Yesterday Jeff Griffin, pastor of The Compass Church in Naperville, began a series of sermons on exploring the evidences for the existence of God. It was a good sermon, a sermon that is available free online.
Jeff’s sermon reminded me of a series of studies I wrote several years ago on Antony Flew. Flew was a British philosopher and a famous atheist who became a believer in God a few years before his death. Flew was a promoter of atheism. While attending classes at Oxford, Flew participated in the meetings of the Socratic Club, the club where C. S. Lewis and a group of students came together to discuss “the intellectual difficulties connected with religion and with Christianity.”
It was in one of the meetings of the Socratic Club that Flew presented a paper, “Theology and Falsification,” in which he argued that claims about the existence of God cannot be tested for truth or falsehood. Flew’s argument in “Theology and Falsification” was that the existence of God could not be proven until evidence for God’s existence could be found.
A few years before he died, Antony Flew found the evidence he was looking for. In 2008 Flew wrote a book, There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, acknowledging that he had moved from atheism to theism. According to Flew, three things convinced him of the existence of an Intelligent Source: the origin of life, the Big Bang Theory, and the laws of nature.
Below are excerpts from my posts; all quotes are taken from the book There Is a God. You can read each post in its entirety by clicking on each link below.
The first reason Flew presented for changing his mind was that “recent work on the origin of life pointed to the activity of a creative Intelligence” (p. 74). One question that became the basis for his journey back to God was “How did life as a phenomenon originate from nonlife?” According to Flew (pp. 90-91), “the origin of life cannot be explained if you start with matter alone.” This declaration was made at a symposium in May 2004 in New York. In that symposium Flew declared that he believed in the existence of God because recent studies reveal that the complex DNA arrangements required to produce life demand that a creative Intelligence be involved.
When Flew was asked if studies on the origin of life pointed to a creative Intelligence, he answered (p. 75):
Yes, I now think it does . . . almost entirely because of the DNA investigations. What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements to work together. It’s the enormous complexity of the number of elements and the enormous subtlety of the ways they work together. The meeting of these two parts at the right time by chance is simply minute. It is all a matter of the enormous complexity by which the results were achieved, which looked to me like the work of intelligence.
Flew himself was highly involved in attacking the cosmological argument. He even agreed and supported David Hume’s critique of the cosmological argument for the existence of God. However, Flew said (p. 135) that “most of my discussions were carried on independent of developments in modern cosmology. In fact, my two main antitheological books were written long before either the development of the big-bang cosmology or the introduction of the fine-tuning argument from physical constants.”
The cosmology that came out of the big bang theory made an impact on Flew’s understanding of the creation of the universe. With the development of the big bang cosmology in the early 1980s, Flew realized that cosmologists were providing “a scientific proof of what St. Thomas Aquinas contended could not be proved philosophically; namely, that the universe had a beginning” (p. 135).
The more Flew thought about the implications of the big bang the more he began to realize that the words of Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” were true (by the way, this is the only biblical text quoted in Flew’s book). As an atheist, Flew believed the universe did not have a beginning and as long as he believed that, there was no reason to ask what caused the universe to come into being.
However, the development of the big bang cosmology changed the situation. Flew wrote: “If the universe had a beginning [with the big bang], it became entirely sensible, almost inevitable, to ask what produced this beginning.”
Flew’s discovery of God has come through an understanding of the structure of the universe. This structure, according to Flew, is a map that leads to the discovery of the Divine. He wrote (p. 155): “I have followed the argument where it has led me. And it has led me to accept the existence of a self-existent, immutable, immaterial, omnipotent, and omniscient Being.”
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.”
There is a God, and according to Flew, the origin of life, the Big Band Theory, and the laws of nature are strong arguments for the existence of a creator. I invite you to read my series of posts on Antony Flew.
Claude F. Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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