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Meditation 291
Atheist Flew Flown

A discussion on this article has been opened in Debate and Discourse. Also, Meditation 293 also looks at Flew's ideas. Please feel free to add your thoughts to the exchange of views via the contact page.

There have been reports that 81 year old Professor Antony Flew, a leading British philosopher and atheist for over 50 years is reported to have discovered God. I first heard about this while watching Jay Leno, who quipped:

"Of course he believes in God now. He's 81 years old."[1]

I have to admit I laughed at that. But has Flew really discovered God?

The reports are based on an interview with Professor Flew and Dr. Gary Habermas published in the Winter 2004 issue of “Philosophia Christi” the journal of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Following is the opening of the interview:

HABERMAS: Tony, you recently told me that you have come to believe in the existence of God. Would you comment on that?

FLEW: Well, I don’t believe in the God of any revelatory system, although I am open to that. But it seems to me that the case for an Aristotelian God who has the characteristics of power and also intelligence, is now much stronger than it ever was before. And it was from Aristotle that Aquinas drew the materials for producing his five ways of, hopefully, proving the existence of his God. Aquinas took them, reasonably enough, to prove, if they proved anything, the existence of the God of the Christian revelation. But Aristotle himself never produced a definition of the word “God,” which is a curious fact. But this concept still led to the basic outline of the five ways. It seems to me, that from the existence of Aristotle’s God, you can’t infer anything about human behaviour. So what Aristotle had to say about justice (justice, of course, as conceived by the Founding Fathers of the American republic as opposed to the “social” justice of John Rawls) was very much a human idea, and he thought that this idea of justice was what ought to govern the behaviour of individual human beings in their relations with others.

HABERMAS: Once you mentioned to me that your view might be called Deism. Do you think that would be a fair designation?

FLEW: Yes, absolutely right. What Deists, such as the Mr. Jefferson who drafted the American Declaration of Independence, believed was that, while reason, mainly in the form of arguments to design, assures us that there is a God, there is no room either for any supernatural revelation of that God or for any transactions between that God and individual human beings.

Frankly, this does not seem to be all that big a deal. A leading atheist has become a deist, but most certainly not a theist. He has not switched to belief in the god of any major religion, he has not become a believer in the afterlife, heaven, hell, or judgement day, nor a deity who interferes in the daily operation of the universe on a major or minor scale. He has simply decided that the argument for design probably has validity, and there must be an intelligent prime cause.

I think he's wrong, of course, for professing belief in a deistic god. However, in my view, that is just the most probable form of a deity in the unlikely event there is one.

 

Footnote:

  1. Leno's intention, I'm fairly certain, was to suggest the cause for a change in mind was approaching mortality, not senility.