Antony Flew was one of the most famous philosophers of his day—and also once the most famous atheists. But even in such a role he was no Dawkins or Hitchens: he argued on pragmatic grounds for religious instruction in British schools, for example, and admitted that there was considerable evidence pointing to Jesus' resurrection.
Still, it came as a surprise to many when, in 2004, he decided God must exist after all. Flew was quick to assert that he was merely a deist and did not believe in a God of revelation. "But it seems to me that the case for an Aristotelian God who has the characteristics of power and also intelligence, is now much stronger than it ever was before," he said. He couldn't accept Christianity, he said, "due to the problem of evil."
Response was overwhelming. A New York Times Magazine profile suggested that Flew was merely going dotty in his old age. Jay Leno joked, "Of course he believes in God now. He's 81 years old."
Biola University, meanwhile, gave him an award for his "lifelong commitment to free and open inquiry and to standing fast against intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and expression." This magazine gave him the 2008 Christianity Today Book Award in Apologetics and Evangelism, with the judge in that category saying his book There Is A God put other apologetics works to shame.
Flew died, apparently still a deist, April 8. As he told Christianity Today in 2005, he hoped that would be the end of it. "I don't want a future life," he said. "I have never wanted a future life."