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.
“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.
A quick Google search of “Science and Faith” brings up 144 million matches in half a second. Many of these sites repeat the “conflict” narrative—science and faith are at war, and science will ultimately win because it has reason and evidence on its side.
This conflict narrative seems to be more and more common. However, it is the wrong story. In this series, I will identify three assumptions underlying this narrative. I will then share reasons why these assumptions are wrong, and therefore why there is no conflict between science and faith—we should be talking about the “and” not the “or.”
“Why do you believe God is a person?” Bob asked me this during a recent flight to San Francisco. He is a bright executive and a Tibetan Buddhist. Over the next two hours, we discussed five reasons I believe God is personal. Last week I unpacked the first reason, from the fact that the universe began. The second reason I shared was that the design we see in the world is best explained as the work of a creative Person.
“Why do you believe God is a person?” I was sitting next to a very bright executive on a recent flight to the West Coast, and “Bob” asked me what I did. When I said I serve with a Christian ministry, this was his question. He no longer believed God was a person, but more of a force. He is one of more and more Westerners who are embracing this view, known as “pantheism.” This underlies all Eastern religions, such as Buddhism (Bob later identified himself as Tibetan Buddhist), which has become especially popular among progressives, youth in search of answers, and Hollywood.
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.
The third answer to “What are we” is that we are essentially nothing. Therefore each person should define his or her individual “essence” and pursue whatever activities he or she believes will lead to individual flourishing. On this view promoting the common good is nothing more than ensuring everyone has the freedom and ability to pursue one’s own definition of flourishing and “the good life.” But is this right? I think not. Here are three reasons why not…