The alternative to life beginning at conception due to a human soul being present is a “functional” definition of personhood. This is the view underlying all pro-choice arguments. If this definition of life is correct, the pro-choice conclusion is completely reasonable. Yet there are at least five problems with the functionalist definition of personhood.
Many object to my conclusion that life begins at conception. The central objection is that we can’t observe a soul, to know when it begins. However, we can observe when certain life-sustaining functions begin. Therefore only when the fetus functions in these ways can we say it is alive. Yet this is well past the point of conception. So life must not begin at conception.
There are at least three responses to this objection.
Before determining the morality of abortion, we must first reflect deeply on what a human person is, and when a human person begins. Last week I discussed the first issue. Secondly, when does human life begin? There are two ways to answer this question. They both come to the same conclusion, yet by different routes. Each has pros and cons, and we should use them in different contexts. Understanding this is essential in developing both our personal and our social ethic concerning this issue.
The first step in determining the morality of abortion is determining what the fetus is. Is it a part of the mother’s body, or is it a distinct human being? To answer this we first must answer two logically prior questions: (1) what is it to be a human person? and (2) when does a human person begin? I’ll tackle these questions in the next few weeks.
“Roe Isn’t Just About Women’s Rights. It’s About Everyone’s Personal Liberty.” was the title of an opinion piece in The Washington Post on July 8. It is one of many articles written about the possibility of a new member of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. How can Christians best think about and discuss this issue with others?
We all want to be faithful to our Lord’s command to see the gospel permeate and change the world. As Christians, we see countless ways things are not as they should be—people alienated from God, one another, God’s good creation, and even themselves. As a result, they live and lead from non-Christian beliefs and values, which results in shattered lives, fractured families, human trafficking, oppressive regimes, and many other forms of alienation from God and one another.
What can we learn from the process of world-renowned atheist Dr. Antony Flew coming to believe God exists? Last week I offered four things we can learn, but I didn’t have room for three more. This week I will conclude this series with three more takeaways, and my thoughts on whether Flew may have finally embraced Jesus as his Lord.
The story I’ve been retelling is very improbable, but true: The world’s most notorious atheist finally believed in God after fifty years of denying His existence. We can learn many lessons from Dr. Flew’s story. In the final two posts of this series* I will identify six “take-aways” from the journey we have been on with Flew.
In There Is A God: How The World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, Dr. Antony Flew writes, “As a professional philosopher I have changed my mind on disputed topics more than once. This should not be surprising, of course, given my beliefs regarding the possibility of progress in philosophy and the principle of following the argument wherever it may lead me.” (p. 56).
In 2007, nine years after the debate, seven years after Dr. Flew’s letters to me, and three years after his interview with Dr. Gary Habermas, Flew published, There Is A God: How The World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. This would be Dr. Flew’s final book-- his final analysis of the topic he had given over fifty years of his life to research. This would also be his most detailed account of the evidence that finally led him to conclude, “Yes, God Does exist!”
“That argument may show that God does exist. I may need to rethink my position.” Dr. Antony Flew had just finished debating Dr. William Lane Craig on the topic Does God Exist? After the debate, as he reflected on Craig’s arguments, Flew began to change his mind. Almost two years later I received two personal letters from Flew in which he shared more of his developing beliefs about God. What I read took my breath away. It was the publication of the debate that led to my receiving these letters.
In my previous three posts, I’ve shared the events leading up to and occurring the evening of the historic debate on God’s existence between Dr. Antony Flew and Dr. William Lane Craig. But what happened after the debate is the real story—a story that has not yet been told. The time has come to tell the story.
There Is A God: How The World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind is the title of the book Antony Flew wrote in 2007. God was at work in Dr. Flew’s life for many years leading up to the publication of this book. Some of the story has been told. Some of it has not. In this series, I’m sharing—for the first time—an essential part of this story that I had the honor of watching unfold. The time has come to share these details both to honor Dr. Flew’s intellectual integrity and to preserve accurately the account of the events leading to his conversion, as some in the atheist community continue to question the nature of Dr. Flew’s change of mind.
The Associated Press headline on December 9, 2004, read, “Famous Atheist Now Believes in God: One of World’s Leading Atheists Now Believes in God, More or Less, Based on Scientific Evidence.” Due to the press, this story received worldwide most now know that Dr. Antony Flew rejected atheism and came to believe God exists. However, some of the central events leading to his conversion have never been told. I was fortunate enough to have a front-row seat as these events unfolded. I have decided the time has come to tell “the rest of the story.”
I first met Dr. Antony Flew in 1997. I invited him to debate Dr. William Lane Craig on the topic “Does God Exist” at the University of Wisconsin. He agreed, and the debate occurred on February 18, 1998. The events of that evening played an important role in Dr. Flew ultimately rejecting atheism and concluding God does exist. I was privileged to have a front-row seat as these events unfolded.
“It is more reasonable to believe only in what I can see. Therefore I only believe physical things exist, not souls, values, God, or anything else immaterial.” This is a third assumption undergirding the “Science or Faith” narrative that is so prevalent in our time. However, as was true for the first two assumptions, this third assumption has at least three fatal flaws, and therefore should be rejected. I have addressed each of these in detail previously, and so in this blog, I will only touch on the three responses and link to the fuller explanations.
A second assumption underlying the apparent conflict between science and faith is, “I should only believe what I can prove with certainty and therefore know to be true. This is only true of science. So I choose science over faith.” When we look more closely at this assumption, it turns out to be equally false.
We often hear that “science is at war with religion,” a story that has been around since the “Enlightenment.” However, it is the wrong story, because the story is based on at least three wrong assumptions. One wrong assumption is that “Science is about facts and Christianity is about faith, and facts win.” Last week I discussed one reason why this assumption is wrong. This week I offer two more reasons to reject this assumption.
It is not uncommon to hear that one must choose between science and faith. However, for those of us who love science and also love Christ, we wonder if there is not a third way. There is. Science and faith. Once we uncover the underlying assumptions of the “science or faith” narrative, it is easy to see why these assumptions are wrong. That’s my goal in this series.
Last week I noted the first wrong assumption behind this “conflict” narrative is the assumption that “Science is about facts and Christianity is about faith, and facts win.” This week I will discuss one of three reasons this assumption is wrong.