Flew-Horvath Correspondence

flew-horvath-letters-ebook Christian apologist Anthony Horvath corresponded with Antony Flew before it was even known that Flew would write a book documenting his intellectual journey from atheism to deism. In the letters that Flew sent, he discussed what the book would contain. By matching parts of the letters with the book, Horvath showed conclusively that the book really did contain Flew’s own positions. After Flew’s death in 2010, Horvath published the full contents of the letters in an e-book titled A Defense of the Integrity of Antony Flew’s There is a God From His Own Letters.

Horvath first referenced the letters in 2008 in a blog post that criticized and even mocked Richard Carrier’s contention that the book was fraudulent. To date, while it is known that Carrier is aware of this post, it is not known that he has replied.

Horvath does not dispute that Flew appeared to have been losing his memory (and in fact, Flew refers to this himself in one of his letters to Horvath) but considers that irrelevant and besides the point, since the most damning arguments put out by atheists was that Flew’s book was a fabrication and a manipulation. This cannot be if Flew described the book and what it would contain even before it was known there would be a book, and this description matches the book.

A revised edition was later released that contained a copy of a signed statement by the Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne asserting that Flew had affirmed, in his presence, “most of the way towards Christianity.” This statement is signed and dated November 30th, 2007.

The edition also reflects the Roy Varghese’s assessment of Horvath’s letters, saying that they are the “smoking gun” “concerning the state of mind of Antony Flew” as it relates to the content and propositions contained in Flew’s There is a God.

Details Corroborating the Integrity of Flew’s Book from Horvath’s letters from Flew:

Flew to Horvath, 1st Letter, December 2006:

  • Flew professes to have memory problems: “though I am 83 […] my only afflictions are athritis, in my left leg and nominal afasia (I can’t remember names)”
  • Flew explicitly indicates a book is forthcoming: “I can assure you that a book will be appearing in the spring of 2007 which will answer your question and do a lot more which will very positively please you.”
  • Flew gives the plan of the book: “It will tell the story of my unbelief which began when I was a Sixth Former at Kingswood School […] recording all the various controversies in which I have been involved ending up with me a Deist…”

This roughly corresponds with the first 100 pages of the book.

  • Flew cites Einstein as a pattern for his own Deism: “… ending up with me a Deist, believing–like Einstein and many other great physicists–in the existence of God who or which has no concern about human belief and behavior.”

Flew treat’s Einstein’s deism, approvingly, at length on pages 98-103.

  • Flew affirms that the book will be written by a Christian writer: “What this book will also contain is a great deal, indeed by far the larger part from Christian writer”
  • Flew refers an argument for the resurrection of Jesus by ‘the Bishop of Darby’ “who offers the most powerful case for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus which I have ever seen.”

This would be Flew’s problem remembering names–he surely means N.T. Wright, who was bishop of Durham, not Darby. On page 2, Flew refers to “a possibility that is well represented in this book by N.T. Wright’s contribution.” An appendix provided by N.T. Wright includes, on pages 195-213, a “case for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus.” It would appear that this is precisely the case that Flew is referring to in his letter to Horvath, as Flew states in his introduction that “Bishop Wright presents by far the best case for accepting Christian belief that I have ever seen” (pg 3) and concludes the book, on page 213, with this statement:

“I am very much impressed with Bishop Wright’s approach, which is absolutely fresh. He presents the case for Christianity as something new for the first time. […] It is absolutely wonderful, absolutely radical, and very powerful.”

Flew to Horvath, 2nd letter, March 2007:

  • Flew repeats Einstein as a model for his own route to deism: “My conversion was very much in the steps of Einstein and of many subsequent Nobel Prize wining physicists”

Flew treat’s Einstein’s deism, approvingly, at length on pages 98-103.

  • Flew makes it clear that he does “not accept the Christian revelation. But I do respect it.”

Flew makes it clear throughout the book and in interviews that he did not a come fully to Christianity, but respected it.

  • Flew states that he believes Richard Dawkins “is out of date in his Biology” and will obtain The God Delusion “which I expect to attack (in response to his recent contemptuous but unfounded attack on me.”

Dawkins is indeed attacked in There is a God in several places, such as on page 99 where he specifically criticizes Dawkins comments on Einstein in Dawkins’ Delusion. The ‘unfounded’ attack is referenced on page 123, along with Flew’s rebuttal.

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Horvath does not suggest that the letters counter every challenge and criticism levied by those who doubt the integrity of Flew’s book, but argues in the first place that this would not be reasonable, since the letters were written long before the criticisms would be made, and therefore could not be expected to directly correlate to those criticisms. In the second place, if what is contained in the letters describing the plan of the book, up to and including a survey of Flew’s journey, individuals that influenced him such as Einstein, people he wishes to attack, such as Richard Dawkins, are actually found in the book, then it is reasonable to suppose that the items that are not explicitly addressed are likewise still valid. At the minimum, the benefit of the doubt leans heavily in favor of the integrity of Flew’s book, rather than against.