Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I'm Tony Flew and I approve this message

This links to the kind of person who denies that there are any real ex-atheists. This is the sort of atheist who really does need to debunk the Flew story, whose position is threatened by it. It shouldn't be necessary to defend the claim that there are ex-atheists, and it shouldn't be necessary to defend the claim that there are atheists. But I did defend the latter claim on this blog a couple of years back. I'm not claiming that atheists in general are threatened by this and need to debunk the account. I'm talking about the idea that atheism is a slam dunk, that belief in God is a "delusion", a "mental virus", etc. You know the type. There are plenty of atheists who are not of this type. Flew wasn't when he was an atheist. Mackie did call theism a miracle, but he did take theistic arguments from people like Swinburne seriously. William Rowe would be another example, as would be Keith Parsons and Jeff Lowder.

Of course, we don't need Flew to refute this position. People like Peter van Inwagen, Norman Kretzmann, and Alan Donagan will do just fine. As does C. S. Lewis, although, of course, he was never a real atheist, right?

I don't understand what is "ghoulish" about rejoicing in even a very elderly man coming to believe something that I believe to be both true and important. Some Christians, going way back to the mid-80s when no one thought Flew was senile, have had an affection for the man and thought there was potential for him to change his mind. Even back then, I thought he was more popular amongst Christians than amongst atheists. I knew atheists who thought it terribly gauche of Flew to debate the existence of God in a football stadium. And going to Liberty University to debate the Resurrection?? Tsk. Tsk.

Is anyone seriously claiming that theism is true because Flew says so? Where is this argument given? By whom? Just so you know, that would be a bad argument. If the arguments in the book don't work, Flew's imprimatur won't save them. It will be interesting to see what people like Swinburne, or Robin Collins, who deal with these design-type arguments, think of what Flew has written. I mention these people because they are sympathetic to the overall project of defending the overall line of argument but may say that the arguments are inadequately constructed.

Has there been any reason given for supposing that this has been advertised as anything but a co-authored book? Last I heard, it was advertised as a co-authored book. I'm told that Flew read, and approved, ten drafts. Do we have any good reason to suppose that this isn't true? If Varghese is lying about this it would be misconduct. What does Flew have to do, go on national television and say "I'm Antony Flew and I approve this message? "

Do short-term memory problems that go with advancing age entail that his rethinking of the issue of theism is somehow not fully reflective? Were the quotes that are supposed to be so embarrassing to the conversion story taken in correct context? He is quoted as saying some embarrassing things.

To my mind, anyone who thinks that the Oppenheimer piece is fair and balanced is being credulous. Where's my George Strait tape--put on Oceanfront Property. Having said this I would have to say that it doesn't follow that he's wrong, but he's not fair and balanced.

I didn't buy Flew's arguments when he was an atheist, I may not buy them when he becomes a theist. You may think poorly of them. I said Flew is evidence against slam-dunk atheism. But so is Van Inwagen, Plantinga, and Swinburne. But these are charges of misconduct against Varghese. They need to be proven in order to be accepted.

Look if I were going to fake someone's conversion, I would have them on their knees accepting Christ as Lord and Savior after William Lane Craig shared the Four Spiritual Laws with him. I mean, why stop with deism?

All I am asking is that the apologetic value of this book be assessed on its merits, that Christians avoid overblown appeals to authority and that atheists refrain from making misconduct charges with insufficient evidence. Is that too much to ask?

12 comments:

Davis said...

Correction:

C.S. Lewis was never a real *Christian. At least according to Van Til.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Varghese will change the cover of the next edition to written by Varghese and Pastor Bob Hostetler, and 'approved' by Antony Flew, not wishing to let people be misled into thinking that Flew wrote one original sentence of the manuscript.


Honesty costs nothing.

"This is really Roy's doing," said Flew, who is honest.

You can be utterly certain that that will appear on the cover of the next edition.

For Varghese is an honest man.

Anonymous said...

' I'm told that Flew read, and approved, ten drafts.'

Flew has read the book he wrote?

That's probably more than Victoria Beckham did.

Hallq said...

Dude, Vic, what's wrong with you? You're just repeating the same stuff without addressing the criticisms directed against what you've said, and inventing imaginary opponents to bash. For example, who are you addressing in this quote?:

"I don't understand what is 'ghoulish' about rejoicing in even a very elderly man coming to believe something that I believe to be both true and important."

No one, as far as I can tell. Take a deep breath, go back, re-read the criticisms that have been leveled against Varghese and your defense of him, and then actually address it.

Mr. Grouchypants said...

hallq:

He is most likely referring to this remark from bad.

Given that, all that's left is the bizarre spectacle of a bunch of people sort of ghoulishly crowing about a convert.

Hallq said...

But bad never said the mere fact that a few people were rejoicing was what was ghoulish. There's obviously a lot more that's happened--such as getting Flew to sign off on putting his name on a book full of old arguments, which bad explicitly mentioned, and a number of other things which he didn't.

Anonymous said...

It is strange that Flew has converted to Deism, yet 'his' book does not discuss Deism.


Why should it? It is only the story of why Flew converted. Why should it discuss what he converted to? Varghese is not a deist, so why should the book contain a section on what deism is?

Anonymous said...

In the Autumn 2005 issue of 'Think' , Flew says he was an atheist in the same way that some people are apolitical.

So Flew was never an atheist in the way that Christians use the term - someone who says 'It is a fact that there is no God'.

JD Walters said...

Other interesting examples of intellectuals who had a prominent career as atheists before converting: Alasdair MacIntyre, Avery Cardinal Dulles, Craig Keener, Gregory Boyd.

Hallq said...

Boyd had a career as a prominent atheist? From what I can tell, he actually had his born-again experience as a teenager (doing the math from two links: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/30/us/30pastor.html and http://gregboyd.blogspot.com/) Not familiar with your other guys, but you've made me wonder about them, too...

Mr. Grouchypants said...

bad didn't say that rejoicing was ghoulish. He said that "crowing about a convert" was ghoulish. Crowing and rejoicing are not the same thing. Mr. Reppert's remark was likely made to draw that distinction.

Anonymous said...

'There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind '

Antony Flew approved the title calling him 'The World's Most Notorious Atheist'