Recently, Lindsey and I went to one of our favorite bookstores to get a few books. One book that I have particularly been looking forward to for some time is There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. Anthony Flew is a world renowned British philosopher who is known predominantly for his outspoken nature concerning atheism and his mental prowess in the areas of analytical philosophy. He developed the "No True Scotsman" fallacy that so many atheists use to defeat the idea of the "true" Christian.
The book, which is co-authored and arguably ghost written, is a account of the arguments that brought Flew to become a Deist in 2004. This was a 20 year odyssey for him and not to be taken lightly. The fact that God still speaks to any of us, let alone those who consistently belittle Him publically, is an amazing testament to His never-ending love to those He created. Flew still vehemently denies an association with Christianity and this is important to note. Christians altogether have shouted victory because a prominent atheist has become a Deist (not a theist-Flew makes this distinction in his book). Atheists have cried foul because they believe that one their mighty men has not fallen but a "once great mind" is aging and is no longer sharp enough to be trusted. Realistically, Goliath hasn't fallen because he wasn't a giant to begin with. We're Christians, and our Daddy can whip all of their daddys. I am reading his book and celebrating that he has come across many of the same arguments that Thomas Aquinas had expounded upon in his Five Ways (to know God) and that science and the complexities of creation have brought about revelation (hooray! see Romans 1 & 2). The book essentially makes three main points: the universe is run by laws which haven't yet been understood by Flew, there must have been a first cause, and Flew deduces that this first cause was God, and evolution is really hard to understand. Let's take note of the fact that God is revealed through His creation to even those who have hardened themselves against it. Let's also take note that Anthony Flew is still lost and still does not having saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. His belief stops in the theological shallows of a vast ocean of universal truth.
So where does this major, name brand, national bookstore that I mentioned before come into play? When I asked for the book and could not find it, the very friendly woman who helped me looked it up in the computer and discovered that I had been looking in the wrong place (the Philosophy section). She said "follow me" and I did...all the way to the Christian Inspiration section. Did you see what happened there? I asked for a book by a Deist who has asked to not be considered a Christian and found that it has been placed where many Christians and non-Christians alike go to find inspiration and hope. They are there searching for a truth and hope that Christianity claims to offer and they are met by a man who was once dubbed the Big Bad Wolf of atheism with has been (unknowingly) masked in sheep's clothing. Is this book bad for people to read? No. Should Christians read this book? Sure. Can this book be harmful? Absolutely. My problem is not with Anthony Flew, as he is honestly searching and never asked for his book to be put in this section. My problem is with major book retailers who collectively lump religious works in with Christianity simply based upon the notion that they believe in God. Eating at Mcdonalds doesn't make you a cheeseburger anymore than being a mechanic makes you a car. Take it a step further and you realize that God spoke through James and said it better (He always does): "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder." James 2:19
(Searching for his point...hah! Got it!) Flew believes in a First Cause and I wholeheartedly applaud the monumental steps he took to get from atheism to Deism. Every believer had to go through certain stages of belief in order to acknowledge Christ and we can pray that in Flew's case we will see him come to know Jesus as that First Cause he has now come to know. The book is intellectually challenging and can be used to strengthen our own beliefs in God, but it's not a Christian book, and lumping it in with the other Christian books is no different than we as Christians collectively grouping together (denominations aside) with those who merely acknowledge God and saying, "well, these people all believe something." If we believe what we say we believe and our writings are being put into a bookstore for others to learn about us and the God we say we serve...then what does it say about us that Anthony Flew's work sits a few spots away from other great intellectuals such as C.S. Lewis, John Piper, Charles Stanley, Thomas Aquinas, Ravi Zacharias, and J. Budziszewski? So I pose the question: Does the major retailer not know how to read a book before they categorize it or has the writings in that section become so full of "scratch and sniff" material (as Dr. Emir Caner once so delicately put it) that you can't tell the difference?