Continuing discussion.

EPS Blog

This is the blog area for the Evangelical Philosophical Society and its journal, Philosophia Christi.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Christian Friend Reflects on the Death of Former Atheist Apologist, Antony Flew

We are pleased to offer EPS online readers some exclusive comments by Dr. Gary R. Habermas on the life of Professor Antony Flew, who died on April 8, 2010. Habermas is the Distinguished Research Professor and Chairperson in the Department of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University.

In the next issue of Philosophia Christi (Summer 2010), Dr. Habermas will offer an extended reflection on the life of Flew and his friendship with him. In the meantime, we encourage you to consider these comments by Habermas:
In terms of his total body of work, Antony Garrard Newton Flew was arguably the most able philosophical apologist for atheism--ever.  His major works such as God and Philosophy and The Presumption of Atheism are witnesses to his systematic treatment of relevant subjects.  We studied his works in our philosophy classes.  He was a giant.  So it was no surprise that, in recent years, he made the headlines worldwide after announcing that he had come to believe in the existence of God.
In spite of his age—87 years—his life came to a conclusion all too soon.  I was much saddened to hear that Tony Flew had died on April 8.  It’s not that I hadn’t expected it.  I had just spoken at length to his wife only three days beforehand and learned that he was not doing well; his death was expected soon.  When the time came, I realized anew that I had lost a close friend.  It wasn’t so much his “conversion” from atheism.  After all, we had maintained very friendly contact for almost twenty years before that occasion.  I would have felt similarly had he remained an atheist.  Only time will tell the final impact of his life and publications.
Gary R. Habermas
In 2004, Philosophia Christi was privileged to publish an exclusive and extensive interview between Habermas and Flew, which can be read here. The year before, Ashgate published the Does God Exist: The Craig-Flew Debate book, which commented on and further developed the 1998 debate between Antony Flew and former EPS President William Lane Craig.

And then 2006, Flew and his wife came to Southern California to receive the Philip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth at Biola University (Biola is also where the editorial and subscription management office of Philosophia Christi is housed). The award event caught the eye of Richard Dawkins in his 2006 bestseller, The God Delusion, for which he suggested that Biola was taking advantage of Flew. Flew later reviewed (2008) Dawkins' book in Philosophia Christi, and closed his review with these words:
... as to the suggestion that I have been used by Biola University. If the way I was welcomed by the students and the members of the faculty whom I met on my short stay in Biola amounted to being used then I can only express my regret that at the age of 85 I cannot reasonably hope for another visit to this institution.
Finally, in 2007, Habermas reviewed There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, which can be read here.

Habermas and Flew debated about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, such as in their 1987 Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate and then in their 2005 Resurrected? An Atheist and Theist Dialogue. For videos of these and other debates between Flew and Habermas, visit www.garyhabermas.com.

Further coverage about Flew's life and work can be found here:

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Antony Flew's trenchant response to Richard Dawkins & 'The God Delusion'

In 'Flew Speaks Out: Professor Flew Reviews The God Delusion' Professor Antony Flew responds in trenchant terms to what he calls 'that monster footnote [concerning Flew on page 82] to what I am inclined to describe as that monster book' The God Delusion (Bantam, 2006).

According to this new article by the 85 year old ex-atheist, published July 19th 2008 by UCCF's excellent apologetics website www.bethinking.org, Richard Dawkins is 'a secularist bigot'.

The fault of Dawkins as an academic, says Flew: 'was his scandalous and apparently deliberate refusal to present the doctrine which he appears to think he has refuted in its strongest form.'

Flew's 2004 announcement that at the age of 81, after a noted professional lifetime of atheism, he had come to believe in the existence of God, really set the cat among the pigeons. Ad hominem accusations of hedging his bets with respect to an afterlife that Flew (under the influence of Gilbert Ryle) still doesn't believe even theoretically possible were bandied about by ill-informed detractors such as British humanist's Roy Hattersley and Richard Dawkins. Indeed, at a recent conference on the resurrection in London, Flew stated (before a mainly Christian audience) from a platform shared with Professor Gary R. Habermas and Bishop N.T. Wright, that he didn't believe in any kind of life after death, including resurrection. Hardly the words of a man who is either hedging his bets or easily swayed by Christian friends! As Flew writes in There Is a God (Harper One, 2007): 'I do not think of myself as surviving death. For the record, then, I want to lay to rest all those rumors that have me placing Pascalian bets.' (p. 2.)

Indeed, Richard Dawkins slings several criticisms in Flew's direction within a large footnotes on page 82 of The God Delusion (Bantam, 2006), none of which deal with the substance of Flew's Deism, or the philosophical arguments that persuade him thereof. Instead, Dawkins says that in his 'old age' Flew, whom he depreciates as not being a 'great philosopher' like Bertrand Russell, has adopted belief in 'some sort of deity'. Dawkins also attacks Flew for what he calls 'his ignominious decision to accept, in 2006, the "Philip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth', for which he notes 'The awarding university is BIOLA, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. One can't help wondering whether Flew realizes that he is being used.'

Having responded in several venues to the erroneous suggestions that his change of mind is a 'Pascalian Wager' in the face of death, and that his book There Is a God was basically written by rather than with help from Roy Abraham Varghese, Flew now responds directly to Dawkins. (By the way, I personally read the hand-typed article sent by Flew to a mutual contact at UCCF for publication, so I hope we can leave conspiracy theories where they belong.) Flew is clearly deeply upset with Dawkins, on both an academic and a personal level, and he doesn't mince words, accusing him of an 'insincerity of academic purpose.' Dawkins 'is not interested in the truth as such,' laments Flew, 'but is primarily concerned to discredit an ideological opponent by any available means.'

On receiving the Philip E. Johnson award, Flew notes that: 'Dawkins obviously assumes (but refrains from actually saying) that [being a specifically Christian institution] is incompatible with producing first class academic work in every department...' Moreover, as to the suggestion that he was 'used' by Biola, Flew clearly doesn't think the accusation worth dignifying: 'If the way I was welcomed by the students and members of faculty whom I met in my short stay at Biola amounted to being used then I can only express my regret that at the age of 85 I cannot reasonably hope for another visit to this institution.'


Recommended Reading

Antony Flew with Roy Abraham Varghese, There Is a God (Harper One, 2007)

Antony Flew, 'Flew Speaks Out: Professor Flew Reviews The God Delusion'

Gary R. Habermas & Antony Flew, 'My Prilgrimage from Atheism to Theism'

Gary R. Habermas, 'Antony Flew's Deism Revisited'

Roy Abraham Varghese, 'Letter to the Editor, Magazine, New York Times'

Benjamin Wiker, 'Exclusive Flew Interview'

Peter S. Williams, 'A Change of Mind for Antony Flew'

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