Many people consider Stephen Hawking, the renown physicist and best-selling author, to be the most brilliant person alive. That may be, but brilliant and wise are two very different concepts.
Ki Mae Heussner of ABC News reports that Hawking “knows more about the universe than almost any other person ever to walk the planet, but some answers still escape even him.” When asked by ABC News’ Diane Sawyer about the biggest mystery he’d like solved, Hawking said, “I want to know why the universe exists, why there is something greater than nothing.”
Hawking told Sawyer, “What could define God [is thinking of God] as the embodiment of the laws of nature. However, this is not what most people would think of that God. They made a human-like being with whom one can have a personal relationship. When you look at the vast size of the universe and how insignificant an accidental human life is in it, that seems most impossible.”
When Sawyer asked if there was a way to reconcile religion and science, Hawking said, “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”
Asking the Right Questions, Finding the Wrong Answers
God reveals himself to the humble in the humblest things, while the great do not discover Him even in the greatest things. Contrary to what Hawking thinks, science and Scripture are not at war. They are at one. The “book of nature” and the book of Scripture each reveal a personal God.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands…. The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statues of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:1, 7).
Hawking asks the right question when he ponders why the universe exists and why there is something rather than nothing. It is the age-old question asked and answered by the Psalmist, who, like Hawking, observed creation with fascination.
“When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet” (Psalm 8:3-6).
Hawking peers into the night sky and perceives only impersonal nature and insignificant human life. The Psalmist examines the same creation and sees a personal God personally handcrafting personal beings with purposeful existence and eternal significance.
With eyeballs only, with reason apart from faith, Hawking thinks it impossible that a personal God exists. With spiritual eyes, with 20/20 spiritual vision, with reason redeemed by faith, the Psalmist realizes that it is impossible that personal beings could arise from an impersonal universe.
A Brilliant Fool
Perhaps the more important question is, “Does God believe in Stephen Hawking?” Not only does God believe in him, He knows him intimately and personally. While Hawking cannot perceive this truth, the Psalmist does.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made” (Psalm 139:13-15).
The personal God who knows Stephen Hawking personally, considers him a brilliant fool.
“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). “In his pride the wicked does not seek God; in all his thoughts there is no room for God” (Psalm 10:4).
What could explain such brilliant foolishness? God explains it.
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:18-22).
Foolish but Not Forsaken
The most brilliant Person who ever lived—Jesus—has not forsaken Stephen Hawking. As Creator and Redeemer, Jesus reveals the way back to wisdom—the way back to God.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together…. And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:15-17, 20).
Stephen Hawking can think circles around me. I truly admire his brilliance. I respect his ability to take complex subjects and write about them in simple but not simplistic ways. Still, he’s smart, but not wise. He’s brilliant, but foolish. That’s not my assessment. That’s the assessment of the wisest Person who ever lived and lives forever—Jesus.
Contrary to Hawking’s conclusion, humans didn’t create a human-like God with whom we can have a personal relationship. God created image-bearing human beings with whom He offers a personal relationship—through Christ.
Stephen Hawking’s life is neither insignificant nor accidental. The questions he is asking and the quest he is on to find answers is really about more than finding answers. It is about finding a personal God who offers not just answers, but forgiveness and relationship through Christ.