November 5, 2007
Doubting Antony Flew
The New York Times questions the competency of the world's most famous ex-atheist.
Over the weekend, the New York Times magazine was busy sowing the seeds of doubt about a potentially bestselling book by philosopher Antony Flew. Flew's books aren't normally bestsellers, but There Is a God is different:
? It's published by HarperOne, a publisher with marketing muscle.
? It is "written in simple language for a mass audience."
? It tells the story of the famous atheist's late in life turn toward belief in God (first reported in 2004).
That's a winning formula for creating a wide readership.
In "The Turning of an Atheist," Mark Oppenheimer raises questions galore without actually proving any of his points. He questions the degree of Flew's involvement in writing the book, the credibility of scientists whose perspective Flew adopted, and even Flew's mental competence at the advanced age of 84. (Oppenheimer suggests that Flew may be "a senescent scholar possibly being exploited by his associates" and raises the possibility that his "memory [is] failing" and that "his powers [are] in decline.")
If Oppenheimer's piece creates enough of a furore, I'm sure HarperOne will see it as publicity they couldn't have purchased at any price.
It would be nearly impossible to answer all of Oppenheimer's questions, especially since direct conversation with Flew (in Oppenheimer's terms) "confuses more than it clarifies."
You'll probably have to bracket Oppenheimer's questions until God's kingdom comes, but in the meantime here are two other articles you may want to read:
"Thinking Straighter" (CT, April 2005). James A. Beverley interviews Antony Flew for Christianity Today.
"Victorian Skeptics on the Road to Damascus" (Christian History and Biography newsletter, 2005). Timothy Larsen recounts other famous atheists who returned to faith late in life.