I am privileged to be one of the general editors of the upcoming Dictionary of Christianity and Science (Zondervan, April 2017). Paul Copan, Tremper Longman, Michael Strauss, and I–along with our excellent team at Zondervan–have endeavored to create a reference work that tackles the most important terms, concepts, people, and debates at the intersection of Christianity and science, from an evangelical perspective. Over the next few weeks I’ll be featuring sneak-preview excerpts from the Dictionary, available exclusively here at the CAA blog.
I remember reading Antony Flew’s article “Theology and Falsification” as an undergraduate in an introduction to philosophy class. At that time, back in the early 90’s, Flew was still known as one of the most prolific and influential atheists in the world. One thing I appreciated about Flew was that he was willing to engage in civil dialogue with Christian scholars–unlike many who wear the atheist mantle today. One of those scholars was Gary Habermas, a professor of philosophy at Liberty University. As far back as 1987, Flew and Habermas were publishing transcripts of their debates on the resurrection of Jesus. Flew and Habermas engaged in a number of debates and dialogues, and developed a lasting friendship. When it came time to find a writer for our entry on Flew for the Dictionary of Christianity and Science, it was only natural to ask Gary Habermas. Dr. Habermas’s insightful and appreciative article on Flew appears below.
FLEW, ANTONY G. N. Arguably the skeptical philosopher who wrote more serious works defending atheism than any other scholar in history, Antony Flew (1923 – 2010) was born in London in 1923. Though he was the son of a conservative Methodist minister, Flew became an atheist during his midteen years.
Flew’s education included an MA from St John’s College, Oxford University, where he studied under the well-known philosopher Gilbert Ryle, and a DLit from the University of Keele. Flew frequently attended the famous Socratic Club founded in Oxford by C. S. Lewis, a scholar who was always willing to dialogue publicly. In fact, Flew was in attendance in February 1948 when Lewis and philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe participated in their celebrated debate.
Not long after completing his MA, Flew read before the Socratic Club what was to become one of his best-known and often-reprinted philosophical works, “Theology and Falsification” (1950). Among his some 30 volumes, other influential publications included Hume’s Philosophy of BeliefGod and Philosophy (1966), and The Presumption of Atheism (1976).
During his career, Flew taught at Christ Church (Oxford University), as well as the universities of Aberdeen, Keele, and Reading in the United Kingdom, plus York in Toronto, and elsewhere. Ever the philosopher, Flew’s interests migrated somewhat later in his career due to current events to political and moral philosophy, of which he seemed never to grow weary of addressing.
In 2004 Flew made the blockbuster announcement that he had come to believe in the existence of God, reporting that he made the decision after being inclined during his entire career to follow the evidence wherever it led. Among his reasons for doing so, he listed in order the force of Aristotle’s metaphysics (see Aristotle) and some recent tenets of Intelligent Design (Flew and Habermas 2004).
The news shocked much of the philosophical community, but especially skeptics, among whom Flew had understandably been a hero. He also surprised those who thought that he had long employed an a priori rejection of theism. Then in 2007 he coauthored the volume There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (Flew and Varghese 2007), which included many details set within the story of his career.
Flew never embraced any revelatory views, at least publicly, and identified his view variously as that of theism or deism. Yet he fascinatingly reported that he was open to divine contact (see Flew 2007, 158, 213; Flew also affirmed to me that he was fully open to this possibility). Flew died in 2010.
REFERENCES AND RECOMMENDED READING
Flew, Antony, and Gary R. Habermas. 2004. “My Pilgrimage from Atheism
to Theism: A Discussion between Antony Flew and Gary Habermas.”
Philosophia Christi 6 (2): 197 – 211.
Flew, Antony, with Roy Abraham Varghese. 2007. There Is a God: How the
World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. New York: Harper.
Taken from Dictionary of Christianity and Science by Paul Copan, Tremper Longman III, Christopher L. Reese, and Michael G. Strauss, General Editors. Copyright © 2017 by Paul Copan, Tremper Longman III, Christopher L. Reese, Michael G. Strauss. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.
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