Are there any good reasons to believe God, being all-good and all-powerful, may still choose to allow “physical” evil, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and disease? I believe there are. I’ll offer an argument in support in this week’s post.
We often say God can do anything—this is what it means for him to be “omnipotent.” But last week I argued there is something God cannot do. He cannot create people who are free and then determine what they will choose. Some object this limits God and makes him less than all-powerful. If they are right, the response to the Problem of Evil from human freedom is derailed. Is this a good objection?
If God has good reasons to permit Evil, the argument against God due to the reality of pain and suffering evaporates. There seem to be two good reasons for God, being all-good, to nevertheless allow Evil to exist. This week I’ll offer the first reason, along with an explanation of why this makes sense.
There seems to be a compelling argument that, given the reality of Evil, God does not exist. But wait—there is more to the story! If we dig a bit deeper we find a problem with one of the premises (and therefore the entailed premise and conclusion). This week I’ll begin to explore “the rest of the story.” But to do so I must first review how to evaluate arguments.
Some believe God exists, but he can’t do anything about pain and suffering. He is just not powerful enough. Others believe God exists, but he doesn’t want to do anything about pain and suffering. He is just not good enough. Both attempts to explain the existence of God given the reality of Evil are common. I also think they are both wrong.
I was surprised this topped the charts last year. It is on a very important topic, but is quite technical. I decided to write it because it needed to be written, but I didn’t think it would get many views. 560 people thought otherwise, making this the most popular post of last year. (It being promoted by someone else in December didn’t hurt either!)
More people commented on this post than any other. So I was surprised that this was the second most popular article of last year…I expected it to come in at #1. With 462 views, the second most popular article of 2018 was Four Reasons Why the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (1 of 8).
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.
Last Tuesday I lost one of my heroes. Christian speaker, author, and editor Jim Sire passed “from the land of the dying into the land of the living” to a great reward at age 84. He not only had a massive influence on me and countless others through his many books (such as The Universe Next Door, which is one of four books I suggest each parent read with their children before college), he was also a friend and mentor to me and so many others. We can learn at least three lessons from Jim’s life.
We continue to search for a reason for the Las Vegas shootings. So far, no “traditional” reason has emerged. Last week I suggested that the reason may be no reason. I outlined a philosophy that is becoming increasingly popular in our culture: nihilism. Is this ringing any bells as we learn more and more about Stephen Paddock? Might it be that he had obtained all which he thought could bring him meaning “under the sun,” and found it was meaningless after all? Might he be someone who so thoroughly embraced the Enlightenment that he lived the nihilistic worldview consistently? And if so, what should we learn from this?
My brother-in-law, sister-in-law, nephew and his friend were on their way to the Life is Beautiful concert in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 1, 2017 when Stephen Paddock began shooting. Had they not been delayed while on their way by just a few minutes, they would have been in the line of fire. Though I am thankful they were running late, I continue to grieve over the 58 who were not so fortunate. In my grief, I ask the same question everyone else is asking: Why? The answer may be right in front of us, but it is not one we want to acknowledge.
Can we hope to find common ground in “the public square” over the critically important social issues of our day? Over the past seven weeks I’ve illustrated how the three different answers to “What are we” determines our answer to this question. But our view of what we are also determines our view of whether abortion and euthanasia are ever justified, whether the gospel makes sense, how Christians best grow in their faith, what constitutes “ministry,” and so much more. Let me explain…