Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"Keep Christopher Hitchens away from my oxen"

Not long ago I posted about "The other Hitchens": Christopher Hitchens' brother Peter who is a believer. Christopher, who is emphatically not a believer, recently took on the task of re-writing the Ten Commandments in his column at Vanity Fair — deleting some [the first three], accepting others [with qualifications] and making additions [isn't a magazine called Vanity Fair the perfect place for this sort of thing?]. Benjamin Dueholm, a friend and Chicago area pastor, has a blog called "The Private Intellectual" where he recently suggested that Hitchens is ill informed biblically, historically, and theologically. The beginning of Ben's "The Ten Commandments x2":
.... Naturally he shakes the whole array of debating points into his blunderbuss and lets fly. There are multiple versions of and references to the Mosaic commandments! Remarkable. But considering that the Bible was written over a long period of time by many editorial hands, what's remarkable is less the diversity than the relative uniformity of the commandments. Some of his points are merely the artifacts of unimproved ignorance. The commandment against graven images, he imagines "seems to discourage Christian iconography, with its crucifixes, and statues of virgins and saints." Of course it seems to. Why didn't we think of that! Oh, wait—we did. Turns out there was a long and rather nasty debate about icons. Got rather ugly. One side won and one side lost, for a lot of reasons, including some musty arguments about incarnation and Jesus and all that. The iconoclastic controversy, and the recurring disputes over images, are not exactly entry-level topics, but they can be mastered to a satisfactory degree if you read about them. "Scholars differ," Hitchens says in his Sunday-best "I read about this stuff" voice—about the epoch during which the Jewish people decided on monotheism," but crucially scholars do not differ on the date of the Second Council of Nicaea, which settled the issue of icons for most of the Christian world.

But anyway, a better way to counteract this stuff is to say a little bit about what the commandments are and what they aren't. I can think of two broad ways to do this. The first I'll call "commandment minimalism." .... [much more]
Part One: Commandment minimalism
Part Two: Commandment maximalism
The Private Intellectual: The Ten Commandments x2 Part 1, The Private Intellectual: The Ten Commandments x2 Part 2