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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, February 16 2023

Answers from a famous ex-atheist about God

Dr. Antony Flew was an Oxford professor who spent 50 years teaching philosophy and constructing arguments to support an atheistic point of view. When he realized a growing body of scientific evidence pointed to a theistic explanation of the universe, he came to realize the standard atheistic explanations were untenable.

Answers from a famous ex-atheist about God
Photo of Dr. Antony Flew, lived from 1923 to 2010, (Wikimedia Commons).
by Mario Sieglie

Dr Flew had basked in the fame of academic circles for half a century and written more than 30 books, many of which were viewed as hallmarks of atheistic thought, based on the premise God did not exist. Then, unexpectedly, he announced he had come to believe in God, subjecting himself to a withering hail of scorn and criticism from his colleagues and the secular press.

Prior to his death in 2010, Dr. Flew published a book in 2007 entitled There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, explaining why he had reversed his long-held atheistic position. In his book he mentioned the principle that had guided his career was: Follow the evidence wherever it leads, no matter how unpopular that may be.

During his earlier years he was convinced scientific data and philosophical reasonings pointed towards the fact that God did not exist. But from the 1980s on, he realized mounting evidence and knowledge of the universe indicated the reality of a Creator God. He then reluctantly reassessed his beliefs, admitting, “that the universe was brought into existence by an infinite Intelligence” (There Is a God, p. 88).

He offered three lines of evidence that led him to his belief in God. “Three domains of scientific inquiry have been especially important for me…The first is …How did the laws of nature come to be?” (p. 91). “One of the most enigmatic aspects of the laws of nature is that these invisible forces act on matter and energy, but are not matter or energy themselves. For them to work, they had to be in place before matter and energy existed…To believe all these intricate laws that act in unison somehow appeared together at just the right time, with just the right force, without some organizing Intellect behind them, defies logic” (p. 96).

So, although it may not be well known, a number of cosmologists and physicists have admitted that the orderly laws of the universe point to something bigger and grander than the universe itself! Dr. Flew quoted many of these scientists, like the famous cosmologist Paul Davies (pp. 111 and 112).

His second line of evidence for a belief in God has to do with the great difference that exists between life and non-life. He maintained that since the “first living matter already possessed the capacity to reproduce itself genetically…there was no satisfactory naturalistic explanation for such a phenomenon” (p. 123). Pondering this question, Flew came to the conclusion that a self-replicating living thing being produced by chance from non-life utterly defies all odds, especially since it also carries an additional system that permits it to adapt to a changing environment to improve its chances of survival.

“The philosophical question that has not been answered in origin-of-life studies is this: How can a universe of mindless matter produce beings with intrinsic ends, self-replication capabilities, and ‘coded chemistry’? (p. 124). He concluded: “The only satisfactory explanation for the origin of such ‘end-directed, self-replicating’ life as we see on earth is an infinitely intelligent Mind” (pp. 131-132).

Dr. Flew’s third line of evidence is the very existence of the universe. Did something come from nothing? He originally believed the universe had always existed. If something had always been around, he reasoned, there was no need for a Creator to explain it. But new scientific discoveries made him question this assumption: “…the big-bang theory changed all that. If the universe had a beginning …what produced this beginning…atheists and secular scientists came up with counter arguments for the growing evidence for a universe with a beginning…they devised… escape routes…to preserve the nontheist status quo…[including] the multiverse, numerous universes generated by endless vacuum fluctuation events, and Stephen Hawking’s notion of a self-contained universe” (pp. 135-137).

Dr. Flew found all these arguments to be quite unconvincing, concluding: “The three items of evidence we have considered…the laws of nature, life with its teleological [or purpose-exhibiting] organization, and the existence of the universe—can only be explained in the light of an Intelligence that explains both its own existence and that of the world.” (p. 155).

As Scripture attests: “From the beginning, creation in its magnificence enlightens us to His nature. Creation itself makes His undying power and divine identity clear, even though they are invisible; and it voids the excuses and ignorant claims of these people [who would deny Him]” (Romans 1:20, The Voice).