Antony Flew, the world famous atheist philosopher who began having doubts back in the 1980s about the ability of atheism to explain certain facts about the world and who subsequently became a theist (though not a Christian), has written a book describing the thinking that led him to abandon atheism and embrace theism.
The volume is titled There Is a God and in it Flew, the son of devout Christian parents - his father was a Methodist preacher - recounts how he abandoned his parents' faith at about the age of fifteen, largely under the influence of the problem posed by the unfolding Nazi evil in the 1930s, and how he went on to become one of the most prominent philosophical atheists of the twentieth century. He was committed throughout his career to the principle that one should follow the evidence wherever it leads, and he could never see the evidence he was able to observe leading anywhere but to atheism.
This began slowly to change, though, in the 1980s. Throughout his career he had been in contact with some brilliant Christian thinkers - he knew C.S. Lewis - but by the late 80s the number of outstanding Christian philosophers had multiplied and their work was undermining several of Flew's chief philosophical arguments.
Following hard upon this state of affairs were the developments in cosmology which had been accruing for the past decade. Three questions in particular kept popping up and pointing Flew away from his atheistic assumptions: Where did the laws of nature come from? How did the cosmos come to be so finely tuned for life? And how did complex life arise out of nonliving matter?
Gradually, Flew was led by the evidence to the conclusion that there is indeed a divine mind behind the universe. He had no Damascus road experience, no moment of conversion, just a gradual realization that theism is true.
He is not a Christian and still finds the idea of an afterlife difficult to accept, but he's very open to Christian belief and even includes in his book an appendix written by renowned theologian N.T. Wright, with whom he has been in dialogue, in which Wright lays out the case for the resurrection of Jesus, a case that Flew finds impressive. He concludes with this assessment of Wright's argument: "It is absolutely wonderful, absolutely radical, and very powerful."
It will be interesting as the life of this great thinker draws closer to its end if there are not yet one or two further surprises forthcoming.
There Is a God can be ordered at Hearts and Minds bookstore.RLC