There are a few things I would like to point out or suggest prior to discussing this book. First, one should read (also available on DVD) The Warren-Flew Debate and Thomas B. Warren’s book Have Atheists Proven There is no God? prior to reading this book. Garland Elkins, close friend and coworker with brother Warren reported:
Brother Warren told me that during his debate with Mr. Flew he walked over to his table and saw that Mr. Flew had a copy of brother Warren’s book entitled, Have Atheists Proved There Is No God? Brother Warren said that the book was very worn around the edges indicating that Mr. Flew had used it much in his studying. Mr. Flew’s change is a devastating blow to atheism. He is to be congratulated and commended for his change. He now needs to learn the identity of the God of the Bible, and obey Him and become a Christian. -- Garland Elkins, “A Renowned Atheist Renounces Atheism,” Yokefellow, Vol. 32, No. 1, January 2005, p. 2.
Second, one will not agree with everything written in Flew’s book, but it is very valuable as will be observed. Third, be aware that while Flew did change his mind about the existence of God, he remained unchanged about his rejection of an afterlife—also called a “mortalist”. Tragic as that is, this provides an important point—he did not make a “deathbed confession or conversion” as some of his atheist associates attempted to excuse or deflect his change with. Tragically, he ran out of time to either recognize or accept the truth on matters pertaining to the afterlife. Sadly, he remained a “mortalist” until April 8, 2010 when he passed away.
Interestingly, when Warren debated Flew, Flew had accepted a debate proposition that was unique among atheists—he affirmed (rather than just denied) that “I Know That God Does Not Exist.” This is far different than other debates with atheists who attempt to shift the burden of proof to the theist. Flew mentions the 1976 debate with Warren although briefly. Flew states Warren “wielded an impressive array of charts and slides.” Interestingly, according to Warren’s assistant Roy Deaver, Warren presented 75 charts during the debate, but he had prepared over 400 detailed charts for the debate. (David Lipe who helped create many of the charts has the total number at 500.)
There are several important matters Flew brings to light in this book that are worth reflecting on.
First, how many times has an atheist challenged theists to produce observable, empirical data or proof via the scientific method for the existence of God? Flew discusses this tactic which was called “logical positivism”. Flew points out that while he was an atheist, he had written a devastating refutation, “Theology and Falsification,” to the man credited with logical positivism, Alfred Ayer. In fact, Ayer himself renounced his work, Language, Truth and Logic, and stated: “Logical positivism died a long time ago. I don’t think much of Language, Truth and Logic is true. I think it is full of mistakes…I think it is full of mistakes which I spent the last fifty years correcting or trying to correct.” (Pages xiv-xv). Also, Albert Einstein’s statement on the demand for empirical data or positivism is intriguing:
I am not a positivist. Positivism states that what cannot be observed does not exist. This conception is scientifically indefensible, for it is impossible to make valid affirmations of what people ‘can’ or ‘cannot’ observe. One would have to say ‘only what we observe exists,’ which is obviously false.” Flew also counters the modern militant atheists of today who attempt to change the subject by pointing out the abuses of adherents of Christianity by stating “But the excesses and atrocities of organized religion have no bearing whatsoever on the existence of God, just as the threat of nuclear proliferation has no bearing on the question of whether E = mc2. (Page xxiv)
Second, Flew points out that some atheists attempt to claim that Einstein was an atheist. Flew records this important and powerful statement by Einstein to the contrary—
I'm not an atheist, and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the language in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves constellations. (Page 99)
Also in the appendix is a critique of some of popular atheists of today by Roy Abraham Varghese who assisted Flew with the writing of this book.
Third, Flew was able to open his mind to omnipotence from the evidence gleamed in the field of science. He states:
Science qua science cannot furnish an argument for God’s existence. But the three items of evidence we have considered in this volume—the laws of nature, life with its teleological organization, and the existence of the universe—can only be explained in light of an Intelligence that explains both its own existence and that of the world. Such a discovery of the Divine does not come through experiments and equations, but through an understanding of the structures they unveil or map. (Page 155)
Or as others have so argued—where there is design, there must be a designer that is at least equal to or greater than the design. This admission by Flew is interesting since in his debate with Warren he attempted to skirt arguments from biology pressed by Warren since he was not a biologist.
Sadly, Flew ran out of time to completely “follow the evidence wherever it leads”, but he did provide a hint to where the evidence was leading him at the writing of his book. He places in the appendix of his book a defense by Anglican N. T. Wright of the revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Flew states of Christianity—
As I have said more than once, no other religion enjoys anything like the combination of a charismatic figure like Jesus and a first-class intellectual like St. Paul. If you’re wanting omnipotence to set up a religion, it seems to me that this is the one to beat! (Page 157)
Hopefully this work will save some atheists or agnostic from wasting time to get their “thinking straight” (a title of another book on logic by Antony Flew—which, perhaps ironically, Thomas B. Warren recommended.) Flew stated he tried to do what Socrates advised--“follow the evidence to wherever it leads”. This work provides an excellent piece of evidence for parents to share with their children. The lesson is obvious—if Flew, a son of a Methodist minister, can go so far away from Christianity as to affirm in public discourse that there is no God, make an academic career as a philosophical atheist, but be turned to theism based on evidence, then the case for God is far stronger than many may have considered. Perhaps it will save some from the thought expressed in the hymn—“’Almost persuaded’ now to believe…’Almost’—but lost!’”