Another God debate (Hitchens vs Blair part 1)

I am listening to two debates at the moment. The first is “God or No God” with Larry Taunton and Christopher Hitchens.  The second also sees Christopher against religion but now he has a new, different sort of opponent. A political one in the form of Ex Prime Minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair. I will blog my thoughts as they lock horns over the issue of whether or not religion is a force for good in the world.

The founder of the Aurea foundation and organiser of the debate, Peter Munk comes on and highlights the difference between a debate and a straight speech or presentation. The aim of the Munk Debates is to see some of the world’s most qualified people debate some of the most significant issues. He introduces Blair as one the most influential men in shaping the last decade but saves his most positive comments for Christopher. He not only states that he is one of the greatest minds of our times but praises his courage in agreeing to participate in the debate while undergoing treatment for cancer.

He then welcomes Rudyard Griffiths, to Co-organiser of the debate and moderator for the evening and gives him the lion’s share of credit for organising and making the debate happen.

Rudyard starts by welcoming the 240 million people who have access to the debate via the BBC plus the tens of thousands watching on the internet, and finally the 2,700 people  in the hall.

Then he introduces Christopher and Tony who come on to massive applause and shake hands. A few more snippets are given about them debaters. Tony Blair converted to Catholicism after leaving politics and launched the Tony Blair faith foundation to promote respect and understanding between the world’s religions. He was prime minster of the UK and is now the quartet representative in the Middle East working with the UN, the US, Russia and the EU to try to secure a lasting peace in the region. For his part, Hitchens is an author, journalist and atheist, well known for, among other things, his column in Vanity Fair.  Both have recently published memoirs. Tony’s “A Journey: my political life” and Christopher’s “Hitch 22”.

The format will be:

  • 7 minutes of opening remarks for and against the motion
  • 2 rounds of formal rebuttals
  • Questions form audience via cards, in person from younger members of audience on stage, plus the online audience will get a chance too.
  • It will conclude with 5 minutes of closing statements and a second vote on the motion.

A poll was taken on the way in of all 2,700 people:

  • 22% were in favour of the motion that religion is a force for good in the world.
  • 57% opposed the motion
  • and 21% were undecided.

Interestingly enough, 75% where open to changing their vote based on what they heard in the debate.

Christopher begins with his opening statement. I will blog my notes on it next time. I watch a ahead just a bit and its good stuff. Can’t wait.



1000 page views since I moved to wordpress. Another blogging milestone reached. I wish I could say it’s because of my interesting and informative blogs but the statistics tell a different story. A mention of Mr Motivator has got me the most hits recently. I just added a picture of him in my “Learning a little Greek series” with his name under it and started getting lots more traffic. My wife suggested I should mention Cheryl Cole to get even more hits so sorry if you arrived here expecting to find out something about her. I know nothing!

More on topic for my blog (which is supposed to be vaguely theological in content) the mention of Delia Knox is drawing quite a bit of passing traffic too.

Looking at the statistics for the last few months I can see that at least 75% of people (it’s hard to know exactly for sure)  leave my site after 5 seconds but  5% stay for between 5 minutes and an hour.  Around 17% of visitors are returning visitors so hopefully some are finding something helpful here.

This is the most popular page (it’s about Delia Knox)

The next one is one that mentions Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair despite being virtually empty of content.

Then comes my latest update on the Delia Knox testimony:

Then the page with links to my series that I added when someone told me how to do pages:

Then the “about” page.

I’m not too disappointed that none of my content is that popular as I’m mainly writing the blogs for my benefit. In fact I wish I had more time to think and write about even more stuff. Even though I am blogging most days my “Blogging through the bible blog”  has slowed down recently and I have tonnes of stuff I am having to shelve for this one. I am reminded of a prophetic word about having more time to run down theological rabbit holes. I do have a bit more time now but the rabbits are multiplying too fast for me.

Mike Betts’ preached at King’s yesterday. I love hearing him preach. He is always so rich in insight and wisdom and this time spoke on Psalm 96. In it God gives us some key instructions for keeping our focus. Just like our natural eyes can lose their focus as we get older so our spiritual focus can suffer if we are not attentive to the following:

1) Verse 1 says “Sing to the Lord a new song“. We need to seek fresh insight from the Lord about the Lord. Don’t be like a broken record saying the same ting over and over. Seek fresh perspective about him that will help us love him more. Every day of Jesus’ life he faced the fact that he was going to the cross but each day he had a newness of his love for his father.

2) Verse 4 says “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise. He is to be feared above all gods“. We must let God dominate our perspective. Jesus is above all. Mike kept repeating that phrase “Jesus is above all“. Problems at work? “Jesus is above all“. Illness? “Jesus is above all“. Tensions between North and South Korea that threaten world peace? “Jesus is above all”.

3) Verse 6 says “Splendour and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary“. Get to know God such that you are never short of words to describe him; his nature and his character. Meditate on scripture. That is a dying art. (It’s interesting that I have just been talking about that at the UEA and blogging about it in this series). How well do you know your saviour? Who he is, is the anchor of our lives. “I’m out of my depth”, said Mike, “but I keep swimming out to sea and not back to shore. That’s because I know who God is”.

4) Verse 9 says, “Worship the lord in the splendour of his holiness.”  I think that was the verse anyway. Mike talked about the importance of not sinning. When you feel dull and your focus goes squiffy, DON’T SIN! The Devil does not play by the Queensbury rules. He hits you when you are down. He accuses us day and night. He doesn’t sleep. When we wake up he has been thinking all night about the first words to put into our heads to dishearten us. We need to draw close to God ASAP when we get up.

It was a great preach and looking at the Psalm again his approach is interesting in itself. He basically asked a question of the Psalm and got an answer. I did that with Psalm 119 when I asked it “how and why should we read God’s word“. Asking questions of scripture is such a fruitful way of accessing its truth and is complementary to straight exegesis.  I remember Tim Keller talking about it in a lecture I attended once. He said that there is an infinite amount of truth in a passage so there is no way you are ever going to exhaustively exegete it dry. You have to keep asking questions of it and receiving more and more truth.

One more thought : When I was at the UEA I said that I knew there was a mysterious but key link between Jesus, as the incarnate word of God, and the bible as the written word of God (which is of course about Jesus). I admitted that I didn’t know much about the link (it’s another rabbit hole I would love to go down!).   Interestingly at the end of the Sunday meeting one of the leaders brought a scripture which looks relevant:

Rev 19:13   He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. (ESV)

God is good, his word is amazing and his son is awesome. I wonder how many more people will look over my shoulder as I continue to meditate on the unsearchable riches of Christ in my blog.

PS. Another spine tingling verse that I came across while looking up Rev 19:13 is

Jer 33:16   “In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.'” (ESV)

God’s names and nature are soooo cooool. The promises of God are indeed all yes and amen in Jesus Christ (2 Cor 1:20).

Debate between Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens

Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens

Be it resolved: Religion is a force for good in the world. Today Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens will argue for and against the motion It should be really interesting. If I get to hear it I will  blog on it .

I am still waiting for my copy of the  “God or no God” debate between Larry Taunton and Christopher Hitchens that took place on 19th October 2010. Meanwhile here is a clip of the two debaters talking about their unlikely friendship.


On 27th Nov 2010 read this review in the guardian. Would still like to hear it myself though: