Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Death of Hitchens: more evidence of fundy Universalism

It's not hard to recognize that Christopher Hitchens was a decent human being and his death a tragedy. That may be why it is so hard for most fundies/conservative Evangelicals (CEs) to acknowledge the implications of their belief system in relation to the eternal fate of Hitchens. Even shortly before his death Hitchens was adamant that he was not on the verge of converting to Christianity. There are no indications (or even the slightest hint for that matter) that he ever changed his mind on that. Yet, the majority of the responses by CEs to Hitchens passing have placed an absurd amount of emphasis on the possibility that he converted to Evangelicalism before or at his last breath. Take Douglas Wilson:
Christopher Hitchens was baptized in his infancy, and his name means "Christ-bearer." This created an enormous burden that he tried to shake off his entire life. No creature can ever succeed in doing this. But sometimes, in the kindness of God, such failures can have a gracious twist at the end. We therefore commend Christopher to the Judge of the whole earth, who will certainly do right.
He neglects to mention that, according to his theology, most likely "doing right" in Hitchens' case involves Eternal Conscious Torment (ECT). Of course, I can't blame him. Who wants to face those ugly implications? Russell Moore offered a similar obfuscation:
Hell is real and judgment is certain. The gospel comes with a warning that it will one day be too late. But, as long as there is breath, it is not yet too late. Perhaps Christopher Hitchens, like so many before him, persisted in his rebellion to the horror of the very end. But maybe not. Maybe he stopped his polemics and cried out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Again, I understand the reasons why these Evangelicals would respond this way to Hitchens' death. As I've said before, how could anybody (but sociopaths) stand to apply consistently the beliefs of fundamentalists (and conservative evangelicals) about the afterlife? However, I also believe that it is this very "deathbed decisionism"/"fundy universalism" that allows for the perpetuation of the doctrine of Eternal Conscious Torment within Evangelicalism. If the doctrine is only ever applied in the abstract, it loses much of its emotional impact. Those of us who reject ECT refuse to only evaluate the doctrine in an abstract, theological context. It seems to me that, if we want this doctrine to be rejected for the loathsome thing it is, we need to eliminate the "deathbed decisionism" card. Those adhering to belief in ECT need to face the concrete implications of this doctrine.

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