January 27, 2020 - More Than Art

The late Christopher Hitchens, a sharp critic of religion, had written about finding a meaning and purpose to life apart from God: “There are the beauties of science and the extraordinary marvels of nature. There is the consolation and irony of philosophy. There are the infinite splendors of literature and poetry. There is the grand resource of art, music and architecture, again not to exclude those that aspire to the sublime. In all of these pursuits, any one of them enough to absorb a lifetime, there may be found a sense of awe and magnificence that does not depend on any invocation of the supernatural.”

That’s all fine. However, when Christopher Hitchens got esophageal cancer, he had done some writing about his experience, which were compiled in a book called Mortality, published just after he died In this book, which ends with fragments of sentences and of thoughts as he, unfortunately, became too ill to continue—you will not read one line from Christopher Hitchens about drawing hope, comfort and meaning for his life from art, music, literature… the things he talked about so passionately before.

Instead, he talked about how much he hurt, about the needles in his arms, and how bad the drugs made him feel. But nothing, not a word, about “the consolation and irony of philosophy” somehow giving him hope, comfort or meaning to his life and death.

Should we be surprised? Art and literature might be fine for the living, but for the dying? They need more, something else entirely, actually. No wonder, then, that over and over we have been promised, in one way or another, that “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3. How thankful we should be for the Gospel promise made certain to us and sealed in the blood of Jesus that we have, even now, the promise of eternal life, however short our present sojourn turns out to be (and we get to enjoy art as well!)

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