The Evangelical Philosophical Society has recently published a review of Antony Flew's latest book, There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. The review is entitled Antony Flew's Deism Revisited: A Review Essay on There Is a God and has been written by one of the people who Flew regularly conversed with prior to his change of heart: Dr. Gary Habermas.
The article gives a nice summary of several chapters of the book. I found the following especially interesting:
The second half of the book consists of the long-awaited reasons for Flew's conversion to deism, titled "My Discovery of the Divine." It includes seven chapters on Flew's religious pilgrimage, along with the nature of the universe and life. Two appendices complete the volume.
"A Pilgrimage of Reason" (chapter 4), is the initial contribution to this section. In this essay, Flew chiefly makes the crucial point that his approach to God's existence has been philosophical, not scientific. As he notes, "My critics responded by triumphantly announcing that I had not read a particular paper in a scientific journal or followed a brand-new development relating to abiogenesis." But in so doing, "they missed the whole point." Flew's conversion was due to philosophical arguments, not scientific ones: "To think at this level is to think as a philosopher. And, at the risk of sounding immodest, I must say that this is properly the job of philosophers, not of the scientists as scientists" (90).
Thus, if scientists want to get into the fray, they "will have to stand on their own two philosophical feet" (90). Similarly, "a scientist who speaks as a philosopher will have to furnish a philosophical case. As Albert Einstein himself said, "â€˜The man of science is a poor philosopher'" (91). Flew ends the chapter by pointing out that it is Aristotle who most exemplifies his search: "I was persuaded above all by the philosopher David Conway's argument for God's existence" drawn from "the God of Aristotle" (92).
What Antony Flew's story shows is that a person who -- at least until his conversion -- atheists believed to be a very intelligent person can be convinced by the arguments for the existence of God that God does, in fact, exist.
Am I saying that every atheist using his reason must necessarily come to the same conclusion? No. While I do think and have consistently contended that an objective viewing of the entire case for God (philosophical, historical, scientific) should lead people to conclude that there is a God and that Jesus is that God, rationality isn't that open-and-shut. Two people, looking at the same evidence, can come to vastly different conclusions depending upon their interpretation and acceptance of the data that underlies the premises of the arguments being made.
What I do think that Flew's experience shows is that the truth or falsity of Christianity doesn't rise or fall on a strictly rational argument. It isn't the case that it is irrational to believe the claims of Christianity. Rationality, while it helps to winnow out some truth claims, cannot on its own either establish or defeat the claim that Christianity is true. Rather, there are beliefs, prejudices and assumptions that every single one of us holds that will color the evidence that is used in creating the premises in differing ways. In other words, both skeptics and Christians use rationality and use it properly, but it is the weight and interpretation given to the facts within the premises that are really the basis for the rejection or acceptance of Christainity's claim.
After all, Flew wrote books that were cited by many skeptics as great intellectual rebuttals to the claims of theists that God exists. Now Flew, the same man who wrote those arguments, has changed his viewpoint. Did rationality change? Not at all. Rather, he re-evaluated his underlying presuppositions within his rational framework which had earlier led him to dismiss the theistic claims in favor of the atheist position. What really changed, ultimately, was Flew's willingness to allow for the possibility that God (or the Unmoved Mover) really could account for reality.
I look forward to reading his book.