I saw this debate, from which this excerpt is taken, some time ago, but I fell across it again, recently. I find what Hitchens says in the middle of the video quite interesting, and it punctuates something I wrote about in an earlier post.
Now, on matters of religion, I typically don’t agree with the things Christopher Hitchens says – though I sympathize with much of what he says. I find that his arguments are somewhat weak, philosophically. (Although, his wit is quite appealing, and his accent makes it all the more engrossing.) Moreover, I don’t at all agree with Hitchens’ views towards – or against, I should say – religion. I think religion is indispensable to the human project of existing in the world. I also think religion is a good thing – despite the grievances religion and religious adherents have inflicted upon and in the world. Despite these disagreements with Hithchens, what he says on vicarious redemption is very engaging.
Admittedly, I am not an Evangelical Christian. And I began moving away from such a perspective quite awhile back. Thus, I don’t really want to make this post – or this blog – an enduring polemic against evangelical views I no longer hold. Such a conscientiously confrontational posture is tiresome. What’s more, doubtless no one really cares. (Although, I do know some people, personally, who find my theological shift a matter of great concern – one them being my closest friend/brother.) So, instead, I want to raise a question about ethics, as it pertains to the teaching of vicarious redemption, which some strands of Christianity maintain as a doctrinal truth.
Does the idea of vicarious redemption somehow demean the ethical vision and framework of the one who adheres to the belief? If your sins – and, consequently, your responsibility for those sins – can be put off on someone else, is the Christian ethical life diminished or blurred or faulty? Does responsibility play a key role in living ethically? If, however, you are under the persuasion that you can be absolved from such responsibility, does that belief muddy the waters of ethical living?
[Note: To be sure, some people who hold to vicarious redemption - if not all - would not agree with Hitchens (and myself) in saying that vicarious redemption absolves the believer of responsibility. After all, the Bible does say that all - including those believers whose sins have been removed in the passion of the Christ - will give an account for the lives they led while on earth. However, in the final sense, it doesn't seem like that "account giving" involves a robust sense of responsibility. After all, if a person who committed moral atrocities against humanity - and God - all his/her life, only to come to faith in their last hour and thus receive the reward of eternal bliss, in what sense can they be said to have been held duly responsible for their injustices?]