There is a God

23 July 2008

Antony Flew opened up a firestorm of controversy when he publicly announced his conversion from atheism to deism in late 2004. As one of the most influential atheists of the 20th century, his change in mind was stunning. Many atheists were quick to denounce Flew- claiming that he was losing touch with reality in his old age. Flew, however, stood his ground, insisting that his conversion was real, thoughtful, and based on compelling evidence for the existence of a Creator.

In There is a God, Flew recounts his life leading up to his conversion. Starting from his humble beginnings as the son of a preacher and leading to his persuasive defense of atheism as an academic, Flew gives us a brief glimpse into his life and work. Along the way, he points out that he has had many radical ‘conversions’ in thinking. In his view, switching from atheism to deism is no particularly big deal. He just followed the evidence where it led.

The second part of the book offers a brief discussion of this evidence. Remarkably, in sharp distinction to the numerous atheist authors writing today, Flew contends that scientific discoveries (buttressed, of course, by philosophical arguments) have vindicated the existence of God. He mentions three areas where this is starkly the case. The first is the fact that nature obeys laws. The second is the existence of intelligently organized life. The third is the very existence of nature.

Unfortunately, Flew’s discussion of these issues is rather cursory. Those looking for a detailed exposition need to explore elsewhere. Nevertheless, Flew’s treatment is a welcome departure from the terrible philosophical treatment of scientific issues found in many of the new atheist books. Flew rightly calls out those scientists who offer philosophical arguments concerning the implications of the scientific facts. While they are perfectly within their rights to offer their philosophical opinion, these opinions must be judged by the canons of philosophy, not science. All too often, folks like Richard Dawkins assume that their scientific expertise entails that their philosophical views should be taken as authoritative. Flew rightly points out the distinction here.

Flew’s There is a God is a quick and easy read. If you are interested in the life and work of Antony Flew, then this book will prove useful. Those looking for an extensive discussion of the arguments for the existence of God or for a refutation of atheism must look elsewhere.


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