Tag Archives: Albert Camus

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 38 Woody Allen and Albert Camus “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide” (Feature on artist Hamish Fulton Photographer )

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Photo taken in 1944 after a reading of Picasso’s play El deseo pillado por la cola: Standing from left to right: Jacques Lacan, Cécile  Éluard, Pierre Reverdy, Louise Leiris, Pablo Picasso, Zanie de Campan, Valentine Hugo, Simone de Beauvoir, Brassaï. Sitting, from left to right: Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Michel Leiris, Jean Aubier. Photo by Brassaï. –

Why am I doing this series FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE? John Fischer probably expressed it best when he noted:

Schaeffer was the closest thing to a “man of sorrows” I have seen. He could not allow himself to be happy when most of the world was desperately lost and he knew why. He was the first Christian I found who could embrace faith and the despair of a lost humanity all at the same time. Though he had been found, he still knew what it was to be lost.

Schaeffer was the first Christian leader who taught me to weep over the world instead of judging it. Schaeffer modeled a caring and thoughtful engagement in the history of philosophy and its influence through movies, novels, plays, music, and art. Here was Schaeffer, teaching at Wheaton College about the existential dilemma expressed in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film, Blowup, when movies were still forbidden to students. He didn’t bat an eye. He ignored our legalism and went on teaching because he had been personally gripped by the desperation of such cultural statements.

Schaeffer taught his followers not to sneer at or dismiss the dissonance in modern art. He showed how these artists were merely expressing the outcome of the presuppositions of the modern era that did away with God and put all conclusions on a strictly human, rational level. Instead of shaking our heads at a depressing, dark, abstract work of art, the true Christian reaction should be to weep for the lost person who created it. Schaeffer was a rare Christian leader who advocated understanding and empathizing with non-Christians instead of taking issue with them.

Francis Schaeffer below pictured on cover of World Magazine:

 

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Francis Schaeffer has written extensively on art and culture spanning the last 2000years and here are some posts I have done on this subject before : Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 10 “Final Choices” episode 9 “The Age of Personal Peace and Affluence”episode 8 “The Age of Fragmentation”episode 7 “The Age of Non-Reason” episode 6 “The Scientific Age” , episode 5 “The Revolutionary Age” episode 4 “The Reformation” episode 3 “The Renaissance”episode 2 “The Middle Ages,”, and  episode 1 “The Roman Age,” . My favorite episodes are number 7 and 8 since they deal with modern art and culture primarily.(Joe Carter rightly noted,Schaefferwho always claimed to be an evangelist and not aphilosopher—was often criticized for the way his work oversimplifiedintellectual history and philosophy.” To those critics I say take a chill pillbecause Schaeffer was introducing millions into the fields of art andculture!!!! !!! More people need to read his works and blog about thembecause they show how people’s worldviews affect their lives!

J.I.PACKER WROTE OF SCHAEFFER, “His communicative style was not that of acautious academic who labors for exhaustive coverage and dispassionate objectivity. It was rather that of an impassioned thinker who paints his vision of eternal truth in bold strokes and stark contrasts.Yet it is a fact that MANY YOUNG THINKERS AND ARTISTS…HAVE FOUND SCHAEFFER’S ANALYSES A LIFELINE TO SANITY WITHOUT WHICH THEY COULD NOT HAVE GONE ON LIVING.”

Francis Schaeffer’s works  are the basis for a large portion of my blog posts andthey have stood the test of time. In fact, many people would say that many of the things he wrote in the 1960’s  were right on  in the sense he saw where ourwestern society was heading and he knew that abortion, infanticide and youthenthansia were  moral boundaries we would be crossing  in the coming decadesbecause of humanism and these are the discussions we are having now!)

There is evidence that points to the fact that the Bible is historically true asSchaeffer pointed out in episode 5 of WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE HUMAN RACE? There is a basis then for faith in Christ alone for our eternal hope. This linkshows how to do that.

Francis Schaeffer in Art and the Bible noted, “Many modern artists, it seems to me, have forgotten the value that art has in itself. Much modern art is far too intellectual to be great art. Many modern artists seem not to see the distinction between man and non-man, and it is a part of the lostness of modern man that they no longer see value in the work of art as a work of art.” 

Many modern artists are left in this point of desperation that Schaeffer points out and it reminds me of the despair that Solomon speaks of in Ecclesiastes.  Christian scholar Ravi Zacharias has noted, “The key to understanding the Book of Ecclesiastes is the term ‘under the sun.’ What that literally means is you lock God out of a closed system, and you are left with only this world of time plus chanceplus matter.” THIS IS EXACT POINT SCHAEFFER SAYS SECULAR ARTISTSARE PAINTING FROM TODAY BECAUSE THEY BELIEVED ARE A RESULTOF MINDLESS CHANCE.

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Existentialism and the Meaningful Life [The Common Room]

Published on Jul 7, 2015

Torrey Common Room Discussion with Janelle Aijian, Matt Jenson, and Diane Vincent

Reason is Dead

The  hallmark of the Enlightenment had been “Reason Is King.” The leading thinkers had consciously rejected the need for revelation. As Paul Hazard in European Thought in the Eighteenth Century says, they put Christianity on trial.91
Gradually, however, the problems of this enthronement of human reason emerged. The reason of man was not big enough to handle the big questions, and what man was left with relative knowledge and relative morality. The noose around the humanist’s neck tightened with every passing decade and generation.
What would he do?
Ironically, even though the basis of the humanists’ whole endeavor had been the central importance of man’s reason, when faced with the problems of relative knowledge and relative morality they repudiated reason. Rather than admit defeat in front of God’s revelation, the humanists extended the revolution further – and in a direction which would have been quite unthinkable to their eighteenth-century predecessors. Modern irrationalism was born.
We could go back as far as Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) in philosophy and to Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) in theology. Modern existentialism is also related to Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). However, our intention here is neither to go into the history of irrationalism, nor to examine the proponents of existentialism in our own century, but rather to concentrate on its main thesis. It is this that confronts us on all sides today, and it is impossible to understand modern man without understanding this concept.
Because we shall be using several terms a great deal now, we would ask the reader to attend carefully. When we speak of irrationalism or existentialism or the existential methodology, we are pointing to a quite simple idea. It may have been expressed in a variety of complicated ways by philosophers, but it is not a difficult concept.
Imagine that you are at the movies watching a suspense film. As the story unfolds, the tension increases until finally the hero is trapped in some impossible situation and everyone is groaning inwardly, wondering how he is going to get out of the mess. The suspense is heightened by the knowledge (of the audience, not the hero) that help is on the way in the form of the good guys. The only question is: will the good guys arrive in time?
Now imagine for a moment that the audience is slipped the information that there are no good guys, that the situation of the hero is not just desperate, but completely hopeless. Obviously, the first thing that would happen is that the suspense would be gone. You and the entire audience would simply be waiting for the axe to fall.
If the hero faced the end with courage, this would be morally edifying, but the situation itself would be tragic. If, however, the hero acted as if help were around the corner and kept buoying himself up with this thought (“Someone is on the way!” – “Help is at hand!”), all you could feel for him would be pity. It would be a means to keep hope alive within a hopeless situation. The hero’s hope would change nothing on the outside; it would be unable to manufacture, out of nothing, good guys coming to the rescue. All it would achieve would the hero’s own mental state of hopefulness rather than hopelessness.
The hopefulness itself would rest on a lie or an illusion and thus, viewed objectively, would be finally absurd. And if the hero really knew what the situation was, but consciously used the falsehood to buoy up his feelings and go whistling along, we would either say, “Poor guy!” or “He’s a fool.” It is this kind of conscious deceit that someone like Woody Allen has looked full in the face and will have none of.
Now this is what the existential methodology is about. If the universe we are living in is what the materialistic humanists say it is, then with our reason (when we stop to think about it) we could find absolutely no way to have meaning or morality or hope or beauty. This would plunge us into despair. We would have to take seriously the challenge of Albert Camus (1913-1960) in the first sentence of The Myth of Sisyphus: “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.”92 Why stay alive in an absurd universe? Ah! But that is not where we stop. We say to ourselves – “There is hope!” (even though there is no help). “We shall overcome!” (even though nothing is more certain than that we shall be destroyed, both individually at death and cosmically with the end of all conscious life). This is what confronts us on all sides today: the modern irrational-ism.

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, Author, “A Life Worth Living: Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning,”7 Things You Didn’t Know About Albert Camus,“Posted: 11/07/2013 7:38 am, “Camus was not a pessimist. Sure, he liked to remind us that there was no reason to hope. How could one in a universe of “tender indifference” to our repeated demands for meaning? But this was never a reason for despair. Think of the scene from “Annie Hall,” where Woody Allen puts the moves on a young woman who, while staring at a Jackson Pollock canvas, replies with an apocalyptic vision of the world. Like Allen, Camus would have asked if she was busy tomorrow night and, upon hearing she planned to commit suicide then, would pause only a moment before asking if she was busy tonight.”

How can we reconcile the statement of Zaretsky with Camus’ own words: “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.”

 

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The Best Art References in Woody Allen Films Image via Complex / APJAC Productions

Film: Play It Again, Sam (1972)

In 1972’s Play It Again, Sam, Allen plays a film critic trying to get over his wife’s leaving him by dating again. In one scene, Allen tries to pick up a depressive woman in front of the early Jackson Pollock work. This painting, because of its elusive title, has been the subject of much debate as to what it portrays. This makes for a nifty gag when Allen strolls up and asks the suicidal belle, “What does it say to you?”

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Woody Allen in Play It Again Sam

Uploaded on May 20, 2009

Scene from ‘Play it Again Sam’ (1972)

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Allan: That’s quite a lovely Jackson Pollock, isn’t it?

Museum Girl: Yes, it is.

Allan: What does it say to you?

Museum Girl: It restates the negativeness of the universe. The hideous lonely emptiness of existence. Nothingness. The predicament of Man forced to live in a barren, Godless eternity like a tiny flame flickering in an immense void with nothing but waste, horror and degradation, forming a useless bleak straitjacket in a black absurd cosmos.

Allan: What are you doing Saturday night?

Museum Girl: Committing suicide.

Allan: What about Friday night?

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Woody Allen Contemplates God in “Hannah & Her Sisters”

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Woody Allen on insanity and Cate Blanchett

 

12 Questions for Woody Allen

 

 

 

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Albert Camus, (1913-60)


  • Life in AlgeriaAlthough born in extreme poverty, Camus attended the lycee and university in Algiers, where he developed an abiding interest in sports and the theater. His university career was cut short by a severe attack of tuberculosis, an illness from which he suffered periodically throughout his life. The themes of poverty, sport, and the horror of human mortality all figure prominently in his volumes of so-called Algerian essays: L’Envers et l’endroit (The Wrong Side and the Right Side, 1937), Noces (Nuptials, 1938), and L’Ete (Summer, 1954). In 1938 he became a journalist with Alger-Republicain, an anticolonialist newspaper. While working for this daily he wrote detailed reports on the condition of poor Arabs in the Kabyles region. These reports were later published in abridged form in Actuelles III (1958).
  • The War YearsSuch journalistic experience proved invaluable when Camus went to France during World War II. There he worked for the Combat resistance network and undertook the editorship of the Parisian daily Combat, which first appeared clandestinely in 1943. His editorials, both before and after the liberation, showed a deep desire to combine political action with strict adherence to moral principles.During the war Camus published the main works associated with his doctrine of the absurd–his view that human life is rendered ultimately meaningless by the fact of death and that the individual cannot make rational sense of his experience. These works include the novel The Stranger (1942; Eng. trans., 1946), perhaps his finest work of fiction, which memorably embodies the 20th-century theme of the alienated stranger or outsider; a long essay on the absurd, The Myth of Sysiphysus (1942; Eng. trans., 1955); and two plays published in 1944, Cross Purpose (Eng. trans., 1948) and Caligula (Eng. trans., 1948). In these works Camus explored contemporary nihilism with considerable sympathy, but his own attitude toward the “absurd” remained ambivalent. In theory, philosophical absurdism logically entails total moral indifference. Camus found, however, that neither his own temperament nor his experiences in occupied France allowed him to be satisfied with such total moral neutrality. The growth of his ideas on moral responsibility is partly sketched in the four Letters to a German Friend (1945) included, with a number of other political essays, in Resistance, Rebellion, and Death (1960).
  • RebellionundefinedFrom this point on, Camus was concerned mainly with exploring avenues of rebellion against the absurd as he strove to create something like a humane stoicism. The Plague (1947; Eng. trans., 1948) is a symbolic novel in which the important achievement of those who fight bubonic plague in Oran lies not in the little success they have but in their assertion of human dignity and endurance. In the controversial essay The Rebel (1951; Eng. trans., 1954), he criticized what he regarded as the deceptive doctrines of “absolutist” philosophies–the vertical (eternal) transcendence of Christianity and the horizontal (historical) transcendence of Marxism. He argued in favor of Mediterranean humanism, advocating nature and moderation rather than historicism and violence. He subsequently became involved in a bitter controversy with Jean Paul Sartre over the issues raised in this essay.Camus wrote two overtly political plays, the satirical State of Siege (1948; Eng. trans., 1958) and The Just Assassins (1950; Eng. trans., 1958). It can be argued, however, that Camus scored his major theatrical success with stage adaptations of such novels as William Faulkner’s Requiem for a Nun (1956) and Dostoyevsky’s The Possessed (1959). He also published a third novel, The Fall (1956; Eng. trans., 1957), which some critics read as a flirtation with Christian ideas, and a collection of short stories noteworthy for their technical virtuosity,Exile and the Kingdom (1957; Eng. trans., 1958). Posthumous publications include two sets of Notebooks covering the period 1935-51, an early novel, A Happy Death (1971; Eng. trans., 1972), and a collection of essays, Youthful Writings (1973; Eng. trans., 1976 and 1977)John Cruickshank

How Should We then Live Episode 7 small (Age of Nonreason)

T h e AGE OF NON-REASON

I. Optimism Of Older Humanist Philosophers:

The unity and true knowledge of reality defined as starting from Man alone.

II. Shift in Modern Philosophy

A. Eighteenth century as the vital watershed.

B. Rousseau: ideas and influence.

1. Rousseau and autonomous freedom.

2. Personal freedom and social necessity clash in Rousseau.

3. Rousseau’s influence.

a) Robespierre and the ideology of the Terror.

b) Gauguin, natural freedom, and disillusionment.

C. DeSade: If nature is the absolute, cruelty equals non-cruelty.

D. Impossible tension between autonomous freedom and autonomous reasons conclusion that the universe and people are a part of the total cosmic machine.

E. Kant, Hegel, and Kierkegaard and their followers sought for a unity but they did not solve the problem.

1. After these men and their followers, there came an absolute break between the area of meaning and values, and the area of reason.

2. Now humanistic philosophy sees reason as always leading to pessimism; any hope of optimism lies in non-reason.

III. Existentialism and Non-Reason

A. French existentialism.

1. Total separation of reason and will: Sartre.

2. Not possible to live consistently with this position.

B. German existentialism.

1. Jaspers and the “final experience.”

2. Heidegger and angst.

C. Influence of existentialism.

1. As a formal philosophy it is declining.

2. As a generalized attitude it dominates modern thought.

IV. Forms of Popularization of Nonrational Experience

A. Drug experience.

1. Aldous Huxley and “truth inside one’s head.”

2. Influence of rock groups in spreading the drug culture; psychedelic rock.

B. Eastern religious experience: from the drug trip to the Eastern religious trip.

C. The occult as a basis for “hope” in the area of non-reason.

V. Theological Liberalism and Existentialism

A. Preparation for theological existentialism.

1. Renaissance’s attempt to “synthesize” Greek philosophers and Christianity; religious liberals’ attempt to “synthesize” Enlightenment and Christianity.

2. Religious liberals denied supernatural but accepted reason.

3. Schweitzer’s demolition of liberal aim to separate the natural from the supernatural in the New Testament.

B. Theological existentialism.

1. Intellectual failure of rationalist theology opened door to theological existentialism.

2. Barth brought the existential methodology into theology.

a) Barth’s teaching led to theologians who said that the Bible is not true in the areas of science and history, but they nevertheless look for a religious experience from it.

b) For many adherents of this theology, the Bible does not give absolutes in regard to what is right or wrong in human behavior.

3. Theological existentialism as a cul-de-sac.

a) If Bible is divorced from its teaching concerning the cosmos and history, its values can’t be applied to a historic situation in either morals or law; theological pronouncements

about morals or law are arbitrary.

b) No way to explain evil or distinguish good from evil. Therefore, these theologians are in same position as Hindu philosophers (as illustrated by Kali).

c) Tillich, prayer as reflection, and the deadness of “god.”

d) Religious words used for manipulation of society.

VI. Conclusion

With what Christ and the Bible teach, Man can have life instead of death—in having knowledge that is more than finite Man can have from himself.

Questions

1. What is the difference between theologians and philosophers of the rationalist tradition and those of the existentialist tradition?

2. “If the early church had embraced an existentialist theology, it would have been absorbed into the Roman pantheon.” It didn’t. Why not?

3. “It is true that existentialist theology is foreign to biblical religion. But biblical religion was the product of a particular culture and, though useful for societies in the same cultural stream, it is no longer suitable for an age in which an entire range of world cultures requires a common religious denominator. Religious existentialism provides that, without losing the universal instinct for the holy.” Study this statement carefully. What assumptions are betrayed by it?

4. Can you isolate attitudes and tendencies in yourself, your church, and your community which reflect the “existentialist methodology” described by Dr. Schaeffer?

Key Events and Persons

Rousseau: 1712-1778

Kant: 1724-1804

Marquis de Sade: 1740-1814

The Social Contract: 1762

Hegel: 1770-1831

Kierkegaard: 1813-1855

Paul Gauguin: 1848-1903

Whence, What Whither?: 1897-1898

Albert Schweitzer: 1875-1965

Quest for the Historical Jesus: 1906

Karl Jaspers: 1883-1969

Paul Tillich: 1886-1965

Karl Barth: 1886-1968

Martin Heidegger: 1889-1976

Aldous Huxley: 1894-1963

J.P. Sartre: 1905-1980

Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper: 1967

Further Study

Unless already familiar with them, take time to listen to the Beatles’ records, as well as to discs put out by other groups at the time.

Albert Camus, The Stranger (1942).

Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception (1954).

Rousseau, The Social Contract (1762).

J.P. Sartre, Nausea (1938).

Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be (1952).

Following Rousseau, the exaggeration of the delights and the pathos of nature and experience which marks Romanticism may be sampled in, for example, Wordsworth’s poems, Casper David Friedrich’s paintings, and Schubert’s songs.

J.G. Fichte, Addresses to the German Nation (1968).

J.W. von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther (1962).

Erich Heller, The Disinherited Mind (1952).

 

Camus, The Fall, and the Question of Faith

By Jimmy Maher

The Fall is a work absolutely drenched in Christian, particularly Catholic, symbolism. The title is an obvious reference to the Biblical story of Adam and Eve; the novel’s setting of Amsterdam is a stand-in for Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell; and the work is structured as an extended confession of the narrator’s sins, with the reader playing the role of the priest. Yet the novel was written by Albert Camus, a man generally considered a leading light of the atheistic French existentialist movement of the mid-twentieth century. By taking a closer look at Camus’ life and thought, we may discover that there really is no contradiction here. The literary establishment has a constant tendency to lump thinkers together into easily digestable categories. I believe that Camus was, at least partially, a victim of this lust for simplicity.

Camus never expressed the same contempt toward religion as Jean-Paul Sartre and other prominent existentialists. This marked lack, so unfashionable in the French literary circle in which Camus traveled, was perhaps partially due to the fact that Camus never had a religious upbringing to rebel against. Although the young Albert went through certain polite motions of Catholicism, such as first communion, the religion was not taken particularly seriously by anyone within his extended family. Biographer Oliver Todd notes that Albert’s grandmother’s typical response upon learning of someone’s death was, “Well, he’s farted his last” (12). With no family coercion to react emotionally against, Camus exhibited an intellectual, if not spiritual, interest in Christianity from a young age. Indeed, his first work to attract attention in the world of letters was entitled “Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism: Plotinus and Saint Augustine.”

Lack of hostility toward Christianity does not of course imply acceptance. Camus throughout his life was very much a secular philosopher. One is thus left wondering what to make of The Fall, steeped as it is in Christian imagery and thought, and positively crying out for the sort of spiritual redemption that Catholics would say can only be found in the confessional. Perhaps as he reached middle age Camus was questioning the relentlessly amoral, self-centered worldview of the existentialists, along with their notion of an essentially meaningless universe devoid of absolutes. To paraphrase Nietzsche, the existentialists had killed God, yet they offered nothing to replace Him, thus leaving a guilt-ridden man like Jean-Baptiste Clamence with nowhere to turn. Clamence desperately wants to confess his sins to a higher power, but the intelligentsia, with their pseudo-sophisticated chattering about relativity and modernity, have taken that option away from him. And so he turns to his only alternative, his fellow man. The Fall documents the sick results of Clamence’s compulsion. He talks and talks to us, confessing sin after sin over the course of several long evenings, yet never achieves the redemption he craves. He is left exhausted but not redeemed, able to take satisfaction only in the notion that he may have dragged the reader down to his own level of empty spiritual misery. Clamence seeks redemption, yet redemption is not something that mortal man can provide.

The issue that Clamence, and by extension Camus, is wrestling with here is hardly unknown to those who have rejected metaphysics. The problem is implicit in our language itself. When it comes to the really important matters, to life and death and love, the secular man finds that words fail him. The old words, much as he would love to dismiss them as outmoded, superstitious nonsense, are the only ones that fit. Faced with a death, the atheist has no alternative that resonates in the same way as the “God rest his soul” of the man of faith. Similarly, a guilt-wracked secularist like Clamence can find no solace in confession, because he does not believe anyone is qualified to hear him and wash him clean. And so the stain remains, and devours him. Religion remains such a potent force in society, against all the evidence of science and rational thought, because it offers something those things cannot. If one would discredit religion, one should perhaps be required to offer something other than empty rationalizations to replace it. I do not know what that something might be, of course, and, for all of his intellectual brilliance, neither did Camus. His novel provides no answers, only painful, almost desperate questions.

The Fall has the feeling of a deeply personal book. One senses somehow that the questions that torment Clamence are the questions that also torment the author. Certainly many commentators at the time of the book’s publication took it as direct description of Camus’ state of mind, circa 1956. Its note of questioning dissatisfaction led many to conclude that Camus was himself on the verge of embracing Christianity, not just intellectually but also spiritually. Speculation on this point is now rather pointless, of course. Camus may just as likely have been casting about for some new value system that could fill the void of traditional religion. Most likely, he had little idea of his own future. We certainly cannot know where Camus’ thoughts would eventually have taken him had he not died so soon after The Fall’s publication, but we do know that he was growing increasingly critical of the existential philosophies of Sartre and others. He wrote shortly after completing the novel that “far from leading to a decent solution of the problem of freedom versus authority, [existentialism can only lead] to servitude” (Oliver 346).

Up to this point, I have been equating Camus very closely with his novel’s protagonist, Clamence. One might question the wisdom of doing so. It is after all a truism in literary criticism that a novel is not a work of autobiography. In the case of The Fall, however, I believe that drawing a close parallel between the author and his protagonist is justified. Certainly there is much circumstantial evidence supporting my case. Clamence is forty years old; Camus was forty-three at the time of the novel’s publication. Both men were socially adept, both were notably polite and patient, and both were quite generous with their money. Both seduced women seemingly effortlessly, but shied away from serious involvement with their conquests. Todd notes in his biography that “when he slept with a woman, and she insisted on further involvement, Camus would explain that his real attachments were elsewhere. …brief sexual adventures posed no problem for him” (345). The similarities are rather striking.

That is not to say that Camus is Clamence, or vice versa. While Camus seems to have drawn from his own psyche in constructing the character, there is no reason to believe that he ever reached the state of bitter despair that marked Clamence. One proof of this might be the fact that the novel exists at all. If one accepts the premise that the creation of art, even deeply tragic art, is fundamentally life-affirming, one has to conclude that by the very act of writing The Fall Camus has transcended Clamence’s existential nihilism. Certainly Camus denied, repeatedly and vehemently, that he and Clamence were one. Some of this may have been self-serving, for no one would want to be too closely associated in the public mind with such an unpleasant character as Clamence, but nevertheless those who remember Camus generally describe him as a fundamentally gentle person, a far cry from the reprobate Clamence has become by the end of the novel. We are on much firmer ground in saying that Clamence, while an individual distinctly separate from his creator, represents the consequence of certain aspects of Camus’ psyche taken to their extremes.

The Fall feels like a transitional work to this reader. Unfortunately, we never got to see where that transition would eventually lead Camus, for his life was cut short in the middle of his stream of thought. Having rejected Christianity, at least as a workable belief system for himself personally, very early in his career, and now having rejected Sartre’s brand of existential atheism, he seems to be searching for some third, better path. If he found it, he never had the chance to share it with us. This gives The Fall an unsettled feeling of incompletion. We are left in limbo, waiting for some sort of answer to the dilemmas it poses, an answer that will of course never arrive. There are no happy endings, and certainly no redemption. We have only some of the most difficult questions one can ask, accompanied by a protagonist who is the very definition of existential angst. Clamence is a martyr for the modern, smugly sophisticated, secular man embodied by thinkers like Sartre, and, yes, his sometimes friend and sometimes enemy Albert Camus himself.

Works Cited and Consulted

Brée, Germaine, ed. Camus. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1962.

Bronner, Stephen Eric. Camus: Portrait of a Moralist. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1999.

Camus, Albert. The Fall. Trans. Justin O’Brien. Vintage: New York, 1991.

Rhein, Phillip H. Albert Camus. New York: Twayne, 1989.

Todd, Oliver. Albert Camus: A Life. Trans. Benjamin Ivry. New York: Knopf, 1997.

Home > 2000 > October 23 Christianity Today, October 23, 2000
A pastor describes how the great existentialist atheist asked him late in life, Do you perform baptisms?
James W. Sire | posted 10/23/2000 12:00AM
Albert Camus and the Ministerby Howard Mumma
Paraclete, 217 pages, $15.95When Albert Camus’s The Fall was published in 1956, “numerous pious souls” thought the famous atheist, existentialist novelist, and philosopher was nearing conversion—so says French critic Alain Costes. Methodist pastor Howard Mumma was one of those pious souls and for good reason.Mumma is no wishful thinker, no pious Christian admirer who imagines reasons to list Camus among the saints. Over several summers, as he served as guest minister at the American Church in Paris, Mumma was sought out by Camus. Sworn to secrecy at the time, Mumma now reconstructs the “irregular and occasional” dialogues that took place before Camus’s tragic death in a car accident on January 4, 1960. These dialogues climaxed with Camus’s request to be baptized privately.To me and, I imagine, to many not quite so pious readers of Camus, the conversations this book describes come as a stunning revelation—but not one lacking credibility. Still, some readers will surely find this revelation a serious challenge to Camus’s intellectual stature and will refuse to believe it.There is, of course, little way for readers now to verify whether these dialogues took place, or to verify the accuracy of Mumma’s memory then or now, 40 years later, when he is in his 90s. Still, the details of the setting for the dialogues and the reconstructed interchanges have the ring of truth.The problem of painCamus had long dealt with religious issues: the meaning of life, the problem of evil, the feelings of guilt, the foundation for morality, the longing for eternal life.Though, as Camus tells Mumma, “The silence of the universe has led me to conclude that the world is without meaning,” he had already confessed in an essay written in 1950 that he had made his whole life an attempt to “transcend nihilism.” His three major novels—The Stranger (1942), The Plague (1947), and The Fall (1956)—deal with profound moral and spiritual issues. Still, none of them—nor any of his short stories, dramas or essays—gives any indication that he was seriously considering conversion to Christianity.

Camus rejected both Marxism, his constant enemy, and Christianity, his frequent sparring partner. His main sticking point was the problem of suffering and evil. Camus refused to believe in the existence of a God who is both omnipotent and good. The world taken on its own is meaningless. If there were a God, then there might be a meaning to the world. But the profound suffering of the innocent is universal. God—if there is a God—does nothing to prevent it or alleviate it. Therefore he either does not exist or he is not omnipotent and not worth believing in. Worse, he may be evil himself.

Camus’s response to this meaningless world is to rebel, to launch an attack on suffering. In the image of his novel, it is to fight the plague.

What attracts all morally sensitive readers to Camus’s philosophy is its honesty, its openness to the reality of suffering, his refusal to accept any cheap answers, but at the same time his passion to act positively, not only to have compassion on the suffering but, as an intellectual with stellar gifts as a writer, to encourage others to do so as well. Without believing in anything “transcendent,” he calls us to “transcend” nihilism by our actions, to make meaning where there is no meaning.

What Mumma shows us, however, is a Camus who had doubts about his own solution and premonitions that genuine meaning did in fact exist in God as understood by traditional Christianity. “I am searching for something I do not have, something I’m not sure I can define,” he tells Mumma in their first encounter. The world is not rational, it does not fit human needs and desire. “In a word, our very existence is absurd.” Suicide seems the only logical response.

Mumma does not hasten to counter Camus’s charge; rather, he sympathizes with Camus’s frustration and confesses his own inability to make sense of the world. This at first seems like strange behavior for a pastor. In fact, however, it mirrors the behavior of Job’s friends—the one thing they got right. They sat with Job for seven days and seven nights without speaking. Camus returns for a second visit and the dialogue resumes.

As the conversations continue, Camus begins to read the Bible, something he confesses not to have done before. In fact he does not even own one; so Mumma gets one for him, and Camus starts with Genesis. This raises the issue of the whether the Bible is to be taken literally, especially the story of Adam and Eve. When Mumma interprets it as a parable of the origin of the conscience, in short, a tale putting the origin of human evil in the attempt of human beings to make themselves gods, Camus finds the story to ring true.

While Mumma’s answers are broadly speaking neo-orthodox, not quite those an evangelical would likely give, the theology is traditional at heart, and it is in line with Camus’s own understanding of human nature.

Sartre the blusterer.

Mumma then mentions the well-known relationship between Jean-Paul Sartre and Camus. Mumma has already had two significant encounters with Sartre; these become a springboard for further dialogue with Camus. In his conversation with Mumma, Sartre held that there is no god of any kind. Human beings alone have a nonmaterial dimension; from that, they are able to break free of their material constraints and create their own nature, their own character.

When Mumma asks where this nonmaterial nature comes from, Sartre has no explanation. He merely blusters, “I have no answers to this question, but I emphatically deny any natural or biological origin for the spiritual freedom with which man is cursed or blessed. … Let us drop the subject.” Still, a bit dejected, he asks Mumma to explain the Christian view of the question. When Mumma replies, Sartre says, “I have not heard this reasoning before and will have to think on it further.”

The conversation with Sartre then moves to morality. According to Sartre, free individuals create by their choices both their own character and the moral principles by which they live. They are obligated only to themselves. But if they are obligated to no one else, how can ethics be anything but relative? In short, how can there be a morality—an ought in a world of contrary notions of what is good, none of which has a claim on any other? Mumma has only two encounters with Sartre, neither of which stirs Sartre from his commitment to atheism.

Private baptism?

Mumma is no novelist; he does not try to picture the movement of Camus’s mind. What he does is to shock us as he himself is shocked by what Camus suddenly asks: “Howard, do you perform baptisms?” What does “You must be born again” mean? After being told that “baptism is a symbolic commitment to God” and being born again means “to enter anew or afresh into the process of spiritual growth … to receive forgiveness because you have asked God to forgive you of all your sins,” Camus says, “Howard, I am ready. I want this.”

Then came the dilemma for Mumma. Camus had already been baptized in the Roman Catholic Church. According to Methodist belief and that of many other denominations, once is enough. Moreover, baptism is a public affair. It means becoming a part of the visible community of faith. It is the latter that now becomes the sticking point. Camus is a very public figure.

But Mumma would not agree to a private baptism. Instead, he counseled Camus to continue his study of the faith and to postpone baptism till the two of them could reach the same persuasion. Camus accompanied Mumma to the airport as he prepared to return to the States, expecting to see Camus again the next year. “My friend, mon ché;ri, thank you. … I am going to keep striving for the Faith!” Suddenly Mumma has second thoughts. Should he have baptized and confirmed him?

But it is too late. A few months later, Mumma hears of Camus’s sudden death. Although he wonders if he had made a mistake, Mumma writes:

I had implied that baptism was an event that usually only happens once, and I certainly wasn’t worried for his soul. God had set aside a special place for him, I was sure.

Apologetic questions

For any Christian interested in apologetics, this book raises a host of questions.

What if Mumma had answered Camus’s questions in a more evangelical way, arguing for the historicity of Adam and Eve and a less exclusively theological reading of the Bible? Camus could see the power of the theological understanding of evil, one with which most evangelicals would be in basic agreement. Would he have been so ready to proceed if Mumma insisted that he accept a more literal understanding of the Old Testament?

What if Mumma had directed Camus to the Gospels first? Would that have raised a different set of questions in Camus’s mind? Camus has shown some sympathy with Jesus in his writing. Would his fresh and direct encounter with him in the New Testament have given a different focus to his struggle with the problem of evil?

When a seeker asks for baptism, how much must be believed? Given Camus’s status as a celebrity, how important is the public aspect of baptism? We know, for example, the strain on public figures who are converted. Already in the limelight, they are prone to overconfidence and too often fade from overexposure. Worse, the Christian community often parades them before the public as arguments for the faith.

This book is an important addition to apologetic literature—not because of the details of the argument, for there is nothing new here—but because of who Sartre and Camus were and continue to be in the intellectual world. If Sartre could only bluster when a key weakness of his philosophy is pointed out by an ordinary pastor, how solid is the intellectual foundation of atheism? If Camus, more honest and open than Sartre to the flaws of his own system, could finally see the truth of Christianity, how optimistic could we be about the conversion of honest atheists?

James W. Sire, author of The Universe Next Door, has recently published Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling (InterVarsity Press).

Related Elsewhere

For hundreds of Camus links, click here.

Read a brief Camus biography.

In October’s The New Republic James Wood’s ” The Sickness Unto Life” examines why Camus, and thinkers who question God most rigorously, often arrive at highly orthodox conclusions.

You can purchase Howard E. Mumma’s Albert Camus and the Minister online.

James W. Sire’s The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog is available from Worthy books. Habits of the Mind, his latest work, is available from IVP.

Copyright © 2004 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.

 

A Christian Manifesto Francis Schaeffer

Published on Dec 18, 2012

A video important to today. The man was very wise in the ways of God. And of government. Hope you enjoy a good solis teaching from the past. The truth never gets old.

The Roots of the Emergent Church by Francis Schaeffer

#02 How Should We Then Live? (Promo Clip) Dr. Francis Schaeffer

10 Worldview and Truth

Two Minute Warning: How Then Should We Live?: Francis Schaeffer at 100

Francis Schaeffer Whatever Happened to the Human Race (Episode 1) ABORTION

Francis Schaeffer “BASIS FOR HUMAN DIGNITY” Whatever…HTTHR

 

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Featured artist today is Hamish Fulton

Understanding contemporary art

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Hamish Fulton’s work is highlighted at the 13:30  minute mark in the above film.

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Hamish Fulton

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Hamish Fulton, British artist and photographer, was born in 1946 in London, England. He first attended the art foundation course at Hammersmith College of Art. With help from a tutor (David Hall) he was accepted straight into the advanced course at Saint Martin’s School of Art, London, 1966–68, and the following year studied at the Royal College of Art, London.[1] Fulton primarily concentrated his work on the experiences in individual walks that he took.

Hamish Fulton: “seven paces” (2003)

The emotional and physical recollections of his walks, lasting anywhere from one day to many weeks, are displayed as photographs combined with descriptive captions that evoke unique feelings within each viewer. His books expound on these matters.[2][3][4]

For the last twenty years, Fulton has shifted his focus on painting exhibition walls. His wall installation A 21 day coast to coast walking journey. Japan 1996 at the John Weber Gallery, NY incorporates the concrete poetry format and his earlier work A Seven day walk in the mountains Switzerland early summer 1984 was the inspiration for the ‘fulton’ Visual poetry form.[5]

Hamish Fulton is represented in London by Maureen Paley.

Publications

References

  1. Jump up ^ Oxford Art Online
  2. Jump up ^ Hollow Lane Stellar Press (1972)
  3. Jump up ^ Walking Passed Gingko Press
  4. Jump up ^ Wild Life (Pocketbooks) Polygon
  5. Jump up ^ Reason Dave, Landspace Place:Nature:Material:, Kettles Gallery, Cambridge 1986 ISBN 0-907074-26-X

External links

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Some of his work below:

The work of the English artist Hamish Fulton deals with the physical experience of space. “An object cannot compete with an experience” is the artistic leitmotif to which he has been giving expression in performances and procedural works of art since the late 1960s. On June 23, Hamish Fulton staged an “Art Walk” on the walkway along the Limmat. Two groups of more than 100 people each walked in single file, approaching each other from two different points along the course of the river. The two lines of people crossed paths and separated again, with the common experience in space, the flow of the movements and moving in a flow generating a unique experience of time and space.

HAMISH FULTON, GB, *1946, lives and works in Canterbury
Courtesy of Häusler Contemporary, Munich/Zürich

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The Chair of Günther Vogt was founded in 2005. The international team is recruited from the fields of landscape architecture, art, cultural studies and aesthetics, as well as urban management and spatial planning. This constellation supports the development and transformation of complex spaces by maintaining an important quality of spatial design: transdisiplinary praxis.

Hamish Fulton, Northern France, 1977

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SUNDAY, MARCH 6, 2011

Hamish Fulton

How we read an artist’s work is often the consequence
of where we place it, in which readily-available, art-historical
category. For instance, if we assign Hamish Fulton’s work to
the plausible category of Land Art, a certain content comes to
the fore: the artist’s environmental concerns, his ethic of minimal
intervention, the references to and respect for native cultures.

Things look a little different if we take Fulton to be a conceptual
artist having one idea – that a walk can be a work of art. In this
case, Fulton’s different interests and concerns may be read as
discoveries yielded by this first intuition. The variety of forms
the work takes, the photographs, wall texts, books and notebooks
exist as documentation leading back to the fading and irrecoverable
experience of the walk.

Hamish Fulton began to make art from walking in the late 60s,
when minimal, conceptual and land art practices were still fluid
and interchangable, in a moment of possibility before attitudes
hardened into form.

_________________

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Gary Habermas explains the reasons for Antony Flew’s change of mind

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Antony Flew on God and Atheism

Published on Feb 11, 2013

Lee Strobel interviews philosopher and scholar Antony Flew on his conversion from atheism to deism. Much of it has to do with intelligent design. Flew was considered one of the most influential and important thinker for atheism during his time before his death (he’s a much better thinker than Richard Dawkins too – even when he was an atheist). His conversion to God-belief has caused an uproar among atheists. They have done all they can to lessen the impact of his famous conversion by shamelessly suggesting he’s too old, senile and mentally deranged to understand logic and science anymore.

News on Antony Flew’s conversion:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1e4FU…

Interview and discussion with Antony Flew:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53REH…

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Does Belief in God Make Sense in Light of Tsunamis? William Lane Craig vs. A.C. Grayling

Published on Aug 14, 2013

Date: 2005
Location: Oxford Union, University of Oxford (audio replayed July 5, 2011 on Unbelievable? Premier Christian Radio)

Christian debater: William Lane Craig
[New] Atheist debater: A.C. Grayling

For William Lane Craig: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/
For A.C. Grayling: http://www.acgrayling.com/
To purchase this debate: http://apps.biola.edu/apologetics-sto…

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The Kalam Cosmological Argument (Scientific Evidence) (Henry Schaefer, PhD)

Published on Jun 11, 2012

Scientist Dr. Henry “Fritz” Schaefer gives a lecture on the cosmological argument and shows how contemporary science backs it up.

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Discussion (1 of 3): Antony Flew, N.T. Wright, and Gary Habermas

Uploaded on Sep 22, 2010

A discussion with Antony Flew, N.T. Wright, and Gary Habermas. This was held at Westminster Chapel March, 2008

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During the 1990′s I actually made it a practice to write famous atheists and scientists that were mentioned by Adrian Rogers and Francis Schaeffer and challenge them with the evidence for the Bible’s historicity and the claims of the gospel. Usually I would send them a cassette tape of Adrian Rogers’ messages “6 reasons I know the Bible is True,” “The Final Judgement,” “Who is Jesus?” and the message by Bill Elliff, “How to get a pure heart.” I would also send them printed material from the works of Francis Schaeffer and a personal apologetic letter from me addressing some of the issues in their work.

The famous atheist Antony Flew was actually took the time to listen to several of these messages and he wrote me back in the mid 1990′s several times.

Gary Habermas does a great job below of quoting Flew’s own words and documenting the reasons Flew left atheism.

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Antony Flew’s Deism Revisited

Antony Flew’s Deism Revisited

There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His MindA Review Essay on There Is a God

Gary Habermas
Department of Philosophy and Theology
Liberty University
Lynchburg, Virginia


There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. By Antony Flew and Roy Abraham Varghese. New York: HarperCollins, 2007. 256 pages. $24.95.

When preeminent philosophical atheist Antony Flew announced in 2004 that he had come to believe in God’s existence and was probably best considered a deist, the reaction from both believers and skeptics was “off the chart.” Few religious stories had this sort of appeal and impact, across the spectrum, both popular as well as theoretical.  No recent change of mind has received this much attention. Flew responded by protesting that his story really did not deserve this much interest. But as he explained repeatedly, he simply had to go where the evidence led.

Some Background

It was this last sentence, repeated often in interviews, that really interested me. Having known Tony well over more than twenty years, I had heard him repeat many things like it, as well as other comments that might be termed “open minded.” He had insisted that he was open to God’s existence, to special revelation, to miracles, to an afterlife, or to David Hume being in error on this or that particular point. To be truthful, I tended to set aside his comments, thinking that while they were made honestly, perhaps Tony still was not as open as he had thought.

Then very early in 2003 Tony indicated to me that he was considering theism, backing off a few weeks later and saying that he remained an atheist with “big questions.” One year later, in January 2004, Tony told me that he had indeed become a theist, just as quickly adding, however, that he was “not the revelatory kind” of believer. That was when I heard him say for the first time that he was just following where the evidence led. Then I remembered all the earlier occasions when he had insisted that he was not objecting to God or the supernatural realm on a priori grounds. I was amazed. Tony was indeed willing to consider the evidence!

There was an immediate outcry from many in the skeptical community. Perhaps Tony Flew was simply too old, or had not kept up on the relevant literature. The presumption seemed to be that, if he had been doing so, then he would not have experienced such a change of mind. One joke quipped that, at his advanced age, maybe he was just hedging his bets in favor of an afterlife!

One persistent rumor was that Tony Flew really did not believe in God after all. Or perhaps he had already recanted his mistake. Paul Kurtz’s foreword to the republication of Flew’s classic volume God and Philosophy identified me as “an evangelical Christian philosopher at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University,” noting my interview with Flew and my “interpretation” that Tony now believed in God.[1] Kurtz seemed to think that perhaps the question still remained as to whether Flew believed in God. After explaining that Flew’s “final introduction” to the reissued volume had undergone the process of four drafts, Kurtz concluded that readers should “decide whether or not he has abandoned his earlier views.”[2]

In his introduction to this same text, Flew both raised at least a half-dozen new issues since his book had first appeared in 1966, as well as mentioning questions about each of these subjects. Included were discussions on contemporary cosmology, fine-tuning arguments, some thoughts regarding Darwin’s work, reflections on Aristotle’s view of God, as well as Richard Swinburne’s many volumes on God and Christian theism. Hints of theism were interspersed alongside some tough questions.[3]

Of course, book text must be completed well before the actual date of publication. But several news articles had appeared earlier, telling the story of what Flew referred to as his “conversion.”[4] Early in 2005, my lengthier interview with Flew was published in Philosophia Christi.[5] Another excellent interview was conducted by Jim Beverly, in which Flew also evaluated the influence of several major Christian philosophers.[6]

In many of these venues, Flew explained in his own words that he was chiefly persuaded to abandon atheism because of Aristotle’s writings about God and due to a number of arguments that are often associated with Intelligent Design. But his brand of theism – or better yet, deism[7] – was not a variety that admitted special revelation, including either miracles or an afterlife. While he acknowledged most of the traditional attributes for God, he stopped short of affirming any divine involvement with humans.

Along the way, Flew made several very positive comments about Christianity, and about Jesus, in particular. Jesus was a first rate moral philosopher, as well as a preeminent charismatic personality, while Paul had a brilliant philosophical mind. While rejecting miracles, Flew held that the resurrection is the best-attested miracle-claim in history.[8]

It is against this background that we turn to the latest chapter in the ongoing account of Antony Flew’s pilgrimage from ardent atheism to deism. Further clarifying his religious views, especially for those who might have thought that the initial report was too hasty, or suspected incorrect reporting, or later backtracking on Flew’s part, the former atheistic philosopher has now elucidated his position. In a new book that is due to be released before the end of the year, Flew chronicles the entire story of his professional career, from atheism to deism, including more specific reasons for his change. Along the way, several new aspects have been added.

Discussion (2 of 3): Antony Flew, N.T. Wright, and Gary Habermas

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Antony Flew’s Influence

Signifying his change of view, the cover of Flew’s new book cleverly reads, “There Is No God,” but the word “No” is scribbled out and the word “A” is handwritten above it. Flew terms this work his “last will and testament,” noting that the subtitle “was not my own invention” (1).[9] The contents are nothing short of a treasure trove of details from Flew’s life, including his family, education, publications, and interactions with many now world-famous philosophers, not to mention the long-awaited reasons for his becoming a deist.

The volume begins with a preface written by Roy Varghese,[10] followed by an introduction by Flew. Part 1, “My Denial of the Divine,” contains three chapters on Flew’s previous atheism.

The book opens with a reverberating bang. Varghese’s eighteen-page preface sets the tone for much of the remainder of the text. He begins with the breaking news in late 2004 of Antony Flew’s newly-announced belief in God. Varghese then notes that

the response to the AP story from Flew’s fellow atheists verged on hysteria. . . . 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. (vii – viii)

Varghese ends by stating that, “Flew’s position in the history of atheism transcends anything that today’s atheists have on offer” (viii).

This last comment serves as an entree to two of the more interesting arguments in the book. Considering Flew’s impact in the history of modern atheism, Varghese argues initially that, “within the last hundred years, no mainstream philosopher has developed the kind of systematic, comprehensive, original, and influential exposition of atheism that is to be found in Antony Flew’s fifty years of antitheological writings” (ix). He then considers the contributions to atheism produced by well-known philosophers such as A. J. Ayer, Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Martin Heidegger. Varghese finds that none of these scholars “took the step of developing book-length arguments to support their personal beliefs” (x).

More recent writers are also mentioned, among them Richard Rorty, Jacques Derrida, J. L. Mackie, Paul Kurtz, and Michael Martin. While they might be said to have contributed more material on behalf of atheism, “their works did not change the agenda and framework of discussion the way Flew’s innovative publications did” (x).

But Flew’s writings like “Theology and Falsification” (“the most widely reprinted philosophical publication of the last century” [vi – vii]), God and Philosophy, The Presumption of Atheism, and other publications set the philosophical tone of atheism for a generation of scholars. Along with Flew’s many other books and essays, one could hardly get through a contemporary philosophy class, especially in philosophy of religion, without being at least introduced to his theses.

Varghese also raises a second crucial topic in the history of twentieth-century philosophy – Flew’s relation to logical positivism. Many works treat Flew’s ideas, especially those in “Theology and Falsification,” as a more subtle, analytic outgrowth of positivism. Sometimes it is thought that Flew attempted to refurbish a less dogmatic application of the discredited verification principle, popularized by Ayer’s Language, Truth, and Logic.[11]

However, Flew did not interpret his essay in this manner. In 1990, he explained his thinking that logical positivism made an “arrogant announcement” that sought to rule out theology and ethics in an a priori manner. The resulting discussion had often become stagnated. Flew wanted to provide an opportunity for the free discussion of religious issues: “Let the believers speak for themselves, individually and severally” (xiii – xiv).

In an article in 2000, Flew explained that his purpose in first reading the paper at a meeting of C. S. Lewis’ Socratic Club, was that “I wanted to set these discussions off onto new and hopefully more fruitful lines.”[12] In another interview that I did with Tony in Oxford in 2005, Flew attested that he saw his essay as slamming the door on positivism at the Socratic Club. He attests that the purpose of his essay “was intended to simply refute the positivistic stance against religious utterances. It succeeded in that, but then its influence spread outside of Oxford.”[13]

These two topics – Flew’s influence on the philosophical atheism of the second half of the twentieth century and his purpose in first presenting his essay “Theology and Falsification” – are key chapters in the life of this major British philosopher. Varghese does well to remind us of Flew’s influence. As he concludes, it is in this context that “Flew’s recent rejection of atheism was clearly a historic event” (xi).

Flew then begins the remainder of the book with an introduction. Referring to his “conversion” from atheism to deism, he begins by affirming clearly that, “I now believe there is a God!” (1). As for those detractors who blamed this on Flew’s “advanced age” and spoke of a sort of “deathbed conversion,” Flew reiterates what he has said all along: he still rejects the afterlife and is not placing any “Pascalian bets” (2).

In a couple stunning comments, Flew then reminds his readers that he had changed his mind on other major issues throughout his career. He states, “I was once a Marxist.” Then, more than twenty years ago, “I retracted my earlier view that all human choices are determined entirely by physical causes” (3).

Discussion (3 of 3): Antony Flew, N.T. Wright, and Gary Habermas

The Making of an Atheist

Part 1 (“My Denial of the Divine”) consists of three chapters, intriguingly titled, “The Creation of an Atheist,” “Where the Evidence Leads,” and “Atheism Calmly Considered.” This material is simply a delightful read, consisting of many autobiographical details regarding Flew’s career and research, along with many enjoyable as well as amusing anecdotes.

In chapter 1, Flew reviews his childhood and early life. This includes detailed references to his father: an Oxford University graduate, with two years of study at Marburg University in Germany, who had become a Methodist minister very much interested in evangelism, as well as a professor of New Testament at a theological college in Cambridge. It was from his father that Tony learned, at an early age, the value of good research and of checking relevant sources before conclusions are drawn.

Flew even stated in some of his atheist publications that he was never satisfied with the way that he had become an atheist – here described as a process that was accomplished “much too quickly, much too easily, and for what later seemed to me the wrong reasons.” Incredibly, he now reflects on his early theism that changed to atheism: “for nearly seventy years thereafter I never found grounds sufficient to warrant any fundamental reversal” (12 – 13). Nonetheless, it was an aspect of the problem of evil that affected Tony’s conversion to atheism. During family travels to Germany, he witnessed first hand some of the horrors of Nazi society and learned to detest “the twin evils of anti-Semitism and totalitarianism” (13 – 14).

Chapter 1 also includes accounts of Flew’s basically private education at a boarding school along with his years at Oxford University, interspersed with military service during World War II, as well as his “locking horns with C. S. Lewis” at Socratic Club meetings. He was present at the famous debate between Lewis and Elizabeth Anscombe in February, 1948 (22 – 4). Flew also met his wife Annis at Oxford. For all those (including myself) who have wondered through the years about Tony’s incredible notions of ethical responsibility, he states that while he had left his father’s faith, he retained his early ethics, reflected in his treatment of Annis before their marriage (25 – 6).

In Chapter 2 (“Where the Evidence Leads”), Flew reflects on his early tenure as “a hotly-energetic left-wing socialist” (33), and narrates his early philosophical interests: parapsychology, Darwinian social ethics and the notion of evolutionary progress, problems with idealism, and analytic philosophy. More details on the Socratic Club introduce some of the philosophical reactions to Flew’s “Theology and Falsification,” along with his writing of his epic God and Philosophy, his “systematic argument for atheism” (49). Flew discusses reactions from Richard Swinburne, J. L. Mackie, and Frederick Copleston. His conclusion today, as Tony has told me on several occasions, is that God and Philosophy is “a historical relic,” due to changes in his thinking which arose from other’s response to his writing. These changes are set forth in this volume (52).

Flew also discusses in chapter 2 his well-known volumes The Presumption of Atheism and Hume’s Philosophy of Belief. Philosophical reactions are recounted from Anthony Kenny, Kai Nielson, Ralph McInerny, and especially Alvin Plantinga, whose thoughts Flew calls, “By far, the headiest challenge to the argument” of the former volume (55). The chapter concludes with Flew’s changes of mind regarding some of Hume’s ideas, plus his holding and then abandoning compatibilism (56 – 64).

Ending his section on his atheism, Flew’s third chapter is “Atheism Calmly Considered.” Here he notes a number of his debates and dialogues over the years, both public and written, with Thomas Warren, William Lane Craig, Terry Miethe, Richard Swinburne, Richard Dawkins, and myself. Two conferences are also mentioned. The first (“The Shootout at the O.K. Corral”) occurred in Dallas, Texas, in 1985 and featured four prominent atheistic philosophers, playfully called “gunslingers” (Flew, Paul Kurtz, Wallace Matson, and Kai Nielson) dueling with four equally prominent theistic philosophers (Alvin Plantinga, Ralph McInerny, George Mavrodes, and William Alston). The second conference at New York University in 2004 notably included Scottish philosopher John Haldane and Israeli physicist Gerald Schroeder. Here Flew stunned the participants by announcing that he had come to believe in God (74).

There Is a God

The second half of the book consists of the long-awaited reasons for Flew’s conversion to deism, titled “My Discovery of the Divine.” It includes seven chapters on Flew’s religious pilgrimage, along with the nature of the universe and life. Two appendices complete the volume.

“A Pilgrimage of Reason” (chapter 4), is the initial contribution to this section. In this essay, Flew chiefly makes the crucial point that his approach to God’s existence has been philosophical, not scientific. As he notes, “My critics responded by triumphantly announcing that I had not read a particular paper in a scientific journal or followed a brand-new development relating to abiogenesis.” But in so doing, “they missed the whole point.” Flew’s conversion was due to philosophical arguments, not scientific ones: “To think at this level is to think as a philosopher. And, at the risk of sounding immodest, I must say that this is properly the job of philosophers, not of the scientists as scientists” (90).

Thus, if scientists want to get into the fray, they “will have to stand on their own two philosophical feet” (90). Similarly, “a scientist who speaks as a philosopher will have to furnish a philosophical case. As Albert Einstein himself said, “?The man of science is a poor philosopher'” (91). Flew ends the chapter by pointing out that it is Aristotle who most exemplifies his search: “I was persuaded above all by the philosopher David Conway’s argument for God’s existence” drawn from “the God of Aristotle” (92).

The fifth chapter, “Who Wrote the Laws of Nature?” discusses the views of many major scientists, including Einstein and Hawking, along with philosophers like Swinburne and Plantinga, to argue that there is a connection between the laws of nature and the “Mind of God” (103). Flew thinks that this is still a philosophical discussion. As Paul Davies asserted in his Templeton address, “science can proceed only if the scientist adopts an essentially theological worldview,” because, “even the most atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith the existence of a lawlike order in nature that is at least in part comprehensible to us” (107). The existence of these laws must be explained. Flew concludes that many contemporary thinkers “propound a vision of reality that emerges from the conceptual heart of modern science and imposes itself on the rational mind. It is a vision that I personally find compelling and irrefutable” (112).

Chapter 6 (“Did the Universe Know We Were Coming?”) discusses fine-tuning arguments and the multiverse option as another angle on the laws of nature. Among the opponents of the multiverse option, Flew lists Davies, Swinburne, and himself, in part because it simply extends the questions of life and nature’s laws (119). Regardless, Flew concludes, “So multiverse or not, we still have to come to terms with the origins of the laws of nature. And the only viable explanation here is the divine Mind” (121).

Chapter 7 (“How Did Life Go Live?”) continues what Flew insists is a philosophical rather than a scientific discussion of items that are relevant to God’s existence. He discusses at least three chief issues: how there can be fully materialistic explanations for the emergence of life, the problem of reproduction at the very beginning, and DNA. Although science has not concluded these matters either, they are answering questions that are different from the philosophical issues that Flew is addressing (129). Flew concludes by agreeing with George Wald that, “The only satisfactory explanation for the origin of such ?end-directed, self replicating’ life as we see on earth is an infinitely intelligent Mind” (132).

In the title of chapter 8, Flew asks, “Did Something Come from Nothing?” In spite of our twenty years of friendship, I was still not prepared to see Tony developing and defending a cosmological argument for God’s existence! In an essay published back in 1994, Flew had raised questions about David Hume’s philosophy and its inability to explain causation or the laws of nature (139). Then, works by philosophers David Conway and Richard Swinburne convinced him that Hume could be answered on the cosmological argument, as well. Buoyed by these refutations of Hume, Flew was now free to explore the relation between a cosmological argument for God’s existence and recent discussions regarding the beginning of the universe. Flew concludes that, “Richard Swinburne’s cosmological argument provides a very promising explanation, probably the finally right one” (145).

In chapter 9, “Finding Space for God,” Flew begins with his long-time objection to God, that a concept of “an incorporeal omnipresent Spirit” is incoherent – something analogous to talking about a “person without a body” (148). But through the 1980s and 1990s, theistic philosophers in the analytic tradition enjoyed a renaissance. Two of these, David Tracy and Brian Leftow (who succeeded Swinburne at Oxford), answered Flew’s questions. Flew now concedes that the concept of an omnipresent Spirit outside space and time is not intrinsically incoherent (153 – 4).

In “Open to Omnipotence” (chapter 10), Flew summarizes that his case for God’s existence centers on three philosophical items – the origin of the laws of nature, the organization of life, and the origin of life. What about the problem of evil? Flew states that this a separate question, but he had two chief options – an Aristotelian God who does not interfere in the world or the free-will defense. He prefers the former, especially since he thinks the latter relies on special revelation (156).

Closing the main portion of the book with some further shocking comments, Flew states, “I am entirely open to learning more about the divine Reality,” including “whether the Divine has revealed itself in human history” (156 – 7). The reason: Everything but the logically impossible is “open to omnipotence” (157).

Further, “As I have said more than once, no other religion enjoys anything like the combination of a charismatic figure like Jesus and a first-class intellectual like St. Paul. If you’re wanting omnipotence to set up a religion, it seems to me that this is the one to beat!” (157; see also 185 – 6). He ends the chapter a few sentences later: “Some claim to have made contact with this Mind. I have not – yet. But who knows what could happen next? Some day I might hear a Voice that says, ?Can you hear me now?'” (158).

Two appendices close the book. The first is an evaluation of the “New Atheism” of writers like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris. The author of the first appendix, Roy Varghese, argues that “five phenomena are evident in our immediate experience that can only be explained in terms of the existence of God” (161). These five are rationality, life, consciousness, conceptual thought, and the human self, each of which is discussed. Varghese concludes that by arguing from “everyday experience” we are able to “become immediately aware that the world of living, conscious, thinking beings has to originate in a living Source, a Mind” (183).

The second appendix is an essay on the self-revelation of God, written by New Testament theologian N. T. Wright, with brief responses by Flew. Wright argues very succinctly that Jesus existed, was God incarnate, and rose from the dead (187 – 213). Flew precedes this treatment by commenting that though he does not believe the miracle of the resurrection, it “is more impressive than any by the religious competition” (186 – 7). Flew’s final reflection on Wright’s material is that it is an impressive argument – “absolutely wonderful, absolutely radical, and very powerful.” In the end, Flew remains open to divine revelation, since omnipotence could act in such a manner (213).

Comments

As I have indicated, Flew’s new book was a delightful read. This especially applies to the many autobiographical details. The intersection of his life with some of the best-known philosophers in the previous half century was nothing short of exhilarating.

It will be no surprise to anyone who has followed my published debates or dialogues with Tony that the clarification found in this volume was more than welcome. For one thing, many of his comments here were also made in our published dialogue in Philosophia Christi. Most of all, this book should clear up the rumors as to the nature of Tony’s “conversion.” He indeed believes in God, and while from the beginning rejecting special revelation along with any religious affiliation, his view of God’s nature is otherwise quite robust. Indeed, his deism includes most of the classical theological attributes. Further, Flew is also clear several times that he is open to special revelation. As Tony told me just recently, he “won’t shut the door” to the possibility of such revelation or even to hearing a word from the Deity.[14]

Of course, I predict that various skeptics will still have profound problems with the book’s content. They will not be satisfied with its proclamations. I can only imagine the nature of the complaints. If I am right about this, it may even confirm further Varghese’s charge of the vociferous nature of this community’s response to the original announcement (viii). If Varghese is also correct that Flew had produced the most vigorous defense of philosophical atheism in the last century, a guess is that some skeptics are still stung by the loss of their most prominent philosophical supporter.

I would like to have seen further clarification on a few issues in the book. For instance, it would have been very helpful if Tony had explained the precise sense in which he thought that “Theology and Falsification” was an attempt to curtail the growth of positivism. That has remained unclear to me. I, too, was taught that the article was a defense of an analytic position that only softened the force of the positivistic challenge.

Another potential question surrounds Tony’s excellent distinction between giving philosophical as opposed to scientific reasons for his belief in God. However, a discussion or chart that maps out the differences between the two methodological stances would have been very helpful. Philosophers are used to these distinctions. But I am sure that others will think that Tony is still providing two sorts of arguments for God: Aristotle plus scientific arguments like Intelligent Design scenarios.

As Tony has said several times in recent years, he remains open to the possibility of special revelation, miracles like Jesus’s resurrection, and the afterlife. In this volume he also continues to be very complimentary towards these options. I cannot pursue further this topic here. While mentioning evil and suffering, I did wonder about Tony’s juxtaposition of choosing either Aristotle’s deism or the free-will defense, which he thinks “depends on the prior acceptance of a framework of divine revelation” (156). It seems to me that the free-will defense neither asks nor requires any such revelatory commitment. So I think that it could be pursued by a deist, too. If so, that is one more potential defeater to the evil and suffering issue. I will leave it here for now.

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The Bible and Archaeology (1/5)

The Bible maintains several characteristics that prove it is from God. One of those is the fact that the Bible is accurate in every one of its details. The field of archaeology brings to light this amazing accuracy.

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Many people have questioned the accuracy of the Bible, but I have posted many videos and articles with evidence pointing out that the Bible has many pieces of evidence from archaeology supporting the view that the Bible is historically accurate. Take a look at the video above and below.

The Bible and Archaeology (2/5)

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