Atheists questioning their atheism

Chuck Colson notes how several prominent atheists have changed their tunes:

Well-known scholar Antony Flew was the first, saying he had to go "where the evidence [led]." Evolutionary theory, he concluded, has no reasonable explanation for the origin of life. When I met with Flew in Oxford, he told me that while he had not come to believe in the biblical God, he had concluded that atheism is not logically sustainable.

More recently, A. N. Wilson, once thought to be the next C. S. Lewis who then renounced his faith and spent years mocking Christianity, returned to faith. The reason, he said in an interview with New Statesman, was that atheists "are missing out on some very basic experiences of life." Listening to Bach and reading the works of religious authors, he realized that their worldview or "perception of life was deeper, wiser, and more rounded than my own."

He noticed that the people who insist we are "simply anthropoid apes" cannot account for things as basic as language, love, and music. That, along with the "even stronger argument" of how the "Christian faith transforms individual lives," convinced Wilson that "the religion of the incarnation … is simply true."

Likewise, Matthew Parris, another well-known British atheist, made the mistake of visiting Christian aid workers in Malawi, where he saw the power of the gospel transforming them and others. Concerned with what he saw, he wrote that it "confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my worldview, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God." While Parris is unwilling to follow where his observations lead, he is obviously wrestling with how Christianity makes better sense of the world than other worldviews.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    The other interesting philosopher to follow in all this is Thomas Nagel of New York University, who has also stated that evolutionary theory provides an inadequate answer for the origin of life. He is also a professor of Constitutional law, and has come to believe that it would not be unconstitutional to teach intelligent design in public schools.
    In his book “The Last Word” he comes out and admits that he is afraid to believe in God. Perhaps someday he will encounter Jesus and realize his fear is unwarranted.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    The other interesting philosopher to follow in all this is Thomas Nagel of New York University, who has also stated that evolutionary theory provides an inadequate answer for the origin of life. He is also a professor of Constitutional law, and has come to believe that it would not be unconstitutional to teach intelligent design in public schools.
    In his book “The Last Word” he comes out and admits that he is afraid to believe in God. Perhaps someday he will encounter Jesus and realize his fear is unwarranted.

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    Looks like the law written on our hearts starting to leak through. It may not contain the Gospel, but it can help clear away bad worldviews. Thankfully, we have something deeper than our worldviews that allows them to be changed.

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    Looks like the law written on our hearts starting to leak through. It may not contain the Gospel, but it can help clear away bad worldviews. Thankfully, we have something deeper than our worldviews that allows them to be changed.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Yes, I find it hard to be afraid of something I don’t “believe” in. In a sense Nagel has admitted belief, I suppose, to be sure not any saving faith in Christ, but that fear betrays some semblance of faith in a god. It is perhaps a beginning. As Luther says, we should fear,love and trust in God above all things. He has the first one.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Yes, I find it hard to be afraid of something I don’t “believe” in. In a sense Nagel has admitted belief, I suppose, to be sure not any saving faith in Christ, but that fear betrays some semblance of faith in a god. It is perhaps a beginning. As Luther says, we should fear,love and trust in God above all things. He has the first one.

  • fws

    #3 Bror

    I think , along with the Augustana on the topic of “free will”, that we should grant human free will the powers to do absolutely everything “good” in the area of the second table of the law and even with respect to the first table, to give some recognition and obedience in the believe that there is a “supreme architect” or “higher power”.

    Of course this IS faith. but faith is really nothing and can be the most evil of things,even and especially if it is faith in “a god”(eg faith in Jim Jones in Guyana, or the Mormons).

    Man is naturally religious. That is NOT a good thing is it?

    The Object of faith is only what matters.

    What the human free will cannot ever do is have a change of heart: to literally die to god and to religion, to look to that God for the source of all good, and trust him and concede that even our own wills and willpower must die along with the rest of us and that we must be made new and not merely be reformed or remodeled.

  • fws

    #3 Bror

    I think , along with the Augustana on the topic of “free will”, that we should grant human free will the powers to do absolutely everything “good” in the area of the second table of the law and even with respect to the first table, to give some recognition and obedience in the believe that there is a “supreme architect” or “higher power”.

    Of course this IS faith. but faith is really nothing and can be the most evil of things,even and especially if it is faith in “a god”(eg faith in Jim Jones in Guyana, or the Mormons).

    Man is naturally religious. That is NOT a good thing is it?

    The Object of faith is only what matters.

    What the human free will cannot ever do is have a change of heart: to literally die to god and to religion, to look to that God for the source of all good, and trust him and concede that even our own wills and willpower must die along with the rest of us and that we must be made new and not merely be reformed or remodeled.

  • The Jones

    Relating to Flew’s “where the evidence leads” quote and his decision that there is little atheistic evidence for the origins of life, I’ve told atheist friends I know that if Darwin had named his book “The Variety of the Species” and not “The Origin of the Species,” then I would have little problems with it. Once that ground is established, it is very difficult for a hard core Darwinist to say that just because there are many different kids of finches on the Galapagos Islands, natural selection is the reason that any birds (or any life for that matter) exist.

  • The Jones

    Relating to Flew’s “where the evidence leads” quote and his decision that there is little atheistic evidence for the origins of life, I’ve told atheist friends I know that if Darwin had named his book “The Variety of the Species” and not “The Origin of the Species,” then I would have little problems with it. Once that ground is established, it is very difficult for a hard core Darwinist to say that just because there are many different kids of finches on the Galapagos Islands, natural selection is the reason that any birds (or any life for that matter) exist.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    FW,
    Not sure what you are getting at. I already made the disclaimer that it is not saving faith. I do think though fear of a vague unknown god, can serve as a bridge to bringing someone to faith in Jesus Christ.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    FW,
    Not sure what you are getting at. I already made the disclaimer that it is not saving faith. I do think though fear of a vague unknown god, can serve as a bridge to bringing someone to faith in Jesus Christ.

  • fws

    #6 bror

    Interesting point. You are in Good company with st paul on mars hill I suppose… ha!

    This is probably a function of the Law yes. our schoolmaster to bring us to christ.

    the only God we can know in the way this post describes is one who is really P*ssed at us and wants a blood sacrifice for atonement, or worse that we can bargain with and so have dominion over.

  • fws

    #6 bror

    Interesting point. You are in Good company with st paul on mars hill I suppose… ha!

    This is probably a function of the Law yes. our schoolmaster to bring us to christ.

    the only God we can know in the way this post describes is one who is really P*ssed at us and wants a blood sacrifice for atonement, or worse that we can bargain with and so have dominion over.

  • fws

    #6 bror

    ah dear pastor. u got me. you and st paul on mars hill. but this would be a law use of god no?

    and whether this use (belief in “a god”) would be more conducive to evangelism than agnosticism or atheism would probably depend on alot of things. alot of times “christianism” can get in the way of the gospel more than anything since people think “ah yes, I know ALL about Jesus and the holy gospel”

  • fws

    #6 bror

    ah dear pastor. u got me. you and st paul on mars hill. but this would be a law use of god no?

    and whether this use (belief in “a god”) would be more conducive to evangelism than agnosticism or atheism would probably depend on alot of things. alot of times “christianism” can get in the way of the gospel more than anything since people think “ah yes, I know ALL about Jesus and the holy gospel”

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    fw,
    Of course it is law, did I say anything different?
    and all I am saying is the guy has some semblence of faith, he is not the atheist he wants to be, at best and agnostic, and so that is the starting point. And if Paul started there, who am I to criticize.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    fw,
    Of course it is law, did I say anything different?
    and all I am saying is the guy has some semblence of faith, he is not the atheist he wants to be, at best and agnostic, and so that is the starting point. And if Paul started there, who am I to criticize.

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  • Fletch

    Flew’s argument form ignorance is hardly “going where the evidence leads him”. Postulating a magical god is not an actual answer.

    And we are more than “simply anthropoid apes”. The whole is greater than the individual parts just as a house is more than a pile of 2x4s.

    Missionary Dan Everett was trying to convert an atheistic South American tribe to Christianity. They laughed at him and eventually converted HIM to atheism.

  • Fletch

    Flew’s argument form ignorance is hardly “going where the evidence leads him”. Postulating a magical god is not an actual answer.

    And we are more than “simply anthropoid apes”. The whole is greater than the individual parts just as a house is more than a pile of 2x4s.

    Missionary Dan Everett was trying to convert an atheistic South American tribe to Christianity. They laughed at him and eventually converted HIM to atheism.


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