My two main antitheological books were both written long before either the development of the big-bang cosmology or the introduction of the fine-tuning argument from physical constants. But since the early 1980s, I had begun to reconsider. I confessed at that point that atheists have to be embarrassed by the contemporary cosmological consensus, for it seemed that the cosmologists were providing a scientific proof of what St. Thomas Aquinas contended could not be proved philosophically; namely, that the universe had a beginning. (Antony Flew, “There Is A God,” p. 135)
Antony Flew’s book is aptly subtitled, “How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.” And for having the intellectual honesty to follow the evidence to where it leads, Flew was reviled and excoriated by his once admiring colleagues and fawning public.
Roy Abraham Varghese in the preface to “There Is A God” observes,
The response…from Flew’s fellow atheists verged on hysteria. One atheist Web site tasked a correspondent with giving monthly updates on Flew’s falling away from the true faith. Inane insults and juvenile caricatures were common in the freethinking blogosphere. The same people who complained about the Inquisition and witches being burned at the stake were now enjoying a little heresy hunting of their own. The advocates of tolerance were not themselves very tolerant. And, apparently, religious zealots don’t have a monopoly on dogmatism, incivility, fanaticism, and paranoia. But raging mobs cannot rewrite history. And Flew’s position in the history of atheism transcends anything that today’s atheist has on offer.
Nevertheless, despite the outcry, an undaunted Flew wrote his book describing his “conversion” to theism. Though to my knowledge he never embraced Christianity or the Bible, he fully realized that his atheistic worldview was utterly incapable of accounting for the actual world in which he lived; a finite universe, with a definite beginning. The “Big Bang” shattered the mythical world in which he once lived, imploding the very foundations upon which his atheism was built.
Three years after Flew came to his senses, the editor of a local paper asked me, “Can a theist believe in the so-called ‘Big Bang’?” I told him then as I tell you now, that a theist, and only a theist, can believe in such a thing as the Big Bang because the atheist cannot logically or philosophically account for such an occurrence.
Ask the atheist, “How and why did the Big Bang occur?” He cannot sufficiently answer. The usual feeble attempt at answering the question involves such terms as matter, energy, time and chance.
Granted, we find matter and energy in the universe today and so we may suspect that the Big Bang involved matter and energy. But here is the problem: Matter and energy can serve as the material cause for the Big Bang, but they cannot serve as the efficient cause for the Big Bang. The Catholic philosopher and theologian, Thomas Aquinas [in the 13th century] demonstrates material and efficient causes with the example of a statue.
If the statue is made of bronze, then bronze is the material cause of the statue. However, the material cause [bronze] is not the efficient cause. The efficient cause must be the sculptor. Aristotle, many centuries before Aquinas, observed the same thing.
The Big Bang may indeed accurately portray the material cause for the universe, but it cannot account for the efficient cause of the universe. Atheistic science has a problem: The problem of existence.
In other words, why is there something rather than nothing? This is a problem that simply will not go away. Atheism gives us no logic for existence. We may ask, “What was happening five seconds before the Big Bang?” or “What existed prior to the Big Bang?” The proffered answer to both of these questions is tantamount to one word: Nothing.
Don’t be fooled by talk of “singularities” and the like. The atheistic answer to what was happening and what existed before the Big Bang is nothing. Though “nothing” will be expressed in various ways, it’s still a lot of talk about nothing. That something can come from absolute nothing is absurd. Ex nihilo nihil fit.
Yet, we often hear an atheistic scientist allege, “Our universe came into being around 14 billion years ago.” Came into being? How in the world does something--a universe or anything--come into being from absolute nothing? The notion that the universe sprang into being from absolute non-being is repugnant to reason and a leap of faith far too great for the Christian theist.
Big Bang cosmology—which was initially and understandably resisted by atheists--says the universe has a beginning and thus places the atheist on the horns of a great dilemma: How does one postulate the universe came from absolute nothing [the long discredited theory of “spontaneous generation”] without resorting to magic?
Flew could no longer believe the story which begins, “Once upon a time there was absolute nothing and then abracadabra…poof…there was a mindless, magical universe for no particular reason at all…”
Why is there something rather than nothing? How did the universe come into being from absolute non-being? How can something come from nothing? To date, no atheist has escaped this quandary and simply humming “Oh Oh It’s Magic” is wearing a little thin.