Monday, 16 May 2011

Stephen Hawking and Heaven

I see Stephen Hawking is in the news again today  here
I am not sure Hawking is saying anything he hasn't said before.These days it is not very fashionable for scientists to believe in God, though many continue to do so.
Having failed to pass almost any science exam I ever took .I am really not qualified to debate the science, though  John  Lennox  Professor of Mathematics  at Oxford and Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science certainly is.

Lennox writes"
According to Hawking, the laws of physics, not the will of God, provide the real explanation as to how life on Earth came into being. The Big Bang, he argues, was the inevitable consequence of these laws ‘because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.’
Unfortunately, while Hawking’s argument is being hailed as controversial and ground-breaking, it is hardly new.
For years, other scientists have made similar claims, maintaining that the awesome, sophisticated creativity of the world around us can be interpreted solely by reference to physical laws such as gravity.
It is a simplistic approach, yet in our secular age it is one that seems to have resonance with a sceptical public.
But, as both a scientist and a Christian, I would say that Hawking’s claim is misguided. He asks us to choose between God and the laws of physics, as if they were necessarily in mutual conflict.
But contrary to what Hawking claims, physical laws can never provide a complete explanation of the universe. Laws themselves do not create anything, they are merely a description of what happens under certain conditions.
What Hawking appears to have done is to confuse law with agency. His call on us to choose between God and physics is a bit like someone demanding that we choose between aeronautical engineer Sir Frank Whittle and the laws of physics to explain the jet engine.
That is a confusion of category. The laws of physics can explain how the jet engine works, but someone had to build the thing, put in the fuel and start it up. The jet could not have been created without the laws of physics on their own  -  but the task of development and creation needed the genius of Whittle as its agent.
Similarly, the laws of physics could never have actually built the universe. Some agency must have been involved.
To use a simple analogy, Isaac Newton’s laws of motion in themselves never sent a snooker ball racing across the green baize. That can only be done by people using a snooker cue and the actions of their own arms.
Hawking’s argument appears to me even more illogical when he says the existence of gravity means the creation of the universe was inevitable. But how did gravity exist in the first place? Who put it there? And what was the creative force behind its birth?"

Others including the Chief Rabbi  have also taken issue with Professor Hawking  here Chief Rabbi

As  a pastor though I have spent many hours with those who are dying and have often been struck by the hope of  many Christians in the face of death
I remember many years ago being with an old lady in her nineties who was dying. She  had been converted as a young girl during the 1904 Welsh Revival.Judging from the sense she had of the presence of Jesus which was reflected in her face, and by her repeating again and again the words "Jesus".I certainly believed then and believe now she was entering His presence.
I cannot prove that  but  I accept it as faith. I put my trust in Jesus who said I am the Resurrection and The Life"
I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.

But I know Whom I have believèd,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.


  1. Thanks for that Charles. John Lennox explains it so well. I also heard on a radio programme, "Scientists can explain how life exists- but they can't explain WHY!"
    Even if life can be reproduced in a test-tube, scientists can't produce the necessary "ingredients". I was hopeless at Science, too- and I have a great admiration for scientists and physicists. I could say I especially thankful to God for giving the ability to those engaged in medical science.
    But it has always struck me as a bit simplistic to assume that "science" will unltimately answer everything and explain God away!!! It seems that, in discovering more in the scientific field, we are discovering what God put in place in the first place. But- surely the warning in Genesis about the tree that was forbidden, is a allegorical warning about finding out so much that it can be used as much for evil as for good?
    Food for thought, indeed!

  2. I'm not sure scientists can properly explain 'how' life exists. Can they explain how DNA formed initially?

    But I would disagree with Pauline about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil being an allegorical warning against finding out too much. A lot of pioneering scientific research was carried out by Christians, and I don't think God intended a limit to how much we should know about His physical creation. After all, everything we find out makes Him seem even more clever for designing it.