“If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” –G.K. Chesterton
This past Tuesday, the final book from the late world-acclaimed physicist Stephen Hawking was published, seven months after his death. The book was entitled “Brief Answers to the Big Questions,” and in it Hawking takes on some weighty and complex issues, including the existence of God.
“Do I have faith?” he asked in the book. “We are free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is that there is no God. No one created the universe, and no one directs our fate.”
He goes on to say that this “profound realization” led him to decide that “there is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either.”
Hawking was a brilliant man and renowned physicist who overcame serious disabilities to impact the world of physics and science for nearly half a century. He was diagnosed with ALS in 1963, at the age of 21, and given just two years to live. Instead, he lived another 55 years until his death in March of 2018. His theories changed the way many scientists look at the universe. At the time of his death, the NASA Twitter account tweeted that “his theories unlocked a universe of possibilities that we and the world are exploring.”
My first thought when I read his “brief answer” that “there is no God,” comes from Scripture: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” (Psalm 14:1)
It certainly seems a little crazy to suggest that someone with the intelligence that Stephen Hawking possessed was a “fool.” But the Bible does that, on more than one occasion. We are also told that, “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)
I would guess that when you have that level of intellect it is not hard to feel that you don’t need a god, and it would therefore be natural to set out to prove that you are the master of your own fate. However, simple logic reminds us that it is impossible to prove a negative, and ultimately for the fool and the wise, the learned and the ignorant, it all comes down to faith.
The reality is, Stephen Hawking had faith; faith in his theories of physics, faith in his belief system that there is no Creator who directs the affairs of the universe, faith that there is no God to whom we all must answer, and faith that in the end there is no real transcendent purpose for any of our lives. Ultimately, his faith was in himself, while our faith is in the real God that we know, who has revealed Himself through His Son Jesus Christ.
I take no pleasure in believing that Professor Hawking has come face to face with God, and that his very real eternal destiny was a most unpleasant surprise for him. We should wish hell on no one, because even God Himself wishes that no one should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) Even atheists. So I am not here to throw rocks at someone who in his brilliance foolishly missed the Truth that was right in front of him, and that even sadder, missed a relationship with the one who is “the way, the truth and the life,” who loved him, and gave Himself up for him on Calvary’s cross.
Sadder still perhaps are those of us who shake our heads with condescension at atheists and agnostics, profess our own belief in God, but then live like He doesn’t exist. If our belief in God doesn’t produce “the fear of the Lord” in our lives, then our faith is empty, and we are hardly different than someone who proudly writes, “There is no God.”
My prayer for you is that you know God, not just intellectually and theologically, but personally and experientially, that He has changed your life–and that He is changing it still. May each of our lives be evidence to a lost world of the reality of the existence of a loving God.