English philosopher Antony Flew was born in a Christian family (his father was a well-known Methodist preacher), attended a Christian school, and until age 15 was a believer. At that age, however, he rejected the faith – mainly because he could not square the presence of evil with the existence of an all-powerful and compassionate God. He stuck to his atheism, and during much of the second half of the 20th century he was known as the leading atheist thinker in the English-speaking world. But in 2004, at age 81, he changed his mind and announced that he had come to believe that there is a God. Having renounced his atheism, Flew did not become a Christian, however, but turned to deism, although he did make inquiries about the faith and was for some time in contact with the well-known English theologian N.T. Wright. But as far as we know he never accepted divine revelation and remained, until his death in April 2010, a deist.
What caused his renunciation of atheism? Flew himself describes the process in his book There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (HarperOne, 2007). This publication shows that the main reason for his change of mind was the world picture produced by modern science – such as the Big Bang theory and the rapidly accumulating evidence of the fine-tuning of the universe. These scientific discoveries convinced him that the universe must have been designed, and that therefore a supernatural Intelligence must exist. Atheism simply could not explain the universe.
As I wrote in 2008, in my review of Flew’s book [Clarion, v. 57, n. 21 (10 October 2008), pp. 530-532, online here], “Intellectual arguments cannot by themselves lead to a saving knowledge of God. That is the gift of the Holy Spirit alone. Intellectual arguments can, however, move an atheist to reconsider his beliefs and conclude that he may have been wrong. This happened to the English philosopher Antony Flew (1923).” Christians, I pointed out, can learn from Flew’s experience that science-based arguments against a godless world picture can be intellectually persuasive. They should therefore make a proper use of such arguments.
For another brief but informative account of Antony Flew’s journey from Christianity to atheism to deism, see this blog posting by Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.