Dr. Antony Flew was the author of over 30 professional philosophical works that helped set the agenda for atheism for over half a century. His ‘Theology and Falsification’, presented first to the Oxford University Socratic Club (chaired by C.S. Lewis) in 1950, became the most widely printed philosophical publication of the last century. As Ravi Zacharias once said, Flew was the standard for studying atheistic philosophy in his university education.
Dr. Flew wrote for over 50 years on anti-theology with an admired approach that was systematic, comprehensive, original and extremely influential. Why? Because unlike so many others such as Dr. Bertrand Russell, Flew’s writings didn’t originate from a disdain for organized religion. Rather, his focus was on, as he claimed from the very beginning, developing arguments to support HIS position, grounded in the Socratic Method: “We must follow the argument wherever it leads.”
Dr. Flew makes two straight-forward confessions in this book that not only prompted many Christian apologists and theologians to praise his openness and courage, but also raise the hostility of atheist leaders to denounce him as “old and senile”. On page 12, he says this: “I have said in some of my later atheist writings that I reached the conclusion about the nonexistence of God much too quickly, much too easily, and for what later seemed to me the wrong reasons”. Ouch. Then, on pages 29 and 32: “No one is as surprised as I am that my exploration of the Divine has after all these years turned from denial to discovery… it took years for my philosophical views to mature and solidify. By the time they did so, I had arrived at the guiding principles that would not only govern my lifetime of writing and reasoning, but also eventually dictate a dramatic turn FROM ATHEISM TO THEISM.”
So what exactly prompted Dr. Flew to become a theist? On page 88, Dr. Flew explains: “It’s time for me to lay my cards on the table, to set my own views and the reasons that support them. 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 originate in a divine Source. Why do I believe this, given that I expounded and defended atheism for more than half a century (about 60 YEARS)? The short answer is this: this is the world picture, as I see it, that has emerged from MODERN SCIENCE… and a renewed study of the classical philosophical arguments.”
Dr. Flew’s book was published right around the same time many of the New Atheists were gaining in popularity and the phenomenon on college campuses of the Veritas Forum was taking center stage, as a more collegial debate structure also gained popularity in pitting the best Christian apologists against the New Atheism spokesmen.
But Dr. Flew’s arguments against atheism, and for theism, have gone largely unnoticed in this age of internet instant information and rhetorical arguments supplanting good old “butt in the seat” diligent study. On page 89, Dr. Flew himself explains what actually led him away from atheism and to theism: “My departure from atheism was not occasioned by any new phenomenon or argument. Over the past two decades, my whole framework of thought has been in a state of migration. This was my consequence of MY CONTINUING ASSESSMENT OF THE EVIDENCE OF NATURE.
When I finally came to recognize the existence of a God, it was not a paradigm shift, because my paradigm remains, as Plato in his ‘Republic’ scripted Socrates to insist: ‘WE MUST FOLLOW THE ARGUMENT WHEREVER IT LEADS.”
Here are the 32 questions that Dr. Flew asked fellow atheists to answer, with the page number where it is found in his book, and organized into 8 topics. These questions are not new – but they are coming from one of the greatest, if not the greatest, atheist philosophical minds in history – and they are meant to be a challenge to atheists to really examine the evidence, because it will lead any open-minded seeker away from atheism and to theism.
USING REASON: FOLLOWING THE EVIDENCE
- What would have to occur, or to have occurred, to constitute for you a reason to at least consider the existence of a Superior Mind (p. 88)?
- Why not take the universe and its most fundamental features as the ultimate fact (p. 135)?
- How could there be a causal connection between a spaceless, timeless being and the entirety of space-time (p. 152)?
- If anything exists at all, there must be something preceding it that always existed. How did this eternally existing reality come to be (p. 165)?
- Is it possible that there has been or can be Divine Revelation (p. 213)?
ORIGIN OF THE UNIVERSE
- How did the universe, by which we mean all that is physical, come into existence (p. 91)?
- Can something come from nothing (p. 133)?
- How does the question ‘Can something come from nothing?’ affect our understanding of how the universe came into being (p. 133)?
- How can the theory of ‘Net Zero Energy’, which is used to argue a universe that could come from nothing, not violate the laws of physics (p. 170)?
- Why is there something and not absolute nothingness (p. 171)?
LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE
- How did the laws of nature come to be (p. 91)?
- Why is it we have these laws of physics instead of another set (p. 108)?
- How is it we have a set of laws that drives featureless gases to life, consciousness and intelligence (p. 108)?
- How is it possible for some one-force strength to satisfy so many different requirements, when it seems that different strengths would be required for each one of these requirements (p. 116)?
ORIGIN OF LIFE
- How can a universe of mindless matter produce beings with intrinsic ends, self-replication capabilities, and ‘coded chemistry’ (p. 124)?
- How did life as a phenomenon originate from nonlife (p. 91)
- Can the origins of a system of coded chemistry be explained in a way that makes no appeal whatsoever to the kinds of facts that we otherwise invoke to explain codes and languages, systems of communication, the impress of ordinary words on the world of matter (p. 133)?
- Why does the something that exists conform to symmetries or form complex structures (p. 171)?
- How did life get started (p. 173)?
ORIGIN OF CONSCIENCE
- How is it that, from childhood, you can effortlessly think of both your dog Caesar and dogs in general (p. 177)?
- Is it coherent to think that any of those thoughts are in any sense physically constituted (p. 178)?
- Who is this ‘I’ (p. 181)?
- What is it that unifies our various experiences, that enables us to be aware of the external world, and that remains the same throughout (p. 181)?
- How did life, consciousness, thought and the self come to be (p. 182)?
- How do we know Jesus existed (p. 187)?
- What grounds are there for claiming, from the texts, that Jesus is God incarnate (p. 188)?
- To Jesus I would say ‘Who do You think that You are?’? (p. 192)
- What evidence is there for the Resurrection (p. 195)?
- Why did all the early Christians known to us, from the earliest times for which we have evidence, have this very new, but remarkably unanimous, view of resurrection (p. 201)?
- What about the Gospels and the Resurrection (p. 202)?
- How do historians explain the early Christian belief in the evidence for the Resurrection (p. 209)
- How do historians explain this extraordinary phenomenon, the fact of early Christians arising in the first place, taking its very specific shape, and telling the very specific stories that it did (p. 209)?