Is God Great?

Yesterday, Mark D. Robert’s comment section exploded, and he wisely chose to remain above the fray, popping in every so often to remind people to be civil.

Why? Mark D. Roberts—I think I can call him my friend, Mark D. Roberts—has done something wonderfully gutsy. He debated Christopher Hitchens on Hugh Hewitt’s Townhall, and now he’s blogging a more thoughtful, less interrupted response. 

I finished listening to the debate this morning while I rode my bike to work. (Life is good.) And here is my primary thought.

People commenting on Mark’s blog seem to think this debate is about Christopher Hitchens’ passion for truth and humanism. Of course, it wasn’t. Hitchens never took Mark seriously. In fact, he didn’t even seem to listen to him about half the time.

The debate, like the many debates Hitchen has engaged in recently, notably a debate with Rev. Al Sharpton (audio and transcript here), is part of a media blitz to promote his book. It’s really that simple. And it’s more or less working, depending on how much credit you give best-seller lists.

Some people on Mark’s blog are saying he lost the debate, but those people and Rev. Al Sharpton are missing the point. I don’t think Mark debated Hitchens in order to win a logical argument. Especially once it became clear that Hitchens had no intention of really listening to what Mark said. Hitchens is seeking to win debates and sell books, not explore the truth.

Which is why Mark D. Roberts’ behavior in the debate is so incredible. Rather than debate Hitchens, he simply does his best to love the man. It’s amazing. Both Mark and Hugh Hewitt listen. When Hitchens interrupts them over and over and over to ramble his diatribes and explain to himself why God is not great, both men turn the other cheek. They let him talk. Then they encourage him by explaining where his book is asking good questions, without relenting or conceding to its gross generalization that religion poisons everything.

If you have the stomach for an arrogant atheist, you can listen to the 90 commercial free version here: “The Great God Debate,” part 1. There are two more parts. If you want to download all three parts to your mp3 player, you have to register with Townhall and choose the Hugh Hewitt feed. (It’s a little hassle, but it’s free.)

So far, Mark has written three posts:

  1. Introduction: god is not Great by Christopher Hitchens: A Response, in which Mark references the mp3 files, gives an overview of the debate, lists the books referenced in the debate, and anticipates objections to his claim that Bart Ehrman is an atheist.
  2. Is Hitchens a Reliable Source of “Facts”?, in which Mark questions the reliability of Hitchen’s presentation of the facts of the gospel and the New Testament, then suggests the possibility that all of the book’s facts could be similarly unreliable. Also, the comments section on this post goes absolutely haywire.
  3. Hitchens Mistaken about a Date, a Name, and the Gospels, in which Mark begins to list very specific facts and arguments that are simply not accurate reflections of Christianity and New Testament scholarship.

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