- This new edition of Antony Flew's God and Philosophy has stirred up a tempest — whether it has cosmic significance or is only in a teapot is for the reader to judge. Interestingly, news of the reissuance by Prometheus Books of this classic work — with a new introduction by Professor Flew—has become the center of international controversy. Theists had jumped the gun prior to publication, proclaiming that one of the world's leading atheists had abandoned his position and embraced belief in God. Much of this has been based on hearsay, almost like rumors of a death-bed conversion, so to speak. Some theists applauded the fact that Flew "was no longer an atheist"; other unbelievers had denied that he had retracted his atheism.
- Allow me to set the record straight by detailing the sequence of events.
- Prometheus Books, which has published many books by Antony Flew, wrote to him some time ago, asking him if any of his out-of-print books could be republished. He recommended God and Philosophy. We agreed to publish the book anew but suggested that he provide an introduction, adding any new material that had become relevant since the first publication of the book in 1966, and its later republication in 1986 under the title God: A Critical Enquiry.
- His earlier book is herein published in its complete form in this edition. In it Professor Flew approaches the question of the existence of God with an open mind and with the "Stratonician presumption of atheism"; that is, that the burden of proof rests with the believer. He critically analyzes the many arguments and evidence adduced historically by theists in support of the God hypothesis and maintains that they are inadequate. "The universe," Flew concludes, "is itself ultimate.... The principles lie themselves `inside' the world." Thus the case for theism has failed.
- Prior to the publication of this edition, Professor Flew was interviewed on a television program, Has Science Discovered God? , which was viewed on both sides of the Atlantic, and it implied that Flew had now abandoned atheism. Gary Habermas, an evangelical Christian philosopher at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, also interviewed Flew by telephone and reiterated this interpretation of Flew's position. Richard N. Ostling, a journalist for the Associated Press, released a news story in which he claimed that "Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence1 or first cause must have created the universe." He also pointed out, however, that Flew made it clear that the God he was thinking of was "very different from the God of the Christian and far away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins." Moreover, Flew did not believe in immortality of the soul, a doctrine dear to theists. The London Times also ran a feature declaring a change in his views. Other philosophers who interviewed Flew concluded that though he still rejected theism he might be sympathetic to deism. Meanwhile, Professor Flew had sent a letter to Philosophy Now (August/September 2004), in which he stated: "Anyone who should happen to want to know what I myself now believe will have to wait until the publication, promised for early 2005, by Prometheus of Amherst, New York, of the final edition of my God and Philosophy with a new Introduction of it as ‘an historical relic.' My own commitment then as a philosopher who was also a religious unbeliever was and remains that of Plato's Socrates: ‘We must follow the argument wherever it leads.’”
- And so the question is, does Antony Flew now believe in God or not? Much of this discussion was based upon an earlier draft of the introduction. There were four drafts submitted to Prometheus. The upshot of this entire controversy is this: Professor Flew was going through a period of re-examination of what he should add to his original book. He said there were new arguments and evidence that had been offered for the belief in God and that these should be taken into account, such as the views of Richard Swinburne in defense of Christianity, the big bang controversy, "fine tuning" the intelligent design argument, deism, etc. The point is, the entire process represented work-in-process, and Professor Flew benefited from peer review (pro and con) prior to publication. Accordingly, it is up to the readers of his final introduction published below to decide whether or not he has abandoned his earlier views.
- Prometheus Books is delighted to present what by now has become a classic in the philosophy of religion.
- Paul Kurtz, Professor of Philosophy, State University of New York at Buffalo
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