In this video, Christopher Hitchens argues that the doctrine of vicarious redemption--which he calls human sacrifice--is immoral. He concedes that a person can pay the debt of another, but he doesn't believe that one person can relieve another of his or her responsibilities. However, he appears to agree with C. S. Lewis that it is morally acceptable for us to forgive offenses against ourselves.
He frames the discussion in the context of Lewis' argument that if Jesus was just a man and not God, it would be preposterous of Him to claim to be able to take our sins upon Himself and forgive offenses against others. Lewis explains that Jesus cannot be just a good moral teacher--He has to either be a lunatic, a devil from hell, or the Son of God. Hitchens says: "Lewis, who had argued so well up until then can't complete a syllogism. Poor guy, he never quite could do that. He said, 'Since I don't think He was a devil from hell, I have to conclude that He was the Son of God.'"
I find it ironic that Hitchens accuses Lewis of failing to complete a syllogism, since Hitchens himself does exactly that--in several different ways.
Hitchens very correctly states that human sacrifice is "revolting." God calls it "detestable" in the Old Testament, so the two of them are on the same page so far. However, the sacrifice of Christ has about as much in common with human sacrifice as a heroic act of self-sacrifice has in common with premeditated murder. Both involve death, but that is about it.
First, the sacrifice of Jesus was voluntary--He could have chosen not to go through with it (Matthew 26:53), and He denounced all violence against His aggressors (Matthew 26:52). Human sacrifice, on the other hand, is an act of violence against an unwilling victim. Second, God never commanded anyone to kill His Son; His executioners simply acted according to their evil inclinations, and God permitted it and used it for good. Human sacrifice, on the other hand, is ostensibly at the command of the gods. Third, the redemption was an act of self-sacrifice by God, while human sacrifice is the selfish taking of someone else's life.
Hitchens also failed to complete his syllogism with respect to the Lewis quote by concluding that the redemption is immoral without even addressing the point Lewis made about Jesus being God. He simply assumes throughout the video that even if Jesus existed, He was only a man, and therefore what He did was immoral.
If Jesus had in fact been just a man, even the Bible admits that He would have had no power to redeem someone else. "No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him--the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough--that he should live on forever and not see decay" (Psalm 49:7-9).
So Lewis and Hitchens are both in full agreement with the Bible up to this point. Then Hitchens claims that Lewis failed to complete his syllogism by concluding that Jesus was not a devil from hell and is therefore the Son of God. And Hitchens fails to complete his syllogism by never even addressing the issue of whether Jesus was the Son of God and simply concluding that Jesus was either evil or deluded. This is circular reasoning. "If Jesus was only a man, it would be immoral for Him to pay the penalty for someone else's sin. He was only a man. Therefore, His redemption was immoral."
If Hitchens wants to argue that Jesus never existed or that He was not God, that is one thing, but if he is going to argue that some aspect of Christian theology is immoral, he has to allow for the sake of argument that the claims of Christianity are true. Otherwise he cannot address the issue in a logical way.
Finally, Hitchens concedes too much upfront. He allows that one person can pay another's debt. He also concedes that we can forgive others for offenses against us. But he says that we all have to take responsibility for our own actions. However, if I forgive someone a wrong against me and also pay the person's debt, I have effectively absolved the person of responsibility. Hitchens has no problem with the first clause of that sentence, but he strongly objects to the second clause. Since the second clause follows logically from the first clause, Hitchens appears to have failed to think through his logic.
Still, he has a good point about taking responsibility, but the Bible never teaches that vicarious redemption absolves us of responsibility. Even though God has in Christ forgiven our sins, we still have to be reconciled to those we have wronged (Matthew 5:24). And even though we are saved by faith, good works are evidence of true faith (1 John 2:3).
So God has simply leveled the playing field by offering a fresh start and His enabling power to anyone, regardless of genetics, environment, or past sins. Only humility will give us an advantage. But ultimately He will judge us all impartially (1 Peter 1:17).