The Faith of Christopher Hitchens

A Very Strange Friendship

Eric Metaxas is an Evangelical speaker and bestselling author.
Eric Metaxas is an Evangelical speaker and bestselling author.

What happens when an avowed atheist and a committed Christian become fast friends, despite their polar-opposite views? Well, you get a fantastic new book.

A new book with a provocative title is sending shock waves through both the Christian and atheist communities. In "The Faith of Christopher Hitchens," writer and commentator Larry Alex Taunton recounts his friendship with one of the most prominent and outspoken atheists — not to mention intellectual giants — of our time.

There is a lot to say about this book, and I'm not going to try to say it all in one program. Tomorrow I'll talk about the firestorm ignited by this outstanding book and do my part to set the record straight.

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But today I want to tell you about why you've got to read "The Faith of Christopher Hitchens" for yourself. It's a story about a deeply remarkable friendship, a story that can teach all of us how to reach past barriers and show what genuine Christian love looks like.

Taunton first met Hitchens in 2008, when, as director of Fixed Point Ministries, he helped to set up a debate between Hitchens and the great Christian Oxford professor John Lennox.

At that first meeting, Taunton recalls, "Our rapport was immediate." Taunton, who had expected to find the author of "God Is Not Great" a bitter, angry man, was surprised to find himself drawn to Hitchens' humor, thoughtfulness, and honesty.

Hitchens seems to have appreciated the same qualities in Taunton. It was the beginning of a friendship that would find the two men doing more events together, getting to know and like each others' families, and even taking long car trips together, during which they discussed (among other things) the Gospel of John.

In public, they debated passionately about faith; in private, they often continued the debating, but they also simply enjoyed each other's company.

Taunton does not gloss over their differences. He had serious reservations about some of Hitchens' ideas and actions.

But as he writes in the prologue to the book, "I speak exclusively to Christians when I say this: how are we to proclaim our faith if we cannot even build bridges with those who do not share it?"

Friendship, he goes on to point out, is "one of the greatest of all redemptive themes." Especially the kind of friendship that he's describing here: the kind where friends are open with each other and challenge each other.

This friendship was all the stranger because Christopher Hitchens was so famously, fiercely, and sometimes outrageously critical of many Christians. Even Mother Teresa didn't escape his blistering pen. Whenever he suspected, or even thought he might suspect, a whiff of hypocrisy or deceit, Hitchens pounced.

With Larry Taunton, though, it was different. Hitchens was sincerely impressed by Taunton's commitment to his faith, and by the behavior inspired by his faith (such as Taunton and his wife adopting an HIV-positive little girl from Ukraine). His respect led Hitchens to defend Taunton and their friendship against other atheists.

"The truth is," Taunton writes, "there were those who did not want us to be friends."

Sadly, he's referring to Christians as well as atheists. It can be so hard for us to accept that people with such radically different beliefs can form connections; we're terrified that such connections may lead us to water down our convictions. But for Taunton and Hitchens, it was just the opposite. In "The Faith of Christopher Hitchens," you'll see how their friendship made both of them better people.

But did it really lead Hitchens to take the Christian faith seriously? And why are atheists tripping over themselves to blast and smear both Larry Taunton and this book? Tune in to BreakPoint tomorrow to find out. And of course, visit the online bookstore to get your copy of Taunton's outstanding book, "The Faith of Christopher Hitchens."

Originally posted at

From BreakPoint. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint®" and "Prison Fellowship Ministries®" are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship

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