall, and once stood at the entrance to the funerary temple of Amenhotep III (also known as Amenophis III). With their crowns, each statue would have been about 66 feet tall. Amenhotep III ruled Egypt during the 18th Dynasty (14th century B.C.).

During the time of the Roman Empire the statues were mistakenly associated with “Memnon, son of Eos and Tithonus, who was killed by Achilles during the Trojan War” (Baedeker’s Egypt).

The last time I was in the Valley of the Kings I noticed the head and chest of the statue had become a resting place for birds. Just an interesting picture, I thought.

Whether covered by sand or birds, this…

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Messing With Hymn Lyics

Messing With Hymn Lyics

Where Have all the Wretches Gone? by Timothy C. Tennent

Re-blogged from

This past Sunday our congregation sang the wonderful hymn by Stuart Townend, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.  Townend is one of my favorite contemporary British hymn writers.  If you haven’t discovered the hymns of Stuart Townend, Keith Getty, Christopher Idle or Timothy Dudley-Smith, then you have missed some real treasures!  These contemporary hymn writers have put out a body of work which is, for the most part, theologically solid, musically strong, sensitive to the rhythms of the church year, Trinitarian, and worshipful.

There is a line in Townend’s How Deep the Father’s Love for Us hymn which says, “How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure; that he should give his only Son to make a wretch his treasure.”  Did you notice the modern use of the word “wretch?” by Townend?  If you have followed the adaptation of older hymns into current usage you will be aware of the quiet removal of the word “wretch.”  The most well known examples are in the well known hymns, Amazing Grace and Victory in Jesus.   The phrase, “that saved a wretch like me” in Amazing Grace or “to save a wretch like me” in Victory in Jesus has been rendered in some modern hymnbooks, “to save one just like me.”  It seems that we just don’t like the word “wretch.”  It is entirely too negative for modern sensibilities.  So, there I was singing How Deep the Father’s Love for us when I noticed that someone had changed the last phrase from, “to make a wretch his treasure” to “to make us all His treasure.”  It took over 200 years for people to start meddling with John Newton’s classic Amazing Grace.  Stuart Townend is being de-constructed and re-cast in about ten years.   The problem is, until we really come face to face with our own sinfulness – our naked wretchedness before God, then we can never begin to comprehend the holiness of God.  There is a direct relationship between the comprehension of our sinfulness and our vision of God’s holiness.

So, I encourage you to think about the theological implications which quietly lay behind changing the words to hymns. Here’s another example to ponder and weigh in on this blog what you think.  The hymn The Church’s One Foundation was written in 1866 by Samuel Stone.  One of the lines goes,

“From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride;

With his own blood he bought her and for her life he died.”

In 1983 Laurence Stookey updated it (see current UMC hymnal).  The result is the following:

“From heaven he came and sought us that we may ever be

His loving servant people, by his own death set free”

Think about this change theologically.  What can we learn from this?  … The best hymns are always written by those who have come face to face with their own wretchedness and then captured a glimpse of the depth of God’s grace.