What I Learned from an Atheist!

“There is a God” is the title of an excellent new book by the internationally known former atheist, Antony Flew. The book chronicles his journey into and from atheism over his long and influential life. Years ago I remember Norman Geisler saying that Antony Flew was the most formidable debater for atheism.

Well, I have learned–actually been reminded of–some things from this former atheist, which I think are worth mentioning.

First, I am reminded of the value of apologetics: I suppose the debate over the value of apologetics and whether one should be a presuppositional or classical apologist will continue; however, reading this book reinforces the practical reality that apologetics do have an impact upon those who are open to objective truth. Flew makes it clear that his move from atheism to theism is not because of an experience but from “following the evidence wherever it leads”. While I do not believe one can come to God based on mere objective evidence, one can know that the most plausible answer for life is a supreme being. In fact, Flew describes this being in terms that are quite biblical.

Second, I am reminded of the value of persistence: His pilgrimage has been over many decades of debating and interacting with Christian theologians and apologists. Consequently, in our age of shunning working with anyone who isn’t a quick convert, it is good to be reminded that for some, and maybe even many, the move to faith in God is a journey spanning many experiences and decades. Consequently, we should be willing to engage people over the long term and not give up if they don’t immediately respond positively. Remember that Flew not only did not respond positively, but actually wrote more reasons why not to believe in the existence of God.

Third, I am reminded of the value of graciousness: Flew speaks kindly of several Christian apologists and theologians that he debated and engaged for many years. Even though they held opposing positions on the existence of God, they did so without being personally offensive. Consequently, regardless of the hostility of our adversary, we should treat them as one who is created in the image of God, even if they reject that truth. For one day, they may come to appreciate the truthfulness of those courtesies and be open to further insights from Christians.

Fourth, I am reminded that not all atheists are alike: Flew is one who “follows the evidence” regardless where it leads. This is quite different from atheists who are only open to material answers to life’s questions, even if they are less plausible than metaphysical answers.

Flew claims to now be a deist; however, he actually goes further than that; first, he realizes that based on reason and empirical evidence, Christianity is the only religion that one has to deal with; second, he also makes it very clear that, although he has not had an experience with God, he is open to an experience with God because he describes God as omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient; and he knows that God is quite capable of making Himself known to an individual on an experiential level.

I pray that Flew will come to know Christ before it is too late. I pray for those who have a friendly relationship with Him, and most of all, I pray that God’s Holy Spirit will convict Flew and he will believe.

Ronnie W. Rogers