Several days ago, when I first began publishing a review of Antony Flew’s book, There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, both Charles Halton and Mark Goodacre called my attention to an article written by Mark Oppenheimer, “The Turning of an Atheist,” published in the New York Times Magazine on November 4, 2007 (read the comments to my post). Oppenheimer’s article was a criticism of how Flew’s book was written. The information contained in that article was very disturbing. I will say more about it below.
After I read Flew’s book, I was very impressed by the simple way Flew explained how he turned from atheism and embarked on a journey that led him back to theism. In his book, Flew mentioned how the complexity of the chromosome sequence required more than randomness to produce life. Flew said that this complexity required an intelligent designer to produce life.
Flew said that the cosmology that came out of the Big Bang Theory convinced him that the universe had a beginning. He also reflected on the constancy and reliability of the laws of nature and concluded that these laws were created by an intelligent being. All this, he said, led him to believe that behind the creation of the universe and the constancy of the laws of nature was, what he called, “the mind of God.”
The book was co-written with Roy Abraham Varghese, whom Oppenheimer called in his article a “Christian apologist.” According to Oppenheimer, Varghese is “a tireless crusader for those who believe that scientific research helps verify the existence of God.” Varghese leads the Institute for MetaScience Research and sponsors conferences and debates at colleges and universities between Christians and atheists.
When Oppenheimer interviewed Varghese, Varghese admitted that he wrote most of the book. As Oppenheimer wrote:
When I asked Varghese, he freely admitted that the book was his idea and that he had done all the original writing for it. But he made the book sound like more of a joint effort – slightly more, anyway. “There was stuff he had written before, and some of that was adapted to this,” Varghese said. “There is stuff he’d written to me in correspondence, and I organized a lot of it. And I had interviews with him. So those three elements went into it. Oh, and I exposed him to certain authors and got his views on them. We pulled it together. And then to make it more reader-friendly, HarperCollins had a more popular author go through it.”
So even the ghostwriter had a ghostwriter: Bob Hostetler, an evangelical pastor and author from Ohio, rewrote many passages, especially in the section that narrates Flew’s childhood. With three authors, how much Flew was left in the book? “He went through everything, was happy with everything,” Varghese said.
In retrospect, after I finished reading the book, I realized that an eighty-four years old British scholar, long retired from academic life, whose memory is failing, and who lives without an Internet connection, would probably be unfamiliar with the intricacies of the rules of baseball and not conversant with the “purpose-driven” language that appears in the book.
If Varghese wrote the book and used apologetic language to express Flew’s views, is the book without merit? According to Varghese, he consulted with Flew and used his material in the preparation of the book and then discussed the final product with Flew. Thus, it seems that the final draft of the book actually reflects Flew’s views and beliefs about science and God.
So, when I wrote my review of Flew’s book, I knew about Oppenheimer’s criticism and that Varghese was the primary writer for the book. If I knew all these things, why did I write my four posts on Flew’s book? The answer is that I agree with the arguments for the existence of God and they are presented in the book
I believe that There Is a God, whether written by Flew, Varghese, or both, presents a clear argument for the existence of God. Although the cosmological and the teleological arguments for the existence of God have been highly criticized, Flew (or Varghese) wrote that when rightly expressed, these arguments still provide strong evidence for the existence of God.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Studies on Antony Flew