An Inside Look at the Work of the Thinking Matters New Zealand Foundation

AN AUCKLAND EVENT

This event is for Auckland friends who are passionate about how the Gospel of Jesus has the power to transform lives, communities and culture itself.  Also for those who support the work of Thinking Matters through prayer, financial support or by attending our events – and who want to know more about us:

Transforming Culture With Clear Thinking Christianity

An Inside Look at the Work of the Thinking Matters New Zealand Foundation

 

The evening includes the following two presentations:

To Reform the World: The Story of the Clapham Sect

Dr Roshan Allpress – National Principal & CEO of Laidlaw College

What does it look like when small groups of Christians set out to orchestrate social and cultural change? Between the 1750s and 1830s, networks of Evangelicals across Britain engaged in wide-ranging efforts to reform society and reorient Britain’s national and imperial culture. Through a series of vignettes, this presentation will consider how the Clapham Sect fostered intergenerational faithfulness, pursued rigorous intellectual engagement with the issues of the day, and developed innovative modes of organisation and activism.

Roshan is the Principal of Laidlaw College, New Zealand’s largest theological college. A historian by training, with degrees from Canterbury and Oxford, Roshan has research interests in the origins of philanthropic and humanitarian networks, and the social and intellectual dynamics of groups who have orchestrated sociocultural reform (such as the Clapham Sect). Prior to Laidlaw College, Roshan worked for the Venn Foundation (formerly the Compass Foundation) and for Maxim Institute – cultivating networks of young Christian leaders, and developing resources for these growing networks. He lives in Auckland and is married with two children.

Inside Thinking Matters: Impacting New Zealand with Apologetics

Rodney Lake – National Director of Thinking Matters NZ Foundation

2018 marks the tenth year that Thinking Matters has been growing the local apologetics community and equipping Kiwi Christians to make a gracious and clear defence of their Christian worldview. In this talk Rodney shares our passion for equipping the New Zealand Church – with highlights from the last decade and our plans for the next. This talk will give our friends, partners and supporters a deeper look into what we do – and why we do it.

Rodney is the National Director of Thinking Matters NZ Foundation. He speaks at churches, youth groups, Christian schools and non-believers at outreach events around the country on the reasons why Christianity is true. He is an adjunct apologetics lecturer at Faith Bible College, teaches regular ‘Introduction to Christianity’ courses at Bethlehem College and serves on the board of Bethlehem College Limited.

 

WHAT: Two presentations followed by a time of discussion and audience Q&A with both Roshan and Rodney.
WHEN: Friday 9th February
TIME: 7:30pm-9:30pm.

WHERE: The Cafe at Greenlane Christian Centre. Click here for a map.
RSVP: None – just turn up.
COST: Free – so invite a friend!

Please share this with anyone who has an interest in the work we do!

How should we then vote?

Once upon a time, there was a man who wasn’t thinking about politics. But it is not this day. Today, and seemingly for time eternal, politics. The End…? Please?

Yes, it is once again election time in New Zealand. Kiwis of different backgrounds and persuasions are beginning to think/not think about which boxes they will tick on September 23. For Christians, the results can be diverse. Conservative believers will often base their votes on one or more controversial issues concerning human dignity and the imago Dei (e.g. abortion, euthanasia) while avoiding the plagued parties who support these acts. Across the chasm, politically progressive believers identify with policies to free the captives and care for the least (oh, that’s what those passages mean) seeing the ‘other side’ as dispassionate and driven my Mammon. While the above examples are extremes, the crux is clear – we vote for the party that promises to tackle areas that we see as crucial. Emphasis on the promise.

The question then – which is the correct way? How should Christians vote? In essence, there is a simple answer.

Jesus

Forgive me for being incredibly cliched, but the answer is Jesus (and I never went to Sunday School). Look at these words that Jesus uttered during his earthly ministry:

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

(John 18:33-36 ESV, emphasis added)

Mere hours before his life-giving death, Jesus spoke these words to give all believers an instruction manual on how to live in a world governed by interim rulers.

Dual citizenship

Jesus’ last words to those charged with continuing his mission – the apostles – didn’t contain three points of application on how to create a Christian society. We don’t vote to establish heaven in the here and now. We vote in good conscience who we think will best lead our respective cities and countries to the greatest common good. We are very much dual citizens, finding our homes in the City of Man and the City of God. Our ultimate allegiance is to the latter, but as long as the Lord wants us here, we are to strive to serve the interests of Babylon and it’s people. One of the most abused sections in the Old Testament – Jeremiah 29 – testifies to this fact as do the lives of Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Peter and Paul. If seeking the welfare of the city (Jeremiah 29:7) is the priority of the exiled Christian (that’s you), then the question of who to vote for becomes simple and complex – who best assists the City of Man to flourish and thrive? Different Christians will answer this question in different ways and that is alright. If you lean left, that is alright. If you lean right, that is alright. If you are disillusioned by it all and abstain, that is alright.

As we approach the 2017 General Election, remember politics is a grace (Romans 13) but not the grace. Good policy does not save souls. If we mix up politics and the Christian message, the bar is set too high for the common grace of politics, while the saving grace of Christ is minimised and diluted. By confusing the two kingdoms, we destroy them both.

If you are a Christian, you owe your allegiance to a kingdom that is not of this world. A kingdom that is far above petty bickering and broken promises. A kingdom built on an immovable Word and ruled by an impeccable King. A kingdom sprouting from a seed.

In this kingdom, you do not vote but are voted for, by the Right and Honourable King of elected rebels.

Praise His Name forever. Amen.

Jesus the Game Changer – DVD Series now available

We are excited to announce a partnership with Olive Tree Media to bring you Jesus the Game Changera 10 part documentary series on how the life and teaching of Jesus changed the world and why it matters.

Jesus the Game ChangerJesus Christ has made an indelible mark on human history and He continues to do so through His followers. Yet many people do not realise that the values western democracies are built on originate in the life and teaching of Jesus – including:

  • The equality of all
  • Servant leadership
  • Care for the poor and marginalised
  • Dignity of women and children
  • Education
  • And others…

In this small-group DVD series, host Karl Faase travels to the US, UK, Australia, Singapore and India interviewing over 30 authors, speakers and modern-day game changers on these topics and more to examine in depth the impact Jesus has had on western culture.  Guests include top thinkers and cultural commentators; Eric Metaxas, Christine Caine, John Ortberg, Rodney Stark, Rico Tice, Mary Jo Sharp and many others.

WATCH TRAILER

SHINE TV SCREENING

Thinking Matters is proudly sponsoring a screening of this series on Shine TV on Tuesdays at 8pm – starting Tuesday 6th September 2016.

After each week’s episode we will publish a blog post on our site where you can discuss the episode with others.  Visit www.ThinkingMatters.org.nz/GameChanger for the latest post during the screening.

PURCHASE NOW

We are selling copies of the full series on DVD on our online store.  Click here to purchase.

Note stock will be arriving on the 6th September when the Shine TV screening starts – so your order will not be shipped until then.

Stuff.co.nz gives up on journalism to peddle pro-gay propaganda

A recent article on Stuff, linked by a friend with more enthusiasm than brains, crows: Children with gay parents ‘happier’ – research.

O RLY?

Reading the article, we discover the following (emphasis mine):

The preliminary findings from the Australian study contradict stereotypes that a family without an obvious dad or mum would harm the children, said lead researcher Dr Simon Crouch … Crouch, who is himself a gay man with four-year-old twin boys, ran the world’s largest study on homosexual families at the University of Melbourne.

So a gay parent of two young boys runs a study in response to a “lot” of “stereotypes” that if a mother/father is missing “there must be a problem”…and then “finds” that children of gay parents are happier. In other news, the pope commissions a study into the psychological well-being of the priesthood and finds that most priests never wanted to have sex anyway, and definitely have never harbored thoughts about altar boys.

In Stuff’s meager effort to make this seem like original journalism rather than a rip-off of a Sydney Morning Herald article written over a month ago, they got a lesbian mother, Kiwi comedian Urzila Carlson, to make some comments. Because as we know, comedians are renowned for their thoughtful interaction with weighty topics. Urzila comes out with the following snafu:

If you look back in the 80s people were saying if those parents got divorced those kids are not going to be ok. As long as both parents love you, it doesn’t matter, you will turn out alright.

Which is an interesting analogy to pick given the reams of research accumulated over the past 30–40 years which show that children who suffer through divorce are very often not okay. (You can look it up if you don’t believe me, but I assume anyone with common sense and/or friends knows this; http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/fcs/pdfs/fcs482.pdf is one example I happened to find on the first page of Google.)

So this lesbian mother is explicitly comparing having gay parents to being the victim of a broken home. That seems about right, given the strong, unapologetic argument made by Robert Oscar Lopez in his Public Discourse article, Same-Sex Parenting: Child Abuse? Lopez, who was raised by a lesbian mother, observes (emphasis original):

Like divorce and single parenting, same-sex parenting isn’t merely controversial or untested; we know that children have poorer life outcomes when they are raised outside a married biological-parent household. The data we have … make it all the more clear that it’s abusive to force children to live without a mother or father simply to satisfy adult desires….

It is abusive to tell a child, “We are your moms” or “we are your dads,” and then expect the child never to feel the loss of such important icons, in addition to the injury of having been severed from at least one, and possibly both, biological parents—not because it was necessary, but because the two adults insisted on the arrangement.

He goes on to add, “None of these problems would arise if we lived in a world where gay people saw children not as a commodity for purchase but rather as an obligation requiring sacrifices (i.e., you give up your gay partner instead of making your kid give up a parent of the opposite sex, because you’re the adult.)”

But what of the research being cited by Stuff?

What indeed. I checked into this further, and the study itself is the Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families (ACHESS). Right now, all the information we have about the results of this study comes from a single-page “interim report”—in which the only summary is a two-line paragraph:

On measures of general health and family cohesion children aged 5 to 17 years with same-sex attracted parents showed a significantly better score when compared to Australian children from all backgrounds and family contexts. For all other health measures there were no statistically significant differences.

Since the study itself will not be available until around September 2013, this is just an assertion in lieu of any argument. It is entirely premature to quote anything from this research as if it were fact since the actual study is not available.

That said, what is available is detailed information about how it was conducted. This information shows that ACHESS is incapable by design of producing any scientifically relevant findings about same-sex parenting. It is simply not a scientifically credible study, for three main reasons:

1. Too broad

ACHESS’s sample group is much broader than its carefully-worded summary—and the media—is suggesting. It covers “children…with at least one parent who self identifies as being same-sex attracted.” So this is not a study of same-sex families, as Stuff implies, but a study of any and all parenting situations where homosexuality is any kind of factor.

2. Non-random, non-population-based sample group

The sample group itself was recruited in a way which automatically invalidates it for a properly scientific study (emphasis mine):

Initial recruitment will involve convenience sampling and snowball recruitment techniques … This will include advertisements and media releases in gay and lesbian press, flyers at gay and lesbian social and support groups, and investigator attendance at gay and lesbian community events … Primarily recruitment will be through emails posted on gay and lesbian community email lists aimed at same-sex parenting. This will include, but not be limited to, Gay Dads Australia and the Rainbow Families Council of Victoria.

This kind of sample group is not random and population-based (which would be a requirement if this were real science), but rather self-selected and thus skewed in the worst possible way. It will obviously attract only those parents likely to be ideologically motivated to put the best face on homosexuality, and with the ability to do so. In other words, the study only samples people who are likely to have signed up for the express purpose of manufacturing pro-gay results—so the data is inherently unbalanced and scientifically irredeemable.

Furthermore, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, the sample group is 80% women. Gay fathers are under-represented—yet another methodological flaw.

3. High likelihood of falsified reporting, with no external accuracy checks

Although the study is ostensibly about the effects of same-sex parenting on children, the results were reported by their parents. Furthermore, recruits self-reported their data—with no objective measures in place to ensure this reporting was honest. Given that they were aware they were partipating in a major, politically-charged study, it is more than plausible to think many of them exaggerated, omitted, or otherwise distorted facts. And it is undeniable that parents are unqualified to report on the psychological state of their children as accuracy as the children themselves. So the skewed sampling is massively exacerbated by the high probability of an unknown amount of skewed reporting.

What real science says about homosexual parenting

There is already a study similar to ACHESS, except performed scientifically. It is called the New Family Structures Study (NFSS). Contrary to Stuff’s brazen claim that ACHESS is the largest study like this in the world, NFSS uses a randomly-selected sample nearly ten times larger: 3,000 American adults aged between 18 and 39. Unlike ACHESS, the NFSS did not advertise its primary research question “on the packet”—so the data is not suspect up front due to the participants’ ideological motivations. And because all the respondents were adults, they are able to speak for themselves about their childhoods—as opposed to ACHESS which sampled 5–17 year olds, but had their parents fill out the response form.

Unsurprisingly, the results from NFSS are completely different to those alleged by ACHESS. For example (emphasis mine),

Of the 239 possible between-group differences here … the young-adult children of lesbian mothers display 57 (or 24% of total possible) that are significant at the p < 0.05 level ... and 44 (or 18% of total) that are significant after controls ... The majority of these differences are in suboptimal directions, meaning that LMs display worse outcomes.

It also notes that children of lesbian mothers (and to a lesser extent gay fathers) are vastly more likely to have been sexually victimized, to be in some form of counseling or therapy, and to have difficulty identifying as fully heterosexual. (In other words, yes, being the child of a gay couple is more likely to make you gay.)

TL;DR

Junk science: “Having gay parents makes you happy and well-adjusted.”
Real science: “Having gay parents makes you unhappy and maladjusted.”

Another Atheist Refuses to Debate William Lane Craig

Polly Toynbee, president of the British Humanist Association, has pulled out of her scheduled London debate with Craig. Three prominent members of the BHA, the President and two Vice-Presidents, have now refused or withdrawn from publicly contesting the claims of theism with the Christian philosopher. Read the Reasonable Faith press release here.

Thinking Matters Youth

Thinking Matters Youth Logo

Thinking Matters Tauranga and Holy Trinity Tauranga have partnered together to produce a new fortnightly apologetics series for young people called “Thinking Matters in a Whatever World”. The series runs from August to December and is hosted at Holy Trinity, Cnr 3rd Ave and Cameron Rd, Tauranga (New Zealand).

For more info see here.

To be kept up to date with events, speakers and special announcements – like us on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/thinkingmattersyouth

John Stott (1921-2011)

John R. W. Stott went to be with the Lord early this morning (3:15 PM London time, 2:15 AM New Zealand time). Stott was one of the most influential evangelicals of the last century, leading an evangelical resurgence in England and shaping the faith of Christians worldwide through his writing and preaching.

The news was announced on the the website of All Souls Langham Place, the church where he served as reactor and curate. President of John Stott Ministries, Benjamin Homan, said that Stott’s family and close friends were at his bedside reading Scripture and listening to Handel’s Messiah when he passed away. Stott was aged 90.

Read more

Roger Nicole, 1915 – 2010

Evangelical scholar and reformed theologian Roger Nicole passed away yesterday at the age of 95. Dr Nicole was a lesser-known theologian, but his leadership and writing has had an enormous influence on theology in the latter half of the twentieth century. A native Swiss Reformed theologian and a Baptist, Dr Nicole was an associate editor for the New Geneva Study Bible and aided in the translation of the NIV Bible. He taught for over 40 years at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and was a past president and founding member of the Evangelical Theological Society. Among his many articles and authored works, Dr Nicole’s largest contributions were in the areas of the atonement, the thought of John Calvin, and the doctrine of Scripture. His stalwart defense of Biblical inerrancy alongside other Evangelicals such as Jim Boice, RC Sproul, Jim Packer, and Carl F. H. Henry (Dr Nicole was a founding member of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy) has left an important and enduring legacy for a generation of evangelicals.

In his introduction to a biography of Dr Nicole, J. I. Packer wrote:

“For a man of such power of mind, clarity of thought, range of knowledge and strength in argument, Roger’s patience and courtesy toward the less well favored is a marvel that has become a legend. He was said when first I knew him to have learned to greet people in something like fifty different languages so that he could always welcome overseas students and make them feel at home. Such sweet pastoral care in the conventional coolness of academia is also the stuff of legend, and deservedly so. No one could ever accuse Roger of throwing his weight about; very much a Swiss gentlemen in style, he is also a gentle man and a great encourager, overflowing with goodwill at all times. He has been a model for me in this, as in so much more. Roger stands at the head of my private list of persons worth celebrating, and I am sure I am not the only one who would say that.”

For more about Dr Nicole and his work, Justin Taylor has much more detail on his blog, while Colin Hansen has also posted tributes from Mark Dever, Tim Keller, and Don Carson.

We thank the Lord for Dr Nicole’s service and work for the cause of Christ and the good of the church. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.

Praying for Christopher Hitchens

David Brog:

“When I heard the sad news that Christopher Hitchens had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer, I did what I typically do upon learning of someone’s illness: I said a silent prayer for his recovery. Call it habit, hope, or faith — but this is what I do. While I could not disagree more with this fierce critic of the Judeo-Christian tradition, I also recognize that Hitchens is not a bad man. He’s never employed or condoned violence in furtherance of his atheism. I can wish for him physical health and personal happiness even while I fight with everything I’ve got against what he stands for. Our hearts should be big enough to rise above the petty.”

Indeed.

Some things that we can specifically pray for:

– that Hitchens might see that the Gospel enables us to grieve over our enemies calamities (Proverbs 24:17) and seek their relief (Exodus 23:4).
– that his pain would lead not to worldly sorrow, but a Godly sorrow that both brings repentance and leads to his salvation (2 Cor 7:10).
– that God’s grace would be shown to be greater than his sinfulness (Romans 5:15-21) and can rescue even those who are objects of His wrath (Ephesians 2:3).
– that he might see that the Gospel does not gloss over sin, nor see justice as unimportant (Romans 3:26), but frees us from harbouring thoughts of retaliation (1 Peter 2:23b) and enables us to truly love even those who hurt the church (Matt 5:44).
– that he might be snatched from the fire (Jude 23) for God’s salvation is better than destruction (Psalm 30:9, Isaiah 38:18).

Antony Flew dies at 87

The Telegraph has reported that Antony Flew passed away last week on April 8th. Flew was a leading British philosopher of the twentieth century, authoring many important philosophical works in the areas of education, political philosophy, linguistic analysis and philosophical theology. He held teaching positions at Aberdeen University, the University of Keele, Reading University, and York University in Toronto. Flew recently provoked controversy when he publicly abandoned his conviction in atheism in favour of belief in a deistic, Aristotelian God (you can read his interview with debating partner and friend, Gary Habermas, here or check out his book There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed his Mind to find out more about his journey):

Flew always described himself as a “negative atheist”, asserting that “theological propositions can neither be verified nor falsified by experience”, a position he expounded in his classic paper Theology and Falsification (1950), reputedly the most frequently-quoted philosophical publication of the second half of the 20th century.

He argued that any philosophical debate about the Almighty must begin by presuming atheism, placing the burden of proof on those who believe that God exists. “We reject all transcendent supernatural systems, not because we’ve examined or could have examined each in turn, but because it does not seem to us that there is any good evidence in reason to postulate anything behind or beyond this natural universe,” he proclaimed. A key principle of his philosophy was the Socratean concept of “follow the evidence, wherever it leads”.

When Flew revealed that he had come to the conclusion that there might be a God after all, it came as a shock to his fellow atheists, who had long regarded him as one of their foremost champions. Worse, he seemed to have deserted Plato for Aristotle, since it was two of Aquinas’s famous five proofs for the existence of God – the arguments from design and for a prime mover – that had apparently clinched the matter.

After months of soul-searching, Flew concluded that research into DNA had “shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life, that intelligence must have been involved”. Moreover, though he accepted Darwinian evolution, he felt that it could not explain the beginnings of life. “I have been persuaded that it is simply out of the question that the first living matter evolved out of dead matter and then developed into an extraordinarily complicated creature,” he said.

Flew went on to make a video of his conversion entitled Has Science Discovered God? and seemed to want to atone for past errors: “As people have certainly been influenced by me, I want to try and correct the enormous damage I may have done,” he said.

Read the rest of the Telegraph article here (H/T: Glenn Hendrickson).

Our thoughts are with his family at this time.

This months Bragging Rights Award goes to Matthew Flannagan

In the April Newsletter from Reasonable Faith, William Lane Craig acknowledges the valuable assistance provided by Matt Flannagan’s interaction with the thought of Michael Tooley. Matt Flannagan runs the Auckland branch of Thinking Matters at Laidlaw and is an excellent Christian theologian and philosopher. He holds a PhD in Theology from the University of Otago and a Masters with First Class honours in Philosophy from the University of Waikato.

Michael Tooley is a well-respected philosophers of religion from the University of Colorado, who has developed a complex argument against God’s existence. William Lane Craig is an eminent Christian philosopher of religion, whose debates have helped popularise his work, and is acknowledged by many to be the world’s leading defender of the faith (you can read our interview with him in our first issue of the Thinking Matters journal here). These two squared off recently on the question “Is God Real?”

Craig says that in preparation for the debate he prepared a four point response which is indebted to Timothy McGrew (who has also on occasion commented here at Thinking Matters) and Matt Flannagan for their helpful interaction.

It has been noted that this is a huge compliment to the quality of Christian scholarship that New Zealand is producing. For those unfamiliar with the more cognitive side of the Christian faith, if you were the Youth Pastor of your church, a comment like this is comparable to Dr. James Dobson singling you out on the Focus on the Family broadcast, and adding, “Here’s what youth groups should look like.” If you can’t possibly imagine yourself as a Youth Pastor, then imagine your specialisation of service for your local congregation is setting out chairs. This is like the World Assembly of Churches’ Arch-Deacon mentioning you by name as an exemplary Seat-Setter in their monthly magazine.

This is a big deal, and a well-deserved recognition of Matt’s service to the defense of the Christian worldview. The Reasonable Faith newsletter is delivered to its many-many members who are interested in Dr. Craig’s work. The Reasonable Faith ministry is arguably one of the most important apologetic organizations around today.

Thinking Matters sends their congratulations on to Matt and the Flannagan household. For more information on the debate, Matt’s blog has the details here.

How the world’s most prominent atheist changed his mind

The following was written by Ron Hay. Hay recently retired from the Anglican ministry in order to devote time to writing.

The December 2004 headline was eye-catching – “Famous Atheist Now Believes in God.” The Associated Press story went on to say, “A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half century has changed his mind. He now believes in God…based on scientific evidence.”

The professor in question was Antony Flew whom many rate as the pre-eminent British philosopher of the last half century, so his change of mind was certainly major news. Strangely, though, his story received the barest mention in the New Zealand media. Would that have been the case if a notable Christian, say Billy Graham, had announced that he had just become an atheist?

Overseas, the interest in Antony Flew’s announcement was huge. One commentator wrote: “Few religious stories have had such an impact.” Many welcomed the news. Francis Collins, former director of the Human Genome Project, wrote: “His colleagues in the church of fundamentalist atheism will be scandalized by his story, but believers will be greatly encouraged, and earnest seekers will find much in Flew’s journey to illuminate their own path towards the truth.”

Others were, as Collins predicted, “scandalized” by the news and reacted angrily. Richard Dawkins accused Flew of “tergiversation,” that is, apostasy or betrayal, and made disparaging comments about this being a change of mind made in “old age.”

Since then Flew has produced a book outlining his intellectual journey and the reasons for his new conviction. Its title: There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. He describes his journey as a “pilgrimage of reason”, not of faith, and writes, “I now believe that the universe was brought into existence by an infinite Intelligence.”

The question naturally arises: Why does he now believe this when he has defended and propounded atheism for more than half a century? His short answer is, “This is the world picture, as I see it, that has emerged from modern science.”

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.” Einstein described them as “reason incarnate.”

So the burning question is: who created the code? Where do the laws of physics come from? Even Stephen Hawking asks, “What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?”

Flew, (following great scientists such as Einstein, Planck, Heisenberg and Dirac) comes to the conclusion that the only reasonable explanation for the laws of nature is that they originate in the mind of God. He quotes Einstein’s comment that the “laws of nature manifest the existence of a spirit vastly superior to that of men, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.”

Flew concludes that those scientists who point to the mind of God as the explanation for natural laws “propound a vision of reality that emerges from the conceptual heart of modern science,” a vision that he personally finds “compelling and irrefutable.”

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?

George Wald, a Nobel prize-winning physiologist, once responded, “We choose to believe the impossible: that life arose spontaneously by chance.” He later revised his view and concluded that there was a pre-existent mind that was the matrix of physical reality. “It is mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life, and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create.” Flew concurs.

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

When I first met the big-bang theory as an atheist, it seemed to me the theory made a big difference because it suggested that the universe had a beginning and that the first sentence in Genesis (“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”) was related to an event in the universe. As long as the universe could be comfortably thought to be not only without end but also without beginning, it remained easy to see its existence (and its most fundamental features) as brute facts. And if there had been no reason to think the universe had a beginning, there would be no need to postulate something else that produced the whole thing.

But the big-bang theory changed all that. If the universe had a beginning, it became entirely sensible, almost inevitable, to ask what produced this beginning. This radically altered the situation.

Atheistic scientists have attempted to avoid the theistic implications of the big-bang. A number of escape routes have been tried. Stephen Hawking evokes the concept of “imaginary time.” Richard Dawkins and others posit the idea of multiple universes (the idea being that our universe was the product, perhaps through “vacuum fluctuation”, of other pre-existing universes.)

Flew regards the postulation of multiple universes as “a truly desperate alternative.” He writes: “If the existence of one universe requires an explanation, multiple universes require a much bigger explanation: the problem is increased by the factor of whatever the total number of universes is.” Then he adds, a little impishly, “it seems a little like the case of a schoolboy whose teacher doesn’t believe his dog ate his homework, so he replaces the first version with the story that a pack of dogs – too many to count – ate his homework.”

Some reports of Antony Flew’s conversion to theism claim that this does not amount to a belief in a personal God, but only to belief in an impersonal divine principle. This is quite untrue. In There is a God Flew explains in some detail how he struggled with the concept of a “person without a body” but came eventually to find the idea of an “incorporeal omnipresent Spirit” coherent. Following the three lines of evidence to their conclusion “has led me,” he writes, ‘to accept the existence of a self-existent, immutable, immaterial, omnipotent, and omniscient Being.”(italics added)

What is true is that while Flew has moved from atheism to theism, he has not yet moved from theism to Christianity. However, he seems remarkably close. He ends his book with a presentation by N.T. Wright, a leading New Testament scholar and the Bishop of Durham, on the “Self-Revelation of God in Human History.” N.T. Wright addresses the evidence for the deity and resurrection of Christ.

At the end of this presentation, Flew says how impressed he is with Tom Wright’s approach which he finds “absolutely wonderful, absolutely radical, and very powerful.” The man who has had the courage to follow the evidence wherever it may lead, and to do so despite having to disavow his much-publicised earlier beliefs, is clearly open to further development in his thinking. Regarding Christianity, he writes, ‘If you’re wanting Omnipotence to set up a religion, this is the one to beat.”

There is, though, a sad postscript to the Antony Flew story. There has been a tendency for both Christians and atheists, to use Flew to score points off the other. Some Christians have become triumphalistic about the ‘conversion’ of a famous atheist. On the other hand, some atheists have gone out of their way to discredit Flew’s book, claiming it is really the product of his co-author, Roy Abraham Varghese, and that Flew, in his eighties when the book was published, was too mentally frail to have written it. Flew admits he suffers from nominal aphasia (a tendency to forget names) but has strenuously denied accusations that the book is not his work. In response to a highly-sceptical article in the New York Times, he wrote: “My name is on the book and it represents exactly my opinions. I would not have a book issued in my name that I do not 100% agree with. I needed someone to do the actual writing because I’m 84 and that was Roy Varghese’s role. The idea that someone manipulated me because I’m old is exactly wrong. I may be old but it is hard to manipulate me. This is my book and it represents my thinking.”

In light of this, there is no doubt that the book accurately reflects Antony Flew’s own position and presents his own “pilgrimage of reason.” In the midst of the dispute over authorship the book’s actual arguments have often been ignored in attempts to discredit the author. Now it is time to let the arguments speak for themselves and to consider them without party spirit or preconceived bias.

Ron Hay recently retired from the Anglican ministry in order to devote time to writing. (1624 words)