Is God Great or Isn’t He?

I recently heard a recording of a debate that Christopher Hitchens had with Jay Richards. During the exchange Hitchens made a comment to the effect that he regarded a particular person as arrogant because he claimed to speak in the name of God. His comment made me wonder why, if God is not great (as Hitchens’ book claims), it would be arrogant to claim to speak in his name. Why is it arrogant to speak in the name of someone who is not great? I suspect Hitchens’ reaction betrays an unconscious or dispositional knowledge that indeed not only does God exist, but He is great.


7 comments on “Is God Great or Isn’t He?

  1. You should know that I read this to my wife, and she actually laughed out loud. Good stuff.

    Of course, isn’t Hitchens the same guy who said, “There is no God, and I hate him”? :p

    • Thanks Chris! While I’ve never heard Hitchens explicitly say that he hated God, he has said so in so many words. In Hitchen’s defense, I suppose it would be coherent for someone to say that they hate Darth Vader even though there isn’t really a Darth Vader. Perhaps Hitchens is thinking along these lines. But, since all men know deep down that there is a God (Rom. 1), then I suspect his hatred (if indeed he does hate God) betrays his heart’s knowledge of God’s existence.

  2. Melissa Pellew says:

    Dr. Howe,

    Great point! If in fact, Hitchens does not believe that God exist or that He is great, He should completely disregard the comments of a person who speaks “in the name of the Lord” as opposed to being bothered by it. Devin & I are looking forward to sitting in on another of your classes soon!

  3. Ben Kimmell says:

    Hi Dr. Howe, I noticed you mentioned a dispositional knowledge in your post. I’m just curious, how might a dispositional account of knowledge (or belief) be cashed out? I suspect that there are dispositional accounts in contemporary epistemology, but I don’t have much background there.


    Ben Kimmell

    • The idea has to do with the notion of beliefs that one possesses about which he is not conscious of a given time. Thus, before I asked a question about it or before something jogged one’s thinking about it, someone might have had the belief that the celestial body that orbits the Earth is called the moon. But until I asked about it or otherwise caused someone to deliberately think about it, that one’s knowledge of the moon is merely dispositional, which is to say, it constitutes part of the disposition of one’s noetic content. Once it becomes a conscious or deliberate object of one’s thought, it is called an occurrent belief. But the point is, if I asked someone what that celestial body was that orbits the Earth, and they replied that it was the moon, it wasn’t the case that they suddenly learned this fact. They had the knowledge all along. It was just dispositional instead of occurrent.

  4. Gary Ryan says:

    Hmm. I used to work for the Archbishop of Canterbury at the UN. I helped represent his will and wishes there, and those if the wider Anglican Communion. I did not claim to be his mouthpiece there. My boss enjoyed that distinction. I think Hitchens (who’s days appear to be numbered now) was speaking to a kind of presumptiveness behavior representatives of The Way demonstrate, making profound authority claims without the requisite careful thought or discernment. Actually, that would be my argument. Hitchens would surely say, no one can ever properly purport to speak for a god.

    • But my point is that if Hitchens thinks that god (note bene) is not great, why would he think it a presumptive behavior (to use your phrase) to claim to speak in his name? The very fact that he thinks that it is arrogant (to use Hitchens’ term) betrays the fact that he indeed knows that God is great. It would be neither arrogant nor presumptive to claim to speak in the name of someone who as contemptuous as Hitchens thinks God is.

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