What made the most famous atheist philosopher abandon atheism?

I first heard about Anthony Flew while reading a book-debate between Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland and atheist philosopher Kai Nielsen. Flew was one of the respondents, and he impressed me with his honest weighing of the evidence. Things got even more interesting when Flew debated William Lane Craig in front of over 4000 students at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Here’s the audio and video. You can also buy the book!

During the Q&A, an angry atheist asked Dr. Flew why he had not appealed to the speculative oscillating model of the universe in order to escape the force of the kalam argument and the Big Bang. And that’s when Flew said a very strange thing. He said to the questioner that he could not appeal to the oscillating model of the universe because the big bang was the current best theory and the oscillating model was a speculation.

And that’s when I first knew that Flew would abandon atheism. You see, he was not interested in appealing to idle speculations against the evidence in order to justify his atheism. He was willing to go where the evidence led. He was not willing to play games with speculative theories like the oscillating model, the multiverse theory, unobservable aliens seeding life, etc. in order to weasel out of the demands of the moral law.

You can read all about his conversion to theism at Thinking Matters. (H/T MandM)


Two of the most striking things about Antony Flew are his honesty and humility. He is prepared to admit where he has been wrong on a number of philosophical issues, not just on the existence of God. There is a humility and an openness to follow the evidence where it leads that is often lacking in the so-called “new atheists.” He is keenly aware of how easy it is to let preconceived ideas shape the way we view evidence instead of letting the evidence shape our ideas. Therein, he says, “lies the peculiar danger… of dogmatic atheism.”

So, just what evidence has brought about this remarkable turn-around in Flew’s convictions? In his view, modern science spotlights three dimensions of the natural world that point to God. The first of these is the existence of the laws of nature. After spelling out their precision, symmetry, and regularity, he asks how did nature come packaged like this? The point is not just that these laws exist but that they are mathematical. That is, they are not found through direct observation, but are discovered through experiment and mathematical theory. The laws are “written in a cosmic code that scientists must crack.”

[…]The second area of recent scientific study that leads Flew to the God conclusion is the investigation of DNA and the life of the cell. For Flew the key philosophical question here is: how can a universe of mindless matter produce self-replicating life?

[…[The third area of evidence that leads Antony Flew to God is the consensus among scientists about the big-bang theory.

And there are some gems in the article, such as Flew’s comments about atheists who embrace the unobservable multiverse as an alternative to the fine-tuning argument. If you would like to learn more about arguments that work, and responses to atheistic arguments that work, check out my index of Christian arguments and counter arguments, or the debate page for some academic debates.

What Christians should take away from this

Feminized-postmodern-relativist-universalist Christians need to understand what actually works to change people’s minds: arguments and evidence. Converting a person to Christianity can only be done by establishing the truth of Christianity. Any appeal to emotions and felt needs, parental authority, tradition and convention, or threats of eternal damnation do not result in authentic faith.

There are three reasons Christian use such subjective methods instead of the objective methods that worked on Flew. First, most Christians don’t know these arguments. Also, they don’t want to do any studying to learn these arguments. Finally, they are afraid of getting into public debates because they don’t want to be different from others and diminish their own comfort and happiness.

How about we try something different? Something that actually works?

This is all particularly distressing now that a new survey has come out indicating that America could be 25% atheist in 20 years.


12 thoughts on “What made the most famous atheist philosopher abandon atheism?”

  1. You have such fine, fine blog. Every post has useful information for both believer and atheist, IF the reader is interesting in finding evidence upon which to based one’s direction in life. Thank for your continued efforts. You’re a great influence because you’re a positive influence.


  2. “what actually works to change people’s minds: arguments and evidence. Converting a person to Christianity can only be done by establishing the truth of Christianity. ”

    No room for the work of the Holy Spirit there? ;)

    Of note:

    (and I only have recollection no links, but if anyone would like to shoot it down or prop it up, I’d be much obliged)

    Much of the atheist reaction to this is that A. Flew’s sanity flew out the window in his old age. That was the primary impotus of his conversion… certainly nothing to do with truth, no way! Of course, my understanding is that he had no actual signs or symptoms of senility other than this strange new cult fascination, so it must have hit a very localized part of his brain that deals with such things…


    1. lol! that is irritating indeed… sometimes it’s impossible to argue with an atheist… I can’t believe they can’t come up with a better arguement than: “Flew has lost his marbles”.

      Answer to the man’s ideas! Don’t attack him personally! If you do that I can say the same about you! I can call atheists senile because they refuse to see the truth!


  3. You make it out that he converted from Atheism to Christianity, which is wrong. He went from being a Atheist to Agnostic.


    1. Actually, not an agnostic, since he accepts that a supernatural agent designed DNA subsequent to a finely-tuned creation. He accepts the kalam, fine-tuning, and OOL arguments. That means he’s a THEIST – he believes in a montheistic God based on the three scientific evidences that emerged in the last 50 or so years.


  4. Says a great deal about Richard Dawkins that he dismissed Flew as “senile” for changing his mind …


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