Sermon for Matthew 1:18-25   -   Famous Atheist Now Believes In God
Advent 4

A British philosophy professor who had been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century changed his mind last week. He now believes in God. His name is Antony Flew. You don't know him but you have heard of the people he hung around with in 1950. In that year Professor Flew presented a paper called Theology and Falsification to a gathering of religious men called the Socratic Club at Oxford University. The club's leader was C.S. Lewis. Another member of the club was JRR Tolkein. I don't know how you stand in front of the author of The Chronicles of Narnia and the author of Lord of The Rings and argue that God doesn't exist. But Professor Flew did and this is what he said. He began with this parable:

Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds. One explorer says, "Some gardener must tend this plot." The other disagrees, "There is no gardener." So they pitch their tents and set a watch. No gardener is ever seen. "But perhaps he is an invisible gardener." So they set up a barbed-wire fence. They electrify it. They patrol with bloodhounds. But no shrieks ever suggest that some intruder has received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betray an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never give cry. Yet still the Believer is not convinced. "But there is a gardener, invisible, intangible, insensible, to electric shocks, a gardener who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves." At last the Skeptic despairs, "But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?"

That's the opening and it's a powerful parable. Dr Flew became as popular in atheist circles as much as Lewis and Tolkein did in Christian. His presentation laid out the case that there is no empirical evidence for the existence of God. Nature doesn't show us God. Science doesn't prove God. Knowledge doesn't conclude there is a God. There is no evidence for God. That was Professor Flew 54 years ago. But now at the age of 81 the professor has recanted. In a new presentation, not before the Socratic Club at Oxford, but before a distinguished gathering of scientist in New York last week, the atheist professor, after 50 years of reflection, surprised his audience in saying that science "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life) intelligence must have been involved." Did you hear that last part? Listen again, science "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life) intelligence must have been involved."

It's funny isn't it? 50 years ago Flew argued there was no proof of a Gardner. Now back in the same garden he says there must be a Gardner. What did he miss then that he now sees? It would be interesting to hear him reflect on that.

But before we get too caught up in Dr. Flew's conversion, let's consider. Professor Flew doesn't believe in the Christian God or the Muslim God. Here is how he defines God, "I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins." He goes on to say that God "could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose."

Here is what I would like to say to the Professor, "Dr Flew, what you missed in the garden 54 years ago you have missed in Christianity today. The Christian God is no tyrant. He is no Saddam Hussein. He does not oppress his people. Rather, he saves them! Here the words of the angel of the Lord, "You will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

The professor sees a God that is far removed and uninvolved. I see rather:

1. A God who saves.
2. A Lord who is with us.
3. And a garden full of proof.

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