I was saddened last week to learn of the death of Stephen Hawking, one of history’s most eminent scientists. I admired his persistence and ability to overcome the devastating neurodegenerative condition that crippled his body and stole his speech. Yet, as much as I appreciated Hawking’s seemingly unquenchable search for knowledge, I strongly opposed his conclusions, which pointed to a universe without a creator.
Just three weeks earlier, the world lost another of history’s most eminent voices, the Reverend Billy Graham. Like Hawking, Graham was on a quest to explain the origins of the universe, a search that pointed to a loving creator who made humankind in his own image and sent his Son to redeem us from a broken world.
That Hawking and Graham, who held such differing opinions, should die so close to one another seems more than chance. “My goal is simple,” Hawking was quoted in The Bangor Daily News as having once said. “It is complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.” Hawking’s great ambition was to produce a “Theory of Everything.”
For the theory of relativity to be true, he and a Cambridge colleague once showed, “then the universe must have sprung into existence, out of what appeared to be nothing, at a specific moment in the past and from a place where gravity became so strong that space and time are curved beyond recognition — what is known as a ‘singularity.’”
Graham would surely agree. Indeed, Genesis teaches that not only the earth, but the entire cosmos, was created from nothing at a specific moment by the spoken word of God. Yet Hawking disbelieved in God. “God is the name people give to the reason we are here,” Hawking was quoted by Time magazine as saying. “But I think that reason is the laws of physics rather than someone with whom one can have a personal relationship.” Heaven, he said, was “a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
Graham, on the other hand, admitted he didn’t know the future, but said in his autobiography, Just as I am, “I do know this: the best is yet to be! Heaven awaits us, and that will be far, far more glorious than anything we can ever imagine.”
While Hawking and Graham lived, their words were mere hypotheses – their best guesses about what they believed to be true. Now, however, each has faced the day where ultimate reality is revealed. Did Hawking discover something more glorious than he ever imagined? Or was one of the world’s greatest minds snuffed out by the dark?
One thing Scripture makes clear, the Theory of Everything is a belief about which we don’t want to be wrong. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you,” Jesus said in Matthew 7:7 (NIV). The search for where we came from and why we are here is life’s greatest quest, but we cannot find the answer by intellect alone.
Meadow Rue Merrill, the author of Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine.