I am always curious about how people come to faith. What means has the Spirit of God used to turn their hearts and lives toward him? As I have read and heard different life stories I have come to realize that there are varied entry points on the journey – sometimes head, sometimes heart, sometimes hands and sometimes a combination of head, heart or hands. Recently I had a personal conversation with someone whose intellect I highly respect and it was fascinating to me that, while the Spirit began the dialogue through intellectual engagement, the actual moment of acceptance came through a unique physical phenomenon – almost a Saul/Paul Damascus road kind of experience that defied logical explanation. So it was very interesting to read how one of the leading atheists of our time, Anthony Flew, describes his coming to faith in his new book, There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.
Born as the son of a leading preacher in England, Anthony Flew was raised in a Christian home and attended a private Christian school. Over the course of his academic career he authored over thirty works of philosophy that set him apart as the world’s pre-eminent defender of atheism for over a half a century. He debated C.S. Lewis as a regular member of the Oxford University Socratic Club and organized conferences promoting atheism. (Sidebar: It is interesting to note that a philosopher out of the Reformed tradition, Alvin Plantinga, is cited as one of those who shook his argument.)
Flew came to faith by reason – he simply could not deny the activity of a creative Intelligence:
“What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements to work together. It’s the enormous complexity of the number of elements and the enormous subtlety of the ways they work together. The meeting of these two parts at the right time by chance is simply minute.”
He goes on to discuss the “monkey theorem” of Schroeder as an example of this minute possibility of creation simply happening by chance: the likelihood of monkeys getting the letter “a” typed is 1 out of 27,000, the chance of getting a Shakespearean sonnet typed is 10 to the 690th – 1 with 690 zeroes after it; therefore proving that you will never get a sonnet by chance from monkeys.
Flew states that his journey toward faith has “led me to accept the existence of a self-existent, immutable, immaterial, omnipotent, and omniscient Being.” He takes Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and other current atheist apologists to task for both failing to address the central grounds for God’s existence and for failing to present “a plausible worldview that accounts for the existence of a “law-abiding,” life supporting, and rationally accessible universe.” He pronounces Dawkin’s rejection of God as a matter of belief without proof – blind faith.
One of the most compelling statements made in the book is his reflection on Barna’s data that what you believe by the time you are thirteen is what you will die believing. He states: “Whether or not this finding is correct, I do know that the beliefs I formed in my early teenage years stayed with me for most of my adult life.” What a strong statement in support of teaching a Christian worldview throughout all subjects in Christian schools!