Antony Flew: Christian conversion or senile dementia?
Cranmer was a little irritated to read this New York Times Magazine article on Professor Antony Flew via The Times’ Faith Central blog. The Times summarises it as the ‘former atheist and eminent philosopher… the man who after years of demolishing belief in God, signed a letter to Tony Blair asking him to allow the teaching of Intelligent Design in schools’. And the article puts his conversion down not to a ‘Damascus Road’ conversion, but to the inescapable mumblings and bumblings of senile dementia. The battle is for Professor Flew’s soul: ‘Evangelical Christians want to claim him for their own now he has admitted a form of faith, while atheists like Dawkins have written him off altogether intellectually’.
After world-famous tomes propagating the atheist cause, we now have ‘There Is a God’, which the magazine summarises as ‘an intellectual’s bildungsroman written in simple language for a mass audience’. And what is wrong with that? It seems they would have preferred some inaccessible and convoluted work of interest only to academics, for God forbid that anyone should make a simple, straightforward and intelligible case for the Christian God. He talks of the Big Bang being consistent with Genesis, of the coherence of Christian apologists, of the credibility of eminent scientists who profess the Christian faith. He is inclined towards an ‘Aristotelian God’ who (or which) does not intervene in the Universe, but scratch beneath the surface and one discovers the immanence of YHWH.
Professor Flew is the son of a Methodist minister who went on to become Oxford’s most prominent atheist, but with a humility and charm which Richard Dawkins ought to examine. Ever keenly involved in politics, he was an adviser to Margaret Thatcher, and during the Times’ magazine interview allegedly ‘spent far more time talking about the dangers of unchecked Muslim immigration and his embrace of the anti-E.U. United Kingdom Independence Party’.
And so the only conclusion must be that he is senile and demented.
Cranmer knows Antony Flew quite well; they have corresponded and conversed about life, the universe, and the EU, and Cranmer would simply like to state that this is not a man who suffers from dementia. If the Professor had converted to Roman Catholicism, it would have been hailed all over the world; if to Islam, it would have been portrayed as progressive; if to Buddhism, supreme enlightenment. But no, Antony Flew has discovered the simplicity of a faith in God and the enduring truths of the Jewish and Christian scriptures. There are no priests, no bells, no smells; just Anthony Flew and his Lord. And add to that his opposition to the EU, and his concern about the rise of Islamism...
Yes, these would indeed appear the symptoms of dementia to those who are being lost.