Photo: Antony Flew
This is the fourth post evaluating Antony Flew’s journey toward God. I recommend that you read my first post, “From Atheism to Theism: A Journey Toward God,” before you read this post. The second post was titled “The Origin of Life and the Existence of God.” The third post was titled “The Big Bang Theory and the Existence of God.” I will conclude my review of Antony Flew’s book There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (New York: Harper Collins Publisher, 2007) with a postscript in which I will address the issues raised by an article published in the New York Times Magazine in which the author is critical of the way Flew’s book was written.
In my last two posts I presented the reasons Antony Flew changed his mind and came to accept that there is a God.
The first reason Flew presented for changing his mind came out of a question that became the basis for his journey back to God. Flew asked: “How did life as a phenomenon originate from nonlife?” That question led him to evaluate recent works on the origin of life and to his amazement, he discovered that the evidence “pointed to the activity of a creative Intelligence” (p. 74).
The second reason that made Flew embark on his pilgrimage toward theism was the issue “that philosophers handed over to cosmologists: How did the universe, by which we mean all that is physical, come into existence?” This issue led Flew to a reformulation of the old cosmological argument for the existence of God.
The third reason that led Flew to re-evaluate his views on atheism was the constancy of the laws of nature. Flew asked: “How did the laws of nature come to be?” By laws of nature Flew means the regularity and symmetry that exist in the universe. He wrote: “The important point is not merely that there are regularities in nature, but that these regularities are mathematically precise, universal and ‘tied together.’” This, according to Flew (p. 96), is the question scientists from Newton to Einstein have been asking and their answer was one and the same: it was “the Mind of God.” Or, as Stephen Hawkins said in his book, A Brief History of Time, the day human beings discover the reason the universe exists that will be their greatest accomplishment, for then they will know “the mind of God.”
This question is in a sense, a reformulation of the classical argument from design for the existence of God. The argument from design states that the apparent order in nature requires the existence of a Designer. Although Hume, Kant, and Flew himself have done much to discredit the argument from design, Flew said (p. 95) that “when correctly formulated, this argument constitutes a persuasive case for the existence of God.”
Summing up his views about God and his creation, Flew summarized his views as follows (p. 88):
“I now believe that the universe was brought into existence by an infinite Intelligence. I believe that this universe’s intricate laws manifest what scientists have called the Mind of God. I believe that life and reproduction originated in a divine Source.”
Flew said that his acknowledgment of the existence of God was not a paradigm shift but of his acceptance of the Socratic principle that “we must follow the argument wherever it leads.”
Several developments in modern science have contributed to Flew’s reversal of attitude toward God. According to Flew (p. 88-89), science makes three important contributions to the declarations of the existence of God. The first declaration is “the fact that nature obeys laws.” The second is the origin of life and the existence of “intelligently organized and purpose driven beings.” Third, Flew wrote, is “the very existence of nature.”
Flew argues with Dawkins about whether Einstein believed in God. Flew quotes Einstein: “I want to know how God created this world . . . I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.”
Flew states that scientists use the laws of nature without ever asking where these laws come from. In fact, they accept as an act of faith that the laws of nature will be consistent and that they are able to understand them.
These laws are not made by the scientists but are present in the universe. According to Flew (p. 108), these laws “are written in a cosmic code that scientists must crack in order to reveal the message.” This message is nature’s message or God’s message but it is not a message created by human beings.
Thus, according to Flew, the regularity of the laws of the universe demands the existence of God for it is God who created these laws and imposed symmetry and regularity in the universe.
Flew concludes (p. 112) that those scientist who point to God in order to explain the regularity of the laws of nature “propound a vision of reality that emerges from the conceptual heart of modern science and imposes itself on the rational mind. It is a vision that I personally find compelling and irrefutable.”
The book contains two appendices. The first appendix, “‘The New Atheism’: A Critical Appraisal of Dawkins, Dennett, Wolpert, Harris, and Stenger,” was written by Roy Abraham Varghese, the co-author of the book. This appendix is a critical assessment of the arguments presented in recent books in defense of atheism.
The second appendix is titled “The Self-Revelation of God in Human History: A Dialogue on Jesus with N. T. Wright.” In this appendix Flew and Wright have a dialogue about Jesus, his existence, his incarnation, and his resurrection. Wright’s presentation is a clear and forceful exposition of the basic tenets of the Christian faith.
I enjoyed reading the book. Those who read it will understand how a famous atheist changed his mind.
Antony Flew, There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. New York: Harper Collins Publisher, 2007.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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Studies on Antony Flew
1. Antony Flew: There Is A God
2. From Atheism to Theism: A Journey Toward God
3. The Origin of Life and the Existence of God
4. The Big Bang Theory and the Existence of God
5. The Laws of Nature and the Existence of God
6. There Is a God: A Postscript
7. Betting on the Existence of God
9. An Interview with Antony Flew
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