Skip to comments.Atheist's turn toward God was a 4-year process, friend says
Posted on 12/26/2004 2:12:39 PM PST by protest1
Atheist's turn toward God was a 4-year process, friend says Dec 22, 2004 By David Roach
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Christian apologist Gary Habermas had just finished debating noted British atheist Antony Flew about the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The two friends rode an elevator together as they left the Californian university where the debate was held in January 2002. As Habermas exited the elevator, he extended his hand through the open door. "Tony," he said, "this is it for now. I enjoyed talking with you. When you become a Christian, I want to be the first one to know."
Flew laughed and responded, "I think you deserve that right."
The doors closed.
Most observers of the debate never thought that Flew would take steps toward Christianity. The former professor at Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele and Reading universities in Britain had argued against the existence of God for more than 50 years, publishing such books as "Atheistic Humanism" and "Darwinian Evolution."
But in December 2004 the unexpected happened when Flew took a step toward Christianity, announcing that scientific evidence led him to a belief in God.
Habermas was among the first people he told.
Habermas, chairman of the department of philosophy and theology at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., had known that Flew was reconsidering his position since the fall of 2000 when Flew sent Habermas a letter in which the atheist acknowledged the strength of arguments for theism and Christianity.
"In September 2000, that's about the earliest indication that I had that he was changing," Habermas said in an interview with Baptist Press. "He wrote me a long letter, quite an incredible letter, where at several points he conceded the evidence for [theism and Christianity]."
When Habermas received the letter, he knew something was happening in Flew's life.
"I distinctly remember reading that letter when it came in the mail and thinking, 'Wow, something huge is happening with this guy,'" Habermas said.
Over a period of three years the two scholars corresponded about God. By January 2003 Flew began considering arguments from the "intelligent design" movement and was on the verge of belief in God.
Intelligent design is a theory arguing that some features of the natural world are best explained as the products of an intelligent cause rather than naturalistic evolution.
"He told me he was really rethinking theism and had corresponded with [naturalistic scientist Richard] Dawkins and was putting the ID arguments up against what Dawkins was saying and trying to compare the arguments," Habermas said. "And he was going back and forth as to whether he should be a theist or not."
By early 2004, Flew completed his transition to theism and indicated his change of mind to Habermas in a telephone conversation.
When media reports revealed Flew's belief in God in December 2004, some skeptics argued that the former atheist had changed his mind suddenly. But Habermas said such allegations are clearly incorrect in light of the four-year dialogue he had with Flew.
"The implications that he's just recently arrived at theism ... and that he hasn't had time to think through this aren't correct," Habermas said. "The first sign that I've seen of him changing goes back to the fall of 2000. So he's been thinking about these things for four years."
Flew currently holds a position known as deism -- the belief that God created the universe but is not actively involved in people's lives today, Habermas said. Because deism is traditionally a "tenuous" position, Flew could move closer to traditional Christianity in the days ahead, he said.
"Deism is a very tenuous position, and deistic belief is a short-lived movement in the history of philosophy over the last few centuries," Habermas said. "One reason deism is a troubled position is that it usually moves one way or the other."
Flew could revert back to atheism, Habermas noted. "Still, he has made a number of statements to me indicating that he is open, even to revelation," Habermas said.
"Three weeks ago I received a letter from him where he said that he was rereading my arguments for the resurrection and was very impressed with them,'" he said.
Despite his interest in the resurrection, however, Flew remains far from belief in Christianity, Habermas said.
"He's told me on many occasions that he was impressed with the arguments for the resurrection ... and he says it's the best miracle claim in the history of religions," Habermas recounted. "So he's impressed with them. Enough to believe? I don't think so, certainly not right now."
The dialogue with Flew highlights the need for Christians to engage non-believers in meaningful, caring friendships, Habermas said. Christian scholars in particular should bear in mind the need to build relationships with non-believing scholars, he said.
There are "benefits of carrying on a genuine friendship with people who do not agree with you on things," Habermas said. "I mean a genuine friendship where you're there for them in season and out of season. You're there for them when they're having bad days. You can tell them things that are on your mind. ... It's not connected to whether the people convert or not."
Christians should rejoice that Flew has adopted a belief in God but remember that mere belief in God falls short of the belief in Jesus Christ that Scripture requires for eternal life, Habermas said.
"His deism provides no relief for dying because he doesn't believe in life after death," he said. "It's not ... an 81-year-old who is embracing God so that he can come out on the good side when he dies. If you said that to him, he would say, 'I'm just going where the evidence leads.'"
An interview conducted by Habermas exploring Flew's conversion to belief in God will be published in the winter 2004 issue of Philosophia Christi, the journal of the Evangelical Philosophical Society.
I knew he was an atheist from his kids. He was in ICU long enough for me to get to know his family.
Can't substantiate, but remember hearing that Stalin did that. Sat up, cursed looking upward, then laid back and died.
I would seriously consider the intelligent design concept if it also had a hypothesis for the origin of the designer himself.
it takes faith to believe in miracles that you don't personally witness
Precisely. I am enormously sympathetic toward Christians and Christianity. Particularly in their opposition to the modern homogenizing State. However, from a personal point of view, I just can not accept the concept of the supernatural in any form whatever.
Nobody said that but you. You built the strawdog, you knock it down.
Gotcha. What exactly was this science Flew found indicated the existence of God?
Why don't you read the article? Or better yet Google Flew and Theism and find out why he thinks the science leads him to "believe" in a Creator?
Can you handle all that without overdosing on condescension and hubris?
> Anthony Flew has been led to theism by science.
Actually, the article said that he has been led to theism by Creationism, which is to science what astrology is to astronomy.
> Ergo, those who agree with God are more sane.
Stalin would be proud.
At least you're consistent, consistently wrong.
You're knocking a quote from the article?
You continue to behave oddly.
Here's what YOU said:
Anthony Flew has been led to theism by science. That is the the significance of one mans life long advocacy for atheism morphing into theism. He "followed the science" where it led him.
Here was my response:
Ah, so this is about science proving theism. Gotcha. What exactly was this science Flew found indicated the existence of God?
Did I misconstrue the point of your post above, where you said Flew was led to theism by science and followed the science? What was your intended message, exactly, if it was not that? I said "Gotcha," because I didn't know why you were so stuck on this Flew person being a theist, then I THOUGHT you'd explained it. However, now I'm not sure I understand the whoop-de-do, since your point evidently ISN'T that science proves theism.
I WILL read the article. Hopefully the author of THAT writing will be less insulting than you in explaining Flew's reasoning and what HE gets out of it.
Save for later.
Jesus said, "I tell you that in the same way there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."
Christians apparently are enjoined to share this attitude.
"'If you said that to him, he would say, "I'm just going where the evidence leads."'"
Christ passes all understanding. I don't think you become a Christian by examining evidence.
Hope springs eternal.
BTW, repeating what we wrote simply clarifies that you jumped the gun. "Anthony Flew has been led to theism by science" is not analagous to "science proving theism".
Your lack of a spell checker puzzles me.
If you are going to use scientific methodology, do so.
Formulate explicit predictions and do what you can to test them under controlled conditions.
You continue to simply disregard the facts. I gave you a quote from the article. Flews position is that his take on the science leads him to "believe" in a deistic God.
I don't really know why you're arguing that point, it is Flew's opinion. That you have a different one has no bearing on the matter.
This direct quote from Antony Flew should clear things up.
Well, he's not seen the light quite yet, but he is headed in the right direction.
Luk 15:32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
Feel free to answer my questions in your next post.
By the way, the interview is here:
It was good reading, better at explaining Flew's thought process than this prefatory article.
> Flews position is that his take on the science leads him to "believe" in a deistic God.
This is what the article says: "By January 2003 Flew began considering arguments from the "intelligent design" movement and was on the verge of belief in God."
Since Creationism is manifestly NOT science (feel free to produce the requisite testable aspects of it), then by definition Flew is not being led to God via science. He may in fact be led to God by what he has been bamboozled into *thinking* is science, of course. Many people falsely belive that Creationism is scientific, just as many people belive that healing crystals, pyramid power and Ascended Masters from Atlantis are science-based. But believing does not make something so.