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COLLISION: Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson
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The documentary COLLISION pits leading atheist, political journalist and author Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything) against fellow author and evangelical theologian Pastor Douglas Wilson on a debate tour arguing the topic “Is Religion Good For The World?”. Lives and worldviews collide as Hitchens and Wilson wittily and passionately argue the timeless question, proving to be perfectly matched intellectual, philosophical, and cinematic rivals. COLLISION is directed by prolific independent filmmaker Darren Doane (Van Morrison: To Be Born Again, The Battle For L.A., Godmoney).
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Top Customer Reviews
There was one scene of the two men eating lunch in New York, laughing hystarically while quoting P.G. Wodehouse lines from memory. There was another conversation over lunch in a Pub (again, extremely short). And lastly there was a brief snippet of conversation during a limo ride.
To me, each of these moments was far more interesting than the formal debates themselves. You can see the full Westminster Seminary debate video on Youtube, and you can buy the debate book, "Is Christianity Good For The World?", so you don't need this documentary to get the debates. This film was about a clash of men, of personalities, more than it was about a clash of ideas. Unfortunately, this was expressed mainly with interviews of each of the two men about themselves and their opinion of the other, individually rather than together. This was the big missed opportunity, in my opinion. Hearing Hitchens talk about his opinion of Wilson was nice, but it was no substitute for seeing the two men sitting chatting over a pint.
The camera shifts back and forth between scenes from different debates, in the taxi on the way there, at the hotel rooms, at the dinner tables, where these two fantastic speakers have basically spent a whole week together. It's very entertaining watching them dine while suggesting ideas to each other.
In all fairness, I believe that Hitchens carries his point across more succinctly than Wilson. This might be because I am a huge Hitchens fan, but I really felt that the editing left Wilson's arguments incomplete. Or perhaps Wilson just isn't up to challenge Hitchens.
So, one reason I dropped a star from the review is that you never really get to hear a complete thought from start to finish -- on either side (but moreso Wilson) -- like you would at a debate. You'll hear the start of an argument, then it will change scenes to a bar or taxi cab for a different conversatino, then maybe if you're lucky you'll hear the middle of the original argument. Rarely does it seem the whole idea is presented.
The second reason is that the music is jarring and overdramatic, and gives a sense of intensity when it doesn't seem appropriate. I thought it was too loud in places, and made it difficult to hear what speakers were saying.
I hope that another documentary/debate DVD is released that does a better job of bringing the two styles together, is fairer to both sides, and doesn't try to be as artistic with the music. Until then, this is worth a watch if only to see Hitchens in a different venue than you normally would.
The reasoning on both sides, anti-theist and Christian, was riveting and the music presentation was captivating. As a Christian, I must admit that I was extremely impressed with Hitchens. He was witty, thoughtful, at times self-effacing and often powerfully direct. He pulled no punches and his take no prisoners style should be an abrupt wake-up call to the Christian community. This man was on his game and has apparently had his way with Muslims, Jews and Christians. I'd venture to say that few Christians would survive the Hitchens' assault...but then again he's rather freakish in that his IQ is off the charts, he's got an incredible command of the English language and his reasoning skills were brilliantly startling.
Wilson was Hitchens' intellectual equal and was clearly not shaken by Hitchens' well-placed attacks on Christianity. On numerous occasions Wilson hammered home the theme that Hitchens had co-opted the Christian moral worldview, since he could not account for the origin of his own morality.
One particularly poignant moment where I felt that Wilson became super-energized and more forceful, came at the halfway point when Hitchens did the old tried and true "Jesus predicted he'd return in the lifetime of his disciples. He didn't do it and therefore he's a false prophet, not God and thus Christianity is a bankrupt religion"... Wilson said rather emphatically something to the effect of "Jesus was speaking about the destruction of Jerusalem not the end of the space/time universe. He simply wasn't." Wilson went on to explain his preterist eschatological position that few Christians are even aware of. This was one of the few points where Hitchens seemed unprepared and for a season, silenced.
At any rate, I believe the producers created a very well-balanced movie. Both atheists and Christians may think their view was victorious. Some Amazon reviewers have offered slightly negative critiques because in their mind "Collision" didn't solve anything. That's true. But that was the point. Serious arguments were presented on both sides, giving the watcher the chance to hone and refine their particular worldview. The debate should not be considered an end in itself but the starting point for serious inquiry. It has been my belief that too many Christians shy away from these kinds of tough questions. That must stop.
I admit my bias in saying the following. Christians can take the best shots Hitchens, Dawkins and other atheists can land. However, they need not be lazy or unprepared. If they don't bring their "A" game they will not meet their challengers.