Stephen Hawking and Christian Faith
by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis on April 11, 2018
Personally I’m very excited and intrigued and proud of the advancements human kind has made over the past one hundred years in sciences, particularly cosmology and biology. As a result we now have a much better understanding of the cosmos and our place in it. What were mysteries in the past are now discernable realities, explained rationally and proven scientifically. Even if our understanding of the cosmos is still incomplete, and there are hypotheses made about its origins, structure, etc., new discoveries will continue to excite us and mesmerize us.
All studies and activities of the human mind are within the scope of our very existence. To probe, to inquire, to search are natural activities of our brain. Not only is there nothing wrong with applying our faculties to scientific endeavors, it is also quite natural. It seems to me, however, that not all scientists act responsibly when they use their scientific knowledge to theorize that God does not exist. Case in point are the statements made over the past few years by a leading scientist of our times, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.
I don’t know about you, but a stream of theories and conjectures and predictions that emerge at every new discovery, which attempts to give answers to the perennial questions about existence, reality and life tire me out. It seems to me that scientists make an a priori giant leap from science to theophilosophy. This in itself is not so bad. Theoreticians go awry when they look down on the human spirit, on matters of faith in the existence of a Supreme Being called God, and on a reality beyond the physical reality studied by them.
Over a year ago Stephen Hawking presented his new theory about The Origin of the Universe, which (in his mind) rendered God obsolete, offering fresh “evidence” that the universe spontaneously created itself from nothing, as he has been advocating for a number of years. I thought he was smarter than that. Actually, smart he is; he is just not wise. What would take to show him that far from “proving” there is no God, he’s proven his bias in refusing to consider God’s existence and how He acts and relates to His creation, and his unprofessional and unwarranted confrontation of people of faith?
Believing that the universe came into existence without any help from “outside” does not negate the existence of God or the creation of the world by Him any more than believing that God creates every new life does not negate our parents involvement. The notion that the universe sprung out of non-existence actually confirms what the Church 1 has always believed and taught! Church and science share a few fundamental truths about the universe, e.g. that it had a beginning (at which point both time and space came into existence) and it will have an end, as we know it, through a radical transformation. Hawking theorizes there are many universes; the Church too speaks of many worlds/universes/ages created by God.
The Church has never understood the creation stories literally, and relies on science to discover how the universe was created and is developing, which is the realm of science. I would like to see Mr. Hawking allowing people of faith the freedom to believe in a Creator God, a faith that does not interfere with science. He does not act in good faith (if this is a pun, so be it) when he states that, as a result of his theorizing, God is excluded. He only shows his bias. The Church (as we defined it) has not burned heretics at the stake nor condemned scientists - the false “Church” did). I wish Mr. Hawking were more enlightened about that. He should be doing some more soul searching.
Mr. Hawking’s theory of spontaneous creation ex nihilo opposes the most fundamental physical and philosophical tenet: nothing comes out of nothing. Offering no evidence about his claims, he has not convinced even his colleagues, who argue that he has moved from physics to metaphysics (reflecting philosophically about his findings or conjectures). The Church provides more plausible answers. God exists outside of time and space. The Creator through His uncreated divine energies is the force that gave rise to existence outside of His being.
We cannot discover Him either with a Hubble telescope or with the most powerful electron microscope, and we cannot peek into Him with a sub-atomic particle smasher, but with the eyes of faith. Faith explains human intelligence and offers answers to the quest of humans for a more lasting reality, beyond our senses (with which we can experience only the physical reality). There is more than what we perceive with our senses. Our faith in afterlife and in a more permanent reality gives us hope, courage and joy, and allows us to live in peace and harmony with each other and with our environment.
When Mr. Hawking places the age of the universe at about 13.8 billion years he speaks as a scientist. It is foolish for anyone to rebut that the earth was created a few thousand years ago. But when Mr. Hawking says, “What was God doing before the divine creation? Was he preparing hell for people who asked such questions?” then he speaks foolishly, irreverently, and unbecomingly for a scientist. But it’s not his fault. He grew up in a culture that believes in a punishing and cruel God. If this is how God is I would not believe in Him either. Our God is a loving God, who wants to share His life with us. May Mr. Hawking find Him and reconcile himself with Him.
- By “Church” I mean the Orthodox Church, the true Church founded by Jesus Christ.