“Ready Or Not, Here I Come”

The title of this post is the line we used when I was a child as part of the game Hide and Seek. The “ready or not” part was meant for the those running about looking for the perfect place to hide. But it dawned on me as I was doing a little research for this article, that portion of the line perfectly describes the human condition at the point of death. Ready or not, here I come.

And why am I writing about death? I learned a week or so ago that deist and former atheist Anthony Flew passed away earlier this year. Somehow I’d missed the news. Sadly, from what the public knows, Mr. Flew’s new-found belief in an intelligent creator never translated into belief in a personal Savior. In fact he said as late as 2007, when his book There Is a God (you can read my posts related to the book here and here) was published, he had no hope for eternity:

Mr. Flew, in a statement issued through his publisher, reaffirmed the views expressed in the book, which did not include belief in an afterlife.

“I want to be dead when I’m dead and that’s an end to it,” he told The Sunday Times of London. “I don’t want an unending life. I don’t want anything without end.”
– from “Antony Flew, Philosopher and Ex-Atheist, Dies at 87,” By William Grimes, Published in the NYTimes: April 16, 2010

Whether Mr. Flew wanted an afterlife or not, he has one. Whether he was ready for it or not, he went from this life to the next. And so must we all, either by death or by God’s power to take us to heaven at the return of His Son.

But my thoughts about death aren’t in relationship to Mr. Flew alone. The fact is, another well-known atheist, Christopher Hitchens—he of stage-four metastasized esophageal cancer—is facing death. You may remember I wrote an article related to him a few weeks ago. While he can, Mr. Hitchens continues to write, making his views of God and the afterlife plain. From an article last month:

As a terrified, half-aware imbecile, I might even scream for a priest at the close of business, though I hereby state while I am still lucid that the entity thus humiliating itself would not in fact be “me.” (Bear this in mind, in case of any later rumors or fabrications.)
– from “Unanswered Prayers,” Vanity Fair

At this point, I thought, maybe what Mr. Hitchens needs is to live. If God miraculously heals the man, what will he do with that? Even he apparently has had some thoughts about such a thing, though I don’t believe he’s really considered surviving cancer by an instantaneous healing.

Later, in that same article, this:

Suppose I ditch the principles I have held for a lifetime, in the hope of gaining favor at the last minute? I hope and trust that no serious person would be at all impressed by such a hucksterish choice.

Sadly, Mr. Hitchens only demonstrates his lack of understanding of God. Could he possible think that the Creator of the universe with be impressed with some last ditch effort to gain His favor? To say such a thing makes it plain Mr. Hitchens doesn’t understand the first thing about God, no matter how often he has debated other Christians.

Instead, he is entrenched in his belief that the spiritual does not exist:

It’s no fun to appreciate to the full [because of the ravages on his body of cancer and its treatment] the truth of the materialist proposition that I don’t have a body, I am a body.
-from “Miss Manners And the Big C,” Vanity Fair

With such a position, Mr. Hitchens is declaring with Antony Flew that he wants to be dead when he’s dead, making it abundantly clear that he is not ready to enter the spiritual world. But whether he’s ready or not, he’s coming. Which makes me sad.

Published in: on November 11, 2010 at 3:21 pm  Comments (11)  
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God? Don’t Confuse Me with Facts

When I was 17, I first came across the humorous statement “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts.” The saying was on one of those gag post cards with others such as Plan ahead, the latter word spilling onto the side of the page because there wasn’t enough room on the line. Funny stuff, until you encounter actual, real life circumstances that reflect this kind of irony.

Unfortunately, I think there is much of the don’t-confuse-me-with-facts thinking in regard to Antony Flew’s latest and last book There Is a God. Unsurprisingly, a New York Times article by Mark Oppenheimer is leading the way for those who do not want to believe that an atheist could actually follow the evidence and conclude there is a god.

In Oppenheimer’s article, he lays out two basic insinuations—certainly not proofs—to explain the existence of There Is a God. First he suggests the “senescent scholar” is just too old to think straight any more.

With his powers in decline, Antony Flew, a man who devoted his life to rational argument, has become a mere symbol, a trophy in a battle fought by people whose agendas he does not fully understand.

Ouch! Poor man. Some people in their 80s and even in their 90s show little mental deterioration (see this article about a speaking engagement last week by 97-year old Coach John Wooden about whom one student said “He’s 97, but he has the sharpest mind I’ve ever been around”), but unfortunately some decline. Has this happened to Flew?

I read an interview by a noted Catholic thinker, Dr. Benjamin Wiker, conducted with Flew and posted October 30 after the release of the book. Dr. Wiker is a Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, holds a Ph.D. in Theological Ethics from Vanderbilt University, and has taught at Marquette University, St. Mary’s University, and Thomas Aquinas College (CA). You can read the relatively short interview here. In Flew’s statements I didn’t detect anything suggesting the kind of decline Oppenheimer implies. Here’s a sample:

The second [reason for abandoning atheism] was my own insight that the integrated complexity of life itself – which is far more complex than the physical Universe – can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source. I believe that the origin of life and reproduction simply cannot be explained from a biological standpoint despite numerous efforts to do so. With every passing year, the more that was discovered about the richness and inherent intelligence of life, the less it seemed likely that a chemical soup could magically generate the genetic code. The difference between life and non-life, it became apparent to me, was ontological and not chemical. The best confirmation of this radical gulf is Richard Dawkins’ comical effort to argue in The God Delusion that the origin of life can be attributed to a “lucky chance.” If that’s the best argument you have, then the game is over. No, I did not hear a Voice. It was the evidence itself that led me to this conclusion.

Interestingly, Oppenheimer admits further along in his New York Times article that Flew informed him of a medical condition that would affect their interview:

When we began the interview, he warned me, with merry self-deprecation, that he suffers from “nominal aphasia,” or the inability to reproduce names.

Of course, not remembering certain names, especially when they are thrown at him out of context, does not mean that Flew can’t follow evidence to it’s logical conclusion.

Oppenheimer’s second stratagem, then, was to point to the evangelical [read poor scholarship, biased point of view] influences on Flew and the undue leverage of his co-author, Roy Abraham Varghese, who he persisted in calling a “ghost-writer” though his name is on the cover of the book.

“There was stuff he [Flew] had written before, and some of that was adapted to this,” Varghese said. “There is stuff he’d written to me in correspondence, and I organized a lot of it. And I had interviews with him. So those three elements went into it. Oh, and I exposed him to certain authors and got his views on them. We pulled it together. And then to make it more reader-friendly, HarperCollins had a more popular author go through it.”

So even the ghostwriter had a ghostwriter

On no more evidence than that Flew spent time with theists, Oppenheimer concludes

Intellectuals, even more than the rest of us, like to believe that they reach conclusions solely through study and reflection. But like the rest of us, they sometimes choose their opinions to suit their friends rather than the other way around. Which means that Flew is likely to remain a theist, for just as the Christians drew him close, the atheists gave him up for lost … At a time when belief in God is more polarizing than it has been in years, when all believers are being blamed for religion’s worst excesses, Antony Flew has quietly switched sides, just following the evidence as it has been explained to him, blissfully unaware of what others have at stake.
-emphasis mine

Nothing from the interview with Dr. Wiker shows anything of this dottering man just glad to upend his life’s work because a few “Christians” were kind to him. (From Oppenheimer: “These Christians were kind and attentive, and they always seemed to have the latest research.” [Implication: And of course, we know THAT could never be true.)

The fact is, Dr. Flew has become a deist. This thinker followed the evidence and has concluded that there is an intelligent designer. Unfortunately, too many whose minds have already been made up don’t want to be confused with facts.

There Is a God by Antony Flew

Antony Flew is one of the leading philosophers of the Twentieth Century. And an atheist. Or at least he used to be. In 2004 the 81-year-old scholar admitted publicly that he now believes there is a god. He still denies anything like special revelation—the actual communication of God with Man—but he “followed the evidence,” and found the arguments for intelligent design compelling.

This rather shocking about-face was reported in various news media, but a lengthy interview exploring Flew’s beliefs is available at Biola University’s Biola News & Communications.

There Is a GodThe book, There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (HarperOne, 2007) by Antony Flew and Roy Abraham Varghese, released last month. Interestingly, I heard about it from Steve Laube at the ACW Conference in Anaheim the week the book came out. Little did I suspect I would be blogging about it in a matter of weeks.

Actually when Mir left her comment to yesterday’s post, I was trying to remember Flew’s name. Then, lo and behold, on the ACFW email loop, one of the writers mentioned the book! Well, I don’t believe in coincidences—I see God’s hand in bringing little details together. So I set out to learn a little about Flew.

First, I was surprised that his revelation came three years ago. I vaguely remember reading the headline of an article about his change of mind (clearly not yet a change of heart) in my local paper. Nothing more until Steve Laube told us the interesting tale of how he became Flew’s agent. Even then I didn’t realize this “news” was not new.

Of course, the book release is stirring up more conversation about the subject, and it is interesting. On one site, evidently visited predominantly by atheists, the reaction ranged from distain to relief. Distain because, surely if Antony Flew was really such an important, leading atheist, THEY would know who he was! Relief, because Flew may now believe in god, but he clearly does not believe in the Christian God!

In regards to the first point, I admit I didn’t know who Flew was either. Here’s the intro of his entry in Wikipedia:

Professor Antony Garrard Newton Flew (born February 11, 1923) is a British philosopher. Known for several decades as a prominent atheist, Flew first publicly expressed deist views in 2004

Evidently his prominence is in academia. He produced forty books or pamphlets in his field, a number specifically dealing with the subject of God’s existence.

That some other people came up with the idea that there is no god, apart from any apparent study or philosophical base is more telling of the weakness of their belief system, I would think. Their ignorance of such an influential thinker would be tantamount to my saying I’ve never heard of Charles Spurgeon or J. I. Packer or A. W. Tozer.

Regarding their “relief” that at least he doesn’t believe in the Christian God, I at first found it amusing, until I realized how that attitude reflected such a clear rejection of God Himself.

Much like Flew’s own rejection of God. The man was raised in a God-fearing home but turned to atheism because he couldn’t accept the idea of a good, wise, all powerful creator who would consign much of humanity to hell. In other words, he can’t resolve God’s goodness with His justice. My belief is, the resolution lies with His mercy.

Published in: on November 7, 2007 at 12:21 pm  Comments (21)  
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